16.03.2014 - 23.03.2014 35 °C
3:45AM just seemed too early to to go to the airport but off we went. We had to first line up to purchase a $10 Galapagos ticket and then have our luggage scanned and tagged. They want to be sure that no outside fruit or vegetables get to the islands .
There are a few school groups heading to the Galapagos, one we met from Calgary on Spring Break. Lucky kids. Our flight left on time and we found out that there is an hour time change on the islands. We are now only one hour difference from home. All visitors must pay $100 US cash park fee upon arrival to visit the Galapagos.
A five minute cab ride, (in a Toyota pick up) and we are at our hotel at 930AM. Thankfully our room was ready for us and the owner asked if we would like a city tour. Sure, why not. His brother and wife picked us up in their pick up truck and in ten minutes we had seen where most of the major sites within walking distance were. It was a great way to get our bearings.
The Main Street is the tourist area and on the waterfront with many shops and restaurants. Sea-lions are everywhere. They are smaller than our sea lions, almost seal looking, but there are hundreds of them in various shades of black, brown and blonde. They are laying not only on the beach but on the boardwalk as well, quite used to humans and very tame. We also see large iguanas walking down the Main Street. Welcome to the Galapagos.
We are now on the island of St. Cristobal which is one of many in this chain but there are only a couple inhabited by people. We will spend two nights here before meeting up with a five day cruise that we booked.
After walking around the town and having lunch we went back to the room for a rest. It is so hot here. Incredibly humid and hot which I was not expecting.
The evening however is very pleasant and we walked around the edge of the ocean and then had dinner. The sun sets at 6:30P here as we are on the equator.
The man from the hotel drove us to a beach called The Loberia at 830AM. We walked down a path and then along the shoreline looking at various birds, iguanas and crabs on the beach. There was a small bay that we were told to snorkel in and it was lovely. Huge turtles in groups, some the size of me, just lazing on the bottom of the ocean and coming up for a gulp of air every now and then. I had to move out of their way they were so close. We saw a number of tropical fish as well and it was a great morning and only a couple of other snorkelers in the water with us and the turtles.
Victor picked us up from the beach at 11:30AM as arranged and after we changed our clothes we walked to town to get some lunch and then out to the Interpretative centre. It was a lot longer than we thought it would be, and only felt so tiring because it was so incredibly hot. We quickly went through the centre reading the various boards and then started on the board walk towards the hills to see some birds. The problem is that there is not any shade. All the plants are very low bushes so we are in the blazing sun all the time. We came to a crossroads. To the right was the 200 stairs up to the lookout to see the birds. To the left was the beach.
We chose the beach.
The first beach had large waves and quite an undertow, and a few surfers. Tempting as it was we continued on to Playa Man which was a lot more swimmer friendly. Sea lions are suntanning next to the sunbathers on the beach.
Cooled off from our swim we flagged a cab, but because we were wet he made us sit in the back of the truck which was fine with us.
The town of Puerto Moreno is really charming, laid back, lots of tourists but I can see spending a lot of time here. There are many beaches and attractions (animals) that you can see just on this island.
Luckily our hotel let us hang out for the morning until it was time to meet our group at 1PM. We were driven to the airport and met up with Harry, our guide from the ship. We were waiting for three more to arrive from Quito by plane.
I found out that there are already 7 passengers who have done the northern 5 day trip, and now will stay on board to do the southern five days with us. Harry is German so I ask, are the other passengers English speaking? No, they are all German. This was my fear and one of the first questions that I asked the travel agent before booking. I was assured they were all English speaking.
The first passenger arrives, Christine, late 20s from Switzerland. She speaks German.
The next two arrive, Anthony and his new wife D, mid 20s from Australia. Yeah! Someone to talk to. The other two are a young couple from Japan who speak some English.
We are taken to the boat by zodiac and amazed at the elegance of our home for the next four nights. The Treasure of Galapagos is a first class yacht and very luxurious. I booked this a few weeks ago, there was one room left so I got it for around half price. Our cabin is bigger than some of the hotel rooms we have had and we not only have our own bathroom but a balcony too. It is way more than we every expected or thought we could afford and feeling quite decadent.
The German thing didn't turn out too badly. Most of them were nice and spoke some english. One single woman kept hanging with us when she could. They are in their late 60s, mid 70s I think. Christine ended up being a great person to hang out with, we have so many of the same interests and she spoke mostly English. We seemed to form an Alliance right away, the Germans and all the new ones, whom Harry spoke English to. Our table their table, Our zodiac, their zodiac.
