Crusing the Galapagos Islands

Trip Start Mar 24, 2010
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55
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Trip End Ongoing


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Fragata First Class Yacht

Flag of Ecuador  , Galapagos Islands,
Friday, August 27, 2010



At the Puerto Ayora pier we were greeted with some of the crew from our first class (or four star) yacht - Fragata. We were escorted to the yacht where we met the rest of the guests on our cruise. We had an interesting mix of people - three 30 ish year old teachers from NYC, a late 20's couple from Denmark, A couple and there teenage daughter from Holland, an older couple from Belgium, A Mother and her early 20's daughter from NYC and us! We were shown to our cabin which was fantastic (above deck double room with two massive windows) and then served a fantastic lunch in the Gallery. We then met our guide in the bar (equipped with couches and a massive plasma) who was young, knowledgeable and spoke good English. So far, so good! That afternoon we were taken to the Charles Darwin Research Centre where we saw baby Tortoises as well as walking through the female and then male Tortoise enclosures. There were no barriers, you could literally touch them (though we didn't of course) but there was no problem sitting with them and getting photos - it was amazing! We were also lucky enough to see 'Lonesome George'. He is a 100+ year old Tortoise, the only survivor of this particular species of Tortoise and once he dies, this species will be extinct - survival of the fittest! Once back on the boat, we met the captain and his crew and had a yummy welcome cocktail. We were then served another delicious meal and settled in for our first sleep on the boat (though we didn't sail the first night).

The second day we were up early for a 6.30am breakfast. We were then ferried to the mainland and driven to the North of Santa Cruz where we walked through the highlands and rain forest, visiting the Twin Craters (two massive 'holes' in the ground caused by volcanic activity). No humans have ever been into these craters due to the strict National Park restrictions so they are quite the mystery. Once back on the boat we set sail for Santa Fe three hours east of Santa Cruz. Once anchored, we suited up (the water in the Galapagos ranges from 15 - 18 degrees depending on the area brrrrrr) and jumped in the dingies. We were ferried out to a snorkeling spot and in we jumped!! After the initial hit of cold water, you simply do not have time to be cold whilst snorkeling in the Galapagos, we were swimming with huge Sea Turtles, Sea Lions, Puffer Fish and all sorts of tropical fish and coral it was truly breathtaking. After a short ride back to the boat we were well and truly chilled to the bone, but good old Fragata came to the rescue and we had soft towels and a hot drink waiting for us as we boarded! After a quick change it was back onto the dingies ready for a wet landing on the Santa Fe mainland. Here we went for a sunset stroll amongst the Sea Lion colonies and birds, a perfect ending to the day (along with the empanadas we got when we got back to the boat)!

Overnight we sailed the six or so hours to Espanola and we woke up moored just off this island on day three. After a 7am breakfast we had a dry landing on the mainland. Here we took an amazing three hour walk where we saw hundreds of Marine Iguanas, Sea Lion colonies with lots of pups, Blue Footed Boobies (which have to be the funniest birds ever) looking after babies, building nests and courting, Nastek Boobies, Lizards, Albatros and their babies and eggs, Galapagos Doves, Galapagos Hawks and Mocking Birds (which are tiny and cute but the biggest threat to the giant Albatros as they eat their eggs)! We stopped on a cliff with raw open ocean beyond and watched the awesome blow holes and massive waves smashing against the rocks, amazing! Once back on the boat we spent the next few hours recovering from that mornings spectacle whilst the boat sailed to the other side of Espanola. Here suited up again (in our cold wet wetsuits) but we were all really excited! We jumped in the dingies and were ferried to a cliffy part of the island where we spent the next hour snorkeling along the ridge. The water was very very very deep for most of it so it was a bit scary. Once again though, the water was teeming with marine life and we swam with Sea Lions, Sting Rays, Start Fish, Tropical Fish and lots of coral. That afternoon it was back to the mainland where we had a wet landing on a beautiful white beach covered with Sea Lions and hundreds of Sea Turtles popping up for air just off the shore, stunning.

Day Four was spent at Floreana (another overnight sail). 7am for breakfast again and then onto the mainland for walk along the beach. Here we saw hundreds of Rays feeding in the shallows. It was then on to the "Green Beach" which is speckled with green gem stones, and is the only place in the world you will find them. We had a quick look at a beautiful lagoon where, in the right season, stunning Pink Flamingos flock there to mate. Once our walk was finished, it was back to the boat to get ready for some snorkeling. We were taken to a world famous diving and snorkeling spot called Devils Crown (basically a rocky outcrop in the middle of the ocean). The currents were strong which made it a bit difficult, but it was the best snorkeling either of us had ever done. There were so many different kinds of fish and coral, it was just a maze of colours. There were Rays and Sea Turtles as well and the most amazing Star Fish. After this stunning snorkel trip it was on the boat for a hot lunch and sailing to the other side of Floreana. In the afternoon we packed up our snorkeling gear as we were snorkeling from the beach for the first time! We had a wet landing but before we went in the water we went down into a 'Lava Tunnel' which is literally a tunnel made of rock caused by molten lava. We also visited the 'Post Office' which is a ramshackle wooden creation filled with postcards addressed to all over the world and if you find one close to your address you can take it home with you and deliver it, cute! It was now time for snorkeling. As we were suiting up we could see Sea Lions swimming about and Penguins popping up for air so we were all rushing to get in the water! Even though the sea scape wasn't quite as amazing as Devils Rock that morning, the two of us had the most amazing experience with a Sea Turtle. We were away from the group when a huge Sea Turtle, covered in algae rose up from the sea bed. He was so big he was probably nearing 150 years old! He proceeded to swim around and eat completely unfazed by us leaving us to swim with him the entire time. It was such a surreal experience and one we will never forget. That evening was our last, so again we were treated to a pre dinner cocktail, before being served a proper roast chicken dinner and then a huge cake at the end!

Day Five was our last. We had spent the night sailing North to Seymour Norte. We were up at 5.50am for Coffee and Biscuits before going for a dawn walk on the mainland. Here we were treated to more Blue Footed Boobies waddling around and even watched a Boobie Soap Opera play out as one confident male Boobie continued to choose beautiful gifts (large clumps of grass or a stick) and offer them to a female who was making a nest with her mate. The mate didn't really know what to do as this was happening in front of him, so he would try and find an even more beautiful gift (an even bigger clump of grass) to get her attention back. With there stupid looking big blue feet and there slow waddle walk, it was really funny to watch! We said goodbye to Seymour Norte and enjoyed our last meal onboard Fragata and sailed to Baltra, our last stop.

We can honestly say that Fragata is a fantastic yacht. We forked out a whopping $1100AUD for a five day cruise (and this was one of the cheaper prices) so we were obviously worried that we wouldn't get what we paid for which has been the case with most of our other South American tours. But we were super lucky and it was well worth the money. Some people continued on the boat and did a full eight day tour, but for us five days was plenty as the islands offer so much outside of the cruise, it is nice to do some of it on your own schedule. We now head back to Santa Cruz where we have three more days to enjoy the Galapagos Islands Steve and Jenna styles!
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