GET US OFF THAT BOAT...!!!

Trip Start Sep 04, 2012
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Trip End Aug 02, 2013


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Monday, May 20, 2013

A couple of nights at a TOSH hostel, where breakfast was 'a loaf of bread' left on the side, saw us glad to get out of the dump and onto much, much better things! The much talked about ‘Galapagos Islands’ were next up for us, where we had booked a cruise trip over 8 days in and around the most southern of the islands. Lying just 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos is famed for its volcanic landscape in the north (don’t need to see any more of them!) and its unique wildlife that is more common in the south – where we were heading! A young chap named Charles Darwin also had a stint here a few years back, and it was here that his theory of ‘evolution’ was founded. A short plane journey, a bus and a short ferry later we reached our home for the week – ‘The King of the Seas’ boat (AKA the cheapest boat) – with ten other people. We’ve certainly stayed in worse though! As soon as we got on the thing we were virtually thrown off to our first snorkel to give us a flavour of what was to come! I didn’t even know anyone’s name yet! Amongst a load of colourful fish, we even managed to see four white-tipped reef sharks havin’ a kip under a rock. Christ!! It promised to be a good week! They don’t eat humans by the way!
After a short ‘river safari’ on the panga (dingy) where we saw more sharks, sea turtles, a few big sting rays and posh birds in the trees, the other side of this trip reared its ugly head!! SEA SICKNESS!!!!!! And dear me did it hit us two hard!! Every time the boat went anywhere, we both had to go and lie down to avoid it (which, as it goes, it didn’t get ‘avoided’ at all times shall we say…let’s leave it at that!).
Day two was all about the Galapagos’ Giant Tortoise…..or the ‘GIGANT TORTOYYSSE’ as our colourful guide, Angel liked to call them. (He was top man, but after just day two he became the most impersonated man on the planet coz he talked funny ha ha!). These ‘GIGANT TORTOYYSSES’ were MASSIVE (funnily enough)!! We saw them first in a breeding centre and then in the wild. They’re pretty slow, right, but can manage up to two miles of walking a day! There are four species of tortoise dotted about the various islands and each has a specific unique trait. For example, one species has a more rounded shell near its neck so they can eat foods that are higher up, compared with those that eat foods on the ground that don’t need that extra ‘reach’…EVOLUTION…right there! Another fact…E.T.’s head was modelled on the Galapagos tortoise!! Ha ha! The stereotypical ‘nations’ on our boat were coming true to form a couple of days in….the Germans were ruthlessly efficient, the Dutch started to rave on at night and the Israeli’s smoked marijuana!!
After lying down for about 15 hours, we found ourselves at day 3. Then I really got sick….THE CAMERA PACKED IN….FUCK!!!!! Of all the times to….!!! DEAR ME!!!! We were lucky enough to pal up with a couple of English brothers from Canterbury who very kindly let me take some photos and we shared pics throughout the week (so all the good ones on here will be from them ha ha)!! A little island called South Plaza was next up to see ‘LAND IWAAAAANAAS’ (or ‘land iguanas’, when not impersonating Angel)! Again, only found in the Galapagos, there were hundreds of them on this island, all competing for the cactus leaves that fall from the trees for their food. An impressive yellowy-orange colour, they patrolled South Plaza as if it was their own and some of them were pretty chunky!
Our first taste of some sealion action was that afternoon, as we made a landing onto Santa Fe Island. There was a load of them on a beach and to be honest, it wasn’t a pretty sight! It was like a hospital ward, what with all the coughing and wheezing going on! They can make a racket!! There was a load of females and a few BIG males. Each male can have up to 30 females for himself and he will be the one who fights to retain his status. They’re big…like small hippos some of ‘em!! Keep away! I’ve not painted them in the best light there actually. Like all the animals here, they are not afraid of humans and one even waddled up to us on the beach and sniffed Kala’s toes. The baby ones were magic and we watched one making its way to the sea from the beach. They are not great on land and this baby would waddle about four paces then collapse on the sand and let out a big sigh as if he could not get any further! Funny! One of the highlights of the whole trip was the snorkeling we did with the sealions a day later.
Before that, however, we visited ‘Isla Lobos’ which was full of the best bird species and probably the Galapagos’s signature animal, the blue-footed boobie. We managed to witness a couple performing their mating ritual which looks like they are dancing! Both male and female lift their feet in turn as high as they can and then the female decides if she wants to mate with the male. They lay the eggs inside a ring of poo to basically claim the territory and warn off any other prey who may have their eye on the egg! The male and female, who both have a different sound, take it in turns to sit on the egg for two days at a time for a total of 45 days. Now they look like very friendly and nice birds but this is not how life starts for them. Up to three eggs can be laid a few days apart but all will hatch on the same day. Upon hatching, in a prime example of natural selection (and sibling rivalry!), the biggest chick attacks the smaller chicks and forces them out of the nest. The mother will witness this happening but will not intervene and will only feed the chick that remains inside the nest. The fact that these birds are born with such an instinct is unbelievable!
