Hi guys, I’m just back from one of the best adventures I’ve ever been on – traveling around the Galapagos Islands and cavorting eagerly and often with the residents. From kayaking, to snorkeling, scrambling across volcanic rocks, swimming, hiking across wind-swept beaches and daily doses of excellent Vinyasa yoga, we were in motion pretty much the whole time we were there, and somehow I still had time to pinch myself as each new vista pretty much took my breath away. Well hello, Mother Nature, it is wonderful to see you!
To be immersed in the wildlife, we toured the islands by a boat, The Majestic. We sailed by night and hopped in the yacht’s dinghies by day, scouting, searching, snapping away. Erica and Francesco of Escape to Shape lead us, a group of 15 up-for-anything/inquisitive folks, and, as always, they were fantastic hosts. (I think I’m addicted to their trips as I’ve been to Laos, Istanbul, and Marrakech with them…) I’m happy to say, the Galapagos Islands are aggressively protected, so there were no crowds as we went from spot to spot. Yes, we were on a yacht but it wasn’t boom chacha chacha Puff Daddy style nor did any Carnival Cruise 4000 people monsters pull up next to us. We saw four other boats over the course of 5 days. Our guide, Billy, an Ecuadorean naturalist with a number of masters degrees, plotted out our course with the Galapagos Parks system months in advance as space for each little island is limited and regulated (again, thank you!) in order to protect the animals. We made sure to ABSOLUTELY leave nothing on the islands but footprints in the sand, taking care not to touch anything as we could easily disrupt the delicate eco-system– which was really tough, as the adorable baby sea lion pups clearly pleaded with me with their huge eyes, “Please please please, put me in your pocket and take me home with you so we can be best friends forever! Let’s run around New York!” Editor’s note: Even though they are like tempting mini Sirens, and were so cute I was dying, I resisted :) Temptation Island indeed!
Lots of things are breathtaking on Galapagos and will stay with me forever, from swimming with a school of hammerhead sharks, to kayaking, solo, in the wild ocean with starfish and sea turtles around me, and getting teary during evening yoga on the top deck of The Majestic, when, relaxed and feeling groovy while lying on my back during Shavasana, I opened my eyes to the thickest brightest blanket of stars I’ve ever seen. But there was one stand- out experience that I may never recover from: playing like a child in the water with the sea lions. The animals are friendly and unafraid of humans, and if they see you frolicking and loop-de-looping in the water, they’ll swim over and join you and you’ll, well, bob and weave and dance together. Just for fun. Just for the joy. (Again, I did not touch them, even when they came close – we were just a somersault-y tangle of flips and spirals and dives and it was, well, one of the highlights of my LIFE.)
A trip to the Galapagos (at least for me) is a chance to say “later” to vestiges of city living – you’re in and out of the water so much, caring about your makeup and hair is fruitless (yes!) and the world’s ugliest shoes, Tevas, are the epitome of chic as they dry quickly and protect your toes from sharp rocks. Finally, there’s no internet so forget about waking up and checking your email. If you’re going to surf, it is on waves, period. Nature is the focus and the star, from morning to night. If that’s not heaven, not sure what is… More pictures are below (thank you, Elise Rosenberg and Alison Calderara!) If you have the opportunity to go, do it. Don’t hesitate – it’s magical. xxxooo Steph