The first landing was early on our first morning. It turned out to be a keep-fit field trip, as we clambered 388 steps to the top of Bartolome island for a view over Santiago’s sprawling lava fields. That afternoon, on a walk around Santiago’s Playa Espumilla, we were introduced to some of the 13 species of finches that live in the Galápagos. Fascinatingly they have evolved with different beaks, depending whether they feed on fruit, seeds or insects.
The finches spark great excitement as some credit them as being the main inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution, developed after his visit to the Galápagos in 1835 and laid out in his book The Origin of Species. I have to confess to being more a fan of the humble lava lizards. There are seven species in the Galápagos, and they communicate via a sequence of ‘push-ups’, which are different on each island. It means lizards from, say, Bartolome, can’t ‘talk’ to lizards from Fernandina.
The next morning, we took a cruise around a small bay off the island of Isabela. This was one of the highlights of the cruise for me – a first glimpse of a Galápagos penguin, sea turtles and the flightless cormorants and marine iguanas that are endemic to the islands, as well as numerous pelicans. It was so magical I could have stayed for hours.
In San Cristobal, we saw our first giant tortoises and learnt about the programme that helped save them from extinction. It was a great morning out, but my tortoise highlight came the next day in Santa Cruz, where we headed up to the highlands to watch them in the wild.
My final wonderful memory was watching cheeky pelicans and sea lions trying to pinch the goodies in Santa Cruz’s fish market. In the Galápagos, nature packs a personality you will never forget.