Stunning Galapagos

Trip Start Oct 07, 2010
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Trip End Mar 13, 2011


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Where I stayed
Queen of the Galapagos boat

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Monday, November 29, 2010

How to describe a true trip of a lifetime.  7 days on a luxury catamaran, 16 people (all cool), 3 snorkels a day, 1 land trip, great food, wild life everywhere and so relaxed about human presence.
A gift from nature to humans, the main highlights were:
- Swimming with young sealions, blowing bubbles underwater and generally playing around
- Seeing an enormous group of sharks cruise under us in a stunning cut in the rock (rising about 100m out of the sea about 30m wide!)
- The luminescense at night, and the amazing diversity of plankton, so visible in the water
- Crusing with turtles and large stingrays in a quiet bay
- Chillaxing with the giant tortoises, seeing evolution in the making
- A sunset swim with a pod of dolphins, though spooked by the equally huge sharks in the group (and very cool to see penguins in the last etches of sunlight)
- Sunrises and sunsets in lunar landscapes.

Pictures are here: http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/sredir?uname=gstace&target=ALBUM&id=5548148239577676209&authkey=Gv1sRgCNGWkN3YhMWjFA&feat=email  
General summary: what a week of being based on a fab catamaran, with a bed looking onto water, having showers open to the ocean and going for 2 to 3 snorkels and at least one walk a day. Where dolphins sometimes cruise in front of the boat and in one case swim with us from a dingy at sunset and sea lions blow bubbles at you playfully.  
The huge array of animals together above or below the water and all of them relaxed with humans.  Amazing varieties of species, many endemic ranging from penguins living in the tropics, huge tortoises that can be unique to a volcano and have a Darth Vadar complex when shrinking into their shells, iguanas that have small differences by island and many birds, most of which have changed sexual patterns once here.
Great moments include a reef shark nest below sea lion family and a island where iguanas, boobies, albatross, turtles, stingrays, manta rays, sea lions, hawks, doves and a myriad of other birds sharing a space no larger than several football fields.  The biggest lessons the Galapagos gives humans is that nature doesn't waste anything, specialisation has advantages but generalists are usually better off, small differences make huge evolutionary differences such as tall cactus trees where tortoises are.
Details of each day (a bit dull perhaps but good for me to remember)  
1st day -Started with a tour of San Cristobal to the tortoise protection place, bus ride through the island saw a league variation in climate. The program had a number of baby tortoises about 15 yrs old (they become sexually mature at 35) and fascinating to see the issues facing the tortoises, mainly feral animals.   kick off dinner. 
2nd day - Early morning trip to the beach in San Cristobal. Went to beach and walked along and saw sea lions and turtles. Afterwards saw a whales and large pod of dolphins with e stunning rocks nearby.  On the 2nd snorkel, went though a large cut in the rocks huge school of sharks swim under us and beautiful blue water. The afternoon snorkel was in a small bay with lots of turtles, stingrays and sea lions. The male sea lions are quite aggressive so swim by looking at you but don't harm. Then went to a sea lion colony and lots of super cute babies. Overnight boat trip was rough, so not much sleep. 
3rd day on the island of Espanola. Morning dive off the beach with mocking birds after e water, sea lion swimming, massive stingray and huge schools of fish. The 2nd swim was through a cave with great light, lots of parrot fish and lots of  large schools of fish. The afternoon walk was an amazing one km loop. Just arriving was wow, seeing marine iguanas, turtles, sea lions and red crabs in one view. Quickly after a number of blue footed boobies, red bill tropical birds, galapagos dove and then onto the albatross section. Finally saw the galapagos hawk on the way out. Stepping over sea lions and iguanas to get the shot, very memorable view and area.    
4th day - floriana island. First dive off beach the water. Saw lots of turtles and penguins. Seeing the turtles feed on algae was great. 2nd dive saw a nest of sharks underneath a family of sea lions. Afternoon walk on beach with awesome light, pics of disco B and stingrays. Great night up on the deck watching stars and drinks. 
5th day Santa cruz island. Went to the Charles Darwin giant tortoise breeding program and lots of tortoises there, and great to see the program be successful in getting thousands of eggs. Afternoon walk along a gorgeous beach with cactus fields and mangroves. 
6th day near Baltra. North side of Santa Cruz island started with a walk in a bird colony. Great to be alone again after lots of boats with us earlier. The frigate bird came in a magnificent and great variety and lots of boobies. The snorkel saw a huge bull sealion and teenage barracuda. The afternoon huge delay with the boat, went over to island North Seymour and Batholomew, and had a number of dolphins come with us on the way over. Rush to see penguins on arrivals, didn't see any but followed the pod of dolphins.  Amazing experience of swimming with dolphins at sunset, though the huge reef sharks below them was scary. Then saw penguin at sunset. Truly wow moment as the sun set.    
7th day - Santa Cruz again, this time different part of the island and off for a beach morning. Gorgeous sunrise. The beach was stunning, though a little cloudy in the water when snorkeling. After a few encounters with turtles and sharks, there were a few diving pelicans very close by which were great to see. Though no flamingos were there, the afternoon walk on a tiny island with over 2000 sea-lions was great in the late afternoon light, seeing the cactus forest, the bachelor colony of sealions and a few gulls doin the wild thing.  
8th day - checked out the development centre 
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