Paradise is Galapagos (even with seasickness) part 1

by Kim on August 31, 2012 · 46 comments

Brian and I did not plan to visit Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. We’d heard amazing things, of course, but the expense concerned us. We didn’t want to blow our budget at the very beginning of our trip.

But everyone we spoke with in Ecuador, especially Ecuadorians themselves, asked if we were going to the Galapagos. When we’d shake our heads no they would look at us with disappointment. So beautiful, they’d say. Paradise

Other travelers, as well, told us we should go. It’s worth it, they said. Soon we found ourselves walking the streets of Quito searching for travel agencies. We’re out here to see the world, we reasoned, and Galapagos is one of the most stunning places in it. We decided to shop around. 

We’d heard that we could save a lot of money by booking a last-minute trip through a tour agency. We found a great bargain on Monday for a trip beginning Wednesday. It was settled. We would embark on an eight-day, seven-night cruise to eight of the southeastern Galapagos Islands.

Galapagos Day 1- Santa Cruz Island

Stepping foot on the Galapagos Islands

Our plane lands on Baltra and we meet our guide at the airport. We are introduced to four of our thirteen boat-mates, two girls from Australia and a Dutch couple, who are young and friendly and whom we like immediately. We are shuttled by bus, ferry, van, and dingy before arriving at our yacht.

Our boat- The Daphne

Onboard we drop our bags, meet the other passengers: seven Italians and a couple from California, and are shown to our tiny, tidy cabins. Then the lot of us are herded back onto the dingy, back into the van, and driven to a nature reserve where we can view the giant Galapagos tortoise.  

It is a drizzly, overcast afternoon but the drive through the highlands of Santa Cruz is beautiful. We reach the reserve and change into rubber boots for a tromp through the mud to see the tortoises.

As we walk our guide tells us about the amazing creatures. They live up to 200 years, weigh hundreds of pounds, and can go a year without eating or drinking. He continues to speak, but I stop listening, because right there in front of me is the most gigantic tortoise that I’ve ever seen, stretching his ancient, weathered neck in front of himself to eat a tuft of grass.

The giant Galapagos tortoise

We see dozens of tortoises at the reserve and each is as magical as the next. It is a thrill to stand near such old creatures and consider how much things change over the course of their lifetime. The world zips forward, progression- so we call it, while these magnificent animals scoot slowly along, outlasting us all.

Brian and a Galapagos tortoise

In the evening we sit down for dinner and the food is fantastic- fresh and healthy. We share tables with our boat-mates and begin to know them and this, meeting these people, will become as important to the greatness of our trip as all the rest. 

After dinner there is a quick briefing and our guide informs us that we will sail through the night to Santa Maria, our next destination. We fall asleep soundly around 10 p.m. but awake at midnight as the boat rocks violently back and forth. By 1 a.m. Brian is locked in our tiny bathroom, overtaken by seasickness. It is all I can do to mutter from bed if he needs fresh water or medicine. If I open my eyes or stand up I will be sick too.

Galapagos Day 2- Santa Maria Island

Around 4 a.m. the rough seas die down and Brian and I are able to get a few hours of sleep before the 7 a.m. breakfast bell rings.

In the morning we compare notes with the others- no one has slept. But our breakfast is delicious and we all feel better with food in our bellies.

After breakfast we board the dingy and are deposited onshore to visit the Galapagos post office box. Here, visitors from around the world leave unstamped postcards to be picked up by other travelers and hand delivered to the addressee. Brian and I sort through the cards and leave with three addressed to people in the Cincinnati area. Some day, when we are back in Ohio, we will bring them to their recipients.

Galapagos post office

Sorting through the Galapagos post office mail

Brian shows off the Galapagos postcards we will hand deliver some day

Later, while walking on the beach, a sea lion swims up to the group and stands staring. Our guide tells us that the sea lion wants to play and that if we swim, he will follow.

A group forms around the playful sea lion

Brian and a few of the Italians dive into the water and the sea lion shoots off after them. Brian tosses a rock into the waves and the sea lion swims for it like a dog chasing a stick. We laugh. I’m mesmerized by how playful and funny this guy is.

Back on the boat we change into our wetsuits and set off to snorkel at a place called Devil’s Crown. The dingy drops us near rocks in a strong current and the waves slam into us. I think about how hyper-safe the U.S is. In the U.S. you’d need to be a card-carrying swimmer and sign fourteen waivers before getting into the water. Here, they don’t even ask if you can swim. They just help you into your wetsuit and show you where to jump.

The snorkeling at Devil’s Crown is amazing. There are florescent fish, translucent fish, and fish with bumps on their heads. There are starfish the size of basketballs. Two eagle rays glide slowly below us. A sea turtle swims to the right of me and I scream with joy into my snorkel mask.

Back on the boat we shower and climb to the top deck to relax before dinner. We are on the equator and the sun goes down at 6:30 p.m. every night.

Sunset from the top deck of our boat in the Galapagos

The sky dims to faded pinks and grays and then goes dark completely. I get my first glimpse of the stars in the southern hemisphere. It is quiet and peaceful out here and I feel myself relaxing into a slower pace. The dinner bell rings and I head downstairs to feast with my new friends.

To be continued…

This is part 1 of a 3-part series. Read the rest of the story here:

Part 2: Galapagos brings me to tears

Part 3: Galapagos is a magical place

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Angela August 31, 2012 at 3:44 pm

The sea lion and the tortoise are gorgeous! I would love to get so close to them :)

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:38 am

It is truly amazing to get so close! There are sea lions EVERYWHERE!!

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LG August 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm

sounds like you had an amazing time, i can’t wait to read the rest!

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:39 am

LG, it was great!

