Galápagos: The Complete Wildlife Observation Guide

Where else are you going to swim next to marine iguanas and sea lions or see penguins catching fish next to you?

When I landed in Galápagos it felt as if I wasn’t supposed to be there. I remember reading so much about it and watching dozens of documentaries to kickstart my dreamed wildlife observation journey, but nothing could have prepared me for what lied ahead. It was all too surreal. Sea lions hanging out at the entrance of my hostel as if they were street dogs, and birds that weren’t scared of humans! (Later I discovered the birds’ behaviour was down to a lack of predators). It was such a humbling experience and at that point, I could really understand why Darwin and even Attenborough were so fascinated with the archipelago.

I visited the archipelago for 7 days with a yacht cruise called ‘The Montserrat’ which had comfy rooms, good food, helpful crew, and most importantly a very knowledgeable and friendly tour guide. Below is the itinerary with all the islands I visited, the must-see places and best spots for wildlife observation and diving.

Wildlife Observation Guide

San Cristóbal Island and Cerro Brujo

My trip started on San Cristóbal island where I had the chance to go for a quick explore around Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and Punta Carola beach before jumping on my boat. Once on board, we arrived at Isla Lobos which is home to a big colony of sea lions.

Sea lion swimming with me

The island is named after them in Spanish, lobo marino. There is a protected channel where you can go snorkelling with them as shown above. This area is also an ideal place to watch nesting frigates and blue-footed boobies.

Cerro Brujo Hill Galapagos

Other interesting places nearby are ‘mirador Cerro Tijeretas’ (viewpoint) and Cerro Brujo  (shown above) which is located on the northern coast of San Cristóbal Island. It is a great place to watch marine iguanas swim (while they snort salt from their nostrils), or visit a tortoise breeding area in the highlands with lots of endemic flora.


Española Island

One of the oldest islands in the whole archipelago at around 4 million years old, La Española is actually dying and with time it will become a barren land with no vegetation. Having said that, this is great spot to see waved albatrosses, and if you are extremely lucky like I was, the blue-footed boobies mating dances.

Blue-footed Booby

I also explored a lovely sandy beach in Bahía Gardner and wrapped my day up watching the bird colonies at Punta Suárez.

Waved Albatross Galapagos
Waved Albatross

Highlight: There’s an epic blowhole in Punta Suarez that you can’t miss!

Blowhole Galapagos Punta Suarez

Floreana Island

I had the opportunity to dive at a fascinating site called the “Devil’s Crown”, it’s an underwater volcanic cone with schools of fish, sea turtles, sharks and sea lions, and many epic coral formations.


Punta Cormorant is also a must, only a short walk past a lagoon to see flamingos, rays, sea turtles and lots of Sally Lightfoot crabs.

Turtle swimming Galapagos
Green Turtle from Galapagos

Santa Cruz Island

Here’s where you visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to see the incredible giant Galápagos tortoises roaming freely. Puerto Ayora hosts the largest human population in the entire archipelago and it is a great place for chilling at a beach bar.

Giant Tortoises Galapagos Wildlife Observation
Giant Tortoises or Galapagos

Tortuga Bay is a beautiful and very long sandy beach where you can not only swim but also spot white tip reef sharks close by a natural mangrove that’s only a short walk from the beach.

Giant Tortoise Galapagos
Giant Tortoise Galapagos

Playa El Garrapatero is a nice beach to spend some time at after a long day exploring. But possibly the highlight for me on this island was hiking up to the Los Gemelos (The Twins) craters to see some very old rock formations. Also places like ‘Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado’, Galápagos Beach at Tortuga Bay, and ‘Reserva de Tortugas El Chato’ are great to learn more about the giant tortoises.

Fun fact: the Spanish named the archipelago after the giant tortoises that once roamed the islands. As in Spanish “galápago” translates to giant tortoise. 

Top Tips for Wildlife Observation in Galápagos

Galapagos penguin catching fish



How to get there?

There are two ways to get to the Galápagos archipelago, either flying to Baltra or to the San Cristóbal Airport from Quito (via Guayaquil) which is the option I went for. There are three airlines flying daily to the archipelago: Tame, Avianca, and Lan. 

What currency?

The official currency in Ecuador is the US Dollar. Generally speaking, it is very cheap to travel around Ecuador. However, prices on the Galápagos are much higher than on mainland. Also, make sure to take cash out before arriving in the Archipelago as sometimes cash machines on the main island aren’t reliable.

