Galapagos (Part I) - Looping South


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South America » Ecuador » Galápagos
April 13th 2009
Published: May 3rd 2009
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Day 739 (07.04.09)

After an early morning transfer to the airport, some well needed coffees and two flights, we exited our plane and took our first steps onto the Galapagos islands under clear blue skies and in scorching heat that was to last for our whole time here. We were here! We had always wanted to come here but didn't know whether we would have enough money by now or be able to get a good last minute deal ... this really was 2 years of hope coming to fruition.

As we'd booked late ( by late read yesterday!) and missed the first day of an 8 day cruise we had to catch up with our boat. We were passed from one chap to another to be ferried across Santa Cruz island and were then put onto another boat for the 2 hours or so across to Santa Fe where we we were due to rendesvous with our floating home for the next 7 days - the Merak.

The Merak is a sailing boat that takes 8 tourist passengers along with its three crew (captain, sailor and cook) and guide. Our first impressions were great and exactly what we'd been looking for, a boat with character, not too many passengers and an amazing friendly and helpful crew.

No sooner than we had landed and shoved our bags in our snug little room we were introduced around to everyone and the guide, Cesar, took us over to the island for a walk to see the Santa Fe Land Iguana population. It was simply breathtaking. No sooner had we got in the small launch than we had seen 4 turtles, some spotted rays and loads of sea lions swimming around us and we hadn't even landed for our first visit! Jumping off the boat we had to walk through the lazing sealions on the beach struggling to tear ourselves away from them to see the Iguanas whilst they were still enjoying the late afternoon sun.

Cesar introduced us to many of the other species of both plant and animal that live on the island including the pelicans, deep orange Sally Lightfoot Crabs, Blue Footed Boobies, Galapagos Mocking Bird, Galapagos Dove, Ground Finches, Lava Lizards and of course the main attraction, the Land Iguanas themselves. Not only was it incredible to see the animals so close and naturally but we learnt an amazing amount in such a short space of time! We'd lucked out with an excellent and extremely enthusiastic guide.

Back through all the animals and snapping another couple of additional photos on the way we got on the launch back to the Merak convinced that whatever we had paid to come over was completely justified already and we had only been animal spotting for an hour.

There was however not time to dwell on our sightings and photos as we were told that it was snorkelling time. With our cozzies on in a flash we were in the water and spotting Eagle Rays, Green Turtles, Sting Rays and loads of fish including Flag, Surgeon, Puffer and Hawk fish to name just a few.

Continuing along the bank we finally hit the juvenile sea lions play pool and had an incredible 20 minutes or so playing with them where they were obviously just as curious of us as we were of them. One, who got himself in a bit of a corner by accident, decided the best way to get across the pool was over Chrissie's back giving her a bit of a shock as the baby sealion jumped over her! Wow .... does life get any better?!

After a great dinner we set sail (well, motored as there is not enough wind at this time of year) from our current mooring to another of the southern islands called Española. Although the journey was a little bumpy we had a clear night of stars to keep us occupied as we tested the theory that on the ecuator is the only place that you are able to see the Southern Cross, Orion and The Plough (we could see them all) and relived memories from today's superb encounters with the Galapagos's local animal life.

Day 740 (08.04.09)

From our anchor we had brekkie and then set off on our next island adventure. A short launch ride away and we hit the beach for a walk along the pristine white sands of Gardner Bay. Having got out early we were able to miss the other boats moored in the bay and initially had the beach to ourselves. The shore was filled with sealions and no matter how many of them you see, they still bring a huge "Ahhhhhhh!" from inside you. Doing our best to become Nature Photographer of the Year (!!!) we managed to get some great pics of them lazing and interacting with each other practically oblivious that we were even there. Further on our walk we took a look at some turtle nests and Galapagos Mocking Birds before reaching the rocks and our first Marine Iguanas of the trip. Darker in color than the land iguanas and equipped with a flat tail designed for propelling them through the water, we watched them sunning themselves as well as one emerging from the water having been for a feed. Spending some time watching them go about their day as well as their Sally Lightfoot Crab neighbours we whiled another half an hour away with no trouble whatsoever.

Back along the beach and we picked up our snorkelling gear for a swim around a small rock island just off shore. We had been told that this was a great snorkelling site as well with the possibility of seeing the White Tip Sharks who frequent the area. We didn't catch the sharks but had no opportunity to complain as we saw hundreds of fish including baby baracuda and Angel Fish, sting rays, Lobster and sea Cucumbers. Just finishing the swim Mark managed to pull off a nice looking scrape along his palm from some shallow swimming over a rock and was suddenly glad that it was the sharks day off as drops of blood seeped into the water.

