I have wanted to visit the Galapagos Islands about as long as I can remember. Studying them in geography class they always held a certain almost mystical allure for me. Later, when I read Origin of the Species and studied Biology, my interest increased, although relegated to life’s back burner.
When I first decided to visit Ecuador, I knew beyond certainty that I would visit these islands located 600 miles off the Ecuadorian coast. While staying in Quito, I researched boat tours, land tours and last minute deals. Visiting the Galapagos is not inexpensive and many travelers skip them. This was not an option for me! I finally booked an eight day boat tour on the Floreana, a 47 foot motor yacht that carries 14 passengers and a crew of five plus a Class 2 bilingual naturalist named Victor. I further decided to stay an extra six days on Santa Cruz Island and arrange day trips from there to some of the other islands I would miss on the boat tour.
My flight landed at Basra, a small flat island where the US Army set up a base and airstrip during WWII to protect the Panama Canal from a Japanese attack that never came. After the war, it reverted to Ecuador. After arriving, I took the free bus to the channel, then a ferry across to Santa Cruz Island, and finally a shared a cab for the 45 minute ride to Hotel Santa Cruz where I check in for the night.
An afternoon visit to the Charles Darwin Research Center gave me a chance to see giant tortoises along with land iguanas being bred for release back into the wild.
At this point, I am still having a hard time believing that I am actually here. Even in the Charles Darwin Research Center, it is such an alien world. I walk 20 minutes back to town and grab some dinner. I retire early, tomorrow is going to be a busy day!
Author’s note: I am currently staying on a farm near Cotopaxi in the Ecuadorian Andes. There is no Internet at all. I took a 45 minute bus trip into the nearest town to write this post. Until I get to Peru, my subsequent posts will be sporadic.