Trip Start May 02, 2012
64Trip End Jul 31, 2014
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What a once-in-a-lifetime experience the Galapagos was. We were particularly lucky with our boat - a catamaran - and our really nice 13 fellow passengers from all over the world. We only booked the boat, Seaman II, the day before, and managed to get on a First Class trip at a greatly reduced rate as it was a "last minute" deal... Andy didn't get seasick - and it was quite rough at times, with other people getting sick - so all was good! We had a pretty spacious cabin on the main deck and everything on the boat was particularly clean and well-run. The meals were very good with a buffet style of varied dishes. The juice that we were served was made from fresh fruit like melon and grapefruit. The Ecuadorians love their fresh fruit and juices. Little carts along the roads peel and slice fruit to sell. We had a busy daily schedule that involved breakfast at about 7am and then we went walking on the various islands and snorkeling - sometimes 2 walks and 2 snorkels in a day
So we started out by flying in to Baltra Island, where we were picked up at the airport by the guide. He is a young man from San Cristobal Island who is at university in Quito and uses the money that he earns as a guide,during his vacation, to pay for his education. He was really very well-trained and knowledgeable about the flora and fauna. He obviously has a total passion for his environment. We set sail straight away for Santa Cruz and Black Turtle Cove where we got into the pangas (rubber ducks) and went off into the mangrove swamps where we were surrounded by an abundance of (everything on Galapagos is in abundance!) huge turtles, sharks, fishes and the frigate birds and pelicans diving around us. The sunset was magnificent and it was a perfect start to the trip... The boat then travelled while we slept and we went north, across the Equator to Genovesa: Darwin Bay and El Barranco. Each island is different and has its own "speciality". It is absolutely thrilling to walk on an island and see the birds nesting, interacting and totally unfussed by people walking right by them. This island has the Prince Philip's Steps through a seabird rookery. Visitors have special paths to follow, and sometimes the birds and animals are just too relaxed to move, so you have to just walk around them.We had a really good deep water snorkel from there
From Genovesa we then travelled again at night to Sullivan Bay on Bartolome Island. We had a long walk along a lava flow, and then walked to the top of a volcanic crater. This is probably the most photographed island as it has the distinctive Pinnacle Rock.
From there we went to Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat) and then to North Seymour. The daily schedule was generally discussed before dinner and written up on a board. We had 2 kinds of landings - wet and dry. The dry landings were sometimes quite tricky as we just went up to rocks and had to disembark from the pangas while the sea surged around. The various islands are demarcated for tourist/fishing and research, and boats are strictly monitered.The beaches were beautiful, with aquamarine water and white sand, and I particularly enjoyed the beach landings. On this day, on North Seymour, we were all sitting around in the shallow water on the beach after a snorkel when a baby sea lion decided that it wanted to play. It was just such a treasured moment. It swam right up and around us with no fear, twisting and turning - almost showing off - and touching us
Our second last day was at South Plaza and Sante Fe. Sante Fe is the best beach that we visited - sea lions lounging around on the sand (although they are rather smelly things!) and the visibility was just wonderful. We swam through thick shoals of tropical fish of all shapes, colours and sizes, and then came across white-tipped reef sharks just quietly lounging about. We swam right in amongst them and they hardly reacted. One guy in our group was charged by an alpha male sea lion who came straight for him and then veered off at the last moment. The alpha males are huge, noisy and very territorial.
Our last day was at San Cristobal where we went to visit the research place where they have giant tortoises and where they have a breeding programme for these tortoises. From there we flew back to Guayaquil. (We went into the town on San Cristobal after dinner on the last night, and the sea lions were sleeping on the benches along their malecon - a delightful little town.)And so back to Guayaquil and on to get our vehicle to continue with the rest of the trip. Feel that this trip has already been so full of rich experiences....