Creation and Destruction
Trip Start Jun 12, 2011
124Trip End Oct 22, 2012
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We decided to do the islands independently partly due to money restrictions but also after hearing that most of the cruise ships are foreign (mostly American) owned and as a result only a tiny percentage of the income from them goes to the islands and the islanders, who despite living on islands that are expensive to visit live in relative poverty
Of course the other problem that faces the islands is sustainability. More tourists means more impact on the islands and so this needs to be strictly monitored. The park itself has realised this and monitors the situation, also issuing limited passes to each of the non-populated islands to ensure even spread of tourists. Tourists can help by respecting the environment around them of course but there are always idiots like the German tourist who was recently caught trying to smuggle 2 rare endemic land iguanas out in his luggage. The flip side of taking things away is adding to the environment either by polluting plastics and litter or by introduced species
Extinction isn’t a new thing for Galapagos and many species have already ceased to exist, the most recent being the Pinta Island Tortoise, a sub-species of the Galapagos Tortoise, the last of which was Lonesome George who died on 24th June 2012. Other species of tortoise were eradicated back when the islands were settled by whalers and convicts as they were fair game for food and often killed so that their body fats and oils could be used for street lamps. Currently there are many other species that are at risk of extinction. Another huge contributing factor is the El Nino monsoon, accompanied by warm currents, winds and rain and which has a dramatic affect on the environment. In 1982 the El Nino came with so much rain that plants that had never been seen before appeared as there wasn’t enough water previously to germinate them. Unfortunately, although the land flourished, much coral reef that was over 400 years old was also destroyed as the water temperature rose and the flamingo population also dwindled.
As far as inhabitants go, the islands have seen a fair share although thankfully folklore kept numbers to a minimum
So anyway, our journey around the Galapagos.... (apologies for the detail but this is also our record for the future and I don’t want to forget what we did here)
We spent our first afternoon doing some research into day trips and we managed to find ourselves a bit of a bargain on a short cruise instead. We were also really pleased to find out that the boat was Ecuadorian owned and so we would at least be supporting local economy and not American wallets.
We had 4 days to kill before the cruise and so we spent our first full day on Santa Cruz chilling on the beach in Tortuga Bay. Although no turtles to be found here, the walk there takes you along a lava stone lined path alive with lava lizards and along another beautiful white sand beach and around a headland covered in cactus forest and mangroves where you find tonnes of marine iguanas chilling out in the sun spitting away (they spit salt water out of their noses using their salt glands), blue footed boobies chill out on the rocks and if you’re lucky you can frolic in the rock pools with the sea lions
Our second morning and a hike along a rocky path to Las Grietas, a canyon where you can jump into crystal clear waters. We then took the afternoon ferry to Isabella Island as part of a bargain land tour package we booked from the same lovely ladies who sold us our cruise.
The third day, an early start to see the flamingos and then a long and muddy hike up Sierra Negra volcano. Isabella is the largest of all the islands and also the youngest as the volcanic hotspot is to the west of it. As such there are barren volcanic landscapes that make you feel like you are on mars. You can see the way the rock would have flowed and still evidence of its liquid form in red and orange formations. The more liquid lava forms formations which are spikey and painful to walk on and so have been called the Hawaiian name of A’a (Ah Ah) lava – because it makes you go ah ah when you walk on it. The caldera of Sierra Negra is said to be one of the biggest in the world and in the same category as Yellowstone National Park, i.e
The next day was an independent day so we moved hostels early and then headed off on our tour of Los Tunnules, which is where the lava tunnels meet the sea. It was a pretty hairy boat journey to get there but it was totally worth it. More beautifully clear but cold sea, this time teaming with green sea turtles and one spot where you find white tip reef sharks. We snorkelled through the tunnels and also spotted perhaps the biggest stingray I have ever seen, must have been 2 meters diameter at least. We also walked over the arches formed by the lava
Next day was back to Santa Cruz to catch our boat and meet our cruise buddies. Our boat Galapagos Vision was a small catamaran, we had done our research on the boat and managed to get the best cabin, front starboard side. Everyone on our cruise was lovely and our crew totally awesome. I think the crew were quite pleased to have a boat that consisted of 9 women and one bloke and I didn’t hear Will complaining about that either. We started with lunch on the boat then headed off to Los Gamales, huge pockets where gas had previously formed and caved in now creating massive craters in the landscape, unfortunately now over run with mora. We then took a stroll through some huge lava tunnels before visiting some Giant Tortoises on El Rancho Reserve.
The next day we woke up in the north of Santa Cruz at Cerro Dragon (dragon hill), went to another flamingo lagoon, saw more marine iguanas and land iguanas
Next stop, Bachas beach where second world war barges are buried under the sand. We chilled out on the beach and sunbathed for a couple of hours. In the afternoon we headed to Sombrero Chino (China Hat) an island shaped as you can imagine, like a Chinese hat. Snorkelling we saw tonnes of Galapagos penguins, some in the water and loads chilling out on the rocks and we swam right up to them and as is typical of the Galapagos and its wildlife, there were totally un-phased by our presence so we just sat there watching them until the water got too cold and we had to get out. We strolled around the lava landscape before heading back to the boat.
The next day we visited Santa Fe Island in the morning and South Plazas in the afternoon. We spotted Masked Boobies, Sea lions, Galapagos Gulls, and snorkelled off Santa Fe, spotting a sea lion who was playing with a shell like a puppy would a ball in the shallows
We rounded off our trip with 4 days relaxing on San Cristóbal, strolling around in the evening spotting all the sea lions sleeping on benches and in the kids playground. We chilled on its beautiful beaches covered in sea lions, hiked up to Frigate Bird Hill and snorkelled in a beautiful bay underneath it
All in all a totally amazing experience, I urge all and any to go there but try to think about your footprint there and chose a sustainable way to visit the islands. I only wish we had the time and funds to stay longer and help with the conservation here.... maybe next time!