My family and other animals in the Galapagos

What makes this place so special? Why were we so keen to go there and what was it that blew us away when we did? The short answer is: the beauty and the beasts.

The Galapagos Islands, situated on the equator in a lonely part of the Pacific, were not inhabited by humans until the 1800s. Like Antarctica, its wildlife didn’t evolve in response to the presence of humans and don’t behave like animals elsewhere. A short history of human intervention means there is a greater diversity and abundance of animals on both the land and in the water. It’s a rare glimpse of a paradise lost to us elsewhere.

Sea lions are waiting to greet you at every port and beach, preferring to snooze while they wait.
The sea lions and the monkey.
The giant tortoises are equally unfazed by humans, going about their business with complete unconcern.
So long as you don’t get in between a marine iguana and its destination you’ll be OK.
Three for the price of one!
Every time I saw the big and beautiful crabs I remembered the delicious crab risotto in Guayaquil – no wonder it was more crab than rice!
Blue-footed booby showing off its best asset.
Feeding frenzy involving Blue-footed boobies, penguins and pelicans. And fish.
Galapagos penguins are the second smallest in the world after Fairy penguins. Not surprising, given they hang out on the equator where you would think it was just a tad too warm.
OK enough about animals, I want to show you the amazing beaches!

At the end of a hot and sweaty 2.5km walk from Puerto Ayorta on Santa Cruz Island you reach your reward: Tortuga Bay. Not one, but two gorgeous beaches, with a sensational small snorkeling spot in between. This place really has something for everyone.

The surf beach at Tortuga Bay.
Wading in the shallows we spotted baby reef sharks and other 2-3ft long fish.
Surf beach in background, snorkel spot in foreground.
The lagoon at Tortuga Bay.
The lagoon and its trees are a great place to hang out.
Getting there early one morning meant we were able to follow a group of Manta rays swimming along next to the sand (and no it didn’t rain despite the clouds).

The animal encounters were continuous at Tortuga Bay. Some of my favorites: swimming with 7 marine iguanas in the snorkel spot, being dazzled by at least five different species of fish swimming by me in schools, and feeling my heart beat faster on spotting a triangular fin cruising around an oblivious tourist in the lagoon (only a baby reef shark).

Concha la Perla: a sensational snorkeling spot on Isla Isabela.

Despite the allures of Tortuga Bay, our second island – Isla Isabela – was actually our favorite. We could have stayed here for far longer than three days and the whole family has been making plans to go back.

We did a fabulous snorkeling trip on Isla Isabela, where we saw a staggering variety of marine life, but actually most of these animals could be seen for free at Concha la Perla. Again my favorite experience involved a shark: snorkeling by myself above an underwater canyon a 2m reef shark casually cruised by below me and into a dark cave. And my heart jumped into my throat. But I’m looking forward to the prospect of more snorkeling with sharks in Belize!

The town beach on Isla Isabela.