Galapagos - A True Paradise for Wildlife, Marinelife & Nature Lovers! (Part I)


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June 14th 2010
Published: July 5th 2010
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Hi all,


As a kid I always dreamt about exploring the Galapagos Archipelago as did Charles Darwin some 180 years ago. I knew by heart the amazing story about Darwin and his glorious journey of the Beagle to the Galapagos Archipelago, after which he concluded his famous study and far fetched perceptions as described in his famous book - “On the Origin of the Species”. Years passed by, I traveled in so many places on the globe - none of which were even close to the Galapagos, but have never forgotten my dream. I always promised myself that one day, I will follow Darwin, and stride in the very same land as he did.

And that day has finally arrived!

No stories told by other travelers we met on the way, no photos shown by them, and no reading - has truly prepared me (and I think also the rest of the family) to the unbelievable experience we have had in that place. Nothing even reaches near to what we encountered, did, seen and felt during our 8-day cruise, between and on, the islands of this archipelago. I truly hope I can translate the sights and
Galapagos Giant TortoiseGalapagos Giant TortoiseGalapagos Giant Tortoise

Highlands, Santa Cruz Galapagos
feelings into words in this entry.

Before we start, let me tell you just a little bit about the Galapagos background (thanks to Wikipedia) - The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, 972 km west of continental Ecuador, of which they are a part. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, due to its most notable feature: wildlife. The islands are geologically young and famed for their vast number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin during his voyage. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

We arrived at Baltra Island on a direct flight from Guayaquil. At first sight, nothing special, just a barren island, and some wood cabins serve as the the islands' International terminal... On the way out, we met our guide for the next 8 days - Alvaro - who was exceptionally good, knowledgeable and very helpful and PATIENT with our kids. The guide introduced himself and the rest of the group that just arrived (2 girls from Denmark, a German young couple and a Swiss guy, whereas the rest of group was
Can't move it...Can't move it...Can't move it...

Highlands, Santa Cruz Galapagos
already on board). Then we headed to the main Island - Santa Cruz [ (Holy Cross in Spanish), that hosts the largest human population in the archipelago at the town of Puerto Ayora. We crossed the canal between the 2 islands by a local ferry, ate a quick lunch at Puerto Ayora, and then headed to our first destination - the Highlands. That part of the island is a natural habitat for the giant tortoises (i.e. turtles). We walked for just a couple of minutes, until we met him - one of the biggest tortoises on the planet, grazing in the field, his enormous shell glittering in the afternoon sun, indifferent to our presence... We managed to observe some more giants, some of them just grazing, some walking slowly in their habitat. We all saw pictures of these giants but nothing equals a real encounter with these ancient creatures, some reach 150 years! Time is flying by, and we need to meet our ship for the next 8 days - Angelique. We then meet our crew, and within a couple hours we are invited (by the bell..) to our first dinner. OK - that was so much different from our
Gardner BayGardner BayGardner Bay

Gardner Bay, Floreana Galapagos
previous cruise from Panama to Colombia (see our “heaven and hell” experience Heaven and Hell, Our Cruise from Panama to Colombia ). To start, we did not have to cook for ourselves, we also had a huge relaxing-roofed-deck, a nice tanning area, a bridge, good snorkeling gear (for everyone..), wet suits, then the private cabins - with private bathrooms and showers. Clean towels and air- condition - who needs more?! So back to the Angelique - we had also 3 delicious meals each day, cooked and prepared out of the best ingredients by 2 local chefs and served as a buffet - great meals, and a very courteous waitress waiting at the reach of our hand... True, it is not on the backpack budget, but worth every penny of it! We finished our meal, had a nice chat with our table mates (sweet Kirsten & Katherine from Denmark), and at last, after such a long day, surrendered to our cabins.

Next day, after a long night navigation, we called at Floreana Island. First, we visited Post Office Bay, and kept an old tradition: since the 18th century whalers kept a wooden barrel that served as post office so that mail could be picked up and delivered to
I Like my Baby...I Like my Baby...I Like my Baby...

