Friday, 16 March 2012


So. The Galapagos. Wow. Our trip was positively amazing. The islands are truly remarkable; and very different from what I'd imagined, even after reading about them in our guide and various internet resources. The landscapes are magnificent and the wildlife is abundant and unique. I really can't do it justice in text so I'll let the photos Chris took tell the story and add in a few anecdotes of interest about our experience. But I think to really appreciate how awesome the Galapagos is you have to visit yourself.

---- Our day began with a free ride to the airport courtesy of the travel agency we used to book our cruise (CarpeDM - highly recommend!). After checking in we went to the waiting area with a Dutch couple and Swiss girl that also booked their cruise with CarpeDM but were going on a different boat than us. We'd each received a pin with the name of our boat, which we promptly pocketed because we were far too cool to wear them! We noticed that most of the other people in the waiting area had donned their pins (some people got stickers - they must've been going on economy boats... chumps) and immediately began surveying the crowd for our shipmates, praying that we wouldn't get stuck with anyone too old or unfit for the various activities/hikes. Or with a bunch of obnoxious kids. Or with a whole boatload of hoity-toity folks... we weren't being picky at all...

We arrived at the stiflingly hot airport on Baltra and were greeted by our Naturalist Guide, Tatiana, who ushered us to a gathering point where we finally got to see our shipmates. There was a complete mix of ages and groupings, including some couples, a trio of young aussie guys, and a small family. A short bus trip, ferry ride to Santa Cruz, and a panga ride from Puerto Ayora took us to the Odyssey, the luxury boat we would spend the next few days on. We were shocked by how big the room was. And the bathroom was enormous too! Definite luxury. The entire boat was fancy-schmancy.

Before leaving Santa Cruz, we visited the Darwin Research station and got to see the giant tortoises for which the Galapagos islands are named. They were so big!! It is possible to see these guys in the wild but our tour itinerary didn't include hikes to where they are found. So we were happy to have the chance to see them at the station.

Our next few days were spent taking day trips to Isla Isabela, the largest of the Galapagos Islands. We did several hikes and there were many opportunities to snorkel. I wasn't able to overcome my lifelong aversion to snorkelling but Chris really enjoyed swimming with all the fish, sharks, turtles, sea lions and other marine life. Most of the snorkelling excursions were done from the pangas but one was from a gorgeous sandy beach. I braved a quick dip before settling onto a piece of driftwood to watch the ghost grabs haggle over beachfront property. A little bird got curious enough to try landing on my hat but chickened out at the last minute.

The terrain at our first landing site on Isabela - lava rocks with white lichen. It looked like we were on another planet!
We also visited Fernandina, Santiago and a few of the smaller islands around Isabela, hiking over lava rocks to see hundreds of marine iguanas soaking up the sunshine in the blistering heat. We saw galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants, great blue herons, pelicans, pink flamingos, frigates, and, of course, the infamous blue-footed boobies. One highlight for us was visiting the Sierra Negra crater - it's the largest active volcano crater in the world, measuring 11 km in diameter. And let me tell you, it was breathtaking. I also really enjoyed our tour through the mangroves, though I would've preferred to do it by canoe or kayak. The drivers did paddle the pangas a bit but it still would've been fun to explore the mangroves in our own vessels.

Blue-footed booby.

Great Blue Heron hunting.

Booby, flightless cormorant (drying its wings), and sea lion. Relaxing in harmony on a small rocky island
View from the edge of the Sierra Negra crater. 

One hilarious moment on the boat occurred on the birthday of one of the passengers; Arthur (pronounce AH-ther), from Boston, turned 69. During the nightly briefing session the lights went out unexpectedly and then the boat crew burst in wearing ridiculous costumes made from tin foil and assorted medical/kitchen gear. They proceeded to act out a scene that had something to do with us crossing the equator and having to answer to King Neptune to pay for our passage. One of the couples on the boat was dragged into the play and forced to submit to an impromptu marriage ceremony. The lucky couple was then permitted to force another passenger to simulate the behavior of any Galapagos creature they wished. They chose Arthur and commanded that he act like a sea lion. His attempt was far more chicken-esque than sea lion... It was bizarre and hilarious. The best part was when we found out a few days later that the whole thing was Arthur's idea! We'd assumed it was a silly ritual of the boat crew. I can't believe Arthur convinced them to participate!

At Darwin's Lake - it was SO hot!!

One of many piles of marine iguanas. 

This sea lion was making eyes at me. Oh how I wanted to pet it!

Yellow sea turtle (yep, they all look orange, despite the name).
Our cruise ended on Isla San Cristobal and we'd planned to spend a few extra days there to unwind from the boat and see a few more sites on the island. Oh, I forgot to mention that Chris did really well on the boat! He barely suffered any motion sickness and was able to mitigate it with medication. Yay! I found the motion at night made it hard to sleep but didn't get sick either. Anyway, we were initially looking forward to a few more days on the island but quickly decided that the extreme heat and slooooooooow pace of the town were not really to our liking. We ended up changing our flight to an earlier date and stayed for only 2 nights in the town. We still managed to have a few adventures in that short timespan though.. The first day we went to a restaurant near our hostal and ordered the set lunch. I was starving after walking around town searching for a hostal so when the soup arrived I was eager to dig in. Until Chris lifted up his spoon to show me what was lurking in the murky broth... chicken feet! Blech!!!!! Chris managed a few spoonfuls but I couldn't do it. Not that into typical food I guess!

We went for a stroll along the waterfront, which is a favorite napping spot for sealions. They are seriously everywhere. And they are stinky! There was a little park set up on the shoreline that becomes partly submerged during high tide. We watched as the local children played along with baby sea lions who thought the enclosed area was just perfect for their games too!

Distracted by the sea lions we accidently forgot Chris's kindle on a bench after taking a break from our stroll. When we realized it, we ran back and our kindle was still there! LUCKY. That definitely wouldn't have happened in Quito...

One of the couples from our cruise (actually, the same couple that got "married" on Arthur's birthday) was also in town for a few nights so we had dinner with them. They've been travelling for about 4 months and are doing sort of the opposite itinerary that we have planned. We got some good tips from them about places to visit and things to avoid. Really looking forward to Bolivia and Lake Titicaca after their reviews!!

They are just so cute!
All in all it was an amazing adventure, worth every penny. I really can't put the experience into words and there are too many great photos to post here. Check out our Flickr site for the rest!! They will be up as soon as I relinquish the computer to Chris so he can edit/add descriptions. Note that you have open a Flickr account and add us as a friend in order to see all of the photos (it's free and quick - we just like our privacy).


No comments:

Post a Comment