During our week, three of our snorkels were memorable (and made us feel like we didn’t need to pay the extra to dive). The first was at a place called ‘Kicker Rock’ – a daunting-looking rock in the middle of the ocean with a channel within it that apparently guarantees a big feed of fish for the SHARKS! Hammerhead and Galapagos sharks lurk around there in decent numbers and it was DEEP water and pretty choppy! NERVOUS! We plunged in there and headed out through the channel, against the current. The visibility wasn’t great at first but a couple of sea turtles showed up. Then it happened….the water cleared up and there was a pack of three Galapagos sharks over there, two in the other direction…..pretty scary stuff!! They weren’t bothered at all by human presence and were below us. They kept popping up from all angles. AMAZING! We didn’t manage to see the hammerhead (there was one down there though as another couple of people in the group spotted one). A couple of the guys in our group had a ‘GO-PRO’ or an underwater video camera, which they gave to another one of our guides on the ship to use. He was like some kind of diving NINJA….like those guys you see on the tele who dive down with a spear and stay down there for hours!! He knew the best spots to get good footage, so the underwater photos on here are from him.
Our second snorkel was much less frantic and in much shallower water, but was equally as good if not better than Kicker Rock. Playful sealions weren’t one of our primary reasons to go to these islands but despite being a bit clumsy and ill-sounding on land, in the water they are SENSATIONAL!! Kala, our two English pals and me were getting little kisses on our masks from a baby sealion as it was showing off with its flashy moves and playing catch with some coral (well, I say ‘kisses’, Kala nearly had her head bitten off by it as it approached her with its mouth wide open he he)!! All this was literally just after being terrified by a BIG MALE who charged about us briefly. No harm done though!! A really brilliant experience!!
The third snorkel was at a place called ‘Devil’s Crown’ and we went in a route around this semi-submerged volcanic crater. It had everything – sealions, sharks (only three though – and two of them were asleep on the floor – I didn’t think sharks did that!!), sea turtles, a sting-ray PELETON and tropical fish GALORE!! It was a bit choppy aswell which added a bit of danger to it. Another top experience!
On land, I’ve not even mentioned that a couple of the beaches we docked at were STUNNING!! Beautiful blue water and white sand – definitely as near to ‘paradise’ as we’ve seen so far, particularly as it was just the twelve of us on the islands – on a place called ‘Cerro Brujo’ and ‘Gardner Bay’. But the best for land wildlife was saved right till the end on an island called ‘ESPANOLA’. The other types of ‘IWWAAAAANA’ were here – the Marine ones – and there were hundreds of them….sometimes in piles!! Mainly black, but with hints of red and green, they arrive from the sea and feed only on seaweed and moss from the rocks. They are vegetarian, but don’t look it!!! Some of them look like should breath fire! They filter out the salt from the sea water they drink and spit it out through their noses when on land and I’d be lying if I said that we weren’t spat on a couple of times ha ha!! These were my favourite! Brilliantly photogenic!!
The Waved Albatross was arguably the most impressive and beautiful of the birds here. With a wingspan of just over 7 feet, they are one of the largest birds in the world and, again, found only on the Galapagos Islands. It was mating season for these and we also witnessed their mating ritual which was quick high and low beak slapping! Again the male and female take turns to incubate the eggs for 45 days. With this in mind you would think that they would place great importance on where they laid their eggs. But no, they were nesting all around the rocky path that led us around the island, exposed to the sun all day and the cold wind all night! It was great for us though as we were able to sit close by and watch them.
Other species that we saw on these islands that haven’t been mentioned include the Red-footed boobies and Nazca boobies (no jokes please!!), the Galapagos hawk, snake and other little lizards, pelicans, the friggate bird (who inflates its red neck to a RIDICULOUS size to attract females to mate), the strikingly-red ‘Sally Lightfoot Crabs’ which are EVERYWHERE and five flamingos (but they were miles away from where we were stood)!
Towards the end of the trip the boat started to really take its toll and Kala fell ill. We sacrificed our final night on the boat for a bed that DIDN’T MOVE in the town, but Hughey and Raaaaalf even came with us on the panga ride to shore!! A good night’s sleep and strangely, two bottles of APPLE GATORADE helped a lot though (??)! An anticlimactic day 8 saw us see a very average volcanic crater before we said our goodbyes and flew back to the mainland. The sea sickness aside, a SUPERB week! If you like your wildlife, and especially if you like a snorkel or a scuba dive from time to time, COME HERE!! It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it! Arguably the best thing we’ve done so far. But….please…..GET US OFF THAT BOAT!!!!!!!
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Comments

Chrissie on

Hi you two, these pics are absolutely amazing sounds like you had a brill time. Xxx

Laura D on

Loved the story of the baby sea lion humphing its way up the beach. And, of course, the boobies. Everyone loves boobies.

paulandkala
paulandkala on

Thanks guys! Yeah the baby sealion made it in about 5 stages! Yep, everyone loves boobies!!

Sheila G on

I just loved reading this blog and the photos are great. It must have been amazing being there seeing the big tortoises. I'm so jealous.

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