The Untouched Paradise

Trip Start Jan 04, 2011
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17
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Trip End May 16, 2011


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Flag of Ecuador  , Galápagos,
Monday, April 25, 2011

The Galápagos islands. Amazing, beautiful, tranquil don't even begin to describe these islands. The islands are unworldly. The animals there are amazing and many of them can't be found anywhere else in the world. The best part about the Galápagos is that they are mostly untouched. The animals act as if you aren't even there. They will fly over you, walk right by you, and just sit no more than 2 feet away from you. They are also everywhere. Almost everywhere you look you can spot some form of life even in town. We stayed 5 days from Monday to Friday in the Galápagos but I wish we could have stayed longer. Being there is like being in a different world. The diversity and beauty of the life there is like nothing else. We stayed on the island of Santa Cruz in Puerto Ayora. Each day we would go on a trip somewhere and come back to Santa Cruz and Puerto Ayora to sleep in the Hotel Fernandina. The hotel in itself was really nice with air conditioning and a pool something I have never had in Ecuador. The 5 of us had an amazing time in

On Monday we took a flight that left at 10 am from the airport and after a 2 hour direct flight we were in the Galápagos. You could see the islands from the plane and the blue color of the water and the beauty of the islands was already evident. We landed on the island of Baltra which used to be a US military base and continued on a short bus from the airport to the canal that separates Baltra and Santa Cruz. The ferry took us across the canal fairly slowly on the beautiful clear water surrounded by pelicans and fish. From there we took a taxi across the island 45 minutes all the way to the south side and Puerto Ayora. That afternoon after lunch we went to the Charles Darwin research center. There they are growing turtles until they are 5 years old so they can release them into the wild. The reason they raise the turtles is because rats have been eating them which are not endemic to the island. They also have very large turtles and land iguanas. This is also where they keep the famous lonesome George. He is the last of his species. It took them almost 20 years to find any kind of species that was any kind of close to his. When they finally found two that were similar George would not mate with them. So if George dies a species dies with him. The story of the Galápagos tortoises is a very interesting one. Consequently these tortoises are found nowhere else in the world like many of the other species in the Galápagos. You can see why they were so easily hunted by the pace at which they move and do things, But they really are majestic animals.

The next day we went on a big boat to North Seymour island. The boat ride in itself was amazing. There were pelicans, sea lions lounging on boats, and all sorts of fish. The air is clean and the water is cleaner. We finally arrived at Seymour island and you could see right from the start that it was teaming with life even from the boat. So we walked onto the island and were surrounded by birds, iguanas, and crabs. On the island they have the red sacked frigate bird that is only found on the Galápagos. It puffs out its red pouch to attract a mate. All over the island you could see these birds competing for a mate. There are also frigate birds that steal prey from other birds. They make them drop their catch and they catch it in mid air. There are also a multitude of land and marine iguanas. Land iguanas are solitary while marine iguanas live in groups. Other wild life was a multitude of sea lions (lobos marinos in spanish which actually means sea wolves) and also many different colored crabs. The islands were literally teaming with life. I have never been in a place like that. All the animals have no fear of humans and they will literally fly right over you. The biodiversity didn't stop when we got to the back. We just had to look over the side of the boat to see 6-9 foot sharks swimming around the boat. These were Galápagos sharks which pretty much are harmless to people. After this we had lunch on the boat and headed toward a beach to go snorkeling. Just behind the beach there was flamingos in a small pond bobbing for food. Once i started snorkeling I realized the marine life was as teaming as the life on land. I was surrounded by schools of fish. There were parrot fish and fish of brilliant colors. There were even a two small sharks. I also managed to see a huge manta ray. Snorkeling was really amazing. After this we finally headed back after an amazing day.