Before leaving the beach Chrissie was getting a final pic with the Sealions when she was unfortunate to have a small but potent jellyfish wash up and sting her on the leg (ouch). What next ...

Around the coast of the island and we had another stop planned for the afternoon at Punta Suarez. For this island stop we had a welcoming comittee of sealions, blue footed boobies, iguanas and pelicans amongst others. It was clear to see the distinctive characterisitics of the Española marine iguanas who have deep aqua and red markings covering their bodies making them different to the marine iguanas fround on the other islands in the Galapagos. We visited this area primarily as it is a popular point with many seabirds the highlights of which were the Waved Albatross, Masked Boobies and Galapagos Hawks ... this really is starting to sound just like a long list of animals for which we apologise!

After a quick swim around the boat to cool off we set "sail" again to our new island for tomorrow's delights!

Day 741 (09.04.09)

Floriana island was our next stop and we started early to miss groups from other boats. Floriana island has an interesting postal system, the Post Barrel, begun by whaling crews many years ago. You drop in your postcard and then search through the others in the box to see if there's one from your country which you can post or deliver when you return to your home country. It is apparently one of the most reliable postal services around. Ingenious! Stopping at the post barrel we posted a postcard we had written and sifted through the others deposited to find one from the UK ... no such luck apart from our fellow Merak travellers and we thought that defeated the whole idea of the post box!

Walking further into the island we then descended into a Lava Tube. The nearby volcano having been dormant for loads and loads of years, this was left from one of its previous episodes leaving a large cave, of various heights, from the crater to the sea. We joined it for a 100m stretch down until we got close enough that the cave was completely submerged in water and we could go no further. Freezing cold and crystal clear the water helped wake us up, but on the way out Chrissie managed to bash her head on the roof of the VERY spiky cave cealing emerging into the sun with blood dripping down her face! After a mop up and a clean with alcohol wash Chrissie was left with a couple of nice looking cuts on her scalp, and we were both hoping that we were not due for any more Galapagos injuries.

Back on the boat and we had brekkie as we sailed around the coast to our next stop. Walking across the island we had two stops. First to see the Flamingo lagoon where, once upon a time it was filled with Flamingos but now only 7 to 8 make it home. Further round to a stunning beach we looked into the shallows to see baby sharks and schools of rays swimming in the surf as well as Frigate birds feeding on baby turtles just hatched from buried eggs.

We had already had a pretty busy day but the afternoon was to be the real highlight of the day. Another snorkelling session at a site called Devils Crown was to be simly amazing. Formed from the collpasing crater of a small volcano the Devil's Crown is a series of spiky rock formations that provide excellent homes for a vast array of underwater life. Jumping into the warm waters we were struck by the distance we could see...the visibility was almost like you weren't under water, it was crystal clear water! Second off as soon as we jumped into the water off the boat we were in fish soup with White tip sharks circling below us and a large school of angel fish swimming by. Wow! As we contuinued we saw so much other amazing wildlife from starfish to sealions flying past us. Sharks and a massive ray resting under a ledge to tiny colourful stunning fish hugging the rocks. No words could really describe it and the pics we took were from a terrible disposable camera but should give you some idea.

During the dive there was also an underwater arch you had ther option of diving through. After this morning's cave incident Chrissie opted to swim around but Mark followed Cesar through finding that there was a bit more of a current than there seemed making it a bit tougher than it looked. The other Mark travelling with us unfortunately got a little excited about making it through and came up early only to scrape his leg on the roof of barnacles ... the Galapagos injuries continued and it seemed we were all taking a souvenir of one scar or another with us!!!

On the afternoon sail back over to Santa Cruz again we were joined by two pods of bottlenose dolphins who had a great time playing in the bow wave of the boat.

Making it to the main port we took the launch around some of the fishing boats moored there where sealions make a bed for the late afternoon sun. It was funny to see them sprawled out on deck seemingly with not a worry in the world! With a couple of hours on land we watched some very competitive local volleyball (we later found out that there is a reasonable amount of money on the games) before an evening of drinking and cards on the boat.

It had been an amazing first few days on the cruise and we couldn't wait to see what the next section would have in store for us.


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