Nothing beats Christmas in an unconventional place. Each year I’m lucky enough to travel with my family to different corners of the world and this year, one of our destinations was the Galapagos. Synonymous with Charles Darwin, giant turtles and wild nature, it never once disappointed.
We flew into Baltra airport from Guayaquil and after taking a boat to the island where we were staying, we began our adventure. On our walk to the Charles Darwin Research Centre, I was amazed to see a number of iguanas lazing on the pavements, absorbing the heat of the stone through their scaly tummies. They didn’t once seemed fussed by our presence and simply ignored anyone and anything around them. That is when I realised that I’d never quite been to a place like this before.
Safaris were the closest I’d ever been to wild animals before, but there is always the Land Rover as a barrier between the two worlds. Here, animals and humans coexist happily and there is an innate respect of wildlife like nowhere else. The research centre, as well as housing Galapagos turtles, also shows each step taken in the conservation of these creatures. We saw egg incubators and turtles of every different age, from the barely born to the ancient. We also paid a visit to the celebrity that is Lonesome George, who was taxidermied post-mortem and now resides in his own refrigerated room: a little bit of respite from the heat and humidity that reigned outside! We also visited some wild turtles outside of the centre, walked through underground lava tunnels and slid into some real turtle shells to see what carrying that amount of weight would feel like.
The Galapagos aren’t just known for their turtles, but also their sea lion population. We spent Christmas Day sailing to a small island filled with sea lions: the beach where we landed was packed with rows of sea lions lying in the sun and their pups, who made the sweetest noises and who we could approach without them fearing us for even a second. That was the beautiful thing: we could walk around these animals, crouch near them and photograph them with no fear at all from either party. The emitted the occasional grumpy noise if they were fed up with us, but nothing more. We explored the coast of the island and spotted more iguanas, birds and sea lions before heading back to our boat, around which small sharks were peacefully swimming. We were also able to snorkel in the bay and as well as shoals of multicoloured fish, a cheeky male sea lion swam up to us underwater. We also scuba dived and what was just as incredible as the sea life we saw was seeing the different currents meeting underwater and feeling just how strong they were!
It was an incredible stay and truly heartwarming to see that man and animal can share the same home in peace and harmony: I will never forget it and I already can’t wait to go back.