We had a good sail from the Las Perlas islands and had a few visitors en route. We were joined by lots of red footed boobies who would not leave – even when we put the hose on them… initially they were lovely to watch but as our boat got more and more covered in their crap – we decided they had to leave and that’s when the battle of wills began. Eventually we won and they did leave, but they hung around for ages!
On our entry to the Galapagos Island we were escorted by a pod of killer whales…… They are such majestic animals and we looked at them in amazement as they swam beside us. We also saw our first sea lions frolicking in the water – completely oblivious to us – it was then we realised that the ocean was teeming with wildlife. We watched manta rays, turtles, sharks and sealions and we hadn’t even set our anchor!
We called our agent and a whole bunch of people came out to the boat. Customs, agents, quarantine, immigration, health and safety and even a couple of divers to check our hull for any growth. Paperwork to sign, forms to fill out and questions answered and then we were suddenly checked in.. it was all very easy and quick just very bureaucratic. We just had to purchase a jumbo roll of special thick paper for oil spills -which they insisted on buying for us and we had to pay them back – US$25. We were even given a SIM card and both an Ecuadorian and a Galapagos flag… very nice thankyou.
The Galapagos islands does not like any dinghies coming into the docks so we had to use the water taxis. This involved frantic waving and yelling, calling them numerous times on the radio and waiting for up to 50 mins to get their attention. They were really good at steering these heavy, flat passenger boats but the anchorage was so rough that we took our life in our hands every time we boarded. I still can’t believe neither of us ended up in the drink after boarding one of their taxies.
The tiny town on the island of Santa Cristobal was really sweet. Very colourful with a few good bars and restaurants to visit. We spent a few days here, visiting a tortoise rescue centre and driving around the island. We were surprised to see so many blackberry bushes growing wild and engulfing the local flora. We were also surprised, after the strict regulations we had to adhere to in bringing our boat in, to discover that they had no recycling bins, used plastic bags for every purchase (which we obviously refused) and still used plastic straws, polystyrene boxes for takeaways and had rubbish everywhere. On our boat we had to show we were using biodegradable soaps, shampoos and washing up liquid but there was none of that on the islands.
We also went to a lovely pure white sand beach where we had a swim to cool off – it was lovely to get back into the water as we can’t swim off the back of the boat here because it’s not clean enough. Normally there are lots of iguanas and sea lions on the beach but it was empty when we were there.
After a few days we headed off to Santa Cruz – the main island with the biggest town. Santa Cruz caters more for tourists with lots of dive shops and tourist shops selling t-shirts etc. The main street has many bars and restaurants and in the centre is the fish dock where the locals bring their catch to gut and sell. This is such a delightful place as we watched the fish get unloaded and gutted on the benches eagerly watched by sea lions, iguanas and huge pelicans. Everyone hangs around and we bought our fish from here. The sea lions are shooed away but they still manage to pinch some of the left overs – much to the amusement of the tourists!
We visited the Darwin museum which described all about Darwin’s theory of evolution and explained about all the unique fauna and flora in the Galapagos. There are many unique bird species and as these islands are fully protected, the animals have no fear of humans.
I gather the fishing is excellent but obviously there is a total fishing ban for us – only the local fishing fleet and charters. The animals wander about the islands with sea lions sleeping on the benches, lying across the footpath and jumping onto our boat – literally!
We also visited the lava tunnels. These tunnels were created when the outside layer of the molten lava flow solidified. When the lava flow stopped, the hot lava inside kept flowing and eventually the hot lava flowed out of the crust leaving behind a tunnel. They are not very long and have no light so you need your phone to navigate by. They are really interesting and very wet and muddy so we were glad to be wearing gumboots.
We also walked around and saw the giant tortoises. They are free to roam wherever they want which means that you really observe them. Their age is determined by the rings on their back similar to trees. The oldest one here was about 115 yrs and he was huge. They sleep for much of the day and spend the rest of the time munching on the grasses around. They’re obviously protected now and our guide told us they remove the babies and return them when they are bigger which has dramatically increased their survival rate. Such beautiful graceful creatures – I could have watched them all day.
A beautiful male – about 80 yrs old
We spent every evening enjoying a drink in one of the various bars dotted around town. During one of our evening walks we found a small garden with a mosaic wall depicting all sorts of Galapagos sights. Someone had spent a lot of time and patience to create such a fabulous piece of art – pity it was hidden away on a small lane running down to the water.
The local kids in their painted skatepark
One day we went diving. We had to check out our gear the night before and be at the office by 7am for the drive across the island to a dive spot in the north. It was a good dive and we saw lots of black tipped sharks, Manta rays, turtles and masses of fish. The visibility was not that good but we saw so much it didn’t matter. I was hoping to see a whale shark but not this time.
One afternoon a couple of girls came over asking if they could come to French Polynesia with us as crew. We don’t normally take crew – Angel had been our only one and he had been fantastic so we said OK and arranged to take them with us. This meant getting them put on our crew list and buying more provisions. We only had a few more days left so we spent our time buying up any last minute items we knew we wouldn’t be able to get in the Pacific and prepping the boat for the long journey ahead.
Our last day was spent in the vegetable market and checking out. Galapagos had been a wonderful place to visit but now it was time to continue heading west – across the vast pacific