What a Wondeful World..

Trip Start Jan 28, 2011
Trip End Apr 29, 2011

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Galapagos 4 Boat

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Our Galapagos trip started in style at Hotel Quito - a cut above our recent accommodation: private transfer, heated outdoor swimming pool, fancy breakfast, funny looks from the Ecuadorian business travellers, the lot.

On the second night we met the first of our various handlers to explain how the trip would run:  basically people transport us to places, make sure we don't get lost, feed us at regular intervals and show us amazing stuff.  And all at sea level (swimming - one other thing that is more difficult at altitude).

Two flights the next day and we were in the Galapagos islands!  Landed on Baltra Island, home to the airport and nothing much else. Helen was delighted to spot a David Attenborough lookalike straight away (actually one of many- there's something about very rich elderly German men in hats).  $100 National Park fee paid, then onto a bus, a boat to Santa Cruz, then another bus across the island to our home for the next week, the Galapagos 4/ Xavier II.  The boat was lovely and posher than we were expecting.  We were fed the first of many very very good meals, and then our very genial, very knowledgeable guide Willo took us out to meet some giant tortoises. 

Our week in the Galapagos took us round 8 of the islands (some are closed to tourists some of the year). The boat travelled overnight between islands, so we would wake up every day to a new, amazing view.

Following a downpour on the first day, the weather was glorious sunshine the rest of the time.  The islands are amazing and surpassed all our expectations - the variety and proximity of the wildlife and landscape, the history of the islands, just the general paradise-like nature of it all.  We are very lucky to have been there.  Plus, of course, the animals are hugely comedy as well as majestic/cute/vulnerable/terrifying(sharks).

We swam or snorkelled nearly every day, seeing different things each time.  The water was really warm and mostly clear and calm - with a few notable exceptions to the latter, making for some interesting beach landings from the zodiac (rubber dinghy, just sounds cooler) and a fatal drowning of a camera battery.  There were many opportunities for Pete to learn things, and ask questions (and remember things we had previously been told), making him a favourite of Willo's, much to the amusement of everyone else. 

We were also lucky enough to see a late night attack of the munchies from pelicans, sea lions and sharks off the back of our boat.  On the menu were flying fish (not each other, although we weren't sure at first whether it would get messy). None of us were volunteering for a night swim just in case.  The sea lions won the flying fish catching competition, only just beating the pelicans.  The sharks were nowhere near.

It's impossible to pick a favourite island, they are all so different. The first snorkel of Santa Fe Island was difficult to beat for exhilaration value- meeting a sea lion under the waves after 5 minutes and being face to face with a sea turtle at the end was just awesome. Espaņola Island wins for sheer numbers of different types of species (especially marine iguanas) and for general beauty, Seymour Norte has the finest selection of birds that look or sound funny- and a load of sharks, and Bartholeme has the best overall view of the Galapagos Islands and a completely different landscape to everywhere else we'd been. 

We also visited Post Office Bay, where tradition has it that you put your letter/card in a barrel without a stamp, and the next people who come along who live near the address on the card take it and deliver it for you (or at least post it on), leaving their card there, and so on.  Given we are technically homeless at the moment, choosing cards was a bit tricky.  So our next holiday is going to have to be to the Isle of Man via Cheadle Hume.

One of the other 'traditions', we were told, was a football match between the crew and the (male) passengers.  A crack (crap?) team from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany and Israel was assembled to teach the South Americans the beautiful game.  Ten minutes later, the pasty white boys were red-faced and wilting in the heat (Pete still managing to shout out instructions/encouragement to his fellow players, however, if not actually doing any running at this point). Despite this, by the end of the game, the internationals came out controversial winners by way of golden goal (from the boot of Sebastian- from Germany, who else?).  Pete took about two days to recover.

At the end of the trip we visited the Charles Darwin Centre (by truck) and 'Lonesome George', the last of his sub-species of giant tortoise and possibly the world's most famous tortoise.  The staff have been trying to encourage George to make little Georges or Georginas for the past 30 years. It took 18 years of company from 2 eligible lady tortoises before he even looked at them salaciously (to be fair he is about 130).  It wasn't meant to be though, so they got booted out, first wife-style and replaced with a younger model.  Still no babies, but he was chasing her round a bit when we were there.  He might just have caught her up by now.  There was just time to visit another few old buggers (tortoises, not cruise ship passengers) before we had to go and get our flight back to the mainland and leave these wonderful islands behind.

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