After being served lunch in the gorgeous dining room Harry gave us an overview about the ship and the itinerary for the next few days.
The Galapagos Islands are a series of islands in the National Park and protected. You can only visit most of them with a certified guide. There is an airport on San Cristobal and also on Baltra, off Santa Cruz. One of the other islands has a couple of hundred people on it as well. A lot of people just visit the islands by land, taking a boat from one to the other doing day trips. We decided to do the five day cruise because they travel at night while you are sleeping.
Our first outing was at 3PM and we took the zodiacs back into town and then a 45 minute bus ride to the other side of the island where they breed the giant tortoises.
We did see a number of them on the walk and also the area where the smaller newborns, (these are two years old) are kept until big enough to be put in the acreage that is the breeding centre. It was all quite interesting.
We, the English, got to know each other after dinner and then off to our rooms at 9 PM for the night. This is not a party ship that is for sure.
The captain started the engines at 2:30AM to move to the next island. We were really rocking and rolling all the way, I had to take a few ginger pills and a sleeping pill to get though the night.
We wake to see a gorgeous white sand beach with aqua blue water, we are at Espana Island and it looks like a postcard for the Caribbean. After breakfast at 7:30A we pick out some snorkel gear and head to the island by zodiac. This is a wet landing, where we jump into the water and make our way to the beach.
We walked the beach for an hour first with Harry telling us about the many colourful iguanas, birds and crabs that we are seeing. Sea lions are all along the beach and none of the animals are the least bit concerned about us.
There are many baby sea lions that are still suckling. I watched as a young one went from female to female smelling for his mom, to have the adults bark and growl at him to 'get lost', They are so amusing. Related to the California sea lion but much smaller.
The snorkelling was disappointing as the visibility was not great.
It appears that none of the Germans swim or snorkel. We seven 'English' take every opportunity to be in the water as long as possible.
Our afternoon outing was a dry landing to the other side of the island for a walk on lava stones to the bluffs. We saw many more sea lions and iguanas, blue footed boobies and Nasca boobies as well as other birds.
We moved during the night again but it was much calmer this time. At 8:30 AM we did a wet landing onto Florencia Island. A very short walk on the sand and we are at Post Office Bay. There are two barrels here and in years long ago the ships would pass through and leave mail for back home. They would then go through all the letters in the barrel to see if there were any for where they were going. The letters were delivered by anyone who was passing through your area.
So we did the same. We left a postcard, (no stamp needed) and will see when and who will deliver it to us. We took one for Abbotsford and will deliver it when we go to Mission next month.
We walked the beach for a while and then snorkelled again. Once again we were disappointed. We have all done some amazing snorkelling in different parts of the world so the bar is set high. Two other ships came in and so there were many people in the water and again the visibility was not great.
After lunch and a rest the seven of us went back into the zodiacs for a deep water snorkel. Now that's what I am talking about! This time the snorkelling was amazing. So many colourful fish, thousands of them and the sea lions were swimming all around us and playing with us. I had one come right up to my mask to check me out. We saw a large ray and the others saw two white tip sharks, but I missed them.
Doug had a blue footed booby dive into the water in front of him and go down about 12 feet and catch a fish. He said it was amazing. We snorkelled for over an hour until it was time to go back. Finally some great snorkelling, but it was worth the wait.
Once when I raised my head to see where our zodiac was I see that a sea lion has jumped into the boat with our driver. It is very common but so comical.
Shortly after we showered and changed we were back in the boats and this time all of us went to another part of the island for a walk across to the other side. We saw birds, more lava lizards, pink flamingos in the distance and different vegetation.
When we reached the beach on the other side we find a large sea turtle coming out of the water. He turned and went back in when he saw us coming, but we had a great chance to watch him coming in and then swimming off again.
As we walked down the beach we saw more turtles in the water and then we were lucky enough to see some spotted rays close to the shore as well as the sting rays.
We walked across the island again and back to the ship as the sun was going down and painting the sky a brilliant orange and red.
A terrible night of rolling as we travelled to the island of Santa Fe in the night. We were all bleary eyed at breakfast this morning.
