A BACKPACKER who found himself stranded on the idyllic Galapagos Islands when the lockdown kicked in described a trip of a lifetime - including swimming with sea lions.
Ian Melvin, 29, had a toss up between getting a repatriation flight back to Scotland or staying put in a tropical paradise - where he has been having a dream holiday for ten weeks.
The former TEFL teacher flew to South America last November after three years in China.
On March 14 he travelled to the Galapagos, 500 miles west of Ecuador, and landed on Isla Santa Cruz.
Three days later he took a ferry to the largest of the islands, Isla Isabella, which has a population of just 2,200 people - and where a 2pm curfew enforced since the lockdown has helped him get to grips with studying Spanish.
For the past nearly three months, he has spent his time relaxing and enjoying the tropical weather, stunning beaches, crystal clear waters and astonishing wildlife, including marine iguanas, sea lions, green turtles and penguins.
Ian said: “No one will get the opportunity to experience the Galapagos so quiet.
“The swimming here’s amazing, the sea lions come right up to your face.
“Marine iguanas swim next to you and penguins peck your feet.
“I also cycle around the island and run on the beaches.
“It’s been a really unique experience.
“When I arrived in the Galapagos I had a few days of normality, I went scuba diving with hammerhead sharks which was amazing, then I came to this island.
“There was a bit of uncertainty at the beginning, I was unsure of how the island would cope with restrictions.
"There were some repatriation flights going back to the UK but it was an easy decision to take to stay - I’m already on an isolated island.
“There’s still restrictions and stuff but it’s nice to go outside on the beach, see the outdoors and the wildlife.”
When Ian first arrived on Isla Isabella, he stayed with a local family for six weeks.
But he has now moved into his own room in a beach side hostel in Puerto Villamil - the island’s main settlement - which is costing him around £280 per month.
Ian said: “Before I came to this island I arranged to stay with a family.
“It was good to have company.
“Now I’ve moved into my own place, I’m living like a local now.
“I’m doing all my own shopping, cooking my own food and doing some online teaching to get some money in.”
The local shop is not allowing people inside so Ian has to order through a hatch.
And the Scot, from Banchory, Aberdeenshire, is eating a lot of porridge in the tropical clime.
Ian is unsure how long he can stay on the islands, as he is on a 90-day Ecuadorian tourist visa.
But due to a state of emergency imposed until June 15, he isn’t worrying and would have 30 days to leave the country once restrictions are lifted - but although he would like to continue his travels he is in no rush to leave.
Ian said: “I’ve just been enjoying being on the Galapagos for so long."
He is unsure how long he can stay on the islands, as he is on a 90-day Ecuadorian tourist visa, but due to a state of emergency imposed until June 15, he isn’t worrying and would have 30 days to leave the country once restrictions are lifted.
When travel restrictions are eased he would like to continue on to Colombia.
Ian said: “I’ve just paid rent for all of June, then hopefully I’ll have a better idea if I can travel to another country.
“I’ve just been enjoying being on the Galapagos for so long."
And he has stayed in touch with loved ones at home due to having a decent internet connection.
Ian said: “It’s really easy to keep in touch now, because everyone’s at home.
“I’ve done online quizzes and workouts, like running 5k challenges along the beach.
“My family were a bit unsure at the beginning but they realised it would be a difficult journey home and now they’re happy to hear my stories and compare the different lockdown experiences.”