Galapagos Islands Photo Essay

In 2011 when I confirmed that my very first photo tour would be happening in Peru in February 2012, I said to myself, “If you are going all the way to Peru, you must go to the Galapagos Islands. It is so close. And, what if you never get back to South America?”

And so began my love affair with South America.

At that time, I really wasn’t sure if I would ever go back to South America or not. Four years later, with two Peru: Through the Lens Photo Tours complete, two trips to Argentina (one consisting of four months in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires) and visits to Uruguay and Chile … well, let’s just say I love South America.

I flew to Quito, Ecuador and then off to Baltra Island of the Galapagos Archipelago where I would do an independent tour with Bamba Experience. It was their first year operating in the Galapagos, so there were a few glitches, but nothing could dull the amazing beauty of these incredible islands and the locals who went out of their way to assist me in every way they could.

I visited Santa Cruz and Floreana islands. Someday, I’ll return to visit more of the islands, but, being on a tight budget, a short amount of time and wanting a land-based itinerary, my options were limited. None-the-less, I’m glad to have the amazing memories that I do from one of my favourite places in all of my travels.

Want to read more about my travels to the Galapagos Islands?
Check out these past blogs:
Floreana Island – Dolphins
Lifejacket Complication
Fresh Fish Feast
Swimming with the sea lions

Is the Galapagos Islands on your travel bucket list? What’s stopping you?
Send me a message, let’s chat about all of the great options for an amazing, educational and life changing experience for you alone, with your friends or family. I’d love to help make this dream come true for you! Drop me a message.

Fresh Fish Market – Photo Essay

Puerta Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands

I was wandering along the waterfront one afternoon in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos and came across the fresh fish market. I’m passionate about photographing people in their environment, working … what better place than a fish market? The fisherman had come in off the boats not long before and they were preparing fresh fish for locals; first come, first served. As with any subject, I started photographing from the front and then started to wander around to different vantage points. I’m so glad that I did because some of my favourite shots are the ones from behind the fish counter.

Review – Hotel Crossman – Santa Cruz Island

Hotel Crossman, Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands
Hotel Crossman, Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands

I booked my travel with a company called Bamba Experience who in turn booked my hotel reservations for me based on price and ‘comfort’ level desired. I decided to go on the cheap side as The Galapagos is already an expensive destination.

I believe that Hotel Crossman is listed as a 3 star hotel and I would say that is pretty accurate.

The staff have been wonderful. Very friendly and helpful. With all of the confusion in my first couple of days, they did their best to help sort everything out.

As for the hotel itself, my first impression of the room was that it was lovely. It is large enough for a double bed and a single, has an open closet and a few hangers for clothes and a private bathroom. I noticed immediately that they use white sheets and no bedspreads which makes me at least feel like it is a clean hotel rather than bedspreads that never get washed.

There are four large windows in the room and the breeze is beautiful when it’s not raining!

The tile floors get a little slippery if you come in from the rain with your shoes on, but not much can be done about that.

The bathroom is sufficient. It is clean, has everything you need including shampoo and the stand up shower is a decent size.

There is a tv (which I haven’t turned on once) and an air conditioner (which runs constantly if I’m in my room).

They have free wifi internet and it works pretty good most of the time. Sometimes the signal isn’t strong enough to carry skype conversations, but overall, I can’t complain.

They don’t have safes in the rooms, or at the hotel at all as far as I understand. This means that I’ve had to leave money and other valuables in my room when I’m out. I haven’t had any trouble at all with this though. Nothing has gone missing and the room is always nice and tidy when I return from my day’s activities.

My only complaints are:
– There is no hot water, so cold showers every day. However, I’ve come to find out that other hotels are the same. Not sure if more expensive hotels would be different, but it seems pretty standard to not have hot water here.
– Sometimes the bathroom smells. When it happens, it is pretty gross, but it goes away quickly. Not sure of the cause. Not sure if it is the water that smells or if it is wafting up through the shower drain.
– When it rains (which is nearly every day this time of year), I have a leak from the ceiling. It drips from my ceiling light fixture to the floor, conveniently right between the two beds, missing both of them!

The first night that I was here it leaked a lot, so I went and got one of the staff to come upstairs and see. There was no way I was going to try to explain a leak! She quickly got some old rag towels and put them on the floor to soak up the mess. I left the there for the night as it continued to drip. Unfortunately it has happened every day, but I can’t be bothered to go get rags every day, so I just step over the puddle on the floor and make sure none of my electronics are near it.

The breakfast that they have each morning has been good. Scrambled eggs, a bun with jam, fresh squeezed fruit juice, a piece of processed meat and cheese. They also have tea, coffee and this morning there was cocoa for hot chocolate as well! They are not a restaurant though, they are only set up to provide breakfast to their own guests.

