The Galapagos islands are one of the best places in the world for wildlife experiences. Teeming with wild animals and nature reserves, visiting the unspoiled Galapagos islands has always been a dream of mine. Strange creatures roam freely on these islands, boundless and free. The number of visitors to the islands is limited per year, protecting the islands from destruction and touristy development.
Where did the wildlife on the Galapagos Islands come from?
The Galapagos Islands are a group of islands formed millions of years ago from volcanoes, and have been separated from the mainland since then. Through the years, wildlife slowly arrived by air and by sea. The islands are completely isolated, miles away from the nearest mainland. Creatures arriving here adapted to the conditions of the tiny islands, and evolved into endemic species i.e. the only place in the world where you can find them.
These Galapagos Sea lions (pictured below) are one of its kinds, and can only be found here. Smaller than the normal sea lions, they love lounging on the beaches and piers of the islands. It was amazing to see them everywhere we went!
Santa Cruz Island
I couldn’t believe we were really going to the Galapagos during our Latin America trip. (Read my post on how we planned our budget.) Instead of taking the cruises like most visitors, we based ourselves in Puerto Ayora, on the island of Santa Cruz. From there, we hopscotched around the islands, and found one too many haven.
One of my favorite spots on the island of Santa Cruz was the main pier. The sea lions loved lazing on the steps of the pier, getting some sunshine and basically sleeping the day away. I would creep in front of them, trying not to disturb their sleep, and observe them snoring!
Most creatures on the islands are tagged by the research scientists for tracking purposes. So I could recognize this buddy (on the left) every time I caught him napping on the pier. Every evening, we would walk to the pier and see him there. I even said goodbye to him when we left!
Santa Cruz island itself has many insightful sites to spot wildlife and just soak in nature. Here are some of those that we visited:
Clear blue skies and turquoise wavy waters, Tortuga Bay is breathtaking with its sheer beauty. The wide sandy beach stretches for miles, and you can barely see anyone in the distance, except for the dinosaur-like marine lizards leaving their footsteps on the wind sand.
The bay is about 10 minute’s walk from its entrance behind Hotel la Ninfa, close to the center of Puerto Ayora. This is a beach hotel deal like no other, taking in breathtaking views of the coast.
A natural crevice formed millions of years ago, when water flowed from the sea into the giant gap. The feeling’s quite incredible, swimming in the 10m-deep freshwater amidst the rocky walls. The water is so clear that you can see right to the bottom, where caves and colorful fishes reside.
You can swim to the end of the crevice, and look out into the sea in the distance. Be careful though, there are no ladders that go all the way into the water, bring hiking shoes to climb down the rocks.
To get there, take a boat from Puerto Ayora to the Playa de los Alemanes, then it’s a 30-minute walk to the crevice. Along the way, we spotted marine lizards and these small colorful geckos (see below).
Charles Darwin Research Station
This research center was set up to continue the works of Charles Darwin who developed his evolution theory here on the Galapagos islands. Their special breeding programs ensure that these endemic species continue to thrive in their own habitats. The Galapagos Giant Tortoises were almost close to extinction, until they were bred here in the station. They are huge and barely move when you get near them.
Check out my next post on How to see the Galapagos Islands on the Cheap!