My Travels: The Galápagos Islands — Isla de San Cristóbal and Home Again

Manifest team member, Mike Casella, recently took a trip of a lifetime to the Galápagos Islands, and he’s been sharing notes from his travels — as well as some amazing photos — with us here on the blog. This is the final installment in the four-part series.

Galápagos iguana sunning on a rock overlooking blue water and cruise ship in the distance
Iguana sunning on rock

Day 6

Our final full day of the trip had us exploring the most eastern island of the Galápagos—the Isla de San Cristóbal. The day began with a hike up a rocky dry stream bed that led around the mountainside. It felt great to get some elevation in and take in the views. At the end of the hike we came to another dramatic coastline, where we saw Red-footed Boobies nesting nearby. The hike through the arid, volcanic landscape of Punta Pitt was a good way to get a sense of the variety of environments and ecological conditions of the islands; It is such a naturally diverse destination.

Our tour group learning more about the island

Back on the beach, we got into our waiting snorkel gear. Since it was our last chance to snorkel in the Galápagos Islands for the trip, I was ready to spend as much time in the water as I could. A small group of us snorkelers followed the rocky shore, gazing into the shallow blue waters. Towards the end of the snorkel, near the shallow beach, I saw Blue-footed Boobies diving in the water looking for fish. Some were pretty close to me, so I tried to time when they were diving so that I could go under the water to see them. I managed it a few times and it was incredible. Watching their beaks break the surface, followed by a trail of bubbles as they pierced through the water—they catch their fish on the way up, after diving—felt surreal; confirmed by one of the naturalists who said that only a small percentage of people get to see them diving under water that close.

We returned to the ship for a sunset viewing of León Dormido, a rock formation that resembles a sleeping lion when viewed at a certain angle. The ship’s staff hosted a wine tasting for the guests as we watched the commotion of birds around the rock that glowed in the evening light. Afterwards, we all gathered for a farewell dinner and enjoyed the final night together.

Kicker Rock/Leon Dormido at sunset, with shades of orange and red, blue sky and water, and two boats nearby
León Dormido/Shutterstock

Day 7

One last treat was saved for us on the final morning of the expedition. After we disembarked, we took a bus to view the famous Galápagos Giant Tortoise. We were taken to a ranch that was in the middle of the tortoises’ migration path from the highlands to the lowlands, and due to its location and having no fences, the tortoises roam freely through their property at times. We arrived on a misty morning and had breakfast under a large covered roof at the ranch. Almost everything there was tortoise themed—the gift shop, the dining halls, the lounge areas. They even had an old tortoise shell and encouraged guests to try lying down in it. I had to oblige. After that, we put on big rubber boots and set off to get a closer look at these famous and unique animals.

Two Galápagos Giant Tortoises at a grassy tortoise sanctuary in the Galápagos Islands
Galápagos Giant Tortoise/Shutterstock

We only stayed at the tortoise ranch for a short time since we had a flight to catch back to mainland Ecuador. We rode the bus back to the airport and set off for Guayaquil, saying one last goodbye to the Galápagos. Some guests were continuing on to an extension of the trip that would take them to the city of Quito for a few days. Those who were returning to the states went back to the Hotel del Parque for day rooms if they were leaving that night and overnight rooms for those leaving the next day. After a quick rest in the day room, it was time for me to head out to the airport for my evening flight back to the US.

What an incredible experience overall. The Galápagos has such a rich history of biology, science, exploration, and adventure, it was a dream trip to be able to indulge in that from the comfort of a luxury ship with an incredible crew. In all, we traveled just over 300 nautical miles during our five days aboard the National Geographic Islander II.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog series. If you missed any of the previous posts, you can find them herehere, and here. And if you’re inspired to experience your own Galápagos adventure, we’ve got an exciting Lindblad Expeditions trip ready to be booked on our Experiences page.