Galapagos Guided Tour – Gardner Bay, Hood Island

During our Galapagos cruise we are delightfully surprised by the turquoise water and the white coralline sand beach that reaches around the point a kilometer away. We see a herd of sea lions all lined up basking in the sun along the beach.

As we round the point to head into the bay a giant manta ray surfaces for just a moment, long enough for us to realize it must be at least four meters from “wing tip to wing tip”. Mantas and other rays do seem to fly through the water. We slow our engines and cruise along beside it amazed at how graceful this sea creature is. With a few flaps of its wings it shoots out in front of us and disappears into the depths.

We cruise in toward a couple of small islets (eroded spatter cones) in the middle of the bay and drop anchor. It’s lunch time! As we eat and enjoy our cold drinks we are able to take in the sights and sounds of this beautiful bay. We hear the bull sea lions barking to defend their territory from other males.

Spotted Eagle Rays, Hood Island, Galapagos

This must be the day of the rays! A group of Spotted Eagle Rays swims by along side the boat and we hover over the railing to get a good view.

After lunch we are into the panga and out to the beach. The sand is wonderfully soft and the water is perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Some of the waves are even good for body surfing. Some of us just want to sit and relax with the sea lions, while others start to amble down the beach towards the point exploring. We find remains of sea turtle eggshells and some recent tracks. As we follow the tracks back from the beach we find a discreet pile of sand that hides the nest. This is a very important nesting area for the Green Sea Turtle.

Hatchinhling Green Sea Turtles, Hood Island, Galapagos

The Green Sea Turtles may nest as many as four times in a season, and each time may lay up to 80 eggs. You would think that would be enough to keep the population going. Unfortunately, they are faced with many predators that take a great many of the eggs and young. Feral pigs can smell a freshly laid nest and dig up the eggs. Once hatched, the young turtles are faced with having to make it to the sea from the beach.

Frigate birds and other scavengers consume large numbers before they make it to the water. Once in the ocean they face sharks and other oceanic predators.

I once sliced open a tuna that contained the undigested shells of five baby turtles! If the young make it to adulthood they face predation by man, both at sea and on land. Being a sea turtle is a tough life!

We spend the afternoon lazing around with the sea lions (keeping an eye out for the bull), wandering along the beach, exploring, swimming, and snorkeling.

Sea Lions on the beach, Hood Island, Galapagos

It’s been another wonderful day as we watch the sun sinking down into the sea.

Early in the morning the engines start, we turn over and go back to sleep knowing we are on our way to the next island…

Read more from our Galapagos Guided Tour

Planning a Galapagos Family Vacation

 

discoverFor the ultimate adventure, plan a family Galapagos family vacation. Few other places bring you face to face with sea lions, lizards, and rare birds. The area is divided among three island groupings; south, north, and west. Wildlife is best on the northern and western islands. Espanola is the sole place to view the waved-albatross. The north and west are filled with volcanic landscapes. The lava fields of Santiago are interesting.

Shore or Ship?
The biggest decision while planning your Galapagos family vacation is whether to cruise the area or stay at a land hotel. Even though you may book a hotel, numerous sea tours are available. A common place to stay is Santa Cruz, the most populated island. San Cristobal is another destination with many hotel options and boat tours.

Things to Remember
While planning a Galapagos vacation it is important to consider the location and climate. Even when the sun is not strong, you should pack and use sun protection. If you plan on taking a boat excursion, bring something for motion sickness. Snorkeling is a popular activity, so bring your own gear. Although it is possible to rent the necessary items, having a properly fitting mask and wet suit is important. Even during the dry season, the Galapagos water is cool. The most important thing to bring is a waterproof camera. This will help capture precious land and aquatic memories.

Summer is a popular time to visit, but winter and spring bring more solitude. The water is at its warmest January through May, and mating season has started. In April, you can expect to view newborn sea lion pups crawling around.

Exploring the Enchanted Seas: Scuba Diving on Galapagos Island Tours

scuba2No Galapagos Island experience is complete without a SCUBA diving tour. Seasoned SCUBA divers will find that the Galapagos archipelago offers unparalleled biodiversity: Forged in a geological crucible of smoldering lava less than five million years ago and uniquely situated on the Earth’s equator between cool ocean currents, the Galapagos Islands offer an array of habitats for thousands of land-based and marine creatures and a distinct climate – a pleasant blend of tropical and temperate – that lingers year-round.

These factors along with the islands’ relative isolation gave rise to hundreds of species found nowhere else on the planet. Nearly one in five marine species, in fact, belong to this category of endemic Galapagos life forms – and if you’re a certified diver, Inti Travel and Tours offers the diving experience of a lifetime that will let you see a dazzling array of marine mammals, lizards and fish up close and in their natural habitat.

Inti Travel and Tours’ SCUBA tours let you swim among iridescent schools of amberjacks and angelfish, playful fur seals, marine iguanas and even the world’s most northern-living penguins. Explore lush lagoons, cliff faces crested with flocks of seabirds, stunning coral reefs and dramatic underwater peaks, valleys and plateaus brimming with rich underwater communities.

