Galápagos: the Charles Darwin’s Living Laboratory

This post is about one of the most unique places on earth: the Galápagos Islands. They compose a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean and are extremely rich in wildlife diversity. The 19 islands are considered to be a province from Ecuador and are currently under the country’s administration. Galápagos is around 9000km far from Ecuador’s Mainland. The archipelago is also under severe environmental protection policies intended to preserve its flora and fauna, since it is considered to be a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1978.

That’s why Galápagos

My new friends!

Galápagos is astonishing not only because of the beauty of the islands and their explosion of colors; it is also because of its unique ecosystem. The array of native animals living there cannot be found anywhere else! the region is known to be the “Charles Darwin living laboratory”, since his belief that animal species couldn’t “evolve” was completely challenged while he was exploring Galápagos. The giant tortoises are the best example of such evolution (the word “Galápagos” itself means “tortoise” and comes from the Spanish word saddle). Darwin’s endeavor led to one of the most important scientific theories in the history of biology on the origin of species.

Blue-footed Boobie

Marine Iguana

Sea Lions

I have already visited the islands in 2017 and it was for me already a very particular experience. In the first time I have been to Ecuador, I didn’t have the chance to visit Galápagos due to the high costs. If you are a backpacker on a budget, I recommend to visit Galápagos only when you can afford a cruise trip for around 2.000,00 Euros for a few days! It is definitely a once in a lifetime destination, not only for you – but also for your wallet and bank account 🙂

In short: Galápagos is a unique and unpredictable paradise! It was for me already in 2017 and it even exceeded my expectations in 2022!

… and amazing sunsets! ☀️

Itching to return…

After having celebrated the New Year’s Eve with some friends in Cartagena de Indias in Colombia, I was getting ready to relive one of my favorite experiences so far. The last stop before Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was a little city called Pasto in the mountains, the capital of the department of Nariño in Colombia.

My brother accompanied me on this trip: we met at the airport in Quito and took a taxi to go to the hotel. The trip had already started when we entered the car, since the city was very far way and the path until there was quite mountainous 😅 It took us almost an hour to get to the city center and the taxi driver even needed to take alternative roads because of the intense traffic.

Evening walk in Quito

Centro Historico of Quito

Due to the corona measures, the city was unfortunately dead. Everything closed, a few people in the streets and not many tourists around. To emphasize even more the ghost-town-mood, there was also a strong patrolling activity by the police in the city. We still managed to enjoy a nice dinner in the main tourist streets, where the bars were open.

It was a ghost town due to the corona measures 😷

Our flight in the next morning was going to land first in Guayaquil, which is a famous getaway for the Galápagos and then in Baltra. There are only two options to arrive in the archipelago via air travel: either land on the island of San Cristóbal or on the island of Baltra in the Seymour Airport. There was a lot of paperwork to get dealt with at the airport, though. It took a while until we managed to finally get the authorization to fly. But, of course, we made it 😎

The recommendation to explore Galápagos is to do it via a cruise trip. If you prefer to do rather landbase activities, you need to consider that some places are simply too far and you might not be able to visit them at all. In 2017 I explored the islands in the western part of the archipelago – namely the islands of Isabela, Fernandino, Santiago, Baltra itself and Santa Cruz in a total of 8 days. This time we opted to visit the islands in the East within 5 days: San Cristóbal, Española, Genovesa, Island of Plazas and Santa Fé. I was definitely happy to be back!

The boats were waiting for us! 😉

Looking forward some exquisite snorkeling!

Iguanas, sea lions, blue-footed boobies, finches and giant tortoises

I chose a luxury class boat called Alya – which is one of the newest and fastest catamarans in Galápagos – with private balconies, panoramic windows, an upper sun deck, jacuzzi – also a very private experience, since it only supports 16 passengers. There were mainly Americans, a couple from England and a solo traveler from Israel with us. The trip was in short very comfortable – we slept very well – and we had a pleasant experience with the food and nice drinks.

The first destination was the North Seymour Island, which is separated by a little channel from the Baltra Island. It is quite famous to be the home of the blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds. Those birds inflate their red sac attached to their neck to attract females and eventually mate with them. We also saw some sea lions and land iguanas, that – in contrast to marine iguanas – don’t live in salt water.

Hey cutie! Wanna dance?

The animals in the Galápagos are tame since they do know not know being hunted by humans. There is of course a “polite and comfortable” distance to keep from them, but usually the animals in the islands are very friendly.

On the second day, we went to the South Plaza Island in the morning and to the Santa Fé Island in the afternoon. The flora in the South Plaza Island is rich in several species of cactus. The clear blue sea and several cliffs assembles the beautiful landscape from this island. On the other hand, Santa Fé is famous for its own species of land iguana.

Land Iguana

Cactus were everywhere!

Like a portrait with vibrant colors!

Nice meeting you, Mr. Shark!

We landed at a beautiful beach full of sea lions! We snorkeled at the same bay where we arrived and right in the beginning I was greeted by a huge shark! 🥲 a big, around 2m long reef shark came so say hallo to me! Since those islands are all about the survival of the fittest (from Darwin’s Theory of Evolution), you can imagine who won the big fight we had in the water – since it is not the shark writing this text right now 😉

No, there was no fight – it was rather me and my GoPro fascinated with the beauty of the marine world!