Top place for diving and seeing sharks and rays

I was on a mission to find all the marine fauna I could possibly see around the islands, and most of the time I was very lucky. And Kicker-Rock or León Dormido  (in Spanish) is where I enjoyed diving the most, I got to to see some reef sharks, hammerheads and stingrays and mantas. 

Stingray resting Coral Reef Galapagos
Stingray resting Coral Reef Galapagos

Kicker Rock Galapagos

Galapagos is one of the most extensive marine wildlife diversity preserves in the world. But diving here isn’t always pleasant like in South East Asia, because the water is SERIOUSLY cold, so make sure you pack a very thick winter diving suit. 

Galapagos Reef Shark
Galapagos Reef Shark

Last but definitely not least, its really important to limit your interactions with the wildlife. While you should enjoy your wildlife observation trip, you should know that increased tourism to the national park have a negative impact on this fragile ecosystem. Human presence affects their natural behaviours! So, let’s all try to keep it as pure and wild as possible. 

Let me know in the comments below what you thought of this post and what are you most excited to see when you go to Galapagos!

The Bali Travel Guide: 13 things you can’t miss

Bali splits people up. There are some who either love or hate it. This guide gives you the best tips to make you love this Indonesian paradise.

There’s a reason why so many people who’ve been to Bali don’t want to leave. It has been called, “the morning of the world” and to be honest, that nickname does it justice. I was blown away by its cultural richness, festivals, green fields, traditional dances, the many temples, food and of course the friendliness of its people. However, there’s also the other side of the island (very few areas) which is where typically people tend to go, only to hate it later and “say Bali is tacky”.

But like in any other touristic place, there are some areas you’re going to want to avoid in general, such as the Southern tip of the island and beaches like Kuta and Seminyak which in all honesty are indeed a bit noisy and chaotic. After all, Indo is still a developing country and to grasp its beauty you should go with an open mind. I like to focus on the beauty and this is exactly what this Bali travel guide offers, packed with lots of tips and amazing places to visit – some of them off the beaten track.

1. Go trekking in the jungle and cool down at a waterfall

I’d recommend Tegenungan Waterfall near Ubud and Munduk Waterfall and trek in North Bali for a proper jungle trekking and adventure.

Munduk Waterfall in Buleleng Bali Indonesia

2. Experience a Balinese dance

The best place to experience this is in Ubud at the Lotus Pond in the Puri Saraswati Temple performed by the Cenik Wayah Gamelan Dance Group. Chances are they will perform different dances in one presentation. It can also be a great opportunity for you to learn more about the Gamelan which is Bali’s traditional music, made up of mostly percussive instruments.

Balinese Legong Dance or courtship dance taken place at Saraswati temple Water Palace

3. Dip into some hot springs

The sacred hot springs ‘Air Panas’ of Banjar are set in the midst of the jungle. With two public pools of sulfuric water from a volcano in which you can swim and relax away for as long as you want.

Hot Springs Air Panas - Bali Indonesia

4. Forget about Kuta and Seminyak

If you really want to explore great beaches and see fewer tourists, go instead to Dream Beach or Padang Padang. Cleaner and less crowded. However, if you have a bit more budget, and want to pamper yourself for a few days you should know that Seminyak has some of the best luxury spa-resorts on the island, and the food and service are super high-end. I can recommend The Seminyak Hotel & Spa, which was an experience I’ll never forget.

5. Walk along the rice paddies

There are so many around Bali but the best and most visited ones are located in Jatiluwih and Tegallalang. Just be careful, bring trekking boots with you and stick to the paths, otherwise, you can damage the fields and could get told off, just like me, oops!

Rice terraces worker resting Tegallalang Indonesia

6. Pay a visit to the twin lakes of Danau Tamblingan and Danau Buyan in Northen Bali

Chances are you will pass by these lakes on your way to Ulun Danu Temple. The view from the top of the mountain is epic. Bear in mind, the North of the island is rather far from the Denpasar area, around 4 hours by car. I highly recommend the effort, otherwise, you will only see a Westernised side of Bali.

Lake Tamblingan Bali Indonesia

7. Check out the Balinese art of Batik and traditional weaving

It’s a great opportunity to see how traditional clothes on the island are actually made and decorated with the techniques of painting over fabrics, called Batik. I could not stop thinking about the patience, artistry and effort required to create these beautiful garments.

