Survival of the fittest!

Trip Start Jun 13, 2006
Trip End Jun 12, 2007

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Dean: How exciting is this! We are now in the Galapagos Islands - we are spending a few days on Isla Santa Cruz (I've already booked myself in for a few dives tomorrow!) and then we have an eight day boat cruise around the islands. Our boat is called "Amigo" and is a 16 passenger "tourist-superior" class boat. Should be lots of fun...

Alex: The Galapagos Islands were incredible. You go there expecting practically tame wild animals but when they are it is still surprising. You do have to look out for them a bit...mainly because otherwise you would tread on them. Iguanas and Sea Lions favorite sleeping spot seems to be the paths used by visitors! We literally saw hundreds of sea lions (as our pictures are testament to) they line every beach and, on land at least, are uninterested in human visitors just doing what they would normally do, which usually seems to be lying about! One of their favorite tricks is "running" towards the sea at full pelt and stopping just short absolutely exhausted, the tide then sometimes picks them up and washes them out where they play in the waves or they move into the sea a few minutes later when they have the energy. In the sea they are just very curious of humans, we did a fair bit of snorkeling and they come really close up and check you out before zooming off again, great fun, and unusual to have a wild animal interact with you like that.

We arrived on the Galapagos a few days before our cruise to chill out a bit and so Dean could do a couple of dives which I will let Dean tell you more about. We were staying in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz the biggest town in the Galapagos but still a small town by most standards. Even so the wild life was there and we spent a bit of time on the pier watching Pelicans and trying to spot Eagle Rays!

To get on our cruise we had to have a trip back to the airport on the other side of the island, the boat held 16 so we were expecting about that number at the airport but it was just us and one other person (Shane from Somerset). It turned out the other 13 people had already been on the boat for 4 days and would be leaving us in 4 days when we would get some new people. We were expecting more "travellers" but when we got to the boat it was all families (1 British, 1 French and 1 Danish family and an American couple) anyway everyone got on pretty well (not to say everyone was entirely unannoying!). We weren't disappointed with our next group though, numbers diminished to 8, and everyone was fairly young traveller types!

The schedule for the boat was something like this for most days: Get up 6am (ug), Have breakfast, go for a walk around an island spotting various land, sea and bird life, snorkel for a bit, have lunch, have an nap while we motor to the next spot (prevents seasickness), arrive and wake up, walk round another island, snorkel a bit more, have tea, desperately try to stay awake, give in and go to bed at about 8pm! A busy schedule with lots of sleeping and eating. The food was pretty good and the boat (Amigo) was very comfortable but most importantly the islands themselves were amazing. Over the 8 days we saw Sea Lions, Land Iguanas, Marine Iguanas, Sea Turtles, Rays, White Tip Sharks, Blue Footed Boobies (a type of bird common on the islands, which has blue feet and dives crazily into the water to get to the fish), Albatross, Frigate Birds, Galapagos Hawk (and chick), Penguins, Giant Tortoise and innumerable other birds and fish. The islands themselves are eerily beautiful the "newer" islands are barren because of lava flows which are just fascinating, some are pretty much just beaches and volcanic rock (sea lions obligatory), others have arid vegetation which is basically cactus' and plants that look dead until the wet season!

Pepe, our guide, was really good explaining what each animal was, its quirks, whether it was native or endemic (found elsewhere or just on the Galapagos, some animals were even endemic to specific islands like the Espanola Marine Iguana) although relatively quickly the islands blurred into one! The snorkeling was great, the water wasn't the warmest (we were a little jealous when we saw other boats handing out wetsuits - but it would have cost more!) but we saw so much. We got to swim through shoals of exotic looking fish, watch sea turtles just plodding along doing their thing (eating), and watch white tip sharks (fortunately vegetarian) either basking on the bottom or swimming around, as I suggested before the sea lions were the favorites because they were so curious and kept coming back and swimming by you to get a good look. I was slightly disappointed at first because I didn't see any penguins underwater (they are meant to be really graceful) and I only got to glimpse them shooting past from the shore. Happily, Pepe took us close up to them. We had 5 penguins on rocks or jumping from the water onto rocks within a few meters of us - wow (they were also tiny only about 30cm high). It was basically all really special. A once in a life time.

We did have a few mishaps. Firstly our camera broke mid-way through, it had been playing up a little bit before so we had come prepared with a disposable camera but still a bit annoying. That said if you look at the photos you may think it is was a good thing, it is so easy to get carried away which sea lions posing left, right and centre. It does mean we don't have many tortoise pictures or any penguin pictures for the time being, Shane will hopefully email us some (thanks) and we will get our film developed hopefully onto CD when we get chance.

