In The Shadow of Charles Darwin, The Galapagos



Charles Darwin once visited the Galapagos Islands in 1835 and he was so intrigued by the flora and fauna of the islands he further studied the animal species, specifically the finch, and the theory of evolution was born. With vigorous conservation efforts, majority of the same animal species still roam the Galapagos today.

en·dem·ic/enˈdemik/ (of a plant or animal) native or restricted to a certain country or area.

When you speak of the Galapagos Islands you can’t but use this word several times.

I had often seen pictures or TV programs about the endemic wildlife hear and it was now my time to experience it firsthand. October 2014, I arrived on the island of Santa Cruz With a full itinerary and with the intention of following the footsteps of Charles Darwin, in spirit. I arrive at noon and my expedition is quickly on its way as I check in at my hotel and throw the bags in the room.


My guide and I are on our way to the highlands to see the world-famous Galapagos tortoises that can live hundreds of years. Along the trail, I walk around some shrubs and there it is, a tortoise. The sight just stops me in my tracks. This is the same one I’ve seen so many times in print or video and now I’m within reach. And, no you’re not allowed to ride them since they are protected. Before heading back to my hotel, I hiked through a lava cave and we stopped at 2 volcanic craters. This is just my first afternoon. I wonder what the next day will bring.


Day two begins with an early wakeup call as I have to catch an early ferry to Isabela Island. It’s a small boat, maybe 30 feet at best, and the sea is rough as it is raining this morning. I can even see white caps on the waves. I normally don’t get sea-sick but by the end of the ride back I was feeling it just a little bit. On the island, sea lions could be seen sunning themselves on beach side benches and on the dock.


The sea iguanas could also be found all along the shore. Ironic, they can be found here in large numbers but nowhere else in the world.

I had heard the Galapagos Penguins could be found here but I didn’t know you could actually swim with them. The water is a little cold this time of year but my adrenalin from the excitement warmed my body. Their feeding ground was near the dock and as I swam out to them I was joined by young sea lions. So play-full, they would bump me to get me to play with them. A school-of-small fish blanket the waters and as they part, there they are, the only penguins residing in the tropical region. They too are playful and very curious as they investigate my GoPro camera, allowing me to get great shots of them. Sea lions and penguins circle me as we swim together for 30 minutes. This is it, the pinnacle of most holidays but this is just the 2nd day in the archipelago.


Day three is filled with more snorkeling in Academy Bay near the town Puerto Ayora where I was staying for the duration of the holiday. The afternoon schedule was a visit to the Charles Darwin Museum but I skipped this one as Lonely George, the last surviving tortoise of his subspecies, had passed away 2 years earlier and the museum no longer had any appeal for me. I was told by other tourist there wasn’t much to see there. I used the opportunity to explore the town and make a withdrawal from the bank. If you ever visit, make sure you use cash to avoid the huge fees assessed to credit card usages.

Day four is another early day for another 2 hour boat ride. This time, we are on our way to Floreana Island. This island is home to only 200 permanent residence and was previously home to pirates who had a strong hold in the highlands. We tour the pirate strong hold in the morning and in the afternoon we spend the day on Black Beach covered with black volcanic sand. I swim out toward the rocky shore where I snorkel with the largest sea turtles I’ve ever seen, about 4 feet long.


red mar iguana

Floreana Island is also the home to the red sea iguana which are endemic to this island.

manza 4

Manza Beach, Tortuga Bay

Day five is another day on Santa Cruz island visiting Garrapatero Beach and Tortuga Bay. The snorkeling along the shore doesn’t seem to be as exciting here. I did have an incident with a black tip shark who followed me along the beach. I was told by my guide that they are common at this beach and no one has ever been harmed by them. The rich waters are so abundant with wild life the sharks don’t need to feed outside their normal eating habits. Surfers have been attacked by tiger sharks at dusk when they feed so keep your water activity to day light hours.


Day six involves another early day with another boat ride to the island of San Cristobal.

SC harbor

The day is highlighted with the best snorkeling spot during my visit. At Punta Carola beach I’m able to snorkel with sea turtles and colorful exotic fish without the waves pounding me as I swim. This area is protected from waves as it was in a tide pool but not your typical one since it was about 10 feet deep and 200 yards long.





charles darwin dock 2

The afternoon was spent walking along the coast and visiting the dock which was Charles Darwin’s first contact with the Galapagos. It’s no longer in use but a great spot for snorkeling with clear beautiful waters. My guide and I also hike to the cliffs in pursuit of finding the male frigate with its distinguishable red throat. My only disappointment in the whole trip was that the only frigates on the cliffs were the bland colored females.

The Galapagos Archipelago is a wondrous and Magical place. It’s what I like to call natures twilight zone where desert meets the ocean with cactus growing next to mangroves, iguanas feed in the ocean, a tortoise can grow as large as a Volkswagen Beetle, birds have blue feet, and sub-species of tortoise and land iguanas can differ from island to island.


Blue-footed Booby

penguineonrock me penguine