Galapagos - nature in action
Trip Start Oct 25, 2007
36Trip End Apr 17, 2008
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Galapagos is a truly enchanted place and anyone who has visited will tell you that its well worth the mucho dinero you will spend to get there. For a first time visitor, a cruise seems to work well.
The islands are fairly spread out so its essential to have a reasonably fast boat. We came across some 100 to 500 person cruise ships, and gosh was I happy not to be on one of those boats. One day when we were visiting the Charles Darwin research center a lady stopped us on the street and asked us if we were from her boat, and I thought to myself, "it would be so weird to not know the people that I share this amazing experience with". Our boat held 16 passengers but the most we had was 14, and that was only for the first half of the cruise - some of the guys left mid way through my itinerary and after we picked up a new lot, we were left with only 9 passengers. I asked the guide Louis how the locals felt about such large cruiseships being allowed to tour around the islands (a fairly recent occurrence) and he told me that they are strongly opposed to it because the owners of these ships are not from the Galapagos and neither is the majority of their crew, so in effect they are taking away revenues from the local community. There are 9 such ships at the moment, but I'm told the Ecuadorean government is not issuing new permits at the moment.
I'm not going to bore you too much with the names of all the animals we saw, except to mention some of our best moments. One day as we were taking a walk we came across a sea lion that had just given birth to a pup and had eaten its placenta. Perched on a bush just a meter above its head were two Galapagos hawks, just sitting there waiting patiently to eat any remaining placenta that the new mother might leave behind.
On other days we snorkelled with sea lions (including a close encounter with a beach master and a bunch of curious and playful juveniles who would do loops around me in the water), Galapagos penguins (also very curious creatures, and even faster than the sea lions), all sorts of rays and colorful fish, an octopus, Galapagos and white tipped sharks, and countless sea turtles who would let you swim right up to them and pet them under water.
We ran into a baby waved albatros, unusual for this time of year on the islands, and I accidentally took a photo of one of its parents circling high in the skies above us, probably worried about the fate of its baby. I only discovered that I had this albatros photo in the evening, while we were relaxing on the deck and recounting the day's adventures. As we were sitting there on the rocks admiring the baby albatros, a small finch flew right by the albatros and the latter decided to snap at it with its beak, thus almost snipping the wings of the poor little frightened finch.
On our last evening, as we were sailing back towards Isla Santa Cruz, I was gazing out towards the vast ocean and I caught sight of a dolphin doing somersaults in the air (not just jumps, actual 360 degree flips in the air), truly amazing.
Of all the islands we visited, Isla Espanola was my favourite. The snorkelling around Pinnacle Rock is simply superb, I hear there are other great places as well. Anyone going to Galapagos should definitely make the effort to go snorkelling every single day (yes its tiring and yes the water is cold so you need a wetsuit) as some of the best experiences are under water. Buy your under water camera in advance - your boat might sell them but at a ridiculous mark up. Also, I found the Charles Darwin Center to be a big tourist trap, and seeing Lonesome George was not as thrilling as one would expect - land tortoises are slow, clumsy, somewhat boring creatures.
A little about the boat, Amigo I, and the guide, Louis. The crew were quite friendly as a whole. The food was good although tuna got to be a bit boring after a while, and having pineapple (with chocolate sauce, how weird) or melon for dessert almost every time also lost its appeal on day 3 or so. The cabins were maintained very clean at all times. The one issue I struggled with (well, besides the fact that half the crew will want to become your "boyfriend" if you are a single female traveller like myself) is trust.
One evening I brought out my CDs to the deck so we could dance some salsa. After everyone else had gone to bed I hung out on the deck a bit, and before going to bed I checked in the CD player to get my CD out - it was missing. I asked for it many times, but kept getting the run around from all the crew members. In the end I complained to the captain and he told me that it must have "been confused somewhere with the other CDs". Imagine what an insolent thing to say.
You understand, its not about a $1 CD that I bought in Ecuador, its about the principle and the trust you put in the people who serve you - for a very high price mind you, its not like this cruise is cheap or anything. Louis promised to talk to the captain, only to come back a day later and make fun of me in front of all passengers for being so insistent that they find that CD. Not only that, later he came up to me to ask me to give him a good evaluation because, he said, he wanted to keep his job... totally changed his tune when it was evaluation time. And when Tanja gave him honest feedback that his English is not good and he needs to work on improving it, he got really snappy at her.
So there, you have been warned about the Amigo I boat... I'm having a hard time recommending it, despite the fact that everyone was friendly and the guide was personable most of the time and the itinerary seemed good to me.