Paradise

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Monday, January 7, 2013

Day 1, we landed at Baltra airport close to Santa Cruz Island. After a short bus, followed by a ferry and then another bus for about 45mins we made it to the town of Puerto Ayora. This is the biggest town amongst the islands and the main place to book your tours. We met 3 Germans on the bus who were also looking for a last minute cruise deal if the price was right. After looking around at most of the tour agencies, nothing really suited us time wise so we decided that we would book day trips to the surrounding islands instead. We were told about a blog from a couple who toured the Galapagos on their own so we read this and most of our trips were based on the information contained therein. That evening, we went to the Charles Darwin Centre which is just on the outskirts of the town. Here, we saw giant tortoises. It's hard to believe how big these animals are (they can weigh up to 250kgs). On our way back from here, we passed a dock where fishermen were cleaning their catch of the day whilst the local sea lions and frigate birds waited for the leftovers. It was a very funny sight! For the duration of Santa Cruz, we stayed in a really, basic hostel called The Brattle Hostel. It was fine for us but it definitely wouldn't be to everyone's tastes.

Day 2, in the morning, we walked the 50mins to Tortuga beach. Here, we got our first taste of some of the wildlife the Galapagos has to offer. We walked passed dozens of marine iguanas (these can't be found anywhere else in the world other than here), blue footed boobies (birds much like seagulls with bright blue feet) and giant sea turtles swimming in the protected bay. We rented a kayak and headed out into the bay to try and see the white tipped reef sharks that often lurk amongst the mangroves in the bay. After quite alot of searching, we failed to find the elusive sharks this time. Once back in the town, we got a taxi to an area 20mins outside of Puerto Ayora that had giant tortoise roaming freely. There was an empty shell of a deceased tortoise which was great for climbing into and getting photos in. We got really close to the tortoise and it was amazing to see how they function and to be fair they move much quicker than they are given credit for! After this, we went to a lava tunnel close by which was cool enough.

Day 3, we headed off to Isabella Island. Prior to departing, we made the most of such a lovely morning by getting a taxi boat to the other side of the shore in Santa Cruz and hiking over volcano rocks before arriving at Los Grietas cove for snorkelling. When we got back to the pier to catch our ferry, who did we bump into only Claud and Dean who had just gotten dropped off their cruise. We expected to meet at some stage but not so early. It was great! After an arguably smooth crossing to Isabella, we found a cheap hostel, dumped our bags and headed for a stroll on the beach. It was so long and gorgeous. After, the 4 of us sat around a bonfire at a really cool bar right next to the water. We separated at around half 7 for us to cook pasta and Claud/Dean to head to a restaurant for dinner. After meeting up for a drink or two again after, we headed off to bed.

Day 4, we all got up early and rented bikes (5 dollars per person-so cheap) to visit a few sites. We saw ponds with flamingos, beaches, a lava tube and mangrove forests. We also rode to the Tortoise Breeding Centre where it was so nice to walk around. There were so many tortoises and the baby ones were really eager to get up close to us. After handing back our bikes and going to a really nice bakery for lunch, we headed on an excursion to Tintoreras. This was one of the best tours we did and only cost 20 dollars each. It involved us getting a boat to islands right outside the port. We saw penguins, marine iguanas, blue footed boobies, sea lions and the best part- tens and tens off sharks asleep. On the way back to shore, we stopped to snorkel. Right up close to us we saw a white tipped reef shark, sea turtles and such colourful fish. That night, we again cooked pasta, met the others for a few drinks and planned for the next day.

Day 5, we decided to take a trip to Sierra Negro and Chico volcanoes. This was 30 dollars, took up most of the day and included lunch. We drove up to the highlands and hiked around the rim of the Sierra Negra crater. This was massive. After, we took in the views from Volcano Chico. The hiking lasted 4.5 hours but it was nice and not too demanding. After this excursion, we rented snorkel equipment from our hostel and headed snorkelling at Concha y Perla. This was right next to the dock. We saw fish, turtles, sting rays and had fun with the hyper sea lions. They like to swim right up close to your face before diving right under you. It was gas! That evening we went for a meal with Claud and Dean but didn't stay out to late as we had to catch a ferry back to Santa Cruz at 6am the following morning. Overall, we loved Isabella. Also, we stayed in a really cosy family-run hostel called Las Residencial Villa. 

