Galapagos Islands: I love those amazing Boobies
Trip Start Aug 09, 2007
47Trip End Jul 29, 2008
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We've scoured the streets of Quito in search of the greatest Galapagos trip we could find for the least amount of money. We finally find a sweet deal, the only catch is that our travel agent is likely a coke head with a criminal record. We experience a brief hang-up of him forgetting to purchase our plane tickets but soon things are ironed out and we have a few more weeks of teaching English to look forward to before said adventure commences...
Our Galapagos Adventure:
It's the day of!! We are packed, stoked and set to go and our new parents, Linda and Walter, who we've been living with in Quito for the past month are nice enough to offer us a ride to the airport. It's the crack of dawn on Sunday and we've just finished loading all our stuff into their truck when we suggest that this would be a great time for our first Galapagos photo - 'En route to the Airport'
We had given ourselves about 2hrs to get to the airport. At this point, I knew we could probably get out of the jam, Walter was super pissed - he was pretty much prepared to smash a window...awesome. He had some beef with the car he was given in Ecuador (from his work) and had previous problems with it. Luckily we were able to dissuade window smashing in exchange for calling the security company that Linda and Walter use for help when they get into jams. When our savior appeared cruising towards us on his noisy little motor bike to help us, we were initially hopeful but those hopes were quickly dashed. The dude from the security company was a tool, he had so slim-jim, no tools and then asked if we had a spare set in the house. Obviously we already went over the easiest way to open the car with out this dude asking us. All he did was join in our party of standing around staring at the running vehicle. At this point Walter had remembered that you can remote open the car as long as you have all the significant digits for security
When we arrived at the airport we were supposed to meet Aaron, our travel agent that we thought dealt coke. So he hadn't shown up yet, so we paid all the taxes that the islands want you to pay and then we headed to get our flight tickets. The Galapagos wants you to pay a $100 park fee and then you have to pay a $30 entrance fee, its sort of like a VISA for the Galapagos (this is because they stamp your passport when you land so that you don't over extend your 3 month visit on the islands, the same goes for Ecuadorians that were not born on any of the islands in the Galapagos - they also cannot spend more than 3 months on the islands). After we had scanned our bags and all was good, Aaron showed up to help us a bit by leading us to the secure area. After Aaron had left we met up with the majority of the other people on the tour. These were the guys that we were going to spend 8 days and 7 nights with together. There names were Justin (USA), Matt (Australia), Charlotte and Jimmy (Norway) and we were very happy to see that they were young too. All together there were 10 passengers and 6 crew making for tight quarters since the catamaran was not huge.
On the plane, our boat-mate Justin (American), who was working with kids in Ecuador, was like "Hey what kind of liquor do you want, Rye or Vodka, 'cause I am gonna buy a bottle of each." Sarah and I were both like "Rye" and then we looked at each other and thought it would be a pretty fun week
Juan was our bilingual Naturalist guide who would eventually lead us around the islands explaining all the animals, plants, and evolution of the islands to us. He got us from the plane and basically loaded us back up on the plane 8 days later. Juan was a really great guide with a ton of information about all the species we encountered. He had been working the same boat for about 6 years and was not tired of stupid questions or annoyed by the group at all - he was always happy, easy going and a little bit quirky too - he really made the experience heaps better. In his previous life he was an octopus fisherman and had a lot of cool stories from that too.
A little info on the Galapagos Islands: The islands are a archipelago of 32 volcanic islands that are located roughly 1000km off the western coast of Ecuador (South America). There are approximately 40,000 people living on the islands, which are considered a province of Ecuador. The islands name Islas Galápagos, comes from galápago, which means "saddle" in Spanish, therefore the islands were named after the shells of saddle-backed Galapagos Tortoises that are found on most of the islands. These islands are famous for the large number of "endemic" (only found in Galapagos) species of animals which gave Charles Darwin more evidence on his theory of evolution through natural selection. Darwin's book The Origin of Species was a gathering of information that Darwin had accumulated on his voyage in the 1830s aboard the Beagle. Darwin stopped on the Galapagos Islands for a short period of time studying the beak structure of 14 different species of Finches (type of bird) found on the islands
The following is a summary of our 12 day adventure. I would consider this one of the main highlights of our entire year away but am certain that no words can do it justice. When reading, try to imagine the closeness of all these animal encounters, and the fact that these animals exist - in some cases - in no other area of our world. It was truly amazing and I'd recommend this trip to anyone!!
