Llama Travel’s Travel Consultant Matt has travelled all over South America, from the dense jungles of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest to the colonial cities of Colombia, but for him, a certain volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean will always be a particularly special place. Read on to see why Matt thinks that the Galapagos Islands are as extraordinary today as they were when Darwin first set foot on them almost 180 years ago.
As I ventured around South America taking in all the sites, cultures, food, smells and beauty of what is such an astounding and varied continent, I noticed that there was one destination that seemed to be on every travellers mind – the Galapagos Islands. This was even more evident when I arrived at the colonial city of Quito. The bars, restaurants and hotels were buzzing, full of holiday makers and locals sharing Galapagos stories and showing off their favourite photos of the wonderfully bizarre wildlife they had recently encountered. I couldn’t wait to join their ranks! After spending lazy Sunday afternoons in front of the television, watching David Attenborough marvel at the incredible creatures he would come across, it would finally be my turn to explore the world’s most famous archipelago.
My Galapagos journey began with a short three hour flight from mainland Ecuador, across the Pacific, to the islands. I was transferred to my boat and I got my first glimpse of our new home for the week, a sailing boat gently rocking in the warm sunshine on beautiful crystal clear water. We set off from the bay and within minutes there was an abundance of sea lions in every direction, casually surfing and playing in the waves created by our boat. Within my first half an hour I knew that buying several SD cards for my camera was definitely a good decision!
On our first day we went in search of the famous Giant Galapagos Tortoise, however the search was over in minutes. After only a short walk through the long grass we could see dozens of giant tortoise shells, and although I had seen several photos and documentaries about them before, I was still shocked and amazed by their magnificent size. One of the first things that struck me was that the tortoises seemed unalarmed by our arrival and just continued eating the grass as if we were not even there, something that I saw repeatedly from the wildlife throughout the Galapagos. I crouched down next to one, imitating its shell for a photo, which prompted astonished friends and family back home to ask if it was really that big, or if I had shrunk on my travels, luckily it wasn’t the latter.
Throughout the week we visited various diverse islands, taking in a wide range of extraordinary landscapes, fauna and flora. From islands made of bizarre volcanic formations to stunning white sandy beaches that would put any paradise screen saver to shame. However, no matter how breath-taking the scenery, it was always the Galapagos wildlife that stole the show for me. Nowhere else in the world can you see animals in such abundance and so close up without any hassle at all. Everywhere I looked there were florescent coloured crabs scuttling over salt, spitting marine iguanas, sea lions sunbathing next to tiny Galapagos penguins, frigate birds flying overhead with inflated bellies, boobies with the most incredible electric blue feet trying to attract a mate with what appeared to be an embarrassing two-step dance move. All this is before you put your head under the water for some of the world’s best snorkelling, I was really blown away by the splendour and magic that thrives below the waves.
You don’t need to be the most confident of swimmers to venture down into the water, even if you stay near the boat you will still be treated to a spectacular show of multi coloured fish and an array of stunning coral. The younger sea lions will most definitely pay you a visit and try to tempt you in to some mischievous games. You also get the opportunity to look out for dolphins, turtles, marine iguanas, manta rays and the harmless Galapagos reef shark.
The Galapagos wildlife live life with no natural predators, so they have no fear of humans getting up close and personal. Anybody who has a love for animals or adventure should definitely have the Galapagos Islands high on their bucket list, as this amazingly unique destination is not to be missed!
If you have been inspired by Matt’s words to discover the magic of the Galapagos for yourself, then you can see a list of all our Galapagos holidays here. Llama Travel offers Galapagos cruises on five boats and also a hotel based option for those who prefer not to take a cruise.
You can find out more information on all our amazing Latin American holidays by visiting our Holidays page, ordering our brochure or giving us a call on 020 7263 3000.