Published: May 18th 2009May 18th 2009
Day 1 at the turtle farm
Much has happened since our last blog entry.
May 14...our driver to take us to the airport was supposed to arrive at 7:40 am. Instead we get a call at 6:40am saying he´d be there at 7am because our flight was moved up. Stu hadn´t packed so he tossed everything into the suitcase, we squeezed in breakfast and away we went. Our drivers walks us into the terminal, hands us our boarding passes, we go through security and board the plane without ever having to show ID. "Are you Mr Stu?" is apparently all the ID you need.
We arrive in the Galapagos on Santa Cruz island and are taken to a turtle farm where we see huge land turtles that can grow to be up to 700 lbs. After we go to port and visit the Charles Darwin Center where "Lonesome George" the last of his type of Saddleback Turtles is held. He is 80 and will live to be about 200. We also were able to enter a pen where large tortoises who were once kept as pets are now kept at the center. We could take photos right next to them. After we boarded our boat
Stu with giant turtle
Luckily they´re vegetarian
that we´ll be on for the next 4 days and meet the rest of the guests. We were with some Aussies, a couple from Louisiana (no they don´t know Triche), a couple from Holland, Isreal, German-Canadians and some Indian´s who were living in New York. A diverse group who´s median age was far under the 65 that we´d guessed it´d be...quite a few others were in their 30s as well.
The first night onboard was quite rocky and after taking a dramamine I slept like a baby...Stu not as well. We had a 12 hour trip that night through rough waters.
May 15...Our morning excursion was to Isabella Island (one of the largest of about 15) which has 5 volcanoes on it. We walked a ways inward on lava rock and saw many cactus and small pools of water. At the end of our hike we visited a large lagoon and saw vivid pink flamingos fishing for brine shrimp. After lunch and a siesta we had a chance to go snorkeling off the boat. We saw a few marine turtles and we glimpsed a sea lion but he didn´t seem interested in swimming with us and hurried out
of sight. The water was frigid for me but Stu had his wet suit. After the snorkel we took the small "panga" boats back towards land and went into some inlets between the mangrove trees. We saw many more turtles and a few golden sting rays swimming in the shallow water.
May 16...In the morning we took our snorkel gear and landed on a beach. The agenda was to see a few land iguanas which we did...7 to be exact. They are brightly colored with a bit of yellow and orange. It was hot out...maybe Thai hot even. After the walk around the island we got the chance to snorkel again. This time we saw many sea turtles eating algae. You could get right up to them and actually touch their shells. We also saw about 3 to 5 sea lions who would just zip around and swim right along next to us. They are the cutest things with little whiskers just like puppies. In the sun when they´re dry they have a light golden fuzz and in the water they look almost black and are the most amazing swimmers. You can see them at the zoo, but it´s
More big turtles
You could walk right up to them
nothing like swimming with them knowing they can swim off to freedom at any time they choose.
After snorkeling we went back for lunch and another siesta of reading and sunning on the top deck of the boat. After lunch we had another dry landing excursion. We got off and right away came across a mass of marine iguanas. These are ugly little bastards with spikes and scales and they like to spit to mark their territory and to get rid of the salt in their body. They were all over the island of lava that we walked around on. We saw a few more sea lions, some flightless cormorants - birds that used to have wings, but evolved to flightless birds with stubby little wings.
Back on the boat we enjoyed some evening cocktails and wine before crossing the equator back into the Northern Hemisphere right at sunset. They had this cruise agenda thing down to a T. We had dinner each night as a group at 7pm and afterwards would usually stay up for an hour or so talking and then retire to our cabins to read and hit the hay early.
May 17...We were
Blue Footed Booby
ha ha...booby. Pelican in back
woken up at 5:45 for an early excursion. We landed on a tiny island with 311 steps to the top with a lookout point and a lighthouse. We were able to see the sun rise (a crazy sight since I'm normally not a morning person) and hiked up to the top. From that vantage point we could look down to a small strip of land with a bay on either side. One side is where we would snorkel later that morning and the other side is where we would walk to and glimpse white tip reef shark swimming along right near the shore. It was a lot of steps up, but a gorgeous site. We went back to the boat for breakfast and then headed on the small dingys to the beach. We walked to the other side and that´s where we saw about 10 or so reef shark. We got our feet in the water and they swam within a few feet of us, but any closer and they would shy away scared. We also stayed awhile and watched the Booby birds and Pelicans nose dive into the water attempting to catch fish. After they submerged they´d pop right
Hundreds of them laying on each other. Smelled like poop. Yummy
back up like a balloon held under water.
After lunch we had an early excursion to shore to see more land iguanas and sea lions. We watched some pups nursing from their mother and also saw a group of them who had just jumped out of the water and were "barking" like a bad choir.
May 18...our last morning on the boat. We went to port early (8am) and went to another research center to learn about the history of the Galapagos. We then did some light shopping and parted ways with the rest of the boat, some headed to the airport to fly out, some headed back to the boat for a few days, and us the only ones staying on San Cristobal island for a night. It´s the smallest of the 3 habited islands. We checked into our hotel which is a basic room, a little couch area, but at least had A/C, a tv, and hot water. It was so hot out today that we scratched our heads with what to do afraid to be out in the sun and get burnt. We decided to splurge on a $1 taxi ride to a beach not
Cute little guy. Apparently they don´t just live in Antarctica
too far down the road. We were the only ones there, there wasn´t a lick of shade, and the beach was pretty shallow and turned to rock a couple feet out, so we walked a short distance back towards town and hit another beach. We camped under a shade tree and read for awhile. There were only a few other locals there and had the place mostly to ourselves. We decided to snorkel and once again encountered a few sea lions who would frollick right up next to you. It´s absolutely fabulous and Stu agrees you could just watch them for hours. We returned to the hotel to freshen up and have lunch about 2pm. He had a hamburgeusa complete - hamburger with cucumber, fried egg, lettuce, mayo and ketchup. We topped it off with a coke. The rest of the evening is unknown but we imagine it will be pretty lazy and include a nap and a dinner.
Tomorrow we´re off back to Santa Cruz island, puerta Ayora, to be exact for another lazy day of beaches, cafes, reading and naps. After that, scuba diving with the sharks and back to Quito.
There are more photos below