Day 6, after a very smooth crossing back to Santa Cruz, we hopped off the ferry only to get back on another boat out to Floreana. On this ferry, we saw so many dolphins diving in and out of the water. It was fantastic! We booked this tour a few days in advance, before heading to Isabella for 50 dollars. The first part of the day was a Highlands Tour. We visited a tortoise sanctuary, a well where the water apparently gives you eternal youth, pirate caves and ruins of old pirate houses. After, we had a lovely fish lunch and again got back on the boat to go to another snorkel point where we saw a good mix of fish etc. That evening, it was pasta time again for us (The supermarket selection was so bad). We wanted a night cap but the island was so quiet, we ended up just strolling around the pier looking at mantra rays, amongst the sea lions. It was such a relaxing way to pass an hour.

Day 7 was our favourite day in Galapagos. We booked a day trip from Santa Cruz to another volcanic island, Bartolome. This was the big spend of our trip costing 150 dollars each. It was so worth it though. We started the day, boarding a really fancy boat which holds 20 people. Straight away we sat down with an older American couple and a Polish girl for an amazing breakfast. We were in our element and blown away by the travelling stories of the American couple who were clearly millionaires. Going on top of the boat to sun bathe and take in the views was mind blowing. Very early on, we passed a little island covered in blue footed and Nasca boobies. 2 hours after this, we arrived at Bartolome. Here, we were greeted by many iguanas and sea lions. Our full group hiked countless steps to get to the viewpoint at the top of the island. The panoramic view was unbelievable here. After, we got a smaller boat around the islands main beach. Here, we got to see another little penguin up close. From the boat, we went snorkelling. In the water, we saw a Galapagos shark amongst other familiar sea creatures. At 2, we got a fish lunch which was yummy. Once this was complete, we headed back for Santa Cruz. The spin back again was surreal. After arriving to the port, we again met up with Claud and Dean, headed for dinner and went for drinks. It was a superb day all round.

Day 8, we had time to spare before our ferry to the last island- San Cristobal. We decided to head back to Tortuga bay with Claud and Dean to pass away the morning. The walk seemed double that of last time due to the blistering heat. Here, we snorkelled and took in the rays. The ferry to San Cristobal was at two. The sea was again amazing. When we arrived at the port, we couldn't get over the amount of sea lions. After getting sorted in the hostel, we got a taxi to La Loberia which is a beach overrun with sea lions and their babies. We got right up close to them but couldn't help noticing how smelly they were. We walked up the beach until we arrived at the edge of a cliff covered in birds. That night, we firstly walked to Playa Mann beach and then around the town giving way to the sea lions crossing the road, passing by you on the footpaths and taking up the benches. They literally run the town!

Day 9, we booked a 50 dollar tour to Kicker Rock. We set off early in the morning with a group of around 15. The tour guides were brilliant. We snorkelled once at Isla Lobos (shallow with lots of sea lions, mantra rays and sea turtles) and twice at Kicker Rock (deep water with strong currents, turtles and a few sharks). After arriving back from this tour, we walked to an Interpretation Centre which was really good. From here, we walked a little to the highest mirador/viewpoint. We kept walking down the hill from here, following paths, across rocks etc and found numerous beaches (including Punta Carola) with no people, just sea lions. We were wrecked from our days action!

Day 10, we finished packing our bags and just strolled around San Cristobal whilst waiting for the morning to pass until our afternoon flight. We were really sad to leave Galapagos. It was not on our list of places to see originally as we were under the illusion that you had to do a cruise which would have been well outside our budget. As can be seen from this blog, it is very affordable. You can base yourself at a cheap hostel on a central island and opt in or out of as many trips as you'd like. For us, Galapagos couldn't have been nicer and the experiences we had were unforgettable, the best South America has to offer.

 
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Grainne on

Wow this place looks fab

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