Day 1 : We started our tour on the island of San Cristobal. That afternoon we had lunch next to a dozen adorable sea lions, and then headed on our first excursion of the island. We took a combi van to the turtle research centre called Galapagogera. This is a place where rangers go around raiding the nests of turtles to collect eggs to hatch in the safety of cages. The hatched turtles will stay in a protected area for the first 2 years of their lives and then they will be reintroduced into the wild
We then loaded back into the combi and drove to an extinct volcano that had in the meantime filled with water and was a habitat for a bunch of different birds, Honco Lake. Since the day was slowly becoming overcast we walked around the rim of the volcano and then took off to get on our boat and meet the crew.
That afternoon we got a bunch of supplies from the town and all of the guests rented snorkeling gear. We took an inflatable Zodiac from the port to the catamaran that was anchored 100m from shore and got onto the boat that would be our home for the next 7 nights. The crew was made up of the Captain, the Cook, Dude who served us, the Mechanic they called Segundo (second), the Zodiac boat driver, then some random dude that did everything and then our guide Juan. The crew slept in the main areas of the boat like the interior and exterior dining places and everyone except the cook would drive the boat in 2hr shifts
Day 2: The next morning we awoke to the beautiful island of Espanola. This island and day according to our guide Juan was supposed to be the best. We were pretty much blown away our first day by sea lions playing in the port on Isla San Cristobal and the giant tortoises so this was probably going to blow our minds. Sarah and I both thought this day was amazing, but, we both like day 3 and day 6 the best. But, Day 2 was the day we made our first encounter with the Blue Footed Boobie, it's a diving bird that got its name (bobo - dummy) because when people arrived they thought the bird was very stupid and awkward. Quite the opposite though - this bird is an excellent diving bird, diving into the water from the sky at heights of 20m, they are good swimmers, they have this wicked mating dance and they have blue f-ing feet!
The second stop of the day was a place on Espanola called Gardiner Bay. The beach here was incredible, very fine sand that was almost white in colour and there were heaps of sea lions scattered all along the beach. To get to every island we always had to board the 10 person Zodiac (like a fishing boat) from the Catamaran and then either have a dry landing where we could step off or a wet landing (usually more fun) were we would land on the sand, jump off, and then hold the boat for other people. So we got our snorkel gear and headed off in the Zodiac to the beach, strapped on the stuff got in the water and then swam around the bay. About 150m from shore there was a rocky island that had lots of sea lions sun tanning and that's where we headed since Juan said they are sea lions that will play with you
As soon as we were all on we headed off to the next island, it was getting dark so the crew wanted to haul ass to the next spot. This trip was where mostly everyone got sick or had some sea sickness. Sarah and I both puked in the vomit net (by day the suntanning hammocks, by night, my vomit pad) and missed dinner, we basically hung out in the vomit hammock all night until bed. Shitty deal because the cook was serving a roast beef dinner and cake, which would have been great, but neither of us could even stomach something simple like crackers.
Day 3 : We arrived at the island of Floreana very early in the morning, anchored and got to have engine-less sleep for 4 hours or so
When we took the Zodiac to land on the island, we were headed off to a location called Post Office Bay. This is a place where people from the cruises write post cards and put them in this box, a bit different though since the cards don't have postage on them. For instance one traveler from say England would write a post card then put it in the box, at the same time that same person would take out a card that someone else wrote from England and bring it back home with them. People rely on other travelers coming by and picking up letters from their country and then delivering it to them either door to door, if its close, or by mailing it in their country. Sort of like leave a postcard, bring back a postcard, one for one. We took a bunch back from the Toronto region and mailed them from there once back.
