A Love Story Discovered in the Galápagos Islands – CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

Photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster

This original essay by writer Angie Hockman coincides with the release of her new rom-com “Shipped” now published by Simon & Schuster (a ViacomCBS company).

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most magical places on earth. When I traveled to Galapagos on a Lindblad National Geographic voyage to Galapagos in 2016 on board National Geographic Endeavor, I never expected how deep the archipelago – and its precious wildlife, sweeping landscape and local community dedicated to protection – touched my heart would.

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The experience inspired me so deeply that I put my first romantic comedy novel, “Shipped”, on a fictional small ship adventure cruise in the Galapagos Islands. From cliffs with preening blue-footed boobies to lush highlands where giant tortoises roam, here are some of my favorite “Shipped” spots to experience in the Galapagos – and some quotes straight from the pages of my book.

1) Punta Suarez, Española Island

“There are marine iguanas everywhere. Marine iguanas on rocks. Marine iguanas lying in massive piles and clumped together in the bone-strewn sand. Marine iguanas sneak into the foamy surf alongside sea lions rumbling along the beach. The smell may be overwhelming, but the sight is incredible. ”

Photo courtesy Lindblad Expeditions. Used with permission.

When you disembark in Punta Suárez on Española Island for a scenic coastal hike, be amazed by the wildlife. There are so many marine iguanas, Galapagos sea lions, swallowtailed gulls, blue-footed boobies, and Nazca boobies that you actually need to watch your step. Even more noticeable? The feeling of sheer amazement you experience when you witness a billowing albatross circling overhead, preparing to land. Or blue-footed fools embarking on their epic mating dance. And the view will stimulate your imagination and leave you with memories for a lifetime once you reach the farthest point of your hike – a promontory of dramatic cliffs with an ocean blowhole that rhythmically ejects a geyser of water against the backdrop of throbbing waves .

2) Gardner Bay, Española Island

“The seabed is becoming rocky and the Galápagos Marine Reserve unfolds, revealing its treasures in a colorful, watery spectacle.”

Photo: Ralph Lee Hopkins

Gardner Bay is known for its pristine white-sand beach, its propensity for sea lions, and its famous-friendly inhabitant, the Española mockingbird. Another place not to be missed here is the Galapagos Marine Reserve and the incredible variety of marine species that call it home.

Confession: I have never snorkeled before traveling to the Galapagos. In fact, as a child, a near-drowning incident made me suspicious of the ocean (much like Henley, my protagonist in “Shipped”), but I was determined to overcome my fear and experience the natural treasures of the marine reserve firsthand. My first snorkeling stop was Gardner Bay. And boy am I glad I took the plunge? Snorkeling next to tropical fish and playful sea lions and observing the immeasurable beauty under the waves helped me to discover something profound: a soul-deep love for the sea.

3) Punta Cormorant, Floreana Island

“Soon we will be climbing over a ridge and a pristine, empty beach will spread out before the rising sun. I pause on top of the dune and my breath leaves me in one go. The beach is bordered on three sides by green bushes that lead to brown hills with white skeleton trees. The blue of the ocean reflects the sky above, while light from the sparkling water dances like a path to heaven. ”

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Author’s lower photo on Floreana Island with sea turtle tracks: Lindsey Davis

Disembarking at Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island at dawn is well worth the early wake-up call. We started on an olive beach in Punta Cormorant, where sea lions frolic in the surf, and hiked past salty lagoons where dozens of flamingos were the brightest shade of pink I’ve ever seen. When a herd of them finally blew up, I was stunned; I never thought that such large birds could fly. And stand next to sea turtle tracks on a pristine beach and catch the golden light of dawn as the sun rose over the ocean? Priceless.

4) Charles Darwin Research Station & Turtle Breeding Center, Santa Cruz Island

“Today we see turtles in the highlands only because of intensive breeding programs. People are the problem. But they can also be the solution. ‘”

Photo above, the author at the Charles Darwin Research Center: Lindsey Davis; Photo below right, researcher at the Charles Darwin Foundation: Liza Díaz Lalova / CDF

No trip to Puerto Ayora is complete without visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station and Tortoise Breeding Center. The history of Galapagos is (unfortunately) one of destruction: early sailors hunted the famous giant tortoises to extinction. But the story is also one of immense hope. Scientists, researchers, nonprofits, government leaders and community members have made extraordinary efforts to conserve native and endemic species such as the Galapagos giant tortoise, and their efforts have successfully saved many species from extinction. Visit the national park’s breeding center and see giant tortoises up close and personal, and be inspired by the positive effects humans can have on the environment if we take action.

5) Santa Cruz Island highlands

“A rustling in the underbrush steals our attention and we stop running. I gasp when a giant tortoise emerges from behind a tufted grove not twenty meters away. And it’s not just any turtle. It’s a massive Mama Jamma, almost as big as the armchair in my apartment. It must weigh hundreds of pounds and is likely older than World War II. “

Photo: Ralph Lee Hopkins

The habitats in the highlands of Santa Cruz are very different from the dry lowlands of the coast. The landscape transforms and becomes lush and green as you ascend to higher elevations. You may even see giant turtles grazing along the road on occasion, just as we might see deer here in North America. But to really put yourself in the shoes of an early Galapagos explorer, visit one of the highland farms where giant tortoises live in the wild. There is absolutely nothing better than wandering through a forest, being on the highest alert and watching giant tortoises in their natural habitat.

6) Pinnacle Rock, Bartolome Island

“I turn my back when the sun comes out from behind the clouds and illuminates the landscape in dazzling colors. At the foot of the island, Pinnacle Rock, a jagged, reddish peak, points like an arrow towards the blue sky. ”

Photo courtesy Lindblad Expeditions. Used with permission.

Something you may not know: every island in the Galapagos is unique. Since the archipelago is located above a volcanic hotspot and the islands formed as tectonic plates have slowly shifted over thousands of years, the age and thus the ecosystems on each island vary greatly. As a young island, Bartolomé appears barren – a windswept expanse of volcanic rock. But then there’s the view. If you climb the 372 wooden stairs to the top of Bartolomé, you will enjoy a sweeping panorama of the neighboring island of Santiago … and one of the most beautiful views in the Galapagos Islands.

Are you dreaming of your first trip after the pandemic? Find out more about this competition and win a trip to the Galapagos Islands with Lindblad Expeditions – the adventure of a lifetime that inspired the book “Shipped”!

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Find your itinerary for a trip to the Galapagos Islands here!

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