Come up behind a 500-pound land tortoise accidentally, and by the sound it makes, you’d swear that it’s imitating Darth Vader. A deep, coarse bellow erupts as its lungs empty to make room for its legs and head to retract inside the shell. Apologies to Charles Darwin, our group of explorers on our Galapagos Island wildlife walking tour coined the scientific term “vadering” to describe that sound. It was just one of the fun ways the Galápagos entertained and educated us.

Woman with giant land tortoise in the Galapagos

Dancing the Blue(s) Footed Boobies

The stars of the week were the blue-footed-boobies. Though it’s called a mating dance, their claim to fame is more a slow-motion flat-footed flap-waddle. Odd how addictive it is. And those feet are indescribably blue, somewhere between Crayola cerulean and cornflower. But we learned that you can’t simply dismiss these birds as clownish. They are accomplished hunters that fly in a pack and dive-bomb schools of fish. The first time we witnessed it, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Of course, you quickly get used to that “wait – what just happened” sensation in the Galápagos.

Blue-footed Boobies on a rock in the Galapagos

A Zodiac-Free Zone

I have a funny/sad photo that a friend of mine took on a cruise-based tour of the Galápagos. It shows a room full of captive (if not captivated) travelers in front of a PowerPoint presentation. Apparently, after their lesson, they’d board the Zodiacs for an onshore field trip. And with a whole shipload of people surprising those tortoises all at once, I can only imagine all the vadering they heard!

Countless thousands of visitors have experienced the Galápagos that way. But as we relaxed by the pool at our eco-lodges and enjoyed the elbow room on solitary beach walks in the evening, we couldn’t help thinking that this was the best way to be in this place. As the week sped past, we learned that parrotfish deposit the beaches’ fine white sand after they eat and digest the coral. And we snorkeled with sea lion pups, giant sea turtles, Galápagos penguins, iguanas, and even white-tipped reef sharks in water so clear that we could see for 50 feet or more. I could have filled volumes of travel journals – except I was too fascinated by the life around me to even consider picking up a pen.

Marty Pendarvis is an accomplished worldwide traveler who has explored the Galápagos and Tuscany with Classic Journeys. The next destinations on her wish list are Myanmar and Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula.

Snorkeling in the Galapagos

Explore the Galapagos