Published: October 16th 2012October 16th 2012
Where to start??? Journey of a lifetime! Have just spent the last 5 days in one of the most unique and amazing places on earth. Being able to get up close and personal to some of the worlds rarest animals was an experience of a lifetime.
Day 1: flew from Quito to Baltra via Guayaquil with all 16 of us that we're on our boat tour. After having a 2 hr flight with our flight we made it to the airport in Baltra. basically a big shed with no other buildings etc in sight. We met our guide and headed for our boat, the "Darwin". Nice small cabins, with a bunk bed and tiny bathroom, no room for 2 people to even walk in the cabin at the same time.
We went for an afternoon trip to a part of Santa Cruz to have a walk on the beach and have a go at snorkelling. The water was so cold, even in my wetsuit! Went for a short walk to the lagoon where we saw 2 flamingos having a feed. Apparently the pink colour comes from the shrimp they eat. The evening was our first taste of the amazing
food we would be served over the next few days, a spread of rice, fish, salad, veggies and poached apples with fruit for dessert. We had a welcome cocktail with the group and the crew, they all got dressed up in their suits for us (and the suits were off 2 mins later!) they turned on the spotlight at the back of the boat and we were suddenly surrounded by pelicans and sharks taking advantage for some fishing!
Day 2:a very early start for us today to beat the other boats that were going to be touring South Plaza, so we were out there at 7 am. So quiet and lovely having the place to ourselves! A very small island, only 0.13 sq km. the landscape was so different to what I was expecting. Opuntia cactus and sesuvium plants which formed a reddish carpet on top of the lava formations. Marine and hybrid iguanas were abundant, not to mention the sea lions. Also, a lot of bird life. Marine iguanas are the only lizard that exists that can swim. Sea lions like to lay all over the island, not just near the water. They were laying under
trees and all over the walking paths. You really had to watch your step or you would be treading on a sea lion or iguana.
We had a snorkelling adventure at a small bay. Fish, sea lions, turtles! I had a fantastic experience with a sea lion who decided I was his friend (I did look a lot like a sea lion in my wetsuit..) and started swimming and tumbling all around me. I went under and did some twists and turns and he copied me. He even came up and gave me a little nudge with his nose (I like to think it was a kiss!)
The afternoon was spent at Santa Fe. The beach was covered in sea lions who didn't seem to distressed or upset by us visitors. In fact, they were very cute, playful and curious sea lions! One sea,lion in particular wanted to come and check us all out. He waddled up the beach, started sniffing shoes, pulling at shoe laces and rubbing our legs! He was sitting on a stick, so at one point I picked it up and threw it.. And to everyone's disbelief, he went and fetched it and brought
it back! I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever play fetch with a sea lion!! We also went on a land iguana hunt, which was quite successful, considering they are usually harder to find. Also saw a hawk which was fantastic.
Again, a feast for dinner. Tonight however, we were travelling during the night. Most people were quite unwell with the large swell. Lenin, the bar man, worked hard to try and make everyone as comfortable as possible. He even supplied lemon wedges to suck on ( how this helps sea sickness, I'm not to sure...) I surprisingly wasn't sick at all!! Many thanks to Sue for her sea sickness patches that worked wonders!
Day 3: Espanola island. We had the island to ourselves which was lovely. In the morning we went to Gardner bay, a white sandy beach with a sea lion colony. Went snorkelling again, and saw a turtle, but the water was a little choppy and visibility wasn't fantastic. Coming back to sure was interesting, it was like trying to cross the street with all the passing sea lions, wait for a gap and get out quick! It was a
great beach to lounge around on, you only had to look at the sea lions for proof!
Mid morning we went snorkelling off the dinghy. This was the highlight of my trip and definitely one of the best experiences I have ever had. Started off very choppy but saw lots of beautiful fish.When we came around the corner, and there was about 8 sea lions pups (not babies, but young ones) and we spent an hour swimming and tumbling with them. If you swam under water really fast they would shoot off with you, under you, beside you. We twisted and tumbled and they did the same. To swim and play with sea lions like that in the wild is really an experience that cannot be put into words. Words will never capture how special and exciting it all was.
