Galapagos: Eco-wonderland

A Santa Fe Land Iguana in the Galapagos Islands (Photograph by Heather Blumberg)
A Santa Fe Land Iguana in the Galapagos Islands (Photograph by Heather Blumberg)

By Heather Blumberg

Galapagos Islands — Wednesday morning, it was early. We checked out of our $16 a night hostel and headed to Marsical Airport in Quito, Ecuador.

Our destination was the Galapagos Islands and our flight was to depart at 9:30 AM. I couldn’t have been more excited about getting out of dreary-cold-rainy-high altitude Quito.

The plane began to sink below 35,000 feet and I got the tickle of excitement in my stomach. I peered out the porthole window. Below was a small brown scrubby looking island barren of vegetation. The only distinct feature was the straight line of the runway carved straight through the ground.

I was disappointed that the Galapagos looked so bland. We were landing on Baltra Island. Yes, it was just a small chunk of brown earth with a runway.

The plane hatch opened and a blast of hot smacked my body. I shed my jacket and rolled my pants up. Dogs sniffed through our luggage. Then we picked up our bags and headed out.

Tour guides met most passengers from the plane, ready to whisk them off onto prearranged tours. As is my style, I had nothing planned and nowhere to go.

“I think we need to take that bus into town?” I said to my husband Jon and son Quinn.

I asked the same question to one of the bus drivers, in the crudest Spanish one can speak, and he returned a “si.”

As the bus dropped us off on the other side of the small island, it became apparent that we had to catch a ferry across to Santa Cruz Island. The island we were on, Baltra held nothing more then the airport.

The brownness and desolation of Baltra Island began to fade as we boarded the ferry. Pelicans soared overhead giving the impression they were pterodactyls. Sea lions loafed around on outcroppings. Little red crabs scuttled along algae stained rocks. A Jurassic experience.

We disembarked the ferry and onto another bus. The bus ride was spectacular; first we traveled through cactus-ed desert-like land, then up into the lush highlands; humid and foggy. 50 minutes later we descended onto dry flat land and into the seaside town of Puerto Agora.

The bus deposited us onto a small parking area and we were on our own.

“So where to?” I spoke aloud.

We wandered the sweltering main street while being handed several fliers for various tours.

“Let’s just find the main tourist office and find someplace to stay the night while we gather information.”

The woman at the tourist office was very helpful.

“So, we have here a very nice place the Finch Bay Eco-Hotel” she told us.

It was allot pricier then our Quito accommodations. But it sounded luxurious and it was an eco-friendly place, which is of the utmost importance while being in an environment like the Galapagos.

Arrangements were made with the hotel and we were told to wait at the dock for the hotels dinghy to pick us up. The water was crystalline giving spectacular views of fish darting back and forth in their natural aquarium.

The dinghy dropped us off on a secluded and private peninsula-ed area. Andrea, a young woman from the Finch Bay Eco-Hotel greeted us, “Welcome to Galapagos,” she said with a smile.

Lizards darted between holes in walls, as we walked along a stone walled path. “Buenos tardes,” locals smiled and nodded as they passed.

We were lead through a naturally landscaped property to our eco-friendly room. The room was wonderful, exquisite and just what we needed after a long morning flight and an afternoon spent just trying to get here.

After getting ourselves settled in we explored our new surroundings. In the hotels pool guests were taking SCUBA lessons from a very handsome and tanned man.

No wonder the students were all woman. We walked down over to the beach, sheltered by lava rocks and mangroves. Intense looking birds fished from rocks, huge pelicans flew overhead, fish schooled through the water.

“This is the most amazing place on Earth!” I was delighted. After enjoying a delicious dinner prepared at the Finch Bay Eco-Hotel, we signed up for a day trip to Santa Fe Island.

At 7:45 AM the next day with flipper and snorkel in tow, we were ready to depart on our excursion along with 8 other tourists.

“Good morning. Buenos Dias. Guten Morgan,” the naturalist beamed. “Is everyone OK if I speak English?”

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