It feels impossible to put into words the uniqueness of Galápagos, but to not try will do this place a disservice. Also, we wanted to add more images to this post, but WordPress is being weird, so it’s just text! Apologies there.
Arriving in Baltra Airport was inconsequential – the airport was small, with only one other plane at the terminal. However, our unique Galápagos experience started at baggage reclaim. We got ushered towards the corner of the only terminal and were told to wait; our bags were visible but we weren’t allowed to collect them until three dogs (a drug-sniffer dog; a food-sniffer dog; and an animal-sniffer dog) clambered over every bag that was taken out of the baggage hold. Two of the three dogs did their job well, however it seemed like they were training a new food-sniffer dog, which was misbehaving, much to our enjoyment and the polices’ annoyance.
After sharing a taxi with some pretty quiet German girls, our first stop was Puerto Ayora, the main town in the archipelago; only four of sixteen islands are inhabited, with Santa Cruz island being the most populated at 25000, and Puerto Ayora being its hub. The vibe in the town was awesome – which was something we appreciated throughout our stay there. We dumped our bags, headed out for a cerveza and ended up at a bar watching Barcelona SC play Delfins; apparently Guayaquil, Ecuador also has an almost identical-looking team to FC Barcelona called Barcelona SC. The local supporters’ group were banging drums, singing songs and involving the entire bar in their celebrations for 90 minutes, which was fun, especially as their talisman scored an absolute screamer on 83 minutes. Game over: 2-2.
The next few days involved a few different naturalist experiences. Hiking to Tortuga Bay, seeing marine iguanas for the first time, and getting a bit pink – thanks, English Rose skin. Although, in our ignorance we didn’t bring any water, so by the end of our walk it was a case of “water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink”.
On Monday we went with Academy Bay Diving (highly-recommended) on a boat to Floreana for a dive and snorkel with a really good group of people from US, Australia, Holland and Brazil. Daisy did her first of few scuba dives, and with her ridiculous vision, managed to point out two Red-lipped Batfish, the prehistoric frog-bat-fish that was aptly named Angelina Jolie by the dive team! The find was so rare, and so good, that she even got a fist-bump from the dive master at 22 metres. I stayed closer to the surface and snorkelled with sea turtles, sharks and a fleet of Storm Petrels, which was a highlight of the trip so far; being so remote in the open Pacific ocean, surrounded by sea birds feeding was a breathtaking moment where I vocalised my enjoyment with a “holy shit”, although with a snorkel in my mouth it sounded more like “hurrrgly chheettsh”. On the boat we met a really nice couple from San Francisco, who we may hopefully bump into while we travel Peru. Cocktails were drank and contact details were shared.
Our Instagram has a few different photos from the rest of our stay on Puerto Ayora. We went to Las Greitas and swam between volcanic rocks, spotted Parrot Fish in the cracks and sat by the beach on the way back to the town, getting flanked by endemic ducks, Frigate birds and these little sea waders. And finches. Finches everywhere. These little dudes are ballsy, to the point of taking pecks out of our sandwiches while they were in our hands. Perhaps they are the sparrow-shaped seagulls of the Galapagos.
The journey to Puerto Villamil, the third-biggest town in Galapagos at 2800 population, on the biggest island, Isabela, was fairly uneventful. We were sat at the back of a full boat, which crossed westwards on really choppy waters for 2 hours; one of our fellow passengers suffered with sea sickness for the entire ride. She went through 8 bags.
The town of Puerto Villamil has a seaside vibe, where everyone knows everyone. We did three tours on the island – Volcan Sierra Negra; Las Tintoreras; and Los Tuneles. Our first two guides were absolutely amazing; Nuria taught us about the history of the flora and fauna of Volcan Sierra Negra, and even more enjoyably we got a geology lesson about volcanoes: a win! And Sebastian, what a character. He took his “beautiful travellers” around Las Tintoreras, where we were treated to some wonderful sights, including sea lions playing with sharks, countless sea turtles bobbing up for air, and marine iguana nurseries: watch your step! We also attempted snorkelling, or should I say Daisy did – I shivered my way out of the bay because I was turning blue; I need “mas grasa” on me. Lost Tuneles was a stunning, geological marvel, where we saw Blue-footed Boobies courting and swam with White-tipped Reef sharks, a fleet of Golden Rays and, again, countless turles. Our guide though, the less said about Javier the better. If “a person who has fallen out of love with their job” was in the dictionary, it would come with a picture of that miserable man.
Today is Sunday and we are going on an island-hopping cruise – Lancha Eden. We may see Waved Albatross – which we have already seen hunting fish on the open ocean the boat back to Puerto Ayora yesterday afternoon – and Galapagos Penguins, which would be a dream but very unlikely because 1. there are only about 500 of them left and 2. yesterday we left the island on which the penguins are, supposedly, hiding.
We are only on week 1 of 3, but being here has already had a lasting impact.
Until next time.
I & D/