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5 Must-Have Experiences in Galápagos

Ralph Lee Hopkins

Prepare to be dazzled every day on a Galápagos expedition. You’ll encounter spectacular endemic wildlife found nowhere else in the world and scenery that appears untouched by humans. It feels, says Lindblad naturalist Gianna Haro, like we’re “the first ones to ever visit this little paradise on Earth. This is the result of conservation efforts that keep 97 percent of the total land mass of Galápagos as protected areas.” Among the many memorable moments of an adventure in this stunning, remote archipelago are these iconic experiences you simply can't miss when you visit Galápagos.

Swim with sea lions

There’s a world of Technicolor fish to explore beneath the waterline, but a funny thing happens when you start to snorkel in spots such as Española Island’s Gardner Bay: The quiet swimming fish are suddenly interrupted by a zooming sea lion that seems to be speeding right at you. It spins and twirls, doing rapid figure eights to get your attention. And then, zip, it’s gone. Although you’ll spot sea lions on the white sand beaches sunning themselves, underwater, they’re often playful and love to show off and interact with snorkelers. Picture a puppy darting around the backyard, and you’ll get an idea of how energetic and spirited the joyful acrobatics of a Galápagos sea lion can be.

 

(photo by Michael Nolan)

Walk with giant tortoises in the highlands

One of the most iconic animals of Galápagos, the giant tortoise can seem almost as fictional as the Loch Ness Monster. Weighing in at more than 500 pounds and often upwards of 100 years old, these prehistoric-looking creatures live in the lush, towering highlands of remote Santa Cruz Island. Not only are giant tortoises real, but you can see them close-up and even walk alongside them with naturalist guides. Even more remarkable: In the verdant mountain areas you won’t see just one or two of these massive creatures, the largest living species of tortoise in the world; it’s common to witness dozens of them lumbering through the trees, munching the grass and greenery, and relaxing in a refreshing mud bath just feet from where you stand.

(photo by Ralph Lee Hopkins)

Sail across the Equator

One of the inevitable occurences exploring these islands that straddle the Equator is, well, crossing the Equator! Although there’s no bright line across the Pacific that you can observe, Lindblad’s nautical experts are intimately familiar with the hemispheric divide. When you’re exactly on the Equator, which runs right through the aptly named Vulcan Ecuador on Isabela island, the celebration begins! There are cocktails and champagne to toast the moment and a festive party on the ship’s deck. You may spot staff dressed as pirates, and even King Neptune has been known make an appearance to mark this special moment.


(photo by Marco Ricca)

Dance with blue-footed boobies

Though these islands may be remote and the only sounds the crashing of the waves, the local residents nonetheless dance! In an elaborate courtship ritual, the male bounces from one brightly colored turquoise foot to another, lifting them up in the air almost like the sand is too hot. This fancy footwork is accompanied by spreading his wings, craning his neck, and whistling and cackling. Who could resist moves like those? Not the female booby, who then walks around this skillful dancer checking him out. If she’s interested, she’ll join in the dance and start mimicking those smooth steps. If not, she’ll simply ignore the male and continue on her way. (In case you were wondering, the male is showing off his blue feet–the bluer the feet, the healthier the bird, and thus, a good potential mate.)

 

(photo by Emily Mount)

Get to know the Blue-Footed Booby

Be treated to a special Ecuadorian lunch

Our chefs are integral members of our expeditions, and although they craft myriad enticing dishes, one meal especially stands out on a Galápagos journey: The Ecuadorian lunch. It’s the “pride of our ship’s galley,” says naturalist Ixora Berdonces. “We love this moment because it is our opportunity to share our culture and food.” The fresh and delicious elements of this special feast come from both the highlands and the coast. The golden roast suckling pig from the island of Floreana is a highlight, as is the super fresh ceviche and wild-caught fish in coconut milk. Desserts are a must, including a decadent tres leches (three milks) cake. And all of these flavorful Ecuadorian specialties are created using sustainable produce, herbs, and condiments exclusively sourced from Galápagos.

 

(photo by Marco Ricca)

Whether you are interacting with charismatic wildlife, toasting to an Equator crossing, or savoring a specially prepared feast, you will be creating magical memories to last a lifetime.

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