26.05.2013 - 01.06.2013 28 °C
We flew to the Galapagos from Guayaquil to a small island called Baltra. We then took a small ferry, a bus and a taxi to get to our hostel in the biggest town in the Galapagos called Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island. Our hostel host was very helpful and gave a quick tour around the town and a few tips on what to do. We sorted out an itinerary for the week so we could get the most out of the islands in the short time we had there. Our budget didn't quite cover the £1000s needed to do a cruise to see a lot more of the islands but we found we had more than enough to and see just by island hopping. I'm planning on coming back anyway so I'll save the cruise for then!
I've written about the Galapagos in sections of what I saw on each island instead of chronological order. This is because I want to save the best day until last and that was actually my first day in the islands.
Isla Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos. In the South of the island is Puerto Ayora which was our base from where we arranged and went on trips to the other islands. Its quite a lively town compared to the others and it's well catered for tourists. There's lots of restaurants, souvenir shops and getting a can anywhere in town only costs you $1 - it was a law brought in to stop them ripping off the tourists. Just walking to the pier you can see sea lions lounging around and red crabs that are endemic to the islands. At night they light up the water at the end of the pier and you can see baby rays and sharks trying to catch schools of little fish. Its amazing how much wildlife just from this port!
From Puerto Ayora we got a 'panga' (motortaxi) across the bay to walk to Las Grietas. Las Grietas means the cracks in English. Its a big crack between the volcanic rock with a pool of water that's made up of a mixture of salt water and rainwater. The water is so clear. We went snorkeling there and saw a few big parrotfish. There was a guy that jumped from the top of the rock but Emma and I weren't that brave. We were lucky enough to have Las Grietas to ourselves for most of the time. It was so peaceful. On the trail there you pass the cactus trees that can only be found in the Galapagos - they're really weird looking! There's also a beach on the way back that we snorkeled at. We saw a few little fish and some finches that came looking for some of our food. The water on the shore was shallow so it felt like a warm bath!
There is another beach called Tortuga Bay which was quite a walk away from Puerto Ayora. The beach was beautiful and surrounded by mangroves.
We walked around the 'Estación de Charles Darwin' which is the scientific research station in the Galapagos. There are some very lucky people who get to work there! In the station there's a few tortoises and land iguanas. We also saw the empty enclosure that was Lonesome George's home who died last year. It was so sad, I bet he didn't have a clue how famous he was!
We also went inland to a giant tortoise reserve called El Chato. The tortoises are free to come and go as they please. The farmers nearby build their fences high enough for the tortoises to walk under. Afterwards we went to walk through a lava tunnel nearby. Part way through the tunnel the ceiling was really low so we had to climb through golum style!
We got a boat to the largest island called Isabela. We went to see a tortoise nursery. There were tortoises of all ages and we saw them eating. They only get fed 3 times a week! The guy working there showed us some tortoise embryos to demonstrate the development of a tortoise. They're so small when they hatch but grow into giants!
We went to an islet formed of lava just off Isabela island called Las Tintoreras. There were thousands of marine iguanas climbing on top of each other to try and stay warm. Every now and again they sneeze to expel the salty water they take in when they go swimming - it travels quite far! There's also a small chasm with really clear water where we saw young white tip sharks resting during the day. They go and hurt during the night. There were loads if them! Afterwards we went snorkeling nearby and saw an abundance of fish and Emma spotted a sea cucumber - I would've never seen it! We then got in the boat and passed a small colony of Galapagos penguins standing on some rocks. They looked like they were being bullied by the blue footed boobies who pecked them until they moved over!
Isabela island has 4 main active volcanoes. We walked to Sierra Negra, which is the 2nd largest crater in the world. It was 10 km in diameter. The last eruption was in 2010 but there are plants that have colonised already.
I had my first diving experience ever around North Seymour Island. I did a discovery dive which basically meant I had a guy to do everything for me. I just had to be pulled along! I had to learn how to empty my goggles under water and pop my ears but that was it. I was hoping nothing would go wrong as I wouldn't have had a clue what to do!
On the first dive we saw rays, a hammerhead shark in the distance and lots of huge starfish. There were also loads of garden eels that pop back into their holes when you swim over them! I wasn't meant to do a second dive but I really wanted to so they let me. On this dive we saw so many colourful damselfish, parrot fish and loads of barracudas. We also saw over 15 white-tipped reef sharks which were resting on the sea floor or swimming calmly in the current.
White-tipped Reef Sharks
San Cristóbal island
Our first full day was probably the best day we had in the Galapagos. We did a snorkeling tour to San Cristobal island. On the 2 hour boat ride to the islands we were accompanied by dolphins jumping out of the water alongside the boat. I think that was a good omen for the day to come! We first went to "La Loberia" which was a sheltered shallow bay which was full of fish and huge green sea turtles who were eating algae of the rocks. They were about a metre wide and weren't bothered by us swimming around them!
The next stop was Kiki Rock. We swam through a gap in the rock and could see about 15 Galapagos sharks (about 2m long) and we saw 2 hammerhead sharks a few metres below us! It was amazing. We were so lucky because people we spoke to had gone diving there and not seen any hammerheads. As we swam to the other side of the gap we saw nine Spotted Eagle Rays swimming gracefully in formation, they were so pretty!
The final snorkel site we went to was in a shallower area of water. We jumped out the boat and then sea lions came to play with us. They'd come right up to your face and then turn around just before they touched you. They were trying to scare us I think! One of the baby sea lions was playing catch with a sea anemone. It was such a great end to the day as I hadn't expected the sea lions to be that playful!