Beloved Galapagos Visited Through New Eyes

Last year we did a big trip to the Galapagos with Dad and Ann where we took an 8 night cruise, and ended with a few days on land on Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal, Galapagos. It was an AMAZING trip! Afterwards, we told everyone we know if they ever want to visit Galapagos, we would tag along if they wanted company / tour guide services. So this February, our friends Kevin and Joan took us up on our offer!

It was a last minute trip, this time because Kevin and Joan were supposed to come visit us in Cuenca, and then realized they just couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to see such amazing islands when they were already going to be in Ecuador. So to put things into perspective: we had just returned to Cuenca from Bogota (after three months of traveling) on a Tuesday around 10pm. On Wednesday we found out the Galapagos were a definite go, and Wednesday night I booked flights for all four of us from Quito to San Cristobal. Then on Saturday Elliott and I left on a ten hour bus to Quito. Whew! No rest for the weary. But despite how worn out we were feeling, we kept reminding ourselves, this was the GALAPAGOS. It couldn’t be anything but awesome.

The first awesome thing occurred when we found ourselves on a “chicken bus” between the bus terminal in Quito and the Quito Airport.  Yep – my first bus ride with live chickens!!!  (You’d have thought it would have happened in India, or Africa… but no!  It happened right here in good ole Ecuador!  Even better, I got video of his crowing!

01 Our first chicken bus

There’s a chicken in that crate.

Then in the airport, I found one of my favorite candy bars:

03 Now in Stephanie size

I’m so glad I skipped breakfast this morning!


The trip itinerary was pretty basic; three nights on San Cristobal followed by three nights on Santa Cruz. We wouldn’t be taking a cruise, and this would be our first time staying on Santa Cruz. We were excited to see how it compared as a land destination to San Cristobal. (We wrote about our land experiences there in a previous post.)  We found Kevin and Joan in Quito Airport in the early morning and flew together to San Cristobal.

It was really hot and I was impressed when Joan and Kevin said they were up for walking a couple miles from the airport to our place of lodging, with our bags in tow. Troopers! Casa Mabell was full this time around, and our Airbnb rental was at Casa Hospedaje Shaskuash in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the main town on San Cristobal. Jessi the owner is super sweet and helpful with everything. There was no A/C but we had a breeze and a fan, and the only issue then was mosquitos when we kept the door to our patio open.

Over the next few days we showed Kevin and Joan many of the places we had gone last year on this island – the Interpretation Center, the local beach Playa Mann, and El Loberia Beach where we had videoed the cutest baby sea lion ever. We hiked to Las Tijeretas and showed them the spot along the water where hundreds of sea lions congregate each night.

We even took them to the same chicken place we had eaten dinner at last year! This year at El Loberia we were excited to find sea turtles swimming in the water as well as a cool sea snake.

We also did some new things together. We tried to rent kayaks, but were told the water along the coast was too rough, so we signed up for a surfing lesson instead! We met at a beach we had never been too, and Kevin joined Elliott and me in the lesson. It was good practice but the conditions weren’t great for beginners. Despite the fact that we’ve taken lessons before, this time I never even stood up on my board. 😦 Elliott did once though!

57a Return of the surfers (+ Joan)

Finished surfing and enjoying the sunset.

We also took a day boat tour to Leon Dormido (Sleeping Lion), known as Kicker Rock in English. When we arrived we jumped out of the boat and swam as a group between the two huge rocks – the head of the lion and the body of the lion. Then we snorkeled a bit around the area, where we saw numerous fish and a sea turtle, and poor Kevin got stung by a jelly fish.

We continued on in the boat until we came to a natural sea arch. The boat operator drove us around the arch until we could see Leon Dormido through the arch, which made for a great photo.

83 Kicker Rock nicely framed

Then we stopped at a little deserted island, and since the waters were very rough, we had to jump off our boat and swim in. Only Elliott didn’t realize how deep it was when he jumped in, and as he went underwater his glasses popped right off his face into the sea. Ooops. The bigger oops happened when Kevin lost his wedding ring trying to help Elliott find his glasses. We made appropriate memorials with the beautiful shells we found that day.

On the way back to San Cristobal, we had an amazing experience. A pod of dolphins decided to play with our boat. We watched them swim all around us, even jump out of the water at times, as our boat operator varied the boat speed to keep the dolphins interested. When he had them really “hooked,” he told us to jump in and swim with them. Which we did!!! Words can’t describe our elation, as we swam with dolphins in the WILD.

110 Underwater dolphins

That afternoon we took the ferry with our luggage from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz. We had three nights to spend there, but due to our arrival late afternoon Wednesday and departure flight early Saturday, the time went quickly. We visited the Darwin Research Center but were sad that the baby turtle section was closed for renovations. We stopped at the local fish market to say hello to the resident sea lion and pelicans.

We also found a local beach that we could walk to with some shade, sally crabs, pelicans and swimming iguanas. And we found a great soft ice cream place where we indulged each night!

On Friday we spent the morning at a local beach, and in the afternoon we went on a driving tour to a lava tunnel and a turtle plantation. Our driver dropped us off at one end of the lava tube and told us to go through and that he’d meet us at the other end. We started walking through and could tell right away it was different than the one we went to last year. It was lit up with a string of occasional lightbulbs, but it was long and wet and a bit muddy. It was dark in places and at one point we had to crawl under a super low point to get to the next big opening in the cave – dirty but thrilling! We decided this one was better than the one we did last year.

When we came out, our guide was at the other end waiting for us along with a sign with a map showing the route we took through the earth . He drove us to the turtle plantation where we walked around a bit and checked out some huge Galapagos Tortoises. So cool! There was a big tour group taking photos with the first one we saw, who was not shy at all, and after they left, we had the place basically to ourselves. Our guide said this first tortoise was 150 years old! The next few tortoises were less outgoing but we enjoyed seeing them and took some photos and watched them eat.
At the end we climbed into tortoise shells and acted silly.

On Saturday we woke up at 5:30am to meet our taxi for the airport. The ride took 35 minutes even at crazy speeds (and passing other drivers like crazy). Then we had to take a ferry over to Baltra for a dollar, and say goodbye once again to our beloved Galapagos Islands.


4 thoughts on “Beloved Galapagos Visited Through New Eyes

  1. Just got done with a mini-trip to Quito. My friends are sticking around a bit longer, and will hit up the Galapagos shortly. Your article is making me even more jealous! :-p

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Your friends are indeed lucky! I hope you can make it back someday to see the Galapagos too. They are definitely worth it!

  2. So great that you got to see the Galapagos Islands again, and had the fun of introducing your friends to the experience. I can’t believe you got to swim with wild dolphins in their true natural habitat! So very cool! Love you guys!

    • Love you too Lainie!

      We feel really blessed to have been to the Galapagos at all. I remember the first time I learned about them, 12 years ago, when a coworker cruised there. We always thought it would be unattainable when she told us what she paid. But of course we never dreamed back then that we’d one day move to Ecuador! And now I’m happy to share a land-only, cheaper way to visit for those who don’t live here.

      Swimming with dolphins in the wild was truly one of our favorite experiences in nature!

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