Galapagos, Islands of Wonder

Phyllis with sea lions
Phyllis with sea lions | Larger

I was chased by a mother sea lion protecting her young offspring on an island in the Galapagos. The sea lion was barking loudly and flapping around. The experience was one I will never forget as I explored these enchanting islands of rare birds and marine life.

The Galapagos Islands were discovered in 1535 by the Bishop of Panama. Three centuries later, in 1835, naturalist, Charles Darwin made a voyage to the Galapagos Islands. He studied the islands and its creatures and his theories of evolution changed the way in which many viewed the modern world.

Island with birds
Island with birds | Larger

In 1959, the islands were declared a national park in the Ecuador National Park System and by 1979, the park was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Later it became a Biosphere Reserve and in 1986 a marine reserve and in 1991, a whale sanctuary.

There are many ways to visit this unique island located on the equator. I flew to Ecuador and stayed overnight in a hotel. Then I boarded a yacht, manned and owned, by Ecoventura and sailed around the islands. The 20-passenger yacht is available for three, four and seven night cruises.

Yacht | Larger

There are many companies that have boating trips available. The boats are restricted in size, so that they don't disturb the environment. Ecoventura has English speaking naturalists on board which point out the many species of wildlife and inform travelers about the history of the area and its inhabitants. The naturalist told our group that there are 58 species of birds in the Galapagos Islands, many of which are found nowhere else in the world; 22 species of reptiles, six species of mammals and 307 species of fish.

Giant Frigate Bird
Giant Frigate Bird | Larger

As we were learning about the wildlife, we relaxed on our yacht. The vessel was very comfortable and the food was Ecuadorian and international, delicious and plentiful. We enjoyed fish, chicken and steaks for dinner as well as a hearty breakfasts and lunches. Our accommodations were comfortable with private bathrooms and showers and meals were served by an attentive wait staff.

It is also possible to snorkel in the waters off the back of the yacht which was a fun activity and a chance to see marine life up close and personal. Ecoventura has trained scuba diving and snorkeling crew and complimentary gear for passengers. I'm not a scuba diver but I enjoyed snorkeling among the vast marine life. Those in my group who scuba dived said it was one of the highlights of their trip.

Yacht interior
Yacht interior | Larger

When our group was allowed to proceed ashore, we received a list of instructions from our licensed Galapagos National Park Service Guide. We were told we could not handle any animal, touch or remove any plants. No food is allowed on the islands and no smoking is allowed. We were also told that leaving any waste behind is absolutely forbidden as this would disturb the natural habitat of the animals.

Giant Tortoise
Giant Tortoise | Larger

Walking on the island was an amazing occurrence. As a writer, I don't feel I could actually find the words to describe the excitement of the Galapagos or the intense feelings I experienced. Hundreds of sea lions were sprawled about sunning themselves on the rocks and the sandy surfaces. Blue footed boobies were resting on foliage and dozens of miniature penguins were all lined up in groups along the shore. I saw flightless cormorants, iguanas and giant tortoises. It was a feast for the senses. Everywhere I turned, I saw some form of animal or plant life in an undisturbed setting. No McDonalds, no neon lights, no cars, just up close an personal with nature.

Iguana | Larger

There are 13 main islands in the Galapagos and six smaller islands. The best time to visit is in the warm season from December to May. Naturalist guides escort groups around the islands and make sure that the integrity of the area and its inhabitants are protected.

There are many places on this earth that you can visit, but none in a setting of so many rare species that you will encounter on the Galapagos Islands.

For more information on tours to the Galapagos Islands, go to:

Abercombie and Kent also has tours to Galapagos, go to