This was my first visit to the Galapagos in a few years and I was delighted to see that the islands had changed little and were still as beautiful and fascinating as they had been.
Tourism has changed over recent months to focus on land-based stays, with the arrival of wonderful properties like the Galapagos Safari Camp and the new 15-day itinerary regulated by the Galapagos National Park. During my time on the islands I was lucky enough to stay at the Safari camp and thought this eco-camp offered all the benefits of an African tented camp and a great view of the island.
During the rest of the stay on the islands, I embarked upon a 3 night Galapagos cruise onboard La Pinta teamed with a stay at the Finch Bay Eco Hotel (a short water taxi from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz). I was looking forward to my stay as one of my clients described it as a piece of paradise. Whilst walking down the path from the small pier with Marine Iguanas to greet me, I couldn’t help but agree!
With a love of diving I was keen to see what all the fuss was about, so I took a dive boat from Santa Cruz to what can only be described as quite simply the most incredible dive spot ever. Under the water I was surrounded by a shiver of Hammerhead sharks that seemed to be as inquisitive about me as I was about them. There were also White-tipped and Black-tipped Galapagos sharks looking up at me from below, whilst sea lions weaved through rocks to the left of me, blowing bubbles and nudging me and to the right a bale of turtles were floating by and inspecting my dive equipment! Such an assault on the senses.
My itinerary included Espanola; which was a delight. I got to witness the huge Waved Albatross with its eggs, Galapagos Hawks and Blue-footed Boobies – there seemed to be something in the air as they were all choosing that moment to mate. Next I headed to the island of San Cristobal and was delighted to explore the new visitor sites that were recently opened. I also took the chance to get back in the water for some snorkelling, which mostly involved being bunted by sea lions frolicking between me and the rocks and following turtles as they gracefully glided through the water – what an experience!
I also visited the new all-singing, all dancing cocoon in the clouds as it is often referred to, Mashpi Lodge, which quite simply offers a ‘bubble’ in which to explore the cloud forest. It is home to orchids, magnificent butterflies and striking birds plus options to take a cable car and air bikes (still to be completed). There is a hummingbird feeding station en route to the lodge along with a fascinating butterfly house which has been a study point for some time. There is also a camera trap project in operation with a resident researcher.
My time on the islands, witnessing the new conservation policies in action inspired me to continue to help these precious islands and see them conserved for the future. At Steppes we only work together with reputable boat operators and hoteliers who have eco credentials in the form of a specific ISO standard such as Smart Voyager.
To talk further with Sarah about her trip or to gain further advice about planning your holiday to the Galapagos please call her on 01285 880 980.