A date with Darwin


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South America » Ecuador » Galápagos » Puerto Ayora
December 9th 2016
Published: December 10th 2016
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Guayaquil to Quito


Guayaquil was a pleasant step off to the Galapagos archipelago but it is time to go, the airport was only a short distance away and we were soon standing in front of the Galapagos window to get an immigration pass before we could check in our luggage. The airport is new so it is clean and comfortable and our two hour flight left on time, no entertainment though.

Ruth took some photos from the air as we approached the airport island of Baltra and soon we were on terra firma, first step immigration followed by the national park fee then onto a bus for the short ride to the ferry. Here we saw our first Sally lightfoot crabs, our first marine iguana, frigate birds and brown pelicans.

We then boarded the ferry for the three minute crossing of the channel separating Baltra from the island of Santa Cruz before boarding another bus to Puerto Ayora, during the fifty kilometre transit we saw several giant tortoises wandering along the road side which was very exciting. After dropping our gear at our hotel we walked down to restaurant and a had a soy burger before walking out to the Darwin Research Centre which was really quite run down and disappointing.

I must admit I was shocked to see the amount of people and the level of environmental damage on the first few islands we have visited, horses & cattle everywhere and fishing boats clogging the port. Why are we paying such a large park fee when the Ecuadorian government continues to allow degradation of the islands. The next morning we visited the El Chato tortoise reserve it was fun to see so many tortoise in one place, they tell you not to get to close, you know when you are becsuse the tortoisesame pull their heads in and hiss at you. They also had a couple of lava tunnels which were interesting to walk through, unfortunately when we returned to Puerto Ayora I left my new Panama hat in the cab and never saw it again.

We then went down to the jetty where we saw our first marine turtle and three or four sea lions the turtle was quite small compared to what we would see. After a pizza lunch we grabbed some bikes and rode out to Tortuga bay, to access the beach we had to walk
Yellow warbler Yellow warbler Yellow warbler

Puerto Ayora
about 2.4 kilometres through a strange mangrove and cactus forest so by the time we arrived we were hot and sweaty. The water was cool so we went and sat in it, there was a rip so we did not want to go out to far, and watched marine iguanas swim past one got smashed by a wave and thrown on the beach upside down.

After walking back to the bikes we cycled to a travel agent to book a trip to Isla Bartolome for the next day before riding back to the hotel to wash sand out of our orifices. Around 7pm we went and had a great shrimp tortilla and a few bottles of the pretty good EquadorIan pilsener.

Next morning we were picked up and driven to the little ferry port at the northern tip of Santa Cruz near Baltra Island to board the boat for the two hour trip to Islas Santiago and Bartolome. The cruise split the islands of Daphnie minor and major and we saw large flocks of small birds skimming the waves before Ruth spotted a couple of dolphins on our approach to Isla Santiago. We climbed a board the zodiac
Vegetarian FinchVegetarian FinchVegetarian Finch

Puerto Ayora
for a dry landing on the lava flows that border the pretty beach and the guide delivered a lecture on volcanic activity. It was then time to snorkel in the lagoon and as we were getting ourselves ready a dozen or so Galpagos Penguins swam passed a couple of times before darting away.

We saw a number of fish species including the Galapagos Barnacle Blenny and the Giant Hawkfish, I forgot to put sunscreen on the back of my legs and back and suffered for it. Next we moved over to Isla Bartolome where we anchored off the pinnacle watching sea turtles and sea lions as we had our lunch before climbing to the islands highest point. The island is reasonable young geologically speaking and is littered with parasitic craters rather than one large crater. Poor Ruth had a fall coming down the steps, she is truely in the wars, with her cold and sea sickness. We sat on the bow most of the way back arriving at the dock just as the Galapagos was providing a stunning sunset.

Wednesday saw us board a fast ferry to Isla Isabella the Galapagos largest island which is located a few
Harbour viewHarbour viewHarbour view

Puerto Ayora
hours south west of Santa Cruz. The islands only town Puerto Villamil is a rustic sort of place located one kilometre from the dock, tourist restaurants line one side of the main square and tour agents all offering the same deals abound. Shortly after arrival we were soon on a tour out to Los Tuneles, we had absolutely no idea what we were in for, we arranged wetsuits and chambered aboard a boat with a group of 20 somethings and headed 45 minutes west a long the coastline stopping once to see Nazca Boobies on a rock poking out of the sea and then again when a Manta Ray was spotted.

Ruth is feeling unwell now, we are not sure whether it is sea sickness or something else, soon we enter the Los Tuneles area as the boat manoeuvres it's way between the lava formations jutting from the sea. This landscape is stunningly beautiful and is like nothing I have ever seen before, perched on the lava bridges are mating blue footed boobies while sharks and sea turtles ply the crystal clear waters below. Ruth is feeling really ill now and can not eat anything, we leave this area
Harbour Harbour Harbour

Puerto Ayora
to move to a nearby location to begin snorkeling and as we arrive we notice dozens of turtle heads breaching the surface in every direction and I am becoming excited I have never seen a turtle underwater.

I had a great time although I wish I had my own gear with me, I saw many species of fish, sharks and lots of large sea turtles feeding on the bottom of the lagoon. Other species included sea horses and moray eels, unfortunately my underwater camera is malfunctioning and only one in five photos are turning out. On the way back to port we saw another Manta and a school of tuna churning up the ocean. Ruth vomited twice on the way back and could not eat.

Next day we visited the Turtle Breeding Centre which is about a kilometre from down, we took the boardwalk route and were rewarded with many iguanas some of which were quite large and quite a few flamingos some were almost orange in colour. The breeding centre is fantastic and contains nearly 900 tortoises of various subspecies and sizes which will eventually be released around Isabella, there is currently a draught on the island hindering release dates.

Ruth is not improving so it was time to take her to the hospital, it seems that all the different ailments she has suffered are wearing her out, the doctor has put her on various supplements to help her recover and the gastro like symptoms have stopped. On our final day we went for a walk around town, down to the port and along beach, at the lagoon I dropped my sunnys in the mud off the boardwalk and Ruth went in and got them, she didn't expect the stinking mud, then we had to go back to the beach with her grumbling all the way to was off the slime, very amusing.

At 230pm we returned to the dock to board our boat back to Santa Cruz, it was bedlam all the boats leave at the same time and although I have managed to get Ruth a seat in the back I have failed to do the same for me. This journey was particularly unpleasant as the boat was cramped and I couldn't adjust my position, I still have a sore arse. After docking we dropped our bags at the hotel and went to purchase a ticket to San Cristobal.


Additional photos below
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Sea turtleSea turtle
Sea turtle

Puerto Ayora
Lava gullLava gull
Lava gull

Puerto Ayora
Frigate birdFrigate bird
Frigate bird

Puerto Ayora
Pretty coolPretty cool
Pretty cool

Santa Cruz
Out of my way Out of my way
Out of my way

El Chato tortoise centre
Such a long kneckSuch a long kneck
Such a long kneck

El Chato tortoise centre
Tortoises wallowing Tortoises wallowing
Tortoises wallowing

El Chato tortoise centre
Sharp beaked ground finchSharp beaked ground finch
Sharp beaked ground finch

El Chato tortoise centre
Ancient LavaAncient Lava
Ancient Lava

Isla Santiago
Penguins fishingPenguins fishing
Penguins fishing

Isla Santiago


11th December 2016
Spitting Sally lightfoot crab

Darwinesque
Wow....a great shot

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