We then headed off for some lava tubes that had been formed below ground a long time ago and had filled up with frigid sea water in the meantime. Our group headed down a set of damp, dark stairs and walked deeper into the cave via headlamps. At the end of the cave was a cold, dark pool and we all enjoyed a swim in the cold waters. Really refreshing!! After the lava tubes we headed back for a bit more snorkeling and fun in the ocean
We then took a Zodiac to another snorkel location called Devil's Crown. This was a place that had crystal clear turquoise water that you cold see easily 25m. The group of us circled around the rock and we saw some more playful sea lions, octopus and sharks and plenty of different coloured fish (big small, and lots of schools of fish that you could swim within without the fish even reacting!). There was one part where you could swim under some of the rocks into a deep chasm, where there were more sharks and sea lions. Sarah, Charlotte, Jimmy and I were a bit cold so we got out early, shitty deal the rest of the group saw a golden ray and then a bunch of other fish. On the other hand, Justin almost got caught in this chasm and lost his flipper which also was a shitty deal...!
This day was action packed, the next stop we made was at a place called Punta Cormorant, here we saw beautiful flamingos close up and then walked to another beach and saw frigate birds circling over head, really awesome. Along the way we somehow lost one of our passengers, Jimmy. We were all so absorbed in watching the birds that we didn't know where he went - he probably just took his time taking photos and then didn't see where the group went
Heading back to the boat some of us asked if we could sail a bit later, after dinner. So the crew being really awesome and nice agreed, all was well and we got to eat dinner, didn't puke it up, we then got plenty loaded up with drowsy sea sickness pills and then fell asleep.
Day 4 : We awoke the next day to the worst weather that we had in the entire 12 days that we were on the Galapagos. The sky was over cast and the night before it rained and rained. The windows were not actually water tight as expected on a sailing ship, so there was some water collecting on our bed - not too much but over the day it added up and made for a very cranky Sarah. (I object to this, I was just cranky cause our whole mattress was a giant wet sponge!! We layed more blankets on top and slept on those though)
So the entire party on the boat went through the same routine like every other day. We ate breaky which involved usually fruit, then some type of cereal and then some hot food like eggs and bacon....delicious. Then we got ready and loaded into the Zodiac. We landed on a beach that was littered with more sea lions lounging around and giving us a good look up and down. The minute that we landed on the beach it started pouring, we all got incredibly soaked.
Our goal on this day was to see the Yellow Land Iguana, one of the Darwin Finch's and a Cactus tree. All of us were quite wet at this point so we took our photos of the tree, lizard and bird and then headed back to the boat
When we got back to the boat we pulled anchor and then headed off to the most populated island of Santa Cruz. We went here to see more of the giant land tortoises, the Darwin Research Centre (DRC) and also 2 of our passengers were leaving the cruise. About 2 hours later we got into the harbour and went to shore. At this point it was still pretty nice so we toured the DRC seeing all the giant baby tortoises and then we headed to the big guys. The DRC is home to Lonesome George, who is the last know land tortoise of the island of Pinto, the very last, the end of a line, the very last end of the line species of land tortoise from that specific island. Granted there are still other species of giant tortoises on other islands, but, it is still very sad that we are virtually watching this species come to extinction
We then moved on to the other land tortoises that inhabit the other islands of the Galapagos. These creatures are like dinosaurs, they move like you would think giant dinosaurs move, they breathe like you think giant dinosaurs breathe everything that you think dinosaurs would be like, they are. When we got to the area where the males feed, 3 out of 4 of them were asleep from a large meal. We all had our photos with them and then when one of the people from our party, Charlotte, went to have her photo taken with one of them, the tortoise got a huge slimy boner. Then when she left, the boner went away, it did reappear when Charlotte moved closer to this dinosaur, we just wanted to see if the tortoise was turned on by Charlotte. The tortoises were pretty cool; as they age their shell becomes smoother, so you can tell a younger tortoise from an older one. After we got an eyeful of tortoise pride we saw some yellow land iguanas and then a sea lion skeleton
At this point we were on our own to kill time and buy what we needed from the island (i.e. waterproof camera, tourist shit, more snacks) and just chill out. Unfortunately we weren't so lucky as it started to piss rain and the most of our group was scurrying from shelter to shelter until we found a place and had some dessert. Delicious desert with brownies and ice cream.