We left by zodiac and had a wet landing on the island at 8:30AM. It is already scorching hot out, we are all sweating profusely. Only three of the seven Germans came with us on the walk around the island.
We see many cactus trees in bloom as well as huge Galapagos land iguanas. They are endemic to this island. Being vegetarians and green plant eaters it is slim pickins here now as all the bushes are just coming into leaf. We did see one eating a prickly pear that had fallen from the tree.
Back on the beach to return to the ship the sea lions are spread across the sand between us and the water. We almost have to step over them to pass. So much for the two meter distance rule. Lots of babies again, and they are so funny to watch. One was very curious about D's hat.
I was the last to get into the boat, stepping over the little seals to get there. The waves are active and a little voice told me to place my camera into the zodiac before climbing in. I am glad I listened because I ended up going over backwards knapsack first into the water. Not my finest moment but so happy my camera was okay.
Ten minutes after arriving at the ship the six of us, (The English) put on our suits and set off again in the zodiacs for another snorkel from the zodiac. It was another great day seeing spotted rays, huge tropical fish and again swimming with the playful sea lions.
After a couple of hours we headed back to the boat and set off for our final destination of Santa Cruz island.
Upon arrival everyone went ashore except Doug and I, we had the ship to ourselves. We are spending two more days here so decided to just relax on board and read and listen to music which was great.
We had to get up at 6AM and leave our luggage outside the room before breakfast. We said our goodbyes to the staff and headed into puerto ayora to our waiting bus at 7:30AM and drive across the island. The vegetation is much more lush here, bouganvillia, hibiscus and lots of other tropical flowers and palms line the road. They must get a lot more rain here, it looks more like Hawaii.
A large acerage is at the top of the island and is a private reserve for giant land tortoise. We walk around the property for a while and see many huge tortoise in the grass and also the many ponds. It is very lovely and a great way to see the tourtise.
The rest of the group got back on the bus to head to the airport to other parts of Ecuador. We said our goodbyes and then waited for an arranged cab to pick us up. Christina was staying a couple of days as well so the thre of us headed back into town,
Our hotel is a lovley oasis with a swimming pool which looks so inviting. It is only 9 am but already sweltering.
We were able to get into our room early and after a siesta we headed to town to explore. It is. Such bigger than San Cristobal and very touristy, with tons of tourists from all over, but I like it. The buildings are all very well made and have some great designs. The tourist strip runs along the water and there is a nice breeze.
We met Christina for dinner and her and I arranged another snorkle trip for the morning.
Christina and I joined 12 others in a very small boat for what we thought was a snorkle tour for three hours. We stoped to look at sea lions first, then there was a walk to look at iguanas on the shore. I did'the go and instead asked if I could snorkle while we waited, which he said yes.
There were not many fish but I did swim with a huge turtle for a while.
Back in the boat to pick up the others and then to a snorkle spot that was quite good. I swam with white tipped and black tipped sharks for a while, tried to follow them but they are fast. They were around four or five feet long. More sea lions and lots of colorful fish,
We got called back to the boat and then stopped to do,this long walk that I was not prepared for. We were supposed to bring good shoes, which I did not know, so after climbing over loose lava rock, in my bathingsuit and sandles, for fifteen minutes I decided to turn back. I waited at the dock for about an hour and a half but got to see lots of rays and sharks in the water .
We headed back to town, I had a siesta and then walked for a few hours. Doug and I went into a number of fantastic art shops and just enjoyed the town. We had a great dinner and now it is time to pack again for our flight tomorrow.
We really enjoyed the Galapagos. It was different from what I expected, in that I had no idea we would be snorkelling for one thing. It was great to see iguanas and birds that are found no where else in the world and protected here. Most of the beaches were gorgeous and the water beautiful shades of blues and greens. To be able to walk amongst these animals and have them not take any notice of you, and feel perfectly safe was amazing.
The landscape is very harsh for the most part, and a lot hotter and humid than I thought possible. It is cooler in the summer months apparently.
There were a lot of other boats ranging from budget to luxury. Apparently this is a place where you really get what you pay for, so not advisable to go budget. If you have a flexible schedule like we did you can get the first class boat for the budget price anyhow.
There were a number of young families, and a lot of people in their mid 20s. The eldest were in their 70s, but not many of them. Everyone for the most part seemed quite fit, as you need to be to do this tour.
I am really glad that we decided to come here, it was a great experience. We are now off to Cuenca for a week.