Sometimes, travelling outside of our comfort zone is exactly what we need. Our Flightie, Lyssa, shares her experience exploring the Galapagos Islands with small adventure tour company G Adventures, and explains why this destination will appeal to everyone, no matter your style of travel.
My idea of a great holiday is eating, drinking and lounging. It’s not that I don’t enjoy being outdoors or being active, it’s just that when I think ‘vacation’, I think about relaxing as much as possible. So when I decided to go to the Galapagos Islands, I was 98% excited and 2% worried that maybe this trip wasn’t right for me.
I booked myself on a G Adventures ‘Island Hopper’ tour which had an itinerary filled with swimming, snorkelling, nature walks and hiking up volcanoes. For a minute, I thought maybe I was biting off more than I can chew but decided that this was a trip of a lifetime for many and to not go would be silly. After all, I was to experience it with one of the best adventure tour companies around, who really pride themselves on being local experts. The ‘Island Hopper’ meant we weren’t staying on live-aboard boats, but instead, would be based in hotels and transferring to the different islands by speedboat.
We arrived in Quito late at night and decided to spend the next day exploring. Quito is a beautiful and clean colonial city, built on the side of a mountain. I found the easiest way to get around was by taxi. From old town to our hotel on the border of the Floresta tourist district, it was only $3.00! The next morning we boarded a small plane and headed for paradise.
Galapagos is actually a nickname for the islands that has been adopted as it’s “official unofficial” name. The true name, Archipiélago de Colón, was altered by the Spanish when they saw the giant tortoise shells that reminded them of their leather saddle bags back home, or “galapagos”!
Baltra and Santa Cruz
After touching down in Baltra, we transferred to heavenly Santa Cruz. A small town bustling with hotels, travel agencies, markets and souvenir shops, this is the Galapagos’ tourism hub. Our hotel was a beautiful little boutique treasure with a pool in the courtyard, located about two blocks from the main strip. The water is so crystal blue here and the famed animals that inhabit these islands are right at your doorstep. This is also the home of the Charles Darwin Research Facility, which we had the pleasure of strolling through to see the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center and former home of “Lonesome George”. So far, so good. Some light walking and bit of a trek out to a beach one afternoon, but nothing too crazy. I started to settle in.
The next morning, we took our first boat transfer out to Floreana Island, where there is no Wi-Fi and phones are iffy at best. This would be my first real test. Day one was to include a trip to the highlands for a nature hike and day two was a snorkelling adventure. I’ve never snorkelled in my life and was concerned that I’d be left to sit on the beach alone while all my trip-mates jumped right in. As we climbed aboard the open-panelled bus called a “chiva” to check out another tortoise breeding facility, I couldn’t help but think that I was going to have a hard time. The bus came to a stop at a small gravel path at the top of the mountain, and as we climbed out, our guide Fabricio directed us to stop. He briefed us on the history of the island before we strolled along the easy trail to the tortoises. No climbing, no hiking, just a nice and easy nature walk.
That night, we went for dinner at a small restaurant run by one of the only 120 residents on this island, and after a big meal of home-cooked comfort food, we went and picked up our snorkel gear for the following day’s adventures. The gear was owned by another local and was of excellent quality and well taken care of. I loved seeing how G Adventures was helping the families on this otherwise deserted island by providing them with a job in tourism.
The next day we woke up relatively early for breakfast and trundled down a beach-side path to the snorkelling spot. It was about a 30 minute walk to the beach, and when we arrived, I began to get a little nervous. The waves were pretty choppy and the small bay was surrounded by jagged rocks. I worried about getting caught up in the swells but I gave it a shot anyway. For the first time in my life, I was snorkelling – the fish, sharks and rays below me.
The following day, we transferred to Isabela Island. If Santa Cruz was heaven then this place was nirvana! White sand beaches, small beach-side bars and restaurants, loads of different animals and birds as far as the eye can see. The hotel here was beautiful, with the friendliest staff and cleanest rooms I think I’ve ever encountered. Our itinerary here would include a five hour hike up the side of a volcano and more snorkelling. I’ll admit it right now – I didn’t do the volcano hike. I know, I know… But the great thing with G Adventures is that you really can chose your own itinerary. If you don’t want to do something or just want some free time, you can do that! Your guide will always give you the day’s itinerary and tell you where and when to meet the group later if you don’t feel like participating. I hung out on the beach and watched a soccer game in a cute little beach bar instead, meeting the volcano group later to share stories and pictures.
The final day on Isabela was life-changing. We started out on a boat bright and early, and while on our way to the snorkelling spot of Los Tuneles, we watched fish jumping next to the boat and the birds that fed on them. Our guide actually popped the boat into a lower gear, pulled out his rod and caught a huge tuna in about 5 minutes. Fresh-caught ceviche for lunch! Amazing! When we got to our spot, our guide explained everything thoroughly and sent us in. Within 10 minutes I was swimming with a beautiful sea turtle (and 10 others) and watching sharks, rays, colourful fish and even seahorses dart around below me. I’ve have never been this close to underwater life and seeing them up-close and unafraid of me was humbling.
After snorkelling, we moved on to spy on boobies and sea lions, eat our beautiful fresh ceviche and to take some more photos. In the distance, we even saw humpback whales! All in all, an absolutely stunning and memorable day. We returned to Santa Cruz for one more night before flying back to Canada via Quito.
I have to say, this trip will go down in history as one of the best of my life, if only because I forced myself to break out of my shell and try something new. The Galapagos are for everyone, no matter your fitness level or travel style. Whether you chose to sit on a beach and admire the scenery, hike up a cliff or splash in the Pacific, you will have fun. You can choose your own adventure here daily, and for that, I’d recommend it as one of the most versatile destinations I know. Do yourself a favour and check out the Galapagos with a great tour company like G Adventures. Don’t hold back and get out of your comfort zone – you won’t regret it.
Convinced? Good. To find out more about Lyssa’s trip or to make a booking on a G Adventures tour, reach her by calling 1866 539 4379, connect with us online or visit your nearest Flight Centre store location today.