That night we all went out to get pissed and to dance. We headed to land, went to 2 bars to get our salsa on (or at to least pretend we knew how to salsa!), and then headed back to the boat. During this time the two people from Denmark we were dropping off after 4 days wanted to stay for another 4 days like the rest of us and since there was still space available on our boat, then we thought it might be OK. So we pleaded with the crew and our guide, but, they didn't want to take them back on board without asking the owner first, and the owner was in Quito and unreachable. The entire party was tanked so we kept badgering the crew but to no avail. So Kasper and Louise stayed on Santa Cruz and we headed back to the boat.
Day 5: We sailed that night for our next island of Rabida, which has a red sand beach and a slew of Galapagos Hawks and Pelicans
We headed back to the boat quite quickly and then headed to another island, Puerto Egas. Here we saw a bunch of huge fur seals, some more marine iguanas, another sea turtle, sally light foot crabs and then the sea birds like oyster catchers and lava herons. When we got back to the beach where we had landed the majority of the passengers didn't want to go snorkeling again, since the morning snorkel around Rabida turned up with little or no results. Sarah and I were going to go anyways even if it was for a little bit. As we approached the water this old bird came out and was like, "wow that was amazing; there is a huge school of tuna right of the beach." This school was pretty big and was only about 15m off the shore. So we strapped on our flippers and then dove in. It was only a few minutes when we saw the school of fish and then this huuuuuuge sea lion bull swam right in front of both of us. Man this was incredible, we were a bit scared because the bulls can be quite aggressive and they can defend their 'ladies' by biting other bulls or humans. No worries though, the bull didn't mind us - he swam off and then he was followed by 2 young sea lions that we preceded to chase. This was incredible because as we chased the sea lions they led us to 2 penguins that were diving for fish and other small animals
That night on the boat was Van Damme night, need I write more...!? :)
Day 6 : When we woke up the next day we were at a place called Isla Bartolome. This island had definitely less wildlife, but, it had the best view in all the Galapagos. When atop the island you could see both bays that were separated by the island and in the middle of the separation was a huge 50m tall rock called Pinnacle Rock. The terrain reminded me of what I think the moon looks like, it was very barren with almost no vegetation and the rocks had a slight red colour to them. When we got to the top we took in the views, took our photos and then spoke with some of the other tourists that made it to the top. I met this one chap from Malta, I had no idea where this island/country was, but its amazing how much you learn of the world when you are talking to people from other countries
Juan told us about how the islands were formed while we were walking up. The islands are on top of what is called the Galapagos hotspot, a place where the earth's crust is being melted from below by a mantle plume (upwelling of abnormally hot rock within the Earth's mantle, picture a lava lamp with certain globules floating up once heated), and creating volcanoes. The islands lie below a section of the Galapagos Rise, the divergent boundary located between the South American coast and the triple junction of 3 tectonic plates (Nazca, Cocos and Pacific Plates)
Back at the beach we readied ourselves for another snorkel trip. This trip was, in my opinion, one of the best as well. We started off with a lot of other floating whities, which were older people with life jackets and masks on. Once we had swam significantly far enough from the beach and close to pinnacle rock we started seeing huge schools of little tiny fish. One thing we started noticing is where there are fish there are cool animals that we can play with, namely penguins and sea lions. A few minutes later we saw 2 penguins out for a swim and eat. We eventually got very very close to 4 penguins that were basically in front of mine and Sarah's faces. Sarah, being very bad was 'forced' to touch one of the little guys
Our next island for the day was called North Seymore. Here we got to see Frigate birds up close and trying to attract females. The birds have an inflatable red sack that is located directly below their beaks. To attract a female the bird puffs up the sack to roughly the size of a red party balloon and keeps it inflated until he scores a chick
After we had finished walking the island we saw huge waves crashing into the shore with sea lions in the surf riding the waves, this was to a back drop of the sun setting and basically ending one of the best days that we had on the islands. When we walked back to get to the Zodiac there was a huge bull right by the path. We all made it past the bull fine until one of the passengers, Justin, was lunged at by the bull. This was a bit strange because the same thing happened to him on the way on to the island. The huge bull then seemed to burp the alphabet at Justin. Justin did manage to make it around the bull and then back on to the Zodiac
Back on the boat we ate dinner, sat around and were relieved to find out that we weren't sailing until the morning. Yeahhhh. This meant we could eat a little bit more and have some drinks. After dinner Jimmy and Charlotte, a couple from Norway (the first Norwegians I met) showed us how to play this came called Ten Thousand (10,000) with dice - we can't remember how to play it but it was still pretty fun.
