Day 3 of our cruise landed on the island of San Cristobal, one of the few inhabited islands in the Galapagos. It felt weird to step foot on an island with people and shops rather than blue footed boobies and cactuses, but hey, we got phone reception for the day!
We toured the San Cristobal Interpretation Center and learned about the history and settlement of the islands. After that, we spent some time roaming freely around town, shopping for souvenirs and indulging in coffee and ice cream. It was a rather uneventful stop, but a good relaxing break in between all the hiking and snorkeling.
We went back onto the boat for lunch, and then got ready for our afternoon snorkel. The water was unbelievably clear and warm, making it such a pleasant experience to be in it. We swam next to sea turtles, and watched the most playful sea lions perform around us IN the water! I couldn’t get over how amazing it was to just watch them in their natural habitats, being so free and happy!
Day 4 was probably my favorite day of the cruise. We spent the morning on the island of Espanola, in Gardner Bay. One of the perks of traveling during the pandemic was definitely not having to deal with crowds. The Galapagos Islands have always limited the number of visitors on each island at any given time, even pre-pandemic, to protect their wildlife. But, you’d still get at least several boats docking on the same island together, maneuvering their passengers around each other. When we were on the Galapagos Islands though, our boat was the ONLY active boat with tourists, so we essentially got every uninhibited island to ourselves! While that was amazing on every island, it was especially magical at Gardner Bay because it was one of the most beautiful beaches I had ever stepped foot on!
The whitish coralline sand on Gardner Bay felt so soft underneath our bare skin! Besides the handful of people from our boat, the only other occupants of this extraordinary beach included several colonies of Galapagos sea lions. They didn’t seem bothered by our presence at all, and some of the curious young ones even waddled up to us wanting to play!
We literally felt like we were in another world. Traveling really broadens my perspective on so many levels, because it takes me away from my bubble, and once I’m removed from my bubble, the little stuff in my day to day life is no longer magnified. I get to marvel on God’s creations all around me, and the simplest things bring me great joy.
While on the Galapagos Islands, there was little to no cell phone reception or Wifi for us. As city dwellers, that felt uncomfortable during the first day or so, but once we immersed ourselves into the experience, we hardly gave our connectivity a second thought. In fact, we were so focused on connecting with each other, the people around us, and all the animals, we probably wouldn’t have had time to look at our phones even if we had connectivity! It truly felt refreshing to be disconnected from everyone except for those around us, enabling us to be fully present with each other.
Day 5 took us to the island of Floreana, where we visited Cormorant Point, eagerly anticipating to see the hundreds of Flamingoes that could sometimes be seen there. Much to our disappointment though, this was the scene that greeted us….
Not one single flamingo in sight. But this is the thing with seeing animals in their natural habitat instead of a controlled environment (ie: zoo), there is simply no guarantee that they will be where you expect them to be, or behave in ways that you expect them to behave.
Despite not being able to see any flamingoes, we did get to see a ton of stingrays swimming at our feet when we visited a nearby white sand beach! It was amazing, and I must have screamed a few times when I felt those stingrays touch my feet underneath the water!
Alieri Hill on Floreana Island was one of my favorite stops, as it has such an interesting human history. Although Floreana Island only has about 140 inhabitants, its history included some pretty crazy stories of mysterious disappearances. It also houses the famous “postal office”, which is basically a wooden barrel that was placed by a group of whalers there in 1793. Traveling seamen would leave addressed letters in the barrel with the hope that the next seamen to come along might be headed in the direction of their letters’ destinations. Today, visitors leave their own postcards while sifting through the current pile of cards. If they happen to find one that is addressed to a destination that they will be going, they can then take the postcard with them to be mailed or hand delivered there!
A 15 minute card ride followed by a short hike took us up to a higher point on the island, where we got to see these wondrous giant tortoises! Watching them eat was like watching something in slow motion, and was quite mesmerizing, to say the least. Floreana is also known for its many variety of plants, making it a botanist’s dream, especially when you venture on the higher grounds.
We ended our stop at Floreana Island with a final snorkeling excursion at Devil’s Crown, where some say it’s the very best snorkeling in all of Galapagos. However, because we happened to be there during some pretty rough currents, we weren’t able to see as much.
On our very last evening on the Alya, the staff organized the most lovely dinner on the outdoor deck for us. It was a memorable evening of delicious food, salsa dancing, and the best company with our new friends….one of those experiences where you just really wish you can stop time to preserve the moment!
The Alya disembarking process was very smooth. We still had a couple more activities after we ported back onto the island of Santa Cruz, but the staff on the Alya helped us to handle and transfer all of our luggages and belongings to shore.
We took a bus to the Santa Cruz Highlands and spent time with the giant tortoises there. It was so unbelievable to be in such close proximity to them, and to be able to observe them in their natural habitats! I loved watching them munch on plants, chewing ever so slowly. If they sense us nearby, they would sometimes retract their head into their shells out of fear, so we try to be as discrete as possible around them.
Our very last activity was going through a lava tunnel by foot, which was pretty cool. These lava tunnels in the Galapagos were formed by ancient lava that once flowed across these volcanic islands.
And that concludes our time on the Alya, which definitely became one of the most memorable experiences in our lifetime! We would recommend it to anyone who loves nature, has a fascination for animals, or those who just want a once in a lifetime adventure filled trip in a faraway land!
Here’s a video recapping our time on the Alya: