I am watching the sun go down over the Galapagos Islands – it is like a dream come true.
It did not feel like that at 4am when we got up to catch a 4.15 taxi for a 6.30am flight from Quito to Galapagos, having not slept the night before. It made for a rough start to the day. However the rest of the arrangements with our cruise boat Angelito were a dream. From a warm Beunos dias from Tony at 5am at Quito airport with our tickets to getting on the boat, we were totally looked after.
I could tell this was not only going to be an amazing experience, it was also going to be a relaxing holiday. We unpacked into our twin cabin with ensuite and heaps of storage – we haven’t even used it all. Then it was delicious lunch, a rest, fitting out for snorkelling gear, and by 2.45pm we were on the beach on the north of Santa Cruz Island.
Galapagos looks barren when you fly in but our short walk along the beach had us tripping over marine iguanas baking on the rocks, as brightly coloured crabs scuttled around. Massive brown pelicans and frigate birds flew above us, and we found three flamingos feeding in a wetland. WOW
Our guide suggested we could also snorkel if we wanted, suggesting there was not much there. I found it full of fish of all sizes and colours and I swam beside a large turtle as it effortlessly flippered past.
Back to the boat for a hose down with warm water, fresh strawberry juice and banana dumplings.
I could get used to this!
It is the beginning of July – mid winter in the Galapagos, it is warm – but not really hot, until you do some exercise, then it is very hot!
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Then back to the boat to prepare for a snorkel. After lunch a longer walk on Dragon’s …and we see the yellow land iguanas for the first time. Each walk is 1.5-2 hours and less of a hike than a nature walk – stopping regularly for photos and binoculars out to see what is about.
After a trip off the boat we are welcomed back with either fresh fruit juice or a hot drink if we have been snorkelling, and some beautifully presented snacks. After snorkelling we are welcomed with a hot water shower off on the back deck, and the crew take our wetsuits and snorkelling gear to wash and dry while we head of for a shower and change.
Did I say I could get used to this?
A walk today to Darwin’s Lake. As we stepped off the Zodiacs our way was somewhat blocked by a Galapagos flightless cormorant that had built it’s nest on the path. We had to gingerly walk around her – she was sitting on a egg, and nothing was going to move here. They have lost the need for wings because food is so plentiful.
Our snorkel today was cold. If you are thinking being on the equator means warm water – forget it – today the cold water took my breath away – thank god for a wetsuits.
The cold current is alive and well! Every dive we see different fish – we stopped counting the turtles we saw which were feeding.
During lunch the cry went up “Whales” and we all dashed out to see a pod of whales feeding, circling and blowing around us. Long slender bodies with a small fin towards the tail – the book came out and we soon identified them as Minke Whales.
Thousands of seabirds feeding – different sizes and types, all having a feasting!
Settling into a rhythm – breakfast at 7am, an excursion, snack, and excursion, lunch, siesta, excursion, snack, rest, briefing for the next day, dinner and crash into bed at 8.30pm
Today started with a walk from a beach and our first tortoise and lots of land iguanas, then a snorkel off the beach. The water was COLD! Each snorkel I see more varieties of fish, and now 5-6 turtles is a regular sight. I love snorkelling above one, keeping pace and enjoying the rhythm of keeping together.
After lunch a dinghy trip into the mangroves where sea lions rest on trees, turtles galore and golden stingrays.
Isabella Island is a long island of volcanoes joined up by lava flows. Today a 2km walk on one of these lava flows – I decide my ankles are not up to the rough ground, so an extra dinghy ride – fantastic stingrays amongst the mangroves, penguins, and a close up at last of a blue footed booby.
Another great (still cold) snorkel with turtles and fish. An early lunch, and a 6 hour rough ride to our next destination. The only place to be is flat on your back as the small boat pitched and rolled on a big sea. Finally into Puerto Villamil – for the first time we are surrounded by other boats and there is habitation.
Day 6 Floriana Island
A few walks, and a fantastic final snorkel around the Devils Crown – I saw a small shark, some amazing starfish and when I saw a school of fish scatter hurriedly, I turned to see a sea lion zooming past on a fishing expedition.
A final special farewell dinner and cocktails where we were introduced to the owners of the boat Leonardo and Hugo Andrade. They were fisherman, whose grandfather Angel had helped them buy a fishing boat in 1960.
In the 1980s they became pioneers in the developing tourism focus on the islands, and giving up fishing to take visitors around the Galapagos – sharing their knowledge of the islands and the sea. After 10 years they designed a new boat based on what they had learned and Angelito 1, which was launched in 1992 and refurbished in 2013. Captain William on our trip is the son of one of the founders.
Efraim our guide has been doing this for 24 years, 3 weeks on and one week off. Every 6 months more training. One guide is compulsory for up to 16 people. We pay $100US to enter the region, and our boat is checked twice by rangers every week. All helping to support the protection of this natural history hothouse.