Proceeding with our trip, we got to know the island of San Cristóbal on the third day, which is actually the capital and the second most populated island in Galápagos. We went first to the famous rock formation Kicker Rock or – Leon Dormido – which is a spot suited for snorkeling and diving activities. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the license to do that but it was still worth to see it (so write down in your to do list for the time you visit Galápagos!)

Here I had internet connection! 🧑🏻‍💻

We enjoyed the day in the city, with nice cafés and – yes, internet. A big disadvantage of the boats in Galápagos is that they don’t have Wifi. You are not only enjoying a digital detox, but you are doing it in the paradise. We thought about to do like some seals and chill with them at the beach – how nice is that? 😎 Finally, we visited the Interpretation Center in Porto Baquerizo Moreno, a sort of museum that depicts the history of Galápagos and how humans and animals lived there peacefully together.


Just chilling

The world “Adventure” should have a synonym: Galápagos!

Speaking of seals – we also visited the main seal colonies in the Isla Lobos about 10km north of San Cristóbal. After a tour in the island, we went for snorkel in a good company of the seals. We definitely became good friends. Only the penguins were missing! Since we were in the eastern part of Galápagos, there was a warm current coming from Panamá and Costa Rica rather than a colder one. What can I do, Penguins simply like it colder – whis around Isabela and Fernandina in the very west.

So cute!

Española – that was our next destination. The southernmost Island of Galápagos is the oldest one and celebrates 3.5 million years old (and you thought you are getting old, huh?). It is the only place where the waved albratross nests. Despite the fact that it was mid-January (non-breeding season), we were still able to see a few of them. The population of the Albatrosses is protected by the National Park because the birds are considered to be critically endangered species currently. We loved to present a mother albatross feeding her babys – it was a warm family-feeling.

What was also very impressive to see was some blowholes

Hey Buddy! 😁

We went to a small rocky island to snorkel – we were this time welcomed by tropical fishes and even some stingrays. Afterwards we visited some caves, and suddenly I see many seals getting out of the cave. It is definitely something you don’t see everywhere! I cannot say that I was not scared in that moment 🥶 We also did some kayaking activity around the cliffs for about one hour. This definition of fun could be in the dictionary!


Better than Netflix!

Now we arrived on the island with a quite interesting history. This time is not a story about volcanic beaches or colorful flamingos. The island of Floreana is known for hosting the modern Adam & Eve drama in the Pacific. In 1929, Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch decided to leave Germany to settle down in Floreana. Their excitement was written in letters sent back to the country encouraging others to follow their steps. They became a famous couple living in a harsh environment struggling to provide for their own subsistence. In 1932, the family Wittmer (Heinz, Margret and their son Harry) also arrived to start a new life there, having their youngest son Rolf to be born on the island. It is said that both households were not so found of each other. The third important arrival was from an Australian woman, Eloise Wehrborn de Wagner-Bosquet, who entitled herself as the Baroness in the Galápagos – and her two German lovers, Rudolf Lorenz and Robert Philippson.

Eloise intended to build a hotel in Floreana. However, her “superior” behavior started a conflict with the neighbors, since she was allegedly telling lies to the passing ships. Rudolf started then being physically attacked by Robert and started spending more time with the Wittmers in order to protect himself. The mystery starts in 1934: Eloise and Robert went missing and Rudolf was suddenly in a hurry to leave Floreana. Months later, his body was found in one beach. If that was not enough already, Friedrich Ritter died of food poisoning a few months after that. Got curious? “The Galapagos Affair” is a documentary released in 2013 and it depicts this drama – or just go to the island, just like it, did to find out more!

Most probably Floreana was chosen to be the home of those people for to its fresh water source and because the island is “greener” than the others (due to the higher mountains). This could also be the reason why we found some pirate caves there. Pure mystery and history altogether!

An island quite greener than the others!

In the town, the Post Office Bay is very famous for being the place where the people sent their letters. This post office is actually the perfect definition of a company address offshore 🤩 Maybe all my letters should go to that box! Actually, it is funny how people behave: some people leave letters there without knowing if they will be delivered at all – and some just take them, sort by destination and make sure that the letters are indeed sent to the recipient. My brother took some letters to be sent in Germany in order to live up to the tradition.

My new address for the authorities

WOW! Look at this Iguana!

Last but not least, the green sand beach in Floreana is known for being the nesting area for sea turtles. It is where they lay their eggs. We found some baby turtles slowing cracking out to the sea and some others mating. I definitely felt like being in the skin of Charles Darwin!

Trips end but memories last

On the last day in the Galápagos, we went to the Island of Santa Cruz close to Baltra in the morning. It was raining on that day, therefore it was not the best weather to explore the island – but we were super excited to see the giant tortoises (the ones that also inspired Darwin and got the honor to have the archipelago named after them). We were using of course some rubber boots to present the tortoises having fun in the mud. Unfortunately, we were in a hurry, so after saying goodbye to some owls, we took the bus back to the boat.


Our flight was back to Guayaquil – we were this time not coming back to Quito, but rather to Montañita, which has the same fame that Las Vegas has: what happens there, stays there! So today no further posting from my side here 🤫 It is a nice village with a bohemian flair and nice beaches. You will get the chance to get more than just rice and beans there, I can guarantee!