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Get the Ultimate Experience with a Tour Package Combining Luxury and Adventure

Inti Travel and Tours offers several different Galapagos Island tours that bundle deluxe accommodations with all-inclusive dives. Divide your time between the land and the sea with a package that includes a stay at Santa Cruz Island’s only beachfront lodging, the Finch Bay Hotel. Feast on a sumptuous buffet and recline next to the pool in between excursions to the nearby Charles Darwin Research Station or Tortuga Bay while multiple species of Darwin’s famous finches flit by overhead. Alternatively, make the beautiful Hotel Silberstein your headquarters – the 24-room resort even has its own dedicated dive center.

If you’d prefer to center your Galapagos experience around the archipelago’s enchanting underwater realm, Inti Travel and Tours offers Galapagos Island tours headquartered on first-class yachts. Choose from sleek new vessels like the 100-foot Galapagos Sky, designed in 2000 just for SCUBA diving in the Galapagos Islands, and the 110-foot Beluga, equipped with spacious staterooms that have their own private bathrooms, or opt for the Nautilus, an elegant sailing yacht that overnights in the Galapagos Islands’ premier hotels. Whatever your travel style and activity level, Inti Travel and Tours can assemble the right package complete with a SCUBA diving tour of a lifetime.

Animal Spotlight: The Giant Tortoises of the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos tortoisesWhen the topic of conversation turns to The Galapagos Islands, the first image that comes to mind for many is of Galapagos giant tortoises. And for all the wonderful things about this place we call home, we have to admit that the tortoises are among the best! These gigantic reptiles are the largest species of tortoises still in existence, and no matter how many times we see them, they fill us with awe every time.

Among the longest-living vertebrates on the planet, Galapagos tortoises can live more than 100 years in the wild. Chances are good that if you spy a young tortoise, he or she will be here after you have left this earth! Currently listed as a vulnerable species, we hope that more people encountering these beautiful creatures on our Galapagos tours will result in a greater appreciation for their majesty, and commitment to protecting them. Their closest living relative is the Argentine tortoise, a significantly smaller tortoise that is just as adorable!

Galapagos tortoises perfectly capture the spirit of these islands, enjoying a largely calm and peaceful existence, soaking up the sun in the early morning hours, and devoting quite a bit of time to foraging. When your daily food needs are in the 70-80 lb. range, eating has to be a top priority! That said, these unique animals can survive 18 months with no food or water, relying on their body’s reserves.

Galapagos tortoises are a quiet animal, saving their voices for times of conflict with another tortoise, mating, or those unfortunate situations where they’ve landed on their backs and have to wriggle to right themselves. In situations such as this I imagine them as a grumpy old man or woman, shaking their cane at those kids to get off their lawn!

While Galapagos tortoise can eventually reach a size of 800 lbs. or more, they start off life oh-so-tiny and too cute for words. If you’re fortunate enough to come across a tiny tortoise, be sure to appreciate its adorableness for all it’s worth. And if you’re wondering if that tortoise is a boy or girl, if it’s less than 15 years old, there’s no way of knowing! Unlike humans, cats, dogs, and countless other animals, a tortoise’s gender cannot be determined until they are halfway through their teen years, and they do not reach their full size and sexual maturity until they are 40 and flirty!

We could honestly go on for days about this marvelous animal, and we’d love to share more insight into their amazingness during one of our Galapagos tours. In the meantime, you can learn more on the insightful Wikipedia page for Galapagos tortoises!

The Galapagos Islands: A Retreat for Your Mind, Body and Spirit

Blue-Footed BoobiesThe Galapagos Islands are among the most special places on earth for nature lovers and animal lovers. There is a calm and peacefulness about this place that even after several decades living here, I still can’t quite explain in words. I understand and appreciate the excitement of city life, with countless places to go and people to see at any moment. But I also understand and appreciate that isn’t the life for me, and that many people who live that life every day benefit greatly from breaking away from it for a bit.

Many people we’ve had the pleasure of meeting through our tours have shared that this unique destination has affected them in ways they didn’t even know to want for. They knew they wanted a vacation from the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives, but didn’t fully grasp how much they needed to retreat until they arrived. One woman in particular explained it in a way that I loved, comparing her everyday life to a loud casino or club, and Galapagos to the sound, or lack thereof, that you hear when you leave. You sometimes don’t realize how loud and overwhelming your surroundings have become until you step outside them and breathe a sigh of relief. You can hear yourself think again; you can truly take in all your surroundings. Without a million conflicting sights and sounds competing for your attention, you can bask in the harmony and see how everything is connected.

This tourist also shared how she came about choosing The Galapagos Islands as her vacation destination. She knew she wanted to go somewhere relaxing and rejuvenating, but also wanted to learn about things, animals and people beyond those she typically encounters. She told me about the popularity of spa-like retreats amongst her friends – places where you spend quite a bit of money to eat cleansing foods and do yoga. She admitted this sounded interesting, but that she wanted to do something less formal, and more authentic. She wanted to go somewhere she would encounter a greater variety of people – women, men, and children whose lives were likely to be much different from her own. She loved her life for sure, but wanted to try something completely different for a week. She overheard someone mention The Galapagos Islands while eating lunch one day, and her decision was made. And like so many others who have visited this place we’re so fortunate to call home, by the time her stay was done she felt as though she had visited one thousand spa-like retreats!

If you need a break from your everyday life as well, we hope you’ll consider booking one of our Galapagos Islands tours or a Galapagos cruise. We’d love to do our part in ensuring you have an unforgettable experience!

Adventure & Luxury Travel in Galapagos, Amazon, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Easter Island & Antarctica