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Published: June 22nd 2017
Geo: -0.229854, -78.5249
The flight from London via Madrid was long enough especially as we were diverted due to some miltary activity in Colombia. However landing in Quito is difficult at the best of times as it is very high and frequently has bad weather. Our flight was diverted to Guanquil because of the fog so we had to be put up in the Hilton overnight which was fine except that we had to fly again in the morning to finally get to Quito. Taxis are cheap and frequent and the currency is American dollars. The Marriott hotel is very pleasant and in easy reach of the sights. Having missed the morning city tour, we joined our group at the restaurant for an excellent lunch at the Carmine restaurant.In the afternoon we joined the tour for a trip to the Equator monument which has good views from the top and a quirky museum as you come back down the steps. It started raining on the way back and continued the whole evening. The weather here is very variable so although warm most of the time it can get cool despite being on the Equator, Quito is high and therefore can be cold
in the evenings and it frequently rains so umbrellas and waterproofs are recommended. Dinner in the evening was in the Theatrum restaurant in the Opera house. The food was average but the singing after dinner was very nice. The following morning we had an early start to the airport and 2 hour flight to Baltra island in the Galapagos archipelago where we joined the Celebrity Expedition ship. The ship has 3 decks for cabins. We are at the top with balcony and plenty storage space. The staff are mostly Equadorian and are very friendly pleasant people. There are 88 people on board so by the end of the trip every one is chatting and feeling like a group[. After lunch and the usual lifeboat drill we sailed to North Seymour island. Zodiac boats ferried us over to the land where we had our first walk and sightings of sealions, frigate birds and blue footed boobies. The benefit of this Celebrity cruise is that it is all inclusive so no money needed for booze or anything. All the tours are led by Naturalists who spot all the wildlife and tell us about them as we go. We have plenty of room,
elegant meals, talks in the evening before dinner and parties after. As we are ferried to shore by zodiacs we get everywhere we need to. The guests on board are a really good crowd- Americans, Canadians , Australians and Kiwis. We are the only Brits.
On Monday 7th March, there was an early optional trip to Kicker Rock, which entailed a sail around to get good views of the Blue Footed Boobies and Frigate birds perched on the rock and we saw the sun come up on the rock. After breakfast we took the Long Walk option (there are always 2 options morning and afternoon) round San Cristobal island where we saw marine and land iguanas, Darwin finches and sealions. It is very hot and sunscreen and sunhats are essential. After lunch we were issued with all the snorkelling gear and taken to Espanola island where we saw loads of sealions and iguanas. On Floriana island we snorkelled and swam with a curious sealion and saw lots of fish. On land we saw the turtle tracks where the turtles had come at night to lay their eggs. At a brackish lake there were 4 Flamingos feeding. Lava lizards are plentiful
as are all the varieties of Finches. It is just stunning to see so much wildlife that is different from anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately in the afternoon as we were riding around in the zodiac trying to spot mantras and penguins it started to rain so we had to return to the ship as everybody got truly soaked. Since then it has been hot and sunny. We have had two further goes at snorkelling but neither of us is that keen on it. For those who are there is lots to be seen.The walks have been stunning as these islands are all volcanic so the lava flows make for very interesting landscape. On Bartolome island we walked up 390 steps to the top of an extinct volcano for some great views. On Isabella island we came across the Giant Tortoises which were not phased by our presence at all. On Fernandina island we had to watch where we walked as there were so many Marine Iguanas laying about in the sun. The sealions with cubs were fascinating to watch. The walks are after having a dry or wet landing so appropriate foot wear is needed especially for walking
over lava rocks.
On the 11th March a tsunami hit Japan and the wave was expected to reach the eastern pacific late afternoon. For that reason all the afternoon activities were cancelled and the National Park closed. The Captain sailed the ship out to deeper water and all we expected to feel was the swell. The sea was calm as a milkpond but then the swell came. The following morning when we pulled into Santa Cruz island, the effect of the mud was obvious up to 2 meteres from the shore. People were sweeping it out of their shops along the front. The Darwin centre also on the front was closed as they had spent most of the time moving the animals out to higher ground.
It was the end of a fabulous tour. Celebrity were absolutely brilliant in the arrangement of the whole thing from transfers to hotels, airport, and the islands. Once back in Quito we even had a tour arranged around a local market and gallery.
On our last day we were back to organising oursellves so it was a taxi into the old town and a walk around the Basilica etc.
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