One of my favorite parts about this hotel is the terrace or veranda. Right outside my second floor room there is a little sitting area with patio furniture and a little table. The first day I was here, I sat out there for a couple of hours while I did my blogging. It poured and I could listen to it, but not get wet. The fresh breeze was amazing!

I haven’t taken any pictures of the veranda yet, but if I get a chance tomorrow or Thursday before I leave, I will! They have a couple of other common areas as well that are more enclosed. Would be a lovely spot for group meetings if you were traveling with friends, or if your group tour had more than just one person!

Overall, I would say that this hotel fits a 3 star rating. It is comfortable and clean, but doesn’t have the luxuries of home that I am used to (like hot water). If I were to come back, I would be happy to stay here again.

Galapagos Sunset

Feb 14, 2012

I’ve already done my little pitty party about being alone on Valentine’s day, but I tried to make the best of it. I headed out this evening around 5pm to the waterfront to shoot a few photos of the setting sun.

Here, near the equator, the sun sets very quickly. It isn’t dusk for long in these parts at all. In fact, last night in the 15 minutes it took me to shower, the sun had already set and gone away completely so I missed it all together. Shame on me!

Tonight I didn’t want to make the same mistake. I got a few nice shots, but nothing spectacular. For one, the sunset wasn’t ‘the best’ and two, I wasn’t really at an ideal location for viewing it. Tomorrow I think I’ll be coming back by boat around sunset time, so hopefully I’ll have another opportunity!

Here’s a couple of quick photos though.

Sunset at Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands
Sunset at Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands
Sunset at Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands
Sunset at Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands

Valentine’s Day at the Beach

Feb 14, 2012

One of the bad things about traveling alone on Valentine’s Day is that many other people are traveling in couples. I saw lots of couples walking, holding hands, kissing, having romantic dinners today and I was all alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, just stating that Valentine’s Day in paradise isn’t really so perfect without your special someone. booo hooo.

Now my little pitty party is over and I’ll move on. After all, it is only a day where people spend lots of money on the one they love when they should be showing they care all along!

Ok, now I’ll move on 🙂

After my early morning breakfast, I headed to Charles Darwin Street in Puerto Ayora. It’s about a five minute walk from my hotel. Unfortunately, at 8:30am, I was already too late for all of the boat tours except for the Bay tour that I had done the day before. I talked to the guide about other options and discovered that I have seen most of what Santa Cruz island has to offer. He made several suggestions for tours, but they were things that I had already done on the way in from the airport on my first day. In the end, he suggested I head to Tortuga Bay which is a beautiful beach within walking distance.

It is named Tortuga bay as it is an area where turtles come to lay their eggs. Unfortunately I didn’t see any turtles here today. They usually only come in to land at night for laying eggs.

The tour operator, along with several other people told me that it was about a 30 – 40 minute walk to get to the beach. This is technically correct … from the starting point of the park. I walked through town and up a really huge hill to get to the park entrance. Did I mention that at 9am the sun is already at it’s hottest for the day? A huge hill, no shade … 2 kms of walking already!

I also made a quick stop along the way to rent snorkel gear from a really nice hotel – Sante Fe Suites. They wanted me to leave ID in order to take snorkel gear. All I had with me was my visa, so I left it. I wouldn’t have done this with just any business, but this particular place was very nice and appeared reputable, not sketchy.

Sante Fe Suites Santa Cruz Island
Sante Fe Suites Santa Cruz Island

At the entrance to the park, you stop at a reception area and sign in. They check each night to make sure that everyone has left the park as it closes at 6pm. The man there told me this is because the turtles come in at night to lay their eggs.

From the entrance, you walk along a lovely path. It is sturdy walking as it is made of some kind of brick or cobbelstone. Easy, except for the sizzling heat and the hills!

Path to Tortuga Bay, Puerto Ayora
Path to Tortuga Bay, Puerto Ayora

The walk took me at least 40 minutes, maybe even 45. I wouldn’t suggest it for anyone who is elderly or has mobility issues. Or maybe just not at 9am when the sun is at it’s hottest!

When I finally got to the end of the path, the trees opened up on to a vast beach, beautiful teal waters and islands in the distance. It stopped me in my tracks and I’m pretty sure I murmured ‘WOW’ to myself. Who else am I going to say it to?

Tortuga Bay Beach, Puerto Ayora
Tortuga Bay Beach, Puerto Ayora

So, this is where I spent Valentine’s Day morning! If I’m going to be alone on Valentine’s Day, I might as well be somewhere beautiful! Paradise isn’t quite the same without someone special to share it with though. None-the-less beautiful!

