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.
You can book a cruise that travels 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.
I discovered Ecuatraveling through online research, a travel company with a base in Quito. Through only email correspondence, we booked a Galapagos Cruise (6 days on the first class boat The Odyssey). We chose (Itinerary C) focused on the islands further away from mainland Ecuador. These islands are younger and less inhabited by animals and lush vegetation.
We arrived in the afternoon, and after a quick meal, headed out to the Charles Darwin Research Station. Our first real excursion from the boat was early the next morning. Before breakfast, we suited up in life jackets and our excursion shoes (we were asked to have separate "on the boat" shoes to ensure we didn't cross contaminate the islands) and boarded one of the two dinghy boats to Isabela Island.
Carefully, we climbed out of the boats and onto the rough lava peaked island. Following the narrow sandy path, we passed dozens of Marine Iguanas (who took little notice of us) and made our way to the White Tipped Reef Shark Canal or La Tintoreras.
The sunrise streaked a golden hue across the sky, a gorgeous backdrop to the many birds flying around the beach. Along the trail, there is a narrow channel between walls of lava, filled with clear seawater. If you look closely and stay still, you may see the creatures the islet is named after. Some tourists have found dozens of White Tipped Reef Sharks (or Tintoreras) swimming in the canal, but that morning, there were only a few and they swam closer to the rocky edge. The canal serves as a perfect resting spot, where the sharks only occasionally move. The few photos we were able to capture cleared highlighted the white tips for which they are named.
Though we snorkelled near different islands, it wasn't until near the end of the cruise that we encountered another shark. Off of Santiago Island, after visiting Espumilla Beach, we snorkelled around huge lava rocks covered in Boobies, Pelicans and Marine Iguanas. Moments after I jumped from the dinghy, a young White Tipped Reef Shark swam directly underneath me. I was lucky to capture a quick photo as he swam quickly in the opposite direction of the snorkel site.
We had dreamed of swimming with schools of Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks, but they are mostly found by Darwin and Wolf Islands in the Galapagos, which are further north than the Islands we visited and only accessible by special excursion or invitation. That experience, my friends, is most definitely on the bucket list for a future Galapagos vacation.