Traditional Balinese weaving Indonesia

8. Ubud, its vibe and energy make you want to stay there

You can never get bored in Ubud despite what some people say. It has a very different energy compared to the South, perhaps it has got something to do with the fact that is has become this renowned centre for mindfulness and yoga practice. There’s, of course, many yoga centres, spas, cafes with amazing vegan and vegetarian options. But also art galleries and museums, such as Agung Rai Museum, which is incredibly beautiful, and also has a lodge area so you could even stay there if you wanted to. You can also visit the jungle, the Monkey Forest (which I don’t particularly like but since you’re there…), the Pura Saraswati Temple (shown below), see some wood carving and even go rafting. Possibilities are endless, really.

Pura Saraswati Temple - Ubud Bali

Also, if you’d like to stay in Ubud (I did, and loved it) I’d highly recommend staying at TejaPrana hotel, you can have your own private infinity pool overlooking the jungle canopy. Plus, the structure it’s completely sustainable, made out of bamboo, epic!

Agung Rai Museum - Ubud Bali
Agung Rai Museum

9. Take a trip to the Gili Islands

Probably, some of the best advice this Bali travel guide has to offer is a short trip to the Gili islands which are only an hour away from Bali by boat. It is the perfect get-away from the chaos and party atmosphere found in Southern Bali if what you’re looking is some peace and quiet.

Sunset Gili Islands Indonesia

Best island for that is Gili Air, super quiet, nice beaches, also there are NO cars nor motorbikes, just carts pulled by horses like in the Middle Ages. It does feel like travelling back in time.

Carriage pulled by horse - Gili Air Island Indonesia

10. Do some scuba diving and snorkelling

Heading off from the south is great if you’re also looking for a more chilled and quiet atmosphere combined with a bit of diving or snorkelling. The best spots are in Menjangan in the North of Bali or even Gili Air in the Gili Islands, where there’s a spot called Turtle’s Paradise, you can imagine the rest. There are dozens of scuba diving academies you can choose from but I highly recommend AUS Diving Academy Gili Air, super friendly and professional.

Diving with turtles in Gili Air Island - Indonesia

11. Go dolphin watching in the North of Bali

Chances are you will get lucky and see them if you go with a guided tour at Lovina Beach.

12. Visit the 9 directional temples and learn about its importance to the people of Bali

Balinese temples are on everybody’s list when heading to Bali. However, if you have the chance, try to visit the most important ones that protect the island from evil spirits. Located in very particular locations, such as cliffs, caves, sides of mountains. Remember there are nine of these, and also you need to wear a sarong to enter any temple, as a sign of respect to the gods, see below for more info.

Uluwatu Temple - Pura Luhur Uluwatu Bali Indonesia

13. Try the amazing local food and tropical fruits Bali has to offer

There are so many great dishes in Bali. You can tell it has a bit of influence from China and India but still, they have kept their unique identity and flavours. Best thing I tried was Cap Cay, Vegetarian Sate and Nasi Goreng. My favourite fruits have got to be rambutan, mangosteen, durian (although it stinks) and dragon fruit.


Bali Travel Guide top tips : 

  • Best time to travel in my opinion is end of Feb-March and April, which is technically the rainy season. However, the rain usually stops in February and it’s a bit cooler than in high season (Jun-July-Aug). Also, a major plus is that the island won’t be as packed, and the accommodations and attractions are cheaper.
  • Expect to bargain. And I mean a lot! Never pay what sellers ask for on the first approach.
  • Buy a sarong (beach wrap). regardless of gender, you’re going to need one when visiting most Hindu temples in Bali. In any market, you will find beautiful designs.
  • Always carry change, it’s good karma to leave a small donation at temples and other places.
  • Be careful with the monkeys (in the Monkey Forest) and never feed them. They are wild and unpredictable. I’ve seen how they steal sunglasses, caps, baby shoes or in fact anything that’s within their reach.
  • Transportation in Bali in inexpensive but traffic is hectic. I highly recommend hiring a private driver and arranging the price/rate per hour beforehand rather than picking up taxis or even renting scooters and cars. Top drivers, I encountered on the island: Putu (+62 813 37193721) and Made Happy (+62 8133 7385274) honest guys, knowledgeable, speak great English and charge sensible prices.
  • Distances in Bali, especially North to South can be quite long (Around 4 hours) Therefore, I suggest you explore areas according to where on the island you’re staying. Leave Kintamani, Mount Batur, Lovina Beach etc, for when you’re actually staying in the north.
  • Be sure to check out the calendar of festivities and religious ceremonies in Bali. There are important celebrations going on every month of the year which can be quite incredible to experience if you happen to be there at the right time.