My recent trip to the Galapagos, which included the beautiful western islands of Fernandina and Isabela, among others, was one of the highlight travel experiences of my life.
My first morning on the ship, everyone hopped into the pangas (Zodiac boats) to cruise around and get up close to the wildlife. There was so much excitement among the passengers to get out there, and with good reason: as we cruised around the northwestern shores of Isabela Island we saw marine iguanas, blue footed boobies, sea turtles, and colorful Sally Lightfoot crabs.
Suddenly we hit the marine life jackpot: one of the guides spotted orcas. It was a unique opportunity to see these whales up close. Just the night before, the guides and some of the passengers had been talking about seeing orcas. The guides mentioned that it was quite rare to see them and that they had not been spotted in this area for nearly five years. After that conversation we did not have any expectation of seeing them, so when the guide yelled “Orca!” we were not sure if it was a joke or not.
We all stared at the stretch of water where the guide was pointing, each second seeming longer than the last as we waited to see something moving in the water. Then this magnificent animal surfaced for all of us to see. There was joyful shouting among the passengers and guides. Everyone, including our naturalist guide, was caught up in the surprise and wonder of the sight. We followed the whales as they surfaced. In between photos, I would stop to let the excitement of the moment wash over me. Members of our group shouted with joy each time the orcas surfaced, which they did for nearly 20 minutes. It was one of the most memorable wildlife experiences of my life.
While there’s no guarantee of a sighting like this, Galapagos is always a spectacular place to see wildlife. The more time you spend in the archipelago, the more opportunities you have for unique, close-up experiences with wildlife that isn’t found anywhere else in the world.