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Published: January 2nd 2016
We made the decision a couple of months back to go to the Galápagos for Christmas, having been undecided for a while due to the cost. The more we read about the islands, the more obvious it became that we had to go as we may never get the opportunity again. On our second day there, we were certain we had made the right choice!!
It is a place unlike anywhere else we have been. Still very much Ecuadorian in that it's a bit scruffy round the edges, you can find incredibly beautiful scenery on these islands. However, that's not the most memorable thing... Neither Tom nor I are massive wildlife buffs, but I challenge anyone to see a giant tortoise in the wild and not turn into a big kid!!
The vast majority of tourists fly in to Santa Cruz island and get on a cruise ship for a week or so. We didn't do this, and while it's true that you can't get to as many places without a cruise, we managed to experience many amazing things at a teeny fraction of the cost.
On our second day, we headed to Isabela Island on the most horrifically rough
boat ever! How neither of us threw up I'll never know... On our arrival, once I regained the ability to speak, I remember saying to Tom "this island had better be bloody good"! That afternoon, we headed to the beach down the road from our hostel. The beach was beautiful and around 2.5km long. Whilst wandering along, we saw lots of bright red and black crabs, a sea lion and penguin swimming together, so many enormous marine iguanas on the sand that we lost count, some blue footed boobies (they're birds!), loads of Pelicans, a heron... It was insane! By the end of our walk, we were in love.
The following day, we walked the 6km from the village to the Wall of Tears, a wall built by prisoners just after World War 2. It was supposed to be their new prison but it was such hard work that most of the prisoners died making the small section of wall and the survivors revolted. The walk started along the beach, and continued past lovely little white sand coves with mangroves and yet more iguanas. We also saw lots of very cool cacti, a lava tunnel and the highlight of the
day, 3 giant tortoises hanging out along the side of the road. They could actually move quite quickly but looked so awkward!
To see the Sierra Negra volcano, we had to book onto a guided tour as you aren't allowed to walk in the national park alone. After a short ride balanced precariously on the back of a pick-up truck, we were advised to hire wellies for the walk! We thought this seemed a bit excessive but did so, and it soon became apparent that we'd made the right decision! We had to splash through enormous puddles and deep, sticky mud. After about an hour, we were allowed to swap our wellies for our walking boots and continued along a much drier track. At the first viewpoint of the crater, we were unable to see anything due to low cloud, which was a bit gutting. As we continued though the sun started to make an appearance and by the time we arrived at the barren, red, Mars- like volcano, the sky was blue and it was baking hot. The views out to sea and over the volcano were glorious as we had our lunch. On the way back, we could
see some of the black crater, 10km by 9km, which was steaming after the rain.
There was one other tour that we decided to do, which was our Christmas present from my mum and dad. This was a boat trip to Las Tintoreras, some islands not far from Isabela. We were taken out to a viewing point to see blue footed boobies and the tiny Galápagos penguins. We were also able to see loads of stingrays around our boat and some mating turtles not far away! The poor female gets surrounded by up to 10 males! Next we got off the boat for a walk over some lava fields, where the black lava had funny white pointy tops because of lichen. There were even more iguanas here, piled up on top of each other, as well as lots more of the red crabs (we found out they're called Sally Lightfoot crabs) and two sea turtles in an inlet just in front of us. We got to a beach on the other side of the island where there was a massive male sea lion, later joined by a female after lots of loud calling! Just as we were about to leave,
the two iguanas next to us started fighting! It was quite a show; they started by wrestling and then locked heads and were both pushing with all their might! We then got in the water for some snorkelling, where we swam alongside a playful sea lion and a really cute penguin. We also saw a baby shark, an eagle ray, some enormous manta rays, lots of incredibly colourful fish and Tom saw a turtle! Whilst on Isabela, we also visited the tortoise breeding centre, where some of them were the size of armchairs!
We were a bit gutted when it was time to head back to Santa Cruz island, not least because it meant going back on the boat! The crossing was much better though (although one of the passengers might disagree) and we were warmly greeted by Marcelo and his gold teeth at our hostel in Puerto Ayora! So we settled in for Christmas and had a relaxing few days of beaches, snorkelling and seafood. We visited Las Grietas, a very clear pool surrounded by very tall lava walls, and walked in scorching heat on Christmas Day to the beautiful - and totally worth it -Tortuga Bay.
asked where has been our favourite place and we always struggle to give an answer. The Galápagos are definitely up there now!
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