Galapagos - evolution, sea, sand and naps!

Trip Start May 23, 2010
Trip End Aug 31, 2010

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Where I stayed
Yolita II

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

We arrived back at Quito airport early on 20th June for an uneventful 1 and a half hour flight to Galapagos. When Andy first suggested that we incorporate these islands into our trip, I was a little non-plussed; however, looking back on the last few days I am so so pleased we did! There is a definite ring of mysteriousness surrounding them, as these islands are volcanic and have never been 'attached' to any other land and so the animals (many of which can't be found anywhere else in the world) have absolutely no fear of humans. 

The first pang of excitement hit when the islands came into view from the plane. In true British fashion, excitement meant that Andy took a quick break from his snooze to open one eye and muttered something like 'yes, very exciting Ems', while I squeaked and pressed my nose up further against the window. The Dutch took the excitement thing to another level by rushing (as much as 6'5 tall men can in a plane) from one side to another furiously taking pictures. Hm. 

Not long afterwards, we landed on Baltra Island and were greeted with a shack of an airport, a gorgeously sunny day (27oC), and our guide for the trip. Whilst waiting for our bags the Dutch continued to snap away - not quite sure why youīd want pictures of a baggage trolley and your own baggage, but it provided a source of entertainment whilst we waited!  After a short hop on a bus and a dinghy we finally boarded out boat, which we would be spending the next 5 days on - the Yolita II. A cute boat, less than two years old (so lovely and new/clean etc) with 16 passengers.

Our first day was fairly relaxed...after lunch (3 courses, oh yes!) we sailed to Santa Cruz and hit Bachas Beach for a walk around the island and then a snorkel (in some very cold water!) The scenery was stunning - barren landscapes, blue skies, turquoise waters, and fine white powder sand. No buildings, cars, electricity poles or inhabitants around for miles. Beautiful. We encountered some flamingos along our walk, and it was only when a marine iguana sauntered past my foot (I was clearly in his way!) en route to a new rock to sunbathe on that you realise just how unphased by humans these animals are. Even the birds don't fly off when you approach them. Weird, but very cool! We ended the day by sitting on the roof of our boat (whilst the chef prepared our 3 course meal!), watching the sunset with Frigate birds following us. It was a hard life, but we managed!

The next day we were up at 6.45am (a little too early for my liking...) and set off after breakfast for an exploration of Santa Fe Island.  After treading our way past a bunch of sealions hanging out at the small dock we walked round the island. Again, lovely scenery, lots of sealions (which are just so so cute!), land iguanas, huge cactus trees and birds. It was later that afternoon when we did a landing (with eagle spotted rays and large sea turtles in the shallows) on a different part of the island that Andy tried to befriend a sealion. Needless to say, it didn't work. After much gazing at each other the sealion got bored of Andy and with a loud grunt threw herself (or possibly himself!) at him. Whether this was out of protest or just to get closer to Andy and his sweet-nothings, we don't know as Andy didnīt stick around to find out! 

That evening, we were introduced to the crew, who had donned special 'Top Gun' all-white uniforms for the occasion.  Expecting them to be called "Eagle Eye", "Tiger" and "Donkey", it was a little disappointing when the most exotic amongst them was called Vladimir.  This wasn't the only presidential name we'd get on the trip, as we also had a new guide - Washington. He was so much fun - very knowledgeable, incredibly enthusiastic and was able to do astonishing impressions of all the birds. This, however, was not appreciated at 5.45am the following morning when he decided to wake us all up over the tannoy with an impression of a cockerel!  He then individually named us and requested we 'wake up'.  Not popular, especially after that night when we had sailed overnight to Espanola Island through rather rough waters. Most of the night was spent being thrown from one side to another - not fun when you're lying in bed and literally being thrown into the wall, and the promptly out on to the floor. 

We had also discovered that the tea we were drinking was called 'Hornimans', which the Dulwich-Forest Hill posse should recognise! Turns out it is named after the same dude who the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill is named after, as he used to be a tea importer/exporter back in the 19th century. Small world! 
So, the morning of our third day was spent at Suarez Point where we saw (all from a few metres away) albatrosses nesting, blue-footed boobies dancing, Galapagos hawks and doves, lava lizards, Darwin finches, mockingbirds and more sealion colonies. Ooh and 'Albatross Airport',which was obviously where they all fly off from. Andy managed to get some amazing pictures, although I had to walk to a different area as he (and the incorrigible Washington!) were rather precariously balanced on the edge of a cliff, lying back trying to photograph these birds. Luckily the afternoon was a lot more relaxed, and after a much needed nap (Andy said they should rename it 'Napagalos' in my honour!) we all went swimming with sealions. The baby ones were sooo sweet! They were so cheeky...playing with us, swimming around us, playing īchickenī, whizzing underneath us and then turning round to blow bubbles in our faces. So much fun!! 

By now the days were flying by, and we really wished we had booked to stay for 7 nights, as opposed to only the 5. Our fellow passengers were really lovely - a nice mixture of people -  Randomly Gina, a girl in one of the couples that we got on really well with knew one of Andy's uni friends as they both work in the Foreign Service. Again, small world! 

Our last full day was spent on Floreana Island. The schedule was set around the England match (unbelievable!!) - Andy and Gina's boyfriend Simon had been talking about it and mentioned that it was at 8am, so Washington rescheduled everything so that we got up early enough to be back in time. Nice. Thanks boys.  Luckily this time there was no morning call as we figured out how to turn the tannoy system off! Result! So at 6.30am, we all bundled into the dinghy's and set off for a pre-breakfast snorkel. We went to 5 different sites (although I only managed 3 as the current was so strong, and my ribs were hurting rather a lot). Washington tried to take us to places to see Hammerhead sharks, but unfortunately we didn't, but we did see white tip reef sharks, white spotted eagle rays, huge shoals of fish, green sea turtles, puffer fishes and an underwater cave formed by the Devil's Crown rock formation. 

That afternoon we went to Post Office Bay, where you could write a postcard, post it in their postbox (see photo) and then future tourists visiting the island will search through and take any cards which have addressed near them back home, and then hand deliver them. We found only a few for England, and took one for someone in Wimbledon which we'll pop round when back. We wrote a card to ourselves too, so fingers crossed we'll get it back in the next couple of years! 

We then went snorkelling around the bay and swam with huge sea turtles - they were so close that you had to watch not to bump into them. I also saw a couple of Galapagos penguins!!!! They were swimming about and chasing shoals of fish. That absolutely made my day - my year, actually! Andy had a few seconds earlier disappeared to find Gina and Simon to let them know about the turtles, and so missed the penguins. He wasn't a happy chap when he subsequently found out....

That evening was our last there, and we spent it in Puerto Ayora (the City - which was little more than a village street - of the Galapagos). Really good fun - 8 of us met up in a bar and had a couple of drinks before heading back to the boat. The next morning, we (us and the Aussie couple, Sarah and Sean) said our goodbyes to everyone on the boat, and headed back to land where we visited the Darwin centre to see some Galapagos tortoises. Best bit was seeing 'Lonesome George' - the last giant tortoise of his kind as they cannot find a girlfriend for him. Very sad, but he didnīt exactly put on the charm when a couple of females wandered past, so it's not surprising! 

Back to the mists and drizzle of Quito now... :o(
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Richard Hunt (Cousin, not Dad!) on

So glad you guys enjoyed it there - I have to admit I was slightly concerned when I was trying to convince you to spend half your budget there but its great that you thought it was worth it too!

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