Blog Post

Day 10: Friendly giants and lava fields: geology and biology in the Galápagos

Published: Jan 20, 2023

The night was interesting, to say the least. I got carried away talking to a lovely couple on the boat until very late, at which point navigation had started. I then made the rookie error of showering whilst the boat was in full swing…’swimming pool’ would probably be an accurate description of our room by the end of that.

It’s difficult to define the experience of being on a vessel for hours that doesn’t stand still – it feels like a rollercoaster, like the entire room is swaying and turning, like I’m being pushed upwards and compressed and thrown in all directions. To be fair, I’ve fallen out of my bed during night-time navigation too many times to count now. Our tour guide has instructed us to do some deep breathing exercises to combat sea-sickness, although he did say we have to believe in it for it to work, which is probably why it doesn’t work for me…

Santa Cruz Island is where we had navigated to during the night. Our first destination this morning was up in the highlands – we went to see the giant tortoises, surrounded by guavas and passionfruit on the vegetation floor around them. We learned that unlike many other animals on these islands, these tortoises have been so traumatised by humans hunting them in the past that their first instinct is to crawl back into their shells upon seeing us… “they have fear of Man imprinted in their DNA” is what we were told. Especially because they live up to around 200 years, the tortoises in front of us had personally witnessed their parents and grandparents being slaughtered in front of them…


Giant tortoises


On the way back, we walked through lava tunnels, getting lost on the way, spotted blue-footed boobies, and admired the scenic view of The Twin Craters – sinkholes that are around 30 metres deep – as well as the gorgeous leafy green highland forests. 


Blue-footed boobies


Lava tunnels


Before lunch: snorkelling once again! I’m glad to report that, by the end, I was no longer scared. I swam with a turtle – it was interesting to have seen both turtles in the sea and tortoises on land in one day. Massive schools of fish swam past in a flurry, and dozens of starfish sat on the ocean floor. The turquoise waters were hypnotically clear.


The beautiful ocean


Good news awaited us when we returned: namely that we’d be navigating to Santiago Island over lunch!! Which meant that the ‘my-stomach-is-in-bits-and-everything-is-spinning’ was happening twice today! I decided to opt in for dazed and super-tired rather than sea-sick – the tablets have become my best friends. Once we arrived on the new island, we visited Sullivan Bay, beginning with a landing on a white coral sand beach, and then making our way over to a huge lava field. It was magical to hike over lava that flowed 140 years ago and to still see the twists and turns and bubbles created by the flow, as well the beginning signs of flora that was starting to grow on the fields. We did, however, get lost again, which is happening too many times to accurately record. But seeing and feeling the volcanic origin of Galápagos has opened my eyes to something that wasn’t totally obvious to me before I got here: that the geology of these islands is just as cool as the biology.


Lava for days


In the evening, we were called from our dinner tables to climb the deck of the boat, where we stargazed together with all the other boat members, the southern hemisphere stars lining the skies in completely different constellations than I had ever seen before. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be waking up on a different island once again…