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cynthia August 31, 2012 at 4:01 pm

That post office idea is so awesome! Did you guys leave any?? I hope you are able to deliver the ones you picked up some day. :)

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:39 am

I wish we had! We didn’t know about it beforehand so we didn’t have any postcards :( I was bummed. But we will definitely hand deliver the cards we picked up- it will be so fun!

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Cheryl Dinan August 31, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Kim, I read your post on so many places but the photos don’t show up??? Did see pictures on face book though. They are beautiful. Stay safe and stay in touch. Love you.

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Cheryl Dinan August 31, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Kim, The pictures did show up. It just took a while. Where to next? Sorry we missed your phone call. Love Mom

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:40 am

Hi mom, glad the photos finally showed up.

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Terry P August 31, 2012 at 5:28 pm

It really does sound like paradise!! The pictures are absolutely gorgeous!! Would love to go there some day! So glad you two are having such a great time. Stay safe. Love from Macy & Bear and Mom & Dad P.

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:41 am

Terry, it really is! You and Mike would love it. We talked often about how we think you guys should go some day!

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Patti August 31, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Looking forward to the next post! Great photos, love the story line and I “love” the post office, that is just amazing. Imagine when you deliver those cards and the stories you’ll be able to tell of where they’ve been?!

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:41 am

I know… it will be so cool to see what happens when we deliver those cards. We’ll be carrying those things around the world with us before they finally make it to their final destination!

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Pamela September 1, 2012 at 5:45 am

I am glad you guys decided to go! We were in the same situation, also at the beginning of our trip and it has been on of my favorites places so far! Can’t wait for the rest :)

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:42 am

Oh yeah, in retrospect it was absolutely the right decision.

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Melissa Harris September 1, 2012 at 7:26 am

Kim,
I am really enjoying your blog and I love that you were able to see Galapagos. I am in the process of planning my families RTW and Galapagos is big on my list as I am a Science teacher. I have been looking into many tour companies and cruises but all the numbers seem high. I was hoping you could send me your numbers so I could compare the last minute deal to what I am seeing right now.
Thanks!
Melissa

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:43 am

Hi Melissa, I emailed you. Honestly, it is very expensive but we felt it was worth every penny. It’s hard when you are on a budget though. The good news is that the rest of Ecuador is very inexpensive.

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Rebecca September 1, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Wow, that tortoise is huge! Love it, you’re only a few days into your trip and already being spontaneous! :-)

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:43 am

I know! It was fun to plan a trip like that at the very last minute. So excited to see what else happens.

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Sarah Somewhere September 1, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Sounds amazing guys, cant wait to read more :)

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:43 am

So amazing :)

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) September 2, 2012 at 1:35 am

The Galapagos sound like heaven, Kim. Seasickness seems like a trifle when the tradeoff is getting to see those tortoises and frolic with a sea lion!

And don’t worry about blowing the budget early on… we’re spending the first month of our RTW trip in Japan. Budgets don’t get blown much more spectacularly than they do here! :)

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:44 am

It’s true, we forgot all about the seasickness!

Ouch, Japan! Beautiful but pricey, that’s for sure. Enjoy your time there!

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barbylucedistelle September 2, 2012 at 6:07 am

OMG! I so envy you!! It looks like an amazing adventure! And hand delivery the postcards is sooo emotional!! I want to go there too.

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:45 am

It is a wonderful, wonderful place. I think it should definitely enjoy a top spot on any bucket list!

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Bama September 2, 2012 at 7:41 am

Sometimes in our travels there are moments when we have to take a detour. It looks like your detour to Galapagos was really worth it!

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:45 am

It’s true Bama, and the detour was amazing.

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Pamela September 3, 2012 at 5:36 am

So glad you did it. It’s an incredible experience. I’m still trying to find words to describe everything I saw.

Continue your great adventure. I can’t wait to hear more.

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:46 am

I know. In the end I think that there are no perfect words to describe it. Some things can only really be experienced, you know?

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Tracey September 3, 2012 at 3:28 pm

So glad you decided to go! The Galapagos looks amazing! I will be booking last minute when we get to Ecuador too, thanks for the tip:)Can’t wait to hear more.

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:47 am

Yes, it’s a great way to save a lot of money. Make sure to shop around too- there are a whole bunch of tourist companies in Quito and I think Guyaquil too.

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Carmel September 4, 2012 at 2:32 pm

I showed your pictures on Facebook to my uncle while we were visiting his cabin. He’s moving the Galapagos to the top of their travel list…

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:47 am

Yay, he totally should!

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Marisol@TravelingSolemates September 6, 2012 at 11:42 am

Hi Kim, I’m glad that you guys decided to go to Galapagos. It’s such an enchanting place and is definitely is a trip of a lifetime. My husband and I had an amazing time there. Reading your posts made me re-live our trip.

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:48 am

I’m glad I could help you to relive it… I think it is something that we will relive again and again. Such an AMAZING time.

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Dustin September 9, 2012 at 6:58 pm

As usual I love your writing, the 200 years is so true and funny how we observe similar things like the lawsuit happy US vs the World. Hate to say this though, but looks like Brian has the same small carry around backpack as us and unfortunately we have grown to hate it since it’s a single pocket and holds no shape so it pokes you in the back all the time.

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Kim September 10, 2012 at 5:07 am

Oh yeah, I hate that backpack too. It soooo annoying to track down anything in that stupid bag. Sigh.

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Traveling Ted September 17, 2012 at 7:03 pm

It is always smart to listen to the locals and also remain flexible. Those tortoises are amazing.

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Kim September 18, 2012 at 11:05 am

They were SO AMAZING! It was cool to see them in their natural environment.

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