"Exploring the Galapagos" is just a glimpse at the fun on International Expeditions' Galapagos tour, led by native Ecuadorian naturalists. Shot by photographer John Christie, during a recent Galapagos Islands cruise, the film showcases the rugged beauty and unique ecological heritage of the archipelago. In discussing his experience, John said, "We spent an amazing week in the Galapagos Islands aboard the M/V Evolution. It's an unbelievable destination!"
"Untouched by man until the late 1600s, the Galapagos have a unique ecological heritage. From Charles Darwin to modern day, scientists and adventurers have long been drawn to the rugged beauty and rich biodiversity of these volcanic islands. Follow in the footsteps of the great explorers during International Expeditions’ Galapagos Islands cruise aboard the M/V Evolution.
All visitors to the islands travel with Ecuadorian naturalists, and International Expeditions has some of the best.
The M/V Evolution is large enough to be comfortable yet small enough to be intimate. It offers a range of cabin sizes to make you feel at home — and the cuisine is fabulous, International with an Ecuadorian influence.
The first trip ashore offers an encounter with Galapagos sea lions. The adults seem indifferent to visitors, but the juveniles welcome the opportunity to play. Afternoon excursions can last until dusk — so there's often a glorious sunset to enjoy on the zodiac ride back to the ship. During IE’s Galapagos cruise, the ship travels mostly at night, so you wake up at a new destination every morning, ready for the day’s adventure.
Even the smallest islands are home to a large variety of wildlife. Land iguanas feast on prickly pear cactus. Tropicbirds with their long exotic tail feathers nest on rocky ledges. And swallow tail gulls guard their chicks from curious sea lion pups.
At sunset, walk along a small sandbar with sea lions, frigatebirds and marine iguanas, and enjoy a swim before another great dinner on the ship.
Exploring in small groups by zodiac is an ideal way to view wildlife. The dark volcanic shoreline is dotted with bright Sally Lightfoot crabs. There are also great snorkeling opportunities in the Galapagos. You might come across a Galapagos penguin flying through the water or swim along side a marine iguana. No where else in the world will you see sights like these. As always, young sea lions are eager to play.
Charles Darwin wasn’t a fan of marine iguanas, calling them “disgusting clumsy lizards,” but they are unique to the Galapagos. Originally land creatures, they've evolved to rid their bodies of excess sea salt by sneezing.
Snorkeling in an old volcanic crater is often rewarded with a hammerhead shark sighting and of course, sea lions. On shore, frigates and boobies nest in every available tree and bush while yellow-crowned night herons prefer rock outcroppings.
A steep trail reveals a windswept bluff covered with nesting sea birds and well camouflaged short eared owls. With a watchful eye on the horizon you might see a passing humpback whale.
Everyday brings something unique. Like male frigatebirds who inflate red throat pouches to catch the eye of passing females. Later, you might kayak in a crystal clear bay and watch the sea lions and occasional pelican. There’s a surprise on every island waiting to be discovered.
A full day of your Galapagos adventure is spent on Santa Cruz, starting with a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Center. Most of the islands’ giant tortoises are raised here from eggs before being released back to their home islands. This was also the home of Lonesome George, the last tortoise in his sub-species who died in June of 2012. If it wasn’t for the work of this Research Center, other species might be lost as well.
A scenic bus ride will take you to the lush highlands of Santa Cruz — to a small family run farm — where coffee, bananas and sugar cane are grown. Donkeys usually power the machine that extracts syrup from the cane, but people power works too. What do they do with the sugar cane syrup? Galapagos moonshine.
But the highlight of Santa Cruz is a trip to a reserve, where wild Galapagos tortoises are free to roam, to eat and — occasionally — to check out their reflection in a camera lens. This 500 pound animal is thought to be 120 years old.
On the way back to the ship, explore the town of Santa Cruz. Check out the pelicans at the fish market, and maybe you’ll see a sea lion looking for scraps.
On the last night aboard the Evolution, a wonderful group of musicians and dancers entertain guests with traditional and contemporary Ecuadorian music. A memorable way to end an amazing adventure.
International Expeditions has been leading Galapagos Islands cruises since 1981. Their experience and knowledge is evident throughout the adventure, from the time you book with their travel specialists, to the moment you return home. Visit ietravel.com to learn more about the Galapagos or any of the other amazing small-group journeys that International Expeditions is famous for."