This week’s contribution comes from Kerri who takes us somewhere I’ve never been before – the Galapagos! I first came across Kerri’s Youtube videos just as I was getting ready to move to Korea (talk about opportune timing). She now has a travel blog where she’s been chronicling her adventures across Latin America, so be sure to check it out for street art, markets, and llamas wearing princess crowns P.S. Kerri, next time you find yourself in Seoul, the 돌솥 비빔밥 is on me.
Where did you go?
As travelling Central and South America moved from dream, to plan, to reality, all my little dreams for South America became closer to reality too. One of those dreams has long been to see the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, and to hug a land tortoise while there. In a way, I can now say that both of those dreams have come true! I particularly fell in love with Isabela Island, because of its unmatched population of wild land tortoises, and fantastic snorkeling.
What did you do there?
With a total of 10 days in the Galapagos, we spent 3 days on the island of Isabela. On the first day, we hiked the active Sierra Negra volcano. The view was breathtaking, as there is nearly no plant life on the young volcano, except for a few cacti.
On our second day, we took a boat tour around the south shore of the island, where we saw penguins, playful sea lions, marine iguanas, and white-tip reef sharks.
After, we snorkeled in the sea, just a few minutes off the main port. In the cold water, I was beginning to lose hope of swimming with a marine tortoise when we suddenly spotted one right next to us! I remembered in that moment what I’d read in the pamphlet we were given as we entered the islands: all the animals of the Galapagos evolved without predators, and without predators, the animals have no fear. I was just amazed at the closeness with which we could share moments of our lives with that graceful marine tortoise. We swam alongside it for about 20 minutes, watching it come up for air and effortlessly glide through the sea. This still remains one of the most magical memories of my whole trip through South America.
On our third day, we had a boat to catch in the early afternoon, and so we stayed in town for the morning. We visited the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center, where we saw tortoises in their different stages of life, from hatchlings and juveniles to fully grown adults of over 120 years of age.
After visiting with the tortoises, we took a walk along with beach. And, as this is the Galapagos, the animals are never far away. As we strolled back to our hotel, we came across a massive group of marine iguanas chilling in the sun. I’m not a reptile person, but ohmygosh these iguanas are cute.
The marine iguanas special adaptation is that their black skin, which they use as a natural solar panel, warming their core temperature high enough to withstand the extremely cold waters. They also adapted to smile while sunbathing.
When we arrived at the dock to take our boat, we were greeted by sleeping sea lions. They, as every other animal on these perfect islands, are also adorable.
Aside from observing all the animal diversity, what else can you do on the island?
The main town on Isabela island is Puerto Villamil, and you will likely base yourself here. Since most of the activities on this island pertain to seeing unique wildlife, it’s hard to name what else there is to do on this island. There are many small restaurants in the town where you can enjoy desserts and pizzas, as well as an excellent selection of English movies on the hotel TVs. Yes, I’m being facetious, but Happythankyoumoreplease in English in the Galapagos right before bed happened.
How can we get there?
Flights from Quito to Baltra, Santa Cruz island are offered twice-daily by LAN Ecuador, and can be as cheap as $450 in low season (May and September). Spending 10 days exploring Isabela, Santa Cruz, and San Christobal islands gave us lots of time to take National Geographic-style photos, while also giving us enough time to wind down and relax at night.
Expatkerri has been travelling and living abroad for 10 years. She now calls South Korea home, and is currently on a 5-month backpacking trip through South America. You can follow her writings from the road at Expatkerri.