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Published: April 2nd 2008
We knew prior to leaving Australia that we wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands. Al was even lugging around a copy of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species
until it got to heavy and he couldn't deal with carrying it anymore! We also knew that it would be expensive, and that we would be blowing a few months budget in 8 days worth of sailing. What we didn't know was whether or not it would be worth it - whether we would see all the animals we had been promised, or whether it would be 'ruined' by all the tourism. But we can safely say Galapagos exceeded our extremely high expectations and if you are thinking about going - GO!
After some serious confusion at the airport (we had arrived two and a half hours early and were still checking in half an hour before our flight due to some serious confusion regarding which line people should be in and where the planes were headed) we made it to Galapagos! We were impressed by the amount of wildlife from the very beginning after seeing so many crabs and birds on the way to our boat, the ´Intrepid', a sailing
Galapagos - Rabida
These are the actual colours!
ship that never actually sailed with a maximum of 20 people onboard. We were lucky enough to have a great group of people which made the 8 days of sailing even more enjoyable.
Our days were generally broken up into morning and afternoon activities, with plenty of snorkelling trips in between. We slept in a double cabin with our own bathroom and were fed good breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.
Our first activity was to go and see the famous Galapagos Giant Tortoises in the wild. We were lucky enough to see about 7 of them, including two mating couples. This involves the much-larger male climbing on the female and staying there for a day if possible unless she manages to escape! They were beautiful creatures, slowing lumbering around and eating grass, looking more like characters from ET than anything from Earth.
Lara struggled a little staying in the cabin on the first night as there was very little ventilation and the boat rocked but the next morning Rabida Island made it all worth it. It had a beautiful red sand beach and a yellow lake. We saw blue foot boobies, pelicans nesting and a couple
of sea lions. We snorkelled off the beach and saw thousands of fish, white-tipped sharks and a turtle. Galapagos is the only place we've been where somewhere yells "shark" and everyone gets back in the water to have a look! In the afternoon we headed to Puerto Egas, Santiago where we saw a large colony of marine iguanas, hundreds of Sally Lightfoot Crabs, some sea lions and a small colony of fur seals. The amount of wildlife is extremely impressive but more amazing are the animals disinterest in humans. You can approach any animal in the Galapagos and it will show curiousity but not fear.
On our third day we went to Bartolomé Island where we walked to the top of the volcano and looked at the surrounding parasitic craters. Afterwards we did a swim off a small island and had the best snorkelling of our lives - this was of course, our first snorkelling trip after Lara's underwater camera broke. We saw a shark, huge schools of fish and some stingrays but the most exciting part was watching about 10 penguins feeding below us, with 2 sea lions swimming around and watching. The penguins would surface directly in
Galapagos - Santa Cruz
Our first giant tortoise
front of us have a look and then dive back down and chase schools of fish before coming up in front of us again. We continued the snorkel under the Pinnacle Rock and saw more sea lions, sharks and an octopus. The afternoon snorkelling could not compete with the brilliance of the morning but we still managed to see some stingrays, sea snakes and another white-tipped shark. In the evening we sailed to North Seymour Island and were lucky enough to have a pod of 7 dolphins swimming in the boat's bow wave as the sun was setting. It was beautiful. As tonight was the last night of those passengers on a three-day cruise we had a little bit of a party. And Johnny, one of the crew members showed his salsa prowess with all the female passengers!
The following morning we went to North Seymour Island to see the nesting frigates. The male frigates inflate their bright red 'gula' sack and sit in the nest they made hoping to attract a mate. The female apparently chooses a mate by the quality of the nest only, making female frigates rather materialistic! We then said our goodbyes to those people
leaving and went snorkelling yet again (we generally snorkelled at least twice every day - and there wasn't a trip where we didn't see anything). We saw a few sea lions, a moray eel and a sea turtle before heading back to the boat for lunch. In the afternoon we headed to Santa Cruz and saw a small colony of flamingoes and snorkelled, unfortunately the visibility wasn't great but we still managed to see a small white-tipped shark and a stingray.
On our 5th day we went onshore at South Plaza Island to see our first land iguanas; beautiful, ancient looking creatures that were completely non-plussed by us wandering around. As with all the other islands we saw a great variety of other plants and animals as well, including cactii, blue footed boobies, Nazca boobies and yet again sea lions - you actually get completely bored with sea lions by the end of the trip! We then did a snorkel from the dingy off the shore of Santa Cruz and we saw spotted eagle rays, sting rays, sea lions dancing in the water with us, a very large lobster and a couple of turtles. In the afternoon we headed
Galapagos - Santa Cruz
Turtles turning it on for the crowd
to Santa Fe to see their own endemic species of land iguana and a large colony of sea lions. In the evening we sailed from Santa Fe to Española and during dinner half the boat got sea sickness and there was not a lot of eating going on.
In the morning we went to Gardner's Bay and wandered along the white-sand beach looking at the large colony of sea lions, the marine iguanas, the mockingbirds and a Galapagos Hawk. We swam among the sea lions and then headed out for a deep sea snorkel in the hope we would see hammerhead sharks. Some of the group saw one but we didn't manage to, but we did see a few Galapagos sharks, spotted eagle rays and a group of 6 turtles swimming together, they came right up to us and had a good look. In the afternoon we headed to Punta Suarez, Española where we saw baby Nazca and Blue Foot Boobies and their nests along the cliff faces, we also saw the blow hole, a nesting Galapagos hawk, marine iguanas and yet another colony of sea lions!
On the 7th day we arrived in Floreana where we landed
Galapagos - Rabida
Blue footed boobie in flight
on a volcanic 'green' beach. We saw a much larger colony of flamingoes and a sea turtle resting in the shallows on the beach after a night of laying eggs. We did another fantastic snorkelling trip in which we saw everything! Including a hammerhead shark, plenty of white-tipped sharks, Galapagos sharks, sea lions, turtles, sting rays, eagle rays and Al saw a blue foot boobie dive into the water to catch a fish whilst he was watching it underwater. We also swam under an underwater grotto which was pretty amazing, although there were some injuries as some people hadn't dived down deep enough and got scratched on the rocks above. After lunch and a siesta we headed to Post Office Bay where there is a barrel that has acted as a post office for passing ships since 1793. Today you can leave postcards or letters there and other people can check the box and deliver any mail that they wish, either by mailing it themselves or delivering it by hand. Afterwards we headed into a lava tube to look for gold coins. Unfortunately we didn't find any but we got to have our last snorkel from the beach and we
Galapagos - Rabida
Young Pelican - We had quite the staring competition!
saw a few turtles feeding on the algae just metres from the shore. After dinner we went into Puerto Ayora, the town on Santa Cruz where we had drinks with a whole lot of the other passengers on the boat as it was our last night aboard.
And our final morning before heading back to Quito we went to the Charles Darwin Research Centre to see all the giant tortoises, many which had previously been pets. We also got to see Lonesome George, the last tortoise in his particular sub-species. It was great to see the breeding programme and all the little baby Giant Tortoises. From there we headed back to Baltra Island and flew back to Quito. Galapagos was a great holiday from our holiday and comes with a very high recommendation!
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