On Wednesday we headed to explore Santa Cruz a little bit. After breakfast at hotel we headed to a farm in the highlands of the island about 30 minutes from the coast. First we went to see giant wild tortoises. We were also able to crawl into a turtle shell and feel like what it was to be a turtle. The shell weighed enough in itself. It is easy to see why the tortoises move so slowly. We also saw the oldest tortoise that currently resides on the island. He was literally massive and over 120 years old. We also saw a bunch of other tortoises basically eating and moving very slowly. After seeing these turtles we headed to volcanic lava tubes under ground. These are amazing huge tubes carved out by lava that slowly formed as the lava disappears. They aren't located in many parts of the world and they are very interesting formations. After the lava tubes and lunch we headed to Turtle Bay. This was a pristine beach with the softest and whitest sand I had even seen in my life. The beach really was pristine with almost no one there and crystal clear water. We saw a lot of marine iguanas here as well as pelicans. We swam in an isolated part of the cove where there were no waves and we saw a small ray. We also swam in the waves which was really fun. This was such a tranquil beach I could have spent the whole day there. Our guides son also came along. After this we headed back to Puerto Ayora for the night.

On Thursday we headed to Floreana Island which is about a 2 hour speed boat ride to the south. I got to sit on the top of the boat and enjoy the scenery. The boat ride was amazing enough again. You could see Santa Cruz disappearing and Floreana approaching in the distance. On Floreana we took a chiva all the way up to the highlands. There we saw even more giant turtles. They were all eating the food that they had been given. We also saw the differences in the plant life in the highlands and the low lands. In the highlands the plants are a lot more dense and there are a lot more trees. There are also a lot of introduced plant species such as bananas and other plants. The German Wittmier family was one of the first people to inhabit the island and they cultivated a lot of the plants there. In fact they still live there today and have a hotel on black beach. Many of their first homes were formed on the rocks. You can still see the remains of where they lived before be it holes in the rocks or a small cave. The Galapagos has a lot of very interesting history worth investigating. The guides told us of pirates and many of the first inhabitants of the island which made for really interesting stories. But anyway after heading back down to the coast and having some lunch we headed out for some more snorkeling. This snorkeling was even more amazing than the last. You could see 9 meters down to the bottom of the ocean. We saw even more schools of fish, a white tipped shark, and even some of us saw some sea turtles. It was really beautiful as all the wild life is in the
Galápagos. The clarity of the water made the snorkeling worth it in itself. We also saw the famous blue footed boobies and even penguins. They were awesome. Finally we headed back to Santa Cruz and ended a great day. We also ate some amazing shrimp that night to top it off.

On Friday we had somewhat of a short day because of an 11 am flight but we still managed to see the gemelos which is two large craters that were formed by sink holes. They really were massive and formed by volcanic activity like the islands themselves. A few of the islands are still volcanically active and as you walk on the islands you can see the volcanic rock that was formed by volcanoes everywhere. The craters were a really amazing formation and there was also a lot of amazing plant life. The
Galápagos even has a poisonous tree which if you touch for too long you will get a rash. There is a story of a man who accidentally slept on it only to wake up with a piece of his face hanging off. Every part of the
Galápagos was amazing and it was really terrible to have to leave but eventually we had. We headed back on the flight through Guyaquil and headed back to Quito.

The
Galápagos were an out of this world experience. I have never experienced something like that in my life. It really is a different world. The Ecuadorian government are actually doing a pretty good job protecting it. You are only allowed to stay on the marked trail and you always have to be with a guide. You also cannot touch the animals or use flash on your camera. All our guides were really amazing especially our guide Marloyn who was our guide when were in Santa Cruz. We met him every night to discuss what we would do the next day. He was a really nice guy and told and showed us a lot we would never have known. He picked us up and dropped us off at the airport too. The people of the Galápagos are really nice too and it is a totally safe place. The fisherman even had a seal that was almost a pet to protect their catch from the pelicans. The 
Galápagos is really an out of this world destination and it really makes you appreciate the world we live. Many of its inhabitants are found only there and they really are spectacular. It is a bit of a pricey trip but it is more than worth it. Just being on Seymour Island with all the wildlife was worth it. It is a place everybody should experience. Please enjoy my photos. There are a lot but they are some of the best I have ever taken. All for now.

Saludos,
Jose
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