Day 7: This was the last day for 2 of our passengers from the US (Yellowstone Park), Jerry and Amy. We landed on a little island called Mosquera which is really beautiful, it has a pristine white sand beach with tons of sea lions and their babies playing in the surf. We were supped to see Lava Gulls, but, they were a no show until the end right as we were leaving. We did have our fun with the sea lions, Sarah took heaps of pictures of baby sea lions playing in the water. We lazed around the beach for a little under an hour then headed back to the boat.
The crew lifted anchor and then headed right away for the island of Baltra. This was where A&J were getting off to catch their plane back to the mainland and then back to the US. The islands have 2 airports, one on Baltra and the other on San Cristobal. We flew into SC to start our trip, so they were going to take the rest of us back to SC to catch our plane out from there.
Once we had dropped A&J off we headed for Black Turtle Cove which had a shipwreck that happened over 60 years ago and was supposed to have turtles and more flamingoes
We started sailing at 2pm, along the way we saw a huge manta ray swimming next to us. That afternoon the seas were angry my friends like an old man trying to send soup back at a deli, the sea heaved and tossed and didn't stop until we reached the island. The crew opened up both main sails and then had the engine running so that we would make it back faster. We postponed dinner too until we reached port. While sailing there one of the securing pulleys broke on the main sail, this made the sail flap and the beam was tossed all over the place. After this happened the entire crew started yelling for Segundo the all around mechanic handyman. Luckily he was able to fix it after 5min and then the boat was back on course. Sarah was immobilized by the tossing sea and had to lay down in the cold wind outside to keep from hurling - the problem is too that it's too hard to go to your room to get any warm clothes cause the minute you move, you'll puke. Segundo was sweet enough though to find a blanket and toss it over Sarah while we continued to sail, the whole crew could not have been nicer. We ended up getting into port at 10:30, about 2 hours later than expected
Day 8: We were counting on this day from the first time we saw sharks in the water. We left the port of San Cristobal and sailed for 30 minutes to a place called Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido), we got on our snorkeling shit and then jumped into the water. Kicker Rock has a very unique formation - it is a passage between 2 islands, the channel is about 30m wide, from the surface down it is roughly 50m deep, and then from the surface up it is 30m high. We started at one end of the channel and then were going to meet the boat on the other side, maybe snorkeling 150m in total. This area was notorious for Hammerhead, White Tip and Galapagos Sharks and we were all excited and nervous at the same time, keeping close to Juan as we went. Juan was actually going to send us out on our own with some excuse like he lost his mask or something, but we came up with an extra for him in the end...
As we started swimming, the majority of us saw a few sea turtles in the passage and then we saw a single Hammerhead shark at the bottom
I (Sarah) had a water-proof camera specifically for this day's encounter and despite being scared at some points by seeing these sharks swimming and looking directly at me, I took a ton of photos to capture this amazing experience. Unfortunately, not one turned out - it didn't even register on the negatives. Despite, that, I'll certainly never forget this experience. It was both exhilarating and terrifying and truly exciting all at once, it was amazing!!
