Galapagos 2 (Boat Trip) - Ecuador

Trip Start Oct 30, 2007
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Trip End Nov 20, 2009


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Flag of Ecuador  , Galápagos,
Thursday, July 30, 2009

Have to admit, we were a little apprehensive about the boat trip – we´d met a few people who had done boat trips and had ended up with a bunch of real, real oldies.  Our friend Rod from Canada that we met on the Antarctica trip was a prime example.  He´d bought a last minute boat trip, but on a flash boat, and not one other passenger was under retirement age!  He said he was in constant fear they´d have to turn back because one of them had broken a hip!  We had also heard that some boats turned out to be all of one nationality, and all loud and overbearing (sorry to any Americans reading this, but it was the US that was mentioned specifically).  We were keen to get neither, but, y´know, it´s often just the luck'o'the'draw.  As we said, we´d specifically spent a little more (but on a middle of the road boat) for the awesome route.

We met our naturalist guide, Rodrigo, who had been a guide in the Galapagos for over 20 years, and was such a great guy with such a good sense of humour and we knew things were looking up.  The other guests (13 of us all up) were a good mix of people, English, Swiss, Italian, German, American, and were all up for a beer when we got on board – great start!

Our boat, the Floreana, while smaller than most of the other boats we saw, was great.  We had aircon and hot showers in our private bunk bed cabin which in our book was pretty flash in itself, and a lovely little lounge deck on top for taking in the view.   The captain and 5 crew were fantastic too.  Captain Freddy was always joking with us and everyone was so friendly but yet really professional.  The first night they served us welcome cocktails, and they all dressed up in their formal white uniforms, (aka An Officer and a Gentleman) and we knew we were in for a top time.

Our route took us to places most boats never go, to further afield places away from nearly all the tourist boats.  The itinerary for the boat was organised so virtually all the sailing was done at night, allowing us to have two landings a day on the islands from the zodiacs for 2-3 hours (or pangas as they´re called here) plus two snorkeling trips a day too.  They even had drinks and snacks for us when we got back on board after our landings or snorkelling trips - gotta love the snacks!

The first day on Santa Cruz Island we went to a Land Tortoise Reserve to see the species of the island (some of which were enormous) and then to see a strange phenomenon, a lava tube.  When the islands were formed by volcanic eruptions, the lava flowed down the sides of the volcanoes in big rivers.  The surface cooled quickly as it was exposed to the air, while the lava rivers below the surface continued to flow.  What results are these enormous tunnels, up to 10m tall and wide as an almost perfect round tube, and up to 5 or 6km long.  Scrabbling through them was fascinating.  In the evening, we had a beer with pelicans perched on the boat rails and sea lions around the boat.  Brad had a shower with the porthole open, bright moon on the water, to see first a pelican and then a sealion poke their head up to it to see what was going on.  Karen said she heard the sealion barking with laughter - very funny!

Next we headed up to little visited Genovese Island (in fact, we had the whole island to ourselves - how many people can say that?) and saw hundreds of red footed and masked boobies (they´re birds, not S&M costumes!) and frigate birds (you know, the ones you see on all the natural history docos with the red pouches they blow up), plus heaps of sealions playing on the beach and in the surf.  The great difference between the Galapagos and virtually anywhere else on the planet is that the animals and birds here (except the fur seal and the tortoises) have never been hunted or threatened by man.  Therefore their instinct, rather than run away or keep their distance, is for them to be totally unafraid, no matter how close you are.  At the most they may eye you up out of curiosity and then go back to whatever they were doing.  We saw literally hundreds of these birds, some with tiny fluffy chicks.  The snorkelling showed the island was just as busy below the water as above.  As well as the playful sealions, the quantity and variety of fish was fanastic, and throughout the trip, every snorkel was different.

Over the next week, from Santiago Island to Fernandina and Isabella Island (the youngest volcanic islands), to little volcano islets in between, the variety of landscape and the in-depth explanations from the ever-enthusiastic and knowledgeable Rodrigo was unbelievable.  From hikes over fresh lava flows to  lakes with flamingoes, from spotting giant land iguanas to giant eagle rays (and flocks of our favourite bird in the whole world, the very cute Blue Footed Boobies), we saw an abundance of marine turtles, reef sharks, rays and so many colourful fish we just lost count.  We saw the marine iguanas go out swimming for the day, pelicans and boobies dive en masse from massive heights when shoals of fish came past, and our favourite activity, playing many times with our friends the sealions in the water. We were even lucky enough to see three female seals who had just given birth, and were nursing their hours old pups right in front of us.  Pretty special.

Watching the sun go down, beer or glass of wine in hand, with frigate birds following the boat or seeing whale puffs in the water, every night we just kept saying it couldn´t get any better. And crossing the equator 4 times on the trip needed to be celebrated, so we rigged up a rope on the top deck and as we crossed the equator line we all limbo´d underneath it.  Plus (especially given the foodies we are), the meals were fantastic, and in true B&K style, we took 10 litres of wine on with us..............yet still managed to crank up a $120 bar bill!  What we loved about the boat, unlike most others, was that it was a family affair.  Captain Freddy´s family owned the boat, and after 4 days, Freddy´s brother and family drove to the other side of their island, took their little fishing boat out to us and dropped off fresh provisions and stayed for a chat.  The hardest part was getting off at the end.  We knew they had a couple of spots free for the next trip which was going to the more visited southern islands, and were very sorely tempted.  Mind you, we knew we had been very fortunate in that we got to see what very few other people had seen and been to some of the best places the Galapagos had to offer.  We knew we weren´t going to better what we had done, so we reluctantly had to leave the boat and jump on the plane back to mainland Ecuador.

Was the cost (2000USD each inc flight) worth it?  Absolutely!
Would we do it again? In the blink of an eye, no question!

Up there with Antartica as one of the best travel experiences ever! 
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