Gardner Bay, Floreana Galapagos
their destination mainly Europe and the United States by ships on their way home. We took one postcard to someone in Israel (obviously we don't know..) - who wrote: “I wonder if I will ever receive this postcard”... Well, you are definitely going to get it back, soon... Meanwhile, we are ready for our 1st snorkeling session. We are very excited as Alvaro told us we are about to swim with green sea turtles. We all are dipping in the cold water, but soon enough we are not paying attention to that fact, since a shout is heard all over: “Turtle”!!! we are hurrying to see this amazing giant sea creature (adults may weigh up to 250 kg), hovering elegantly in the water, eating algae from the rocks lying by the shore, indifferent to our presence. We swim around him, diving to take a closer look, and even Shachar - although with floaters, manage to see the turtle. Another check on our list - swimming with a sea turtle. So COOOOL! We soon locate another 4 turtles, all swimming near by, and within an hour or so, we are BOB (meaning, Back on Board...). Another delicious meal - man, we're
Whow - What is that smell??Whow - What is that smell??Whow - What is that smell??

Gardner Bay, Floreana Galapagos
so hungry... Then a short nap, and afternoon arrives. We are back in our zodiacs, ready for our 2nd snorkeling of the day at the “Devil's Crown”, where an underwater volcanic cone and coral formations we are about to find. This time, we are preparing to snorkel without the kids, since the underwater currents are too dangerous for the kids. They are not happy at all, but safety is above all. We are in the water, soon observing an amazing array of underwater marine life. We are encircling the volcanic cone, and at a certain point we are able to observe 2 Galapagos white tip sharks, just a few meters below us (Me and Lilach). The current is very strong so we are “washed away”, and in the quiet zone we are again hovering within games of colorful fish, eagle rays, sting rays, and many delicate coral formations we have never seen before. Time to leave this magical point. We soon learn that the kids actually enjoyed being on the zodiacs, since the guide let them maneuver the zodiacs around the rocks and toward each of the members of our group.

We are BOB, changing to dry clothes and
Surounded by Sea LionsSurounded by Sea LionsSurounded by Sea Lions

Gardner Bay, Floreana Galapagos
once again in the zodiacs. (Honestly, We did not think this cruise is going to be one of these “love boat” cruises, but, hey, 2 snorkeling session and 2 landings in just a day?!). Soon we land on Floreana Island again, heading to a flamingo lagoon. Apparently, they are gone, Alvaro thinks that there is not enough food for them in this lagoon so they flew away in search of food. We continue on to the next beach, strolling lazily on the clean sand, watching the nice sunset, the kids are getting dirty with wet sand - but who cares... Another day came to end.

Next morning we are up on board at 0630. Soon after breakfast, we are ready to land on Espanyola Island. It is considered one of the oldest in the archipelago, at approximately four million years. Our first stop is Bahía (Bay) Gardner, which has a crispy golden sand beach and turquoise-blue water; We are so excited as we are about to meet up-close-and personal with a large community of the Galapagos sea lions. As we land on the beach, a strong smell hits our noses... They are here! Scattered around us, basking in the
Marine IguanaMarine IguanaMarine Iguana

Gardner Bay, Floreana Galapagos
sun, scratching, honking, feeding the babies and mostly staring at us - all at the reach of our hand. No fear at all! This is something truly beyond everything we've experienced before. We are strolling on the beach, taking care not to bother these lovely creatures. On the other side of the beach, I encounter the endemic (unique only to that island) Marine Iguana, which has red markings on its back. Again. Nowhere else in the world marine iguanas can be found. The local species adopted through generations to its unique habitat - barren land but abundant rocks reach with algae - so why not transform from land to marine iguana?... It takes hours to take us out of that magical beach but Alvaro, our guide insists that we depart to our daily snorkeling - and so we do. Again, cold water, great underwater life, a great lunch, nap, and another visit to the island, that time - Punta Suárez. This spot is teeming with varied bird-life. One of the most notable birds of that island is the Waved-Albatrosses (almost the entire world population breeds on the island): nesting, preening, flying from the cliffs - a very impressive sight. We
White Neck Pelican Hovering over the SeaWhite Neck Pelican Hovering over the SeaWhite Neck Pelican Hovering over the Sea