After marvelling in the beauty of the beach for a few minutes, I began to focus on black ‘rocks’ strewn about the beach. Oh wait … those aren’t rocks … they move! They’re land iguanas. They are absolutely everywhere you look. They are walking beside you, in front of you, on the rocks, in the shallow water cooling off and hiding in the shade of the mangroves.

land iguana, Tortuga Bay, Puerto Ayora
land iguana, Tortuga Bay, Puerto Ayora

You can get to within about a meter of them before they start to get skittish. And it really depends on which one. Some of them I was able to get close too. Some of them I looked at once and backed off! They are mean looking creatures aren’t they? They look like small dinosaurs. It is absolutely incredible how colorful and textured they are. And those spiky things down their backs are awesome!

Once I had walked around a bit and taken some photos, I found a bench under the shade of a mangrove and plunked myself down. I set my camera down and dug out my bottle of water. When I turned to dig in my backpack I realized there was a big iguana only about three feet from me. He was snoozing in the shade and didn’t seem concerned with me at all. I rested a bit and then snapped a few photos of him and the birds that were coming and going. Earlier when I was taking photos, I had thought it would be nice to be able to get closer to the iguanas without them running away, but every time I carefully inched closer, they would take off. This guy, however was just enjoying the shade … as was I!

After about 10 minutes of rest in the shade, I noticed the iguana yawn and lick his lips. I put my camera up hoping he would do it again and that I could catch it. Next thing I knew, he turned directly toward me and paused. Snap, snap, snap and I got this …

Land Iguana, Tortuga Bay, Galapagos Islands
Land Iguana, Tortuga Bay, Galapagos Islands

Then he came for me, I swear he did! They don’t move all that fast, but when they are only three feet away and head straight for you, it seems like they are lightening fast! I don’t seriously think he was licking his lips and thinking about snacking on me. I think I was just sitting in the direction that he wanted to go. Regardless, it didn’t take me long to get out of his way!

Another great thing about this beach is it’s pelicans. It is hard to imagine just how large they are until you are somewhat close to them. They stand about 3 feet tall and their wing span must be close to double that. I enjoyed watching this one dive for it’s food, swallow an then take off and dive for the next delicious sushi meal! Check out the wing span.

Pelican, Tortuga Bay, Puerto Ayora
Pelican, Tortuga Bay, Puerto Ayora

Off to the side, on the rocks was another bird. I’m not sure if it was a pelican or not. He looked particularly large and had an orange beak. The other pelican’s didn’t, so not really sure what this one is. Something about him reminds me of an old man though.

Tortuga Bay, Galapagos Islands
Tortuga Bay, Galapagos Islands

After walking 5-7 kms and taking all of these pictures I was hot! You quickly have to get used to being soaked all of the time here. If you aren’t drenched in sweat from walking, you are drenched in the almost daily afternoon rains. Quite honestly though, the rains are nice and refreshing. No one seems to hide from the rain here like we do at home. Everyone goes about their business as usual and lots of people are just out walking around or kids playing in it.

I took a few minutes to drop my things off in the shade of a mangrove tree and then I headed to the water of the second beach … the ‘bay’ of Tortuga Bay. You aren’t allowed to swim at the first beach because of strong currents, so they recommend swimming in the bay. I was disappointed that the water wasn’t colder. I was hot and it wasn’t nearly cold enough to bring my temperature down! The water was also slightly murky, not clear like the waters I was swimming in yesterday. So, I didn’t even use the snorkeling gear that I had paid $3 to rent at a lovely hotel along the way!

Once I was out of the water I could see that rain was coming, so I decided to pack up and start on my way back as it would be another 40-60 minutes for me to get back out of the park on foot.

When I say that you could see the rain coming, I really mean it. You look up in the sky, off in the distance and there are huge black clouds sticking together. Then you can see separate streams of rain coming from those clouds. The photo I captured was earlier in the day, so you can’t actually see the rain, but it’ll give you a good idea of the foreboding sky that I was rushing to avoid!

Rain clouds at Tortuga Bay, Puerto Ayora
Rain clouds at Tortuga Bay, Puerto Ayora

You can also see a red line in this photo. It is a string that is up for nearly the full length of the beach reminding people not to go into the vegetation because it is pelican nesting grounds.

I’ll leave you with a couple more photos from the day. Along with all of these other great things I’ve talked about, there is a huge abundance of different birds here. I’m not a bird watcher per se, but put me in paradise with a bird in front of me and I’ll probably take it’s picture. Here are a few dainty little birds.

Bird at Tortuga Bay, Puerto Ayora
Bird at Tortuga Bay, Puerto Ayora
Bird at Tortuga Bay, Galapagos Islands
Bird at Tortuga Bay, Galapagos Islands
Bird at Tortuga Bay, Galapagos Islands
Bird at Tortuga Bay, Galapagos Islands
Bird at Tortuga Bay, Galapagos Islands
Bird at Tortuga Bay, Galapagos Islands