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Walking in the Footsteps of Darwin: The Galapagos Islands

Updated: Feb 28

Most people who know anything about the Galapagos islands, have placed it on their bucket list of ultimate vacations. Just the opportunity to visit the islands and to see it’s uniqueness is once in a lifetime. It was a milestone birthday, and I wanted to do something special to mark the occasion, and after little discussion, we landed on The Galapagos Islands.

There is an exorbitant amount of information available on the islands and their unique characteristics. One of the best available is Galapagos: the Island that Changed the world by Paul D. Stewart). A valuable source of information and history. There isn’t however, a lot of information readily available regarding tours and cruises. You can book a cruise that traveled to a set number of islands, or you could take ferries from one to the other. Most of the Galapagos Islands are fiercely protected and not open to visitors. Some sections are dedicated only to scientific research and of the few that allow tourists, most require a guide to accompany you and/or a time limit.

For what we wanted, a scheduled cruise appeared to be the best option, but not wanting to get lost in the shuffle of excess, we knew we wanted something on the small side. We wanted a small group on a relatively small boat, but didn’t want to rough it and sleep in hammocks below deck. We had both been on boats many times before, but have never slept (or showered) on a boat before this trip, so we didn’t know what to expect, but wanted to be comfortable.

Panoramic view of Quito, Ecuador

I discovered Ecuatraveling through my online research, a travel company with a base in Quito. Through correspondence with the wonderful Esteban, we booked not only the Galapagos Cruise (6 days on the first class boat The Odyssey), but other excursions in Quito after the cruise ended. We had discovered that some, being unaccustomed to the high altitude of Ecuador, suffered illnesses and setbacks, so we decided to acclimatize ourselves by spending a couple of days in Quito before we flew to the Galapagos islands, and a few extra days after to explore the city. This is highly recommended, for any type of traveler, plus give you the opportunity to visit a beautiful and passionate city. It is with high praise that I recommend Ecuatraveling, they were warm, flexible and supportive to all our needs.

From Quito we flew early morning to Guayaquil for a quick stop to pick up additional passengers, then to Baltra Island. Once the luggage was thoroughly checked and sprayed, we hopped on a ferry to Santa Cruz island. There we met up with a driver who escorted us to The Odyssey, that was docked on the other end of the Island. On the boat we were introduced to the other guests (12 of us in total), the Naturalist Guide and the crew. In the early afternoon, we were off on our first excursion to The Charles Darwin Research Station.

I had already been in contact with the Research Station, having inquired if there was any possibility of me planting a tree on one of the islands. Having planted a tree in Costa Rica in honour of my dad the year before, I wanted to continue the tradition and somehow contribute to the protection of the Galapagos. They happened to have a pilot project they were working on, which included the ability to adopt a plant. They chose to use me and my story to help market the project. When we arrived at the main building of the Charles Darwin Station that day, we were greeted with a large chalkboard sign with my name on it, advising me to contact customer service. Once I did, embarrassed beyond reason, they escorted us through the premises, introduced us to members of the team and gave us a small presentation on the preservation efforts they were making on the islands. They then presented me with a laminated document that indicated they planted and dedicated an indigenous flowering plant in my name. I would highly recommend you spend time at the Research Center, or at the very least on their website. Even if you can never make it to Galapagos, consider donating to their wonderful efforts.