Dive in for a unique experience, writes Antonia Prebble

Looking for somewhere different to visit? I've just come back from Jurassic Park.

The Galapagos can make you feel you've stepped back on to the islands that time forgot - in a good way. It's an extraordinary place because the wildlife has not yet learned to fear humans, which means you can share moments with animals that are unlike anywhere else.

It's a relatively tricky place to get to, and to navigate around once you're there. I booked through STA Travel, so it was a hassle-free journey, flying from Quito, Ecuador, to Baltra in the Galapagos. From there I took buses and boats to the first island I visited, Floreana.


I'd been recommended to join an organised tour because it can be tricky to co-ordinate travel, accommodation and activities between the islands. I signed up with G Adventures, which works only with local guides: that not only provides jobs and channels money into the islands but also ensures the knowledge of flora and fauna is extremely high. Our guide, Dario, knew everything about everything; from the names of plants, birds and insects to the legends of pirates, murderers and nymphomaniacs
(true story) that pepper the islands' colourful history.

Wildlife is the Galapagos' signature. You must visit a giant tortoise sanctuary to hang out with dudes (and dudettes) from one month to 140 years old.

Antonia Prebble turns tortoise.
Antonia Prebble turns tortoise.

You must go snorkelling and swim alongside giant turtles and slightly further away from stingrays, sharks and sea lions.

Trek to one of the world's largest active volcanos, Sierra Negra, and gaze at the birdlife — the blue-footed booby is a local favourite.

It was pretty warm when I went in June, so I found long-sleeve, quick-dry shirts offered great protection from the sun and were easy to wash in a bathroom basin — we camped for most of the time so washing facilities were limited. It can get cold in the evenings so bring a warm jacket and raincoat. And good walking shoes!

The islands aren't known for their brilliant internet speed. If possible, just forget about trying to connect — it'll save you a lot of frustration.

1. Take an organised tour

It's quite tricky to navigate the islands on your own. G Adventures are very ecologically minded and their guides are from the islands so have excellent local knowledge.


2. Swim with the marine life

The Galapagos is an underwater wonderland. I went snorkelling with giant turtles, sharks, stingrays, seahorses, sea lions and many colourful fish. It was a truly magical experience.

3. Visit a giant tortoise sanctuary

These ancient reptiles are extraordinary creatures and completely unafraid of humans, so you can get close to them and observe them in their natural habitat.

4. Look up

The stars are magnificent. Floreana Island has only 150 inhabitants, so hardly any light pollution. You can clearly see the Milky Way and other constellations.

5. Eat at Santa Cruz street markets

Santa Cruz is one of the bigger islands and has a street of market-style restaurants where you sit outside and enjoy the freshest, most delicious seafood. It's a fun, festive atmosphere with live music humming well into the wee hours.

A blue-footed booby. Photo / 123RF
A blue-footed booby. Photo / 123RF

Antonia Prebble stars as Rita West in 'Westside', Three, Mondays at 8.30pm