Galapagos part 1

After considering the options for my trip to the Galapagos I decided on no planning at all and to just rock up to the airport in Guayaquil and hope to get on one of the three daily flights to the Galapagos. On arrival at the airport the news was not good: all flights were not only fully booked, but overbooked and the first available flight was not for 3 days! I enquired about going on standby in case one of the bookings didn’t show but again signs were not good, but the man at the check-in at Aerogal did give me a glimmer of hope and said he might be able to help me out if I came back in an hour. So after some brekky I returned and he took me to the side saying he could potentially get me on the plane but it would cost me $40 but if it didn’t work out ‘Not to make problem for him’ and I would get my money back! Had I not been so shocked at his proposal and equally happy that I had a chance to catch the plane I might have tried to negotiate but it all happened so quick, and anyway the Aerogal ticket was $100 cheaper than the other two airlines TAME and LAN so I couldn’t really complain. So for the first time in my life I bribed an official and found myself on a plane to the Galapagos!

Aerogal: bribe their staff.

My plan on arrival was to get to the fairly big town (18,000 people) of Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz and arrange a tour from there (having heard this is the way to ensure you get the lowest price), but on arrival at the airport I was approached by an agent who offered me a “4-day” tour (4-day tours in the Galapagos mean 3 nights, and 2 full days and then a bit of other stuff on the 1st and last day…) for a price I didn’t think would be beaten in the town (USD430). The boat looked pretty cool (pirate-ship-looking) and so I decided to go for it as opposed to wasting a day in the town. So after waiting a while for the next plane and a couple of Spanish guys joining the cruise we made our way to Puerto Ayora and the waiting Sulidae boat..

The Sulidae (pirate flag on the mast :))

Inside the Sulidae:

So the 1st day of the cruise (well the afternoon anyway) was spent visiting the highlands of Santa Cruz.  As the Galapagos are a collection of volcanoes, there are craters at the centre of each island, generally speaking.  So we had a stroll around a couple of craters before visiting an area chockablock with wild tortoises.

This guy was estimated to be over 100 years old (they can live to 170) and weighing 400kg:

Turtles are pretty dirty animals, they like to wallow in mud like pigs. Here a Yellow Warbler bird perches on one such wallowing tortoise:

In the evening we were given the chance to stock up on anything we might want for the journey so I bought some Ecuadorian rum and then rejoined the boat. The first night was spent getting to know the other guests: 2 Spanish (as mentioned), 2 French, a Londoner (originally from Gloucester oo-ar), an Ozzie, a Swede, and a Dutch (my roomate Edwin). The first night was not the best sleep ever as our room was next to the engine room (chugging away all night as we made our way to the next island) and as soon as the sun came up I was drowned in light due to three massive windows surrounding my bed. Unknown to me that first night there was in fact a spare room which meant the next night I could move to the new location in the bowels of the ship, several meters away from the engine room and with only one ceiling window. This also meant Edwin and I had our own rooms and could spread out a little. Perfect.

The first day proper (day 2) we awoke having anchored a few hundred metres off the coast of Isla Santiago. After embarking the launch we landed on the volcanic rock that had previously been a massive lava river after a huge eruption in 1912. A large proportion of the island is covered in this magma river which has produced some amazing looking igneous rock formations.

Santiago:

Marine iguana sunning himself on the lava rocks:

After a short trek over the rocks and admiring some Marine Iguanas we were back on the launch. We then made our way over to Isla Bartolemé which is no more than 300 metres from Santiago but only a fraction of the size. The first activity here was a snorkelling trip around the coast which was probably my best snorkelling trips ever….2 white-tipped reef sharks, lots of huge colourful star fish, a Galapagos penguin cleaning itself on some nearby rocks and loads of colourful fish.

White-tipped Reef Shark swimming by in the shallows:

Some nice fish:

Galapagos Penguin having a clean on the rocks:

The bigger Galapagos Sharks circling:

After lunch we again landed on Bartolomé to make the short hike to the top of the island and a breathtaking viewpoint. At every stage our guide René would always be giving us insight into various geographical or biological facts about the surrounding area.

Volcanic rock – super heavy 😉

Viewpoint from the top of the volcano that is Bartolomé Island.  You can see a pointy rock towards the right of the picture; this was the result of experimental American bombings that took place during WWII – this part of the island used to appear like another volcano but it was flattened and the rocky point is all that remains!

The last activity of the day was free time on the beach which meant more snorkelling for us aguaphiles. If I was impressed with the first snorkel the second almost definitely matched it as I was treated to a swimming marine iguana, a huge bright yellow Guinea fowl Puffer, a big ugly Giant Hawkfish and to top it all off a swimming Galapagos penguin which darted past me and then joined two of it’s buddies on the rocks.

The first part of the 3rd day was an early start (6am) on North Seymour Island to ensure we could see nesting Frigate birds. Not being such a big fan of birds I was more interested in the other feature of the island: multiple colonies of sea lions. As soon as we landed on the island there were several pups suckling on their mothers which was awesome to see. Further on there were marine iguanas basking in the sun to warm themselves up after a cold night and as we rounded a corner we came across a pair of blue-footed boobies in our paths. These are so called because the when the buccaneers first witnessed them they considered their behaviour to be stupid – because they had no natural predators they didn’t even run away and were easily captured, and they also have a rather amusing dance. Further on we also saw a huge land iguana and nesting frigate birds with their big red inflatable necks.

Suckling sealion:

Boobys.  For some reason, potentially botched mating attempt, this Booby jumped on the back of his mate:

Booby dance:

Big Land Iguana:

Magnificant Frigate – male, puff up their necks to attract females:

That afternoon we landed on another island, Plazas which was my favourite visually as the whole thing was covered in a bright red vegetation which was dotted with cactus trees with crazy hanging cacti. We also saw loads more sea lions, iguanas and boobies etc… Back on the boat we were allowed to have a quick jumping in session which was good fun and Edwin got some good burst snaps of me doing various dives and flips on his sweet camera.

Vegetation on South Plazas:

My favourite sealion snaps from Plazas:

Up to mischief no doubt:

So cute:

Playtime:

9, 9, 10, 10, 9:

The forth day we were on the island of San Cristobal which is a similar island to Santa Cruz in that it has a fairly big inhabited town and an airport. The activities on here included visiting a museum about the history of the Galapagos (which was actually rather good) and then a tortoise sanctuary where we got to see tiny baby tortoises that are being bred in captivity to boost the numbers back up to pre-human levels.  Back in the town I said cheerio to most if the guys who were staying on for the next 4 days of the cruise and began to plan for the second half of my Galapagos adventure…..

Baby tortoises, give these guys a hundred or so years and they’ll be as big as the ones at the top of the page. At the moment they’re as big as my palm:

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. natash
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 19:48:53

    Really , really nice papacito

    Reply

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