It isn’t everyday you get to go on a trip of a lifetime, but just recently I had the opportunity to experience something so incredible that it should be on everyone’s bucket list. The fascination of adventurous travel to explore exotic and remote corners of the world can only be surpassed by the act of actually living the dream.
My name is Kyle Ford, and I am a recent college graduate from Charleston, South Carolina with a major in Studio Art with an emphasis in photography. I have been living and working in Quito Ecuador for the past month documenting the city and it’s amazing inhabitants. Just recently I had the opportunity to travel to The Galapagos Islands through Gray Line Ecuador, accompanied by my favorite travel companions – a Canon EOS 5d Mark ii, Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6, Canon EF 35mm f/2, 15” MacBook Pro, and a Go Pro Hero 3 Silver Edition I was ready for a week of adventure. I brought a very small selection of gear with me because I knew that there was going to be a lot of moving around going on, and I didn’t want to have the burden of juggling around with 50+ pounds of equipment. My bag was packed and ready to set out to my next destination: The Galapagos Islands.
In all honesty, I only had a general idea of what the Galapagos Islands would be like. My knowledge of these iconic islands was rather limited to sterile discussions of Darwin’s theories in a lecture hall while in school. For this reason, I left my itinerary for this adventure to the experts - Gray Line Tours of Ecuador. Gray Line organized a superb agenda for my four-day trip to the Galapagos of various activities and excursions, including an encounter with giant tortoises, exploring lava tunnels, going to Las Grietas, snorkeling, a visit to a coffee plantation, strolling along the beach at Tortuga Bay, a trip to Seymour Island, and naturally a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Center.
My Galapagos adventure took life the moment we landed on Baltra. As soon as I stepped off the plane I was engulfed by the fresh, sultry scent of the islands, its intoxicating aroma was a combination of the sweet blend of sea air mingled with the luscious tropical landscape. Although I must admit that my first glimpse of the islands left me feeling that I was in a ghost town with only the presence of a landing strip, airport, and a single road that lead to the transfer ferry. Nevertheless, I grabbed my bags and passed through the checkpoint and was promptly greeted by an extremely helpful guide from Gray Line Tours. In a mere twenty-five minutes, my perspective turned from ghost town to absolute paradise as we turned and the corner of “Oh My God” came into view. Appropriately named, this is the first moment of pure amazement for travelers – it is that moment when you are overcome with awe at the sight of the crystal blue waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands. For me, it was the moment that I was truly mesmerized by the majestic beauty of these islands.
One of the most surreal feelings about the Galapagos is the very apparent fact that the humans are and will forever be the outsiders. Obviously because of the fact that the majority of people are usually only there for a weeks vacation, but more so because of how animals are completely indifferent to your presence. This simple characteristic is obviously a monumental advantage for shooting photos, and being able to take in the natural beauty of this majestic place.
As far as the selection and quality of food goes, there is absolutely no contest. With a full variety of cuisine ranging from Italian food, seafood, to an American hamburger there is something for every kind of appetite. The customer service was also exceptional from the Gray Line guides to the hotel employees; everyone was very kind and extremely insightful about everything.
By far one of the best parts of the trip was visiting Seymour Island. We took a yacht out to the island and it immediately had the feel that it was a type of exotic animal utopia. It was really amazing because once we departed the boat onto the island we were able to walk around and fully take in the exceptional atmosphere. From Seymour Island you get an amazing view of the horizon as well as the Daphne Islands. There were all sorts of different species of birds on this island including the frigates, pelicans, and blue-footed boobies. The blue-footed boobies are really interesting because of the funny little dance that they do in order to attract female birds. Another striking sexual dimorphism that can be noted is the red chest that the male frigates possess in order to strut for the females affection. We also had the opportunity to see some iguanas, different species of fish, some sea lions, and of course more birds.
One interesting fact that our guide pointed out to us was that the iguanas were extinct from the island for a short period of time until some one bred and reintroduced them back to the island after they were endangered. After our visit to Seymour Island we had a really great fish lunch on board the yacht, and proceeded to go snorkeling along one of the beaches. The snorkeling was really great because the water is very clear and allowed me to capture some great shots with the GoPro. All of the marine life was amazing, but one of the coolest types of fish that I spotted was a type of rainbow fish, and that really added to the type of video footage I was getting. One monumental advantage about booking through Gray Line rather than another company is the amount of money you can save. Another great thing about the trip was the incredible customer service that was provided and the fact of how up close and personal you can be with the animals on the excursion.
It seems very obvious to say this, but the trip was nothing short of incredible. The only set back from the trip is that I am now in the situation where I have no idea what I am going to do when I have a mid life crisis, but I’m sure something will pop up. If and when you have the opportunity to go I highly recommend bringing a camera to capture this once in a lifetime experience, that way you will be able to remember it forever.