The afternoon adventure was at Suarez Point. A rocky 1.8 km walk around the island let us see an abundance of wildlife. We landed off the dinghy and had to shoo away the lazing sea lions so we could pass. The trail from the beach that was covered in sea lions and marine iguanas led us through the
blue footed booby and nazca booby colonies. We went to a cliff viewpoint to see the blowhole down below. We were also lucky enough to experience the elaborate courtship rituals of the albatrosses, performed as the female chooses her lifelong mate. This is the only island where the albatrosses can be found. Other bird life included mockingbirds, finches hawks, swallow tailed gulls and a few booby chics. Before returning to he boat we saw some adorable baby sea lion pups, I have plenty of photos of them!!
Day 4: Floreana Island. We had a very early start to trek up to the baroness lookout to watch the sunrise. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy and overcast day, so no amazing sunrise. We did however, get to see the Galapagos penguin, the only one found in the northern hemisphere to breed in the tropics.
We then went to Post Office Bay. In 1973 Whalers erected a wooden barrel so mail could be picked up and delivered on their way home. It is now tradition for travellers to leave a post card and sort through the ones that are in the barrell to see if any can be hand
delivered once you arrive home. Unfortunately there were none from close to home, but now the waiting game begins to see if my post card ever gets delivered! Here was also an amazing snorkelling sight to witness the sea turtles feeding. There were around 5 or 6 large seaturtles having a lazy swim and feed which was magical to watch. I also had another unexpected run in with 2 juvenile sea lion pups. As I was coming into shore i saw something shoot past me, but had no idea what it was. I popped my head above water to have a look, and about a metre next to me, 2young sea lions pop their heads up and look straight at me! I swam a bit further with them swimming beside me. Again I popped my head up and they to did the same thing! Funny little creatures, so curious!!
Mid morning was a snorkel off the dinghy around devils crown, an underwater volcanic cone and coral formations. Colourful fish, starfish, eagle rays, a couple of sea lions and even a white tip shark! Very choppy and very hard work to swim, and we were very tired afterwards.
afternoon saw us at Cormorant point. A greenish coloured sandy beach which then led us to Black mangrove beds and to a sparkling turquoise beach on the other side. So tempting to go for a swim, until you took a good look at the shore line, littered with sting rays hiding from sharks.
The late afternoon was spent sailing to Port Ayora. Very rough seas, the boat almost tipping sideways!! We did have some dolphins swimming with us, jumping and showing off! After our last supper on the boat we got to spend a couple of hours at port. There where we hopped off the boat was a fluorescent caterpillar train. A mini train like what you see at Darling Harbour but brightly coloured flashing lights and really fast, playing disco music. A dollar for a half hour ride and we saw every back street of the town. Was a lot of fun, felt like I was in the Alice in wonderland movie..
Day 5: early start again as it was a transit day. We arrived at the Charles Darwin research station at 7 to check out the tortoises. Here, tortoises are hatched,raised and preparforth be reintroduced into their natural habitat. This takes up to 5 years. We saw Super Diego, who is now the largest tortoise since lonesome George's passing this year. Apparently, when lonesome George was placed with 2 females, he didn't mate. Scientists weren't sure if this was because of his age or because he had forgotten what to do. They then made him watch a video about tortoise mating to help him remember (so basically, he was provided with tortoise porn!!) amazing the facts you find out and stick with you :)
Unfortunately this was the end of our trip and we started making our way back to Quito.. A ute, ferry, bus, 2 planes and a minivan later...
So for a 5 day adventure, I managed to take 600 photos.. So hopefully my family will want to look at a large number of iguana and sea lion photos, I have plenty of them!
For anyone even contemplating going to the Galapagos, I say do it. The most amazing and unique experience you will have in your lifetime!