We headed back to the port in San Cristobal to get off the boat since our trip was now over. We said our goodbye's to the crew, gave our tips and then took some photos with them
After everyone had left we headed down the road to a place called Hotel Orca, where through some fenegaling we got a free nights stay. We took a nap until like 3pm and then went to the town to buy a ferry ticket and also some soft serve ice cream that was ever abundant on the islands. The ferries they have are a little tricky, the one we wanted heading to Santa Cruz only leaves at the ass crack of dawn, around 7am, but we just got back from the shark-snorkel around 9am meaning we still had a whole day to kill on the island. There are only 3 ferries and to get to any outlying islands, you always have to take a ferry to Santa Cruz first, but we were on San Cristobal unfortunately, so that just complicated our planned itinerary. On top of that, each ferry ride is $32.50 USD one way per person, so it's pretty exy. So we decided to get to Santa Cruz first and spend more time there and at the Darwin Research Centre and also have one good snorkeling trip
Day 9 : That morning we woke up packed our shit and then caught the ferry to Santa Cruz, the ride was about 2.5 hrs on this really powerful boat. The sailing trip took us 8 hrs, the super fast huge speed boat took 2.5 hrs. When we got there we found a place to stay (Hotel Elizabeth), then had a super bitchin' breakfast (pancakes, eggs, hash browns, and a fruit plate, each!!). I also found a dive shop that was going to a place that has heaps of hammerheads, manta rays, eagle rays and also Galapagos Sharks. So I booked a dive to Gordon Rocks for the next day and got 2 tanks for $130 which was not too bad. We also heard of a place on the island where you can slip yourself into giant land tortoise shells. A farm about 20 minutes from the city has a bunch of land tortoises, and when they die they leave their shell and so you can slip your whole body into a huge shell. Pretty cool, we were both in so we got a taxi driver/tour guide for the next day. After this we took it easy did some souvenir shopping and then went to bed.
Day 10 : I woke up pretty early and headed to the dive shop to set out for my 2 dives. We got all our stuff ready, loaded the boat and the Instructor/Dive Master wanted us to show him our skills (mask skill, regulator recovery and the hand signals) for the pre-dive inspection, since some guys hadn't dove in 2 months to 8 months he wanted to be safe. All was good - we had a blast with the sea lions in a bay for our equipment check out. We then headed to Gordon Rocks, this is an area that you are supposed to have your PADI Advanced Certificate for since we were diving below 18m and the currents are stronger. So we got our briefing and jumped into the choppy waters, we then dove to about 20 - 22 m
After that I kicked around town some more and then met up with Sarah. We had lunch, bought some more stuff and then got ready for the tortoise farm. The farm was really cool - we saw a bunch of turtles in a natural setting. The tortoises roam around the farm which is about 20km from the shore and then during mating time they walk all the way to the beach to do their business. So looking around the farm we saw 3 turtles free in the wild which was awesome. We spooked one a bit as we came upon him eating and he tucked his neck in all tight under his shell, then out, then in again, it was so cool!! Then we headed back to the office to try on man-sized real giant tortoise shells. Really cool, good timing too - we left just as a huge bus full of Asians were going to invade the farm, man I love Asians they are sooooo funny.
While I had an awesome time diving, Sarah told me what she was doing - she said she went to Tortuga Bay beach and got eaten by horse flies and then saw a naked man standing in a huge screen-less window, so his dink was virtually outside his home
Day 11 : This was the final day of things that we wanted to do. We got up early, ate breakky, did some internet stuff and then sent off some packages in the mail. After this we went to the Darwin Research Centre to see if we could get a better look at Lonesome George, the last Tortoise from Pinto. So we walked around the centre and visited the giant tortoises again. They were a lot more feisty this time as we came around feeding time - we saw one male eating and drinking water, we watched this guy go for like 30 minutes. First he lifted his giant shell, then sloooooowly walked over to gulp water, then walked and got a piece of tree where this huge dinosaur ripped the bark off like it was butta. After, we went to see Lonesome George, which we did get to see better this time. George is a lot smaller than the other giant tortoises that we saw eating and he really does have a cushy life (besides handling the pressure of having the future of his species rest on his shell...). From here we had already packed up, so we loaded on a ferry and then headed back to San Cristobal. It was a really choppy boat ride, Sarah got soaked cause she had to sit outside for fresh air and then got really wet by all the waves. We got a hostel, got some din-din and then went to bed at like 7:30, man did we feel old.
Day 12 : We woke up, had breakky and then headed to the Airport. Flight left at 12:30, got to Quito around 5:30 then took a cab back to Linda and Walter's house in Jacaranda, Cumbaya.
Sweet trip, saw everything we wanted and more, had amazing boat-mates and a great crew too.
It really was the best cruise EVER!!!!!!!! :)
Love, Niko y Sarita xoxo