Floreana Island - Galapagos, Ecuador
also met hundreds of pairs of Blue-footed Boobies, conducting their mating ritual dance, as they offer each other 'gifts', whistle and honk, stretch their necks towards the sky, spread their wings, and dance - showing off their bright blue feet. All in all - the scenery around us - the sheer cliffs, the sea and its huge waves shattering below us, creating “steams”, the sounds of thousands of birds above us, was unforgettable. What strike us until now is the untamed life, the proximity of which we could reach the birds - nesting on the trails, dancing within the reach of our hands (and camera..), and living their every day lives without any fear of human presence, due to their isolation for generations after generations without any presence of enemies (or any introduced animals as exist in some other islands, such as: dogs, pigs, donkeys, rabbits and goats).

Next morning, we landed on Santa Fe Island. On that island, we meet a strange cactus called: Opuntia cactua whose trunk looks like a spineless tree trunk, and birds can find great protected nesting places among its branches. Here we also meet some really big land iguanas, about 120 cm long,
Sally Lightfoot CrabSally Lightfoot CrabSally Lightfoot Crab

Gardner Bay, Floreana Galapagos
basking motionless in the sun, as well as the Galapagos pigeon, with its blue rim around its eyes! By the cliffs we met our old buddies - the sea lions, and later we saw them playing with the babies in the serene waters sheltered in the beautiful natural bay. We return to the Angelique, changing rapidly to snorkeling gear, and get into the water. That time we are about to meet up-close & personal the sea lions - only this time its going to be while we are underwater. And so we did see them. Playfully swimming around us, staring at our goggles, biting our fins (two even licked/bit Nitzan thigh and Lilach's tussik...) and diving down at amazing speed. It was - again - a unique experience, unlike anything we have ever had before.

In the afternoon we landed on South Plaza Island. The flora of that island is unique and includes the strange Opuntia cactus and Sesuvium plants, which forms a reddish carpet on top of the lava formations. We get to observe some more giant land iguanas as well as some hybrids of both species (marine and land iguanas), and again, a large number of sea
Who painted my feet with blue?Who painted my feet with blue?Who painted my feet with blue?

Blue footed boobie feet
lions (on the trails, cliffs and in the sea) as well as gulls, tropic birds and frigates.



Miss you all,
Tal

** To view our Galapagos Galleries, Just click on the following links (Warning: there's a lot to see, so take a good rest - and then start clicking...)



Floreana Photos

Española Photos

Photos from Santa Fe & Plazas Islands

Photos from North Seymour Island


Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


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Waved AlbatrosWaved Albatros
Waved Albatros

Espanyola Island, Galapagos
Am I pretty or not?Am I pretty or not?
Am I pretty or not?

Land Iguana, Santa Fe, Galapagos
Ready for wet-landingReady for wet-landing
Ready for wet-landing

On board of Angelique
Blue footed boobieBlue footed boobie
Blue footed boobie

Espanyola island, galapagos
Who is Longer?Who is Longer?
Who is Longer?

Santa Fe island, Galapagos
Red eye rim - Swallow tailed gullRed eye rim - Swallow tailed gull
Red eye rim - Swallow tailed gull

Espanyola island, Galapagos


5th July 2010

WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
מאושרת יחד אתכם- על מימוש החלום שנרקם בילדות -ומומש כעת!!!!! ולנכדים היקרים- אשרי שההורים שלכם מעשירים אתכם ואתם בכל אלה! תנצרו את החוויות המדהימות לאורך חייכם!!!!

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