Mishap #2 was we missed our plane coming back to the mainland - oops. This was bound to happen sooner or later, and it was really the boats fault for getting us to the airport too late, but by the time we came to check in they had given our seats away! We let Pepe know where we were heading and he told us to wait and they would fit us on a later flight, when we came to the desk they told us the only remaining flight was direct to Quito and we wanted to go to Guayaquil, although we could pay extra if we wanted to go to somewhere we didn't want to go! Anyway, we spent an extra night in Puerto Ayora, got to the airport early on got on the flight the next day (without any extra cost) so it wasn't really a problem just annoying really.

Dean: I wanted to head out to the islands a few days earlier so that I could do a couple of dives in the Galapagos. Once we got to Puerto Ayora we checked out the dive schools and I picked out a dive I was interested in (I was limited to what they had planned over the next few days). The plan was that on the Friday I would go out diving in the morning, to a place called Gordon Rocks, and be back by 14:00 to meet Alex. I did a bit of research on the Internet, for Gordon Rocks, and found that it was known as a tricky dive site and maybe not for beginners (strong currents and a known place for the "washing machine" effect - where the currents turn you around and upside down!). I checked this out with the dive school and we decided it would be ok as they were going to pair me up with a divemaster/instructor. Things were going well (nice boat trip out, calm sea, warm sun) until we neared the dive site, when is suddenly got very choppy. Once I was in the water I was fine and the diving was excellent. The currents were strong in places but nothing that freaked me out (and I didn't encounter the washing machine currents). I got to see another turtle (which is cool to see) and some really big eagle rays. The problems started once we ended the diving. The swells were about a meter and a half high (I kid you not!) and the boat was going up and down like a PC with MS Windows on it! It was worse that when we were in Alaska, and I realised that I may not have got over my sea sickness! The cabin was full of motor fumes so I couldn't stay in there, so I ended up outside clinging on to the boat for dear life, feeling a little ill (well lots actually!), getting sunburned on my back, and drenched by the waves crashing over the boat every few seconds. I decided that I could cope as we only had an hours motoring back to the port on the north side of the island...
...They decided to motor all the way around the island back to Puerto Ayora! Six hours worth of sailing!!! I did not feel good! We finally got back into port at 19:00, much to Alex's relief, as she had decided that I had a)drowned, b)got kidnapped (those sea lions can be territorial!), c)run over by a car, d)ran off with the female divemaster!
All in all I was glad to be back on dry land. The diving was excellent and I am glad that I got to do some in the Galapagos, but I would support the theory that it's not for beginners (which is what I am). I will just have to stick to the nice warm calm Caribbean! However, it did leave me feeling a little apprehensive about eight days on a yacht.

This apprehension was misplaced, as the cruise was fine and I did not feel any sea sickness to speak off. Maybe I have finally overcome it, or maybe I was just lucky! We originally planned to spend eight days in the Galapagos but with us heading over a few days early and staying an extra day after the cruise (!!!) we actually spent 11 nights / 12 days in the islands. I'm really glad we spent this long there, the islands are just stunning. The wildlife is so close and in-your-face that you just can't help but fall in love with the place. If you then add the amazing landscapes and geology, it just adds up to one of the best "nature" stops on our trip.

Once back in Guayaquil, and over a few beers at lunch, I suddenly felt the urge to burst into song! I think Alex had asked me what I thought of the Galapagos and a song felt appropriate! Once I had sung it to Alex (and her ears had stopped bleeding!) she insisted that we add it to the website (she can be a bit sadistic at times - it could be worse as Alex wanted me to record it as a sound file so you could all hear our wonderful singing voices!)...
Sing it to the "My Favourite Things" from The Sound Of Music!

Sea spray on penguins,
And whiskers on sea lions.
Bright coloured boobies,
And scaly skinned iguanas.
Brown Galapagos fur seals tied up with carpet weed.
These are a few of my favorite Galapagos things.

When the bull sea lion bites,
When the marine iguana spits,
When the Galapagos hawk swoops.
I simply remember my favorite Galapagos things
And then I don't feel so

I think the beer is to blame but I'm sober as I add this to the site so maybe the sun has got to me. Anyway, enjoy!
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trevnjean on

Absolutely amazing!!! What a wonderful place.

timn on

Galapogos Geology
Thanks for your e-mail .. and sharing your adventure.

I am just a bit worried that you you say you want to know whats going on back at work ... but you were kidding eh ?!

I like the travel log ... but would be interested in what the people are like in all these places. I wonder if the locals realise and appreciate the paradise they are living in .. or do they dream of gong to Manchester for their holidays.

Top Blog ! ... can I add a link to our ISOBS Blog please ?

gem0 on

I'm really looking forward to seeing your pics! I can sympathise with the seasickness Dean, made me feel queezy reading it. It sounds like it inspired you and brought out your creative side though!! Very funny....enjoy your next adventure, gemma x

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