By Greg Watty
Last November my wife and two adult daughters and I enjoyed the trip of a lifetime to Galápagos.
We try to take at least one overseas family trip per year. This time we booked a luxury Celebrity Xpedition cruise. In addition to impeccable service from the tour staff, we observed an amazing variety of land and sea wildlife.
None of us are serious bird watchers, but we began to get hooked when our two person kayak was surrounded by “dive bombing” Blue Footed Boobies! Several dozen birds dropped twenty or thirty feet into a school of small fish all around our craft!
That same morning we watched four or five penguins speed through the water near our kayak and pop out onto the rocks to sun themselves.
The next day we observed a female vermillion flycatcher on one of our day walks. The bird enthusiasts among our group were very excited by this rare sight. Over the next couple of days we saw lots of finches (Darwin’s bird of choice, of course), a Galápagos hawk, Galápagos owl and innumerable sea birds as well as more of the incredibly cute penguins. We finished the eight day trip at Tower Island where we saw many nesting Frigate birds and Red footed Boobies.
That was just the birds!
I had an inexpensive underwater camera, that I recommend highly for anyone going to Galápagos. I can’t name even a small portion of the fish we saw and photographed. Moorish Idols, Rays, Turtles, a Mola Mola, Manta Rays, and many brilliantly colored schools of unnamed small to large fish were all present. I saw two small (3-4 feet long) sharks while in the water, but they were very skittish, and quickly swam away when they saw me. The snorkeling opportunities were fantastic. On one swim, I watched a playful sea lion chase a dozen turtles. It swam around them and between them. The turtles did not seem amused…
Speaking of the sea lions, we watched as a new born pup was being suckled by its mother, while juveniles were basking on the sand just a few feet away.
The land animals had their own chapters. We saw a dozen or more land tortoises in the wild and many more at reserves in the Highlands and at the Darwin Station. On three different island walks we found land iguanas. Some were moving slowly or feeding, most sunning themselves. They are well camouflaged, and it takes careful observation to find them… except for the one in the middle of the trail who didn’t want to move…
I can’t say enough about the careful planning and attention to every detail from Jeff at Inti Travel. The trip was perfect! And if you’re in Quito for a few days and looking for fine dining, check out Zazu. It was amazing! Perhaps one of our top five ever, and we like nice restaurants. I especially liked the ice cream hand made at our table.
I am telling my traveling friends to put at least one (and I really recommend two – one to the northern islands and one to the southern) Galápagos trip on their travel bucket list. It was a bit different than most of our travel, but while occasionally just out of our comfort zone, it gave us insight into worlds we could not see elsewhere.