Blue-footed Boobies, Boat Rides, and Beaches: Four Action-Packed Days in the Galapagos Islands

Headshot of Elise Fuente.
Elise Fuente
February 14, 2023
Leon Dormido from the boat

We met on early on a Thursday morning in the busy streets of Cumbaya and headed north to the airport.  I spent the plane ride admiring the volcanoes peeking through the clouds until we landed on San Cristobal Island, where we were greeted by heavy humidity and rainy skies.  We instantly felt the stickiness on our skin, shocked by the sharp contrast to the chilly mountain air in Quito. We were instantly ready to cool off at the beach and headed to the bus to begin our adventure.

After lunch and a snorkel suit try-on session, the skies had cleared and we headed out into the national park. The season’s rains covered the typically dry terrain in lush green forest with scattered cacti. We hiked over viewpoints and dove into the bay where sea lions, turtles, and schools of fish instantly became our swimming companions. We snorkeled along the coast and came up for air with equal excitement, admiring the iguanas, colorful crabs, and blue-footed boobies that roamed on the rocks beside us. Swimming back to shore and making our way into town, the wildlife never escaped us. We nearly tripped over giant iguanas, found lizards running across the walls, and laughed at sea lions on park benches. This was truly a place like no other. 

A cool morning breeze woke us up the next day as we traversed across the sea to León Dormido, a giant rock of an island with a split in the middle, forming a stunning sea canyon. We snorkeled around the entire island, which was lined with beautiful coral in all shades of purple, blue, orange, and green. It hosted swarms of fish and invited in all kinds of rays, sharks, turtles, and of course, sea lions. It was surely the best snorkeling of the trip, with beautiful sights both below and above water as we looked up at the imposing canyon. We ended the tour that day with a visit to a nearby beach where we also used our snorkel gear, since we had now found it to be the best way to enjoy the water.  We were in shallower, more sandy territory and caught glimpses of stingrays and more sea lions before making our way back to San Cristobal Island.

That night, we ended the day at a lively beach near town, where we enjoyed more sea lion company and watched the setting sun. On our walk back to the hotel, we watched the town explode with energy as the annual celebrations for the island began.  Crowds gathered around the town’s auditorium that night where music played behind flames onstage and the town began an event to select the “Queen of San Cristobal” among three teenage contestants. As an island with an ubiquitous tourism industry, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to experience the true social life and traditions of San Cristobal.

The next day, we took a short boat ride to the nearby “Isla de los Lobos,” a nearby island rife with habitat for marine birds and as the name suggests, more sea lions. We hiked around the rocky terrain to observe the frigates and blue-footed boobies, which were in the heart of their courting season. We admired the various couples pairing up and the males dancing to show off their bright blue feet.  However, under the heavy heat of the sun, we were eager to jump in the water and snorkel along the shallow coast with the sea lions. We spent the rest of the day visiting more beaches and snorkeling, even under a downpour of rain.

Our final day of the trip, we took a bus across the island and into the highlands where we hiked up to the top of a hill to see a lagoon. Seeing the contrast in the landscape after just a short trip was impressive, especially since we could see the ocean and the nearby islands out in the distance. As Marine birds flew above us and into the lagoon, we stood there for a moment in silence, taking in the sounds of nature and the infinite beauty around us.

Before making our way back into town, we paid a visit to the giant terrestrial turtles the Galapagos is famous for, watching them slowly move through their habitat. We watched them bathe, fight with one another, and even got to see the babies, which incredulously could fit in the palm of a hand but would soon grow to be over 300 pounds.  The heat was oppressive at the turtle sanctuary, however, so we luckily stopped at a beach before heading to the airport. Saving the best for last, it was the most beautiful beach of the trip.  We stuck our toes in the soft white sand and played in the waves of the turquoise water, careless of the fact that we would be traveling on the plane with sticky, salty skin.

Everyone told me before my trip that four days in the Galapagos is not enough time, but I left quite satisfied with all that we had done.  We saw incredible wildlife, snorkeled across the bays, and hiked over the highlands.  We got a glimpse of the San Cristobal culture the night of the celebration, shared loads of laughs, and bonded as a group.  With such loaded days, I arrived back in Quito feeling like I had been gone for much longer than just a weekend.  Besides, the crisp mountain air quickly reminded me that I never want to be gone for too long anyway.

Headshot of Elise Fuente.

Elise Fuente

My name is Elise Fuente and I'm a senior at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. I'm studying International Affairs with a concentration in International Development and I have a keen interest in Latin America. I'm studying in Quito after a semester in Buenos Aires and I hope to keep exploring the region as much as possible! I have passion for sustainability, service, languages, and the outdoors, but sometimes I still dream about being a chef. :)

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