As we awkwardly hopped off the bobbing Panga boat and splashed into the warm water lapping at the shore, we got our first view of Floreana’s golden beaches. The early morning light made the sand shimmer, and like most islands in the Galapagos there was not a soul in sight. The bright blue water served as a perfect contrast to the dusty orange landscape, which would look barren were it not for the specks of lush green foliage providing shelter to the many birds that call the island home.
After a quick primer on all things Floreana from our naturalists, our small group gingerly made our way through a winding, dusty trail, still enjoying the silence of the morning on Playa Verde. We soon found ourselves on another beach, but this one was completely different than the one that had greeted us just moments before. The rising sun reflected off Flour Beach’s bright white sand, and the high tide meant our feet sunk into the squishy shoreline as we slipped our sandals off to explore.
The first thing we noticed were what looked like huge tire tracks leading from the water up into the sand banks, which had huge holes dug out in them. To our dismay, our naturalist Gustavo said it looked like we had just missed the giant sea turtles making their way up to nest. But the Galapagos soon redeemed itself as it always does, and treated us to the sight of a pair of turtles mating among the rolling waves instead.
While the islands are one of the most protected places on earth, they aren’t immune to the damage humans can do. We were surprised to find the beach scattered with washed up garbage, and spent the next while separating the scraps from the seashells trying to return the shore to its pristine state. After enjoying some last quiet moments, we headed back down the trail and made a scenic stop overlooking a gorgeous lagoon surrounded by a sponge-like beach.
Home to none other than a group of Greater Flamingos, their bright pink feathers were a stunning contrast to the surrounding landscape. While we weren’t able to get up close, the birds were still easy to pick out.
Floreana is not only home to turtles and flamingos, but just so happens to be one of the few islands in the Galapagos that is also inhabited. About 150 people live on the island, making their living by farming and fishing. The land is perfect for growing citrus fruits like papaya and bananas, and residents can even cultivate coffee. But it’s safe to say Floreana’s claim to fame centers around one little weathered barrel, in a place called Post Office Bay.
Back in the whaling days, sailors used to leave mail in the barrel and anyone heading back overseas would grab the letters and hand-deliver them. The tradition continues today, sometimes with comical results. Our group scooped up piles and piles of postcards left by other tourists just like us, and shouted out the names of the exotic locales they were destined for. “Boston! Cincinnati! Maine! Phoenix!”
OK, so apparently a lot of tourists visit from the States, which can make it a tad difficult if you want your postcard to make it anywhere outside of America. Regardless, it’s a fun tradition and many people in our group received their cards back within just a couple of months.
The final highlight of a visit to Floreana happens to be underwater, with a visit to Devil’s Crown. Situated around an underwater volcano cone, the snorkeling spot is like being caught in a bubble vacuum. As soon as we jumped into the water off of our Panga, we were swept away by the strong current and hurtled past bright tropical fish, coral and the odd sea turtle or shark. While the crashing waves pushing us close to the jagged rocks were a bit much for those who weren’t comfortable in the water, it was an amazing feeling to be at the whim of the ocean.
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Globe Guide travelled to the Galapagos as a guest of Ecoventura. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles