We’ve just hit the one year mark for the trip so we rewarded ourselves with nine days in the Galapagos Islands. Our cruise started in Puerto Baquerizo which is the only town on San Cristobal island. We flew in the day before our cruise started because the tickets were far cheaper plus it gave us an opportunity to explore before boarding the boat. The airport is right next to town so we walked from the airport to our hostel, met with some strange looks from residents who watched us walking along the main road with our luggage. We’re not suckers… we weren’t going to pay $5 for a 1km trip! The hostel was the cheapest one in town but looked decent enough. One thing we didn’t realise is that you’re supposed to check the hotel listing carefully to make sure the room has four walls. We had three walls and a curtain, which isn’t too unusual for a hostel I guess, but this time the curtain was in place of an exterior wall. We were sleeping on a balcony that was turned into a room. It wasn’t too bad except at night we couldn’t use any lights because it would attract insects. Anna’s dad would not have slept there – too many openings for creepy crawlies to enter!
I think it’s easiest to break up our week into the different islands so that it flows better. Our five day cruise was on board the Seaman Journey which is a luxury class catamaran that takes 16 passengers and has 10 crew members. We would’ve chosen something more backpacker-esque but there wasn’t much available and we scored a last minute deal on a suite for 35% of the regular price. The boat was definitely luxurious and the crew were very attentive with drinks and canapés to greet us each time we came back from an excursion. Another big bonus is that there are only 16 guests so moving around runs smoothly. The only downside is that we would’ve liked to have had a longer itinerary.
San Cristobal Island
As soon as you get to the port area of Puerto Baquerizo you can hear (and smell) the Sea Lions. They laze around on the shoreline all day enjoying the sunshine with the occasional dip in the water. They aren’t fazed by people walking by or taking pictures, but there are strict instructions to keep your distance otherwise they can bite. We also found Marine Iguanas at the port as well but they’re so creepy, especially as they jump into the water and snake their way across the surface.
Once we met the boat at midday on Monday we had some free time to get settled and then we spent the afternoon in Puerto Baquerizo. First we went to the interpretive centre where our guide Leon outlined the formation of the Galapagos Islands and other important historical factors. The formation from volcanic activity over millions of years wasn’t too unfamiliar to us because it’s a similar to Hawaii. What was surprising though was that San Cristobal island was used for commercial purpose in the 19th century with sugar cane planted and a mill in operation. Fortunately Charles Darwin’s visit highlighted the scientific significance and now the islands are national park protected. After getting up to speed on the facts we all headed to the beach because it was stinking hot.
Overnight we headed north to Galapaguera at the northern tip of San Cristobal. Here we did wetlanding at the beach using the tender boats and then hiked two hours inland to see the Galapagos Tortoises. The first thing that grabbed me is how isolated it is, where else can you pull up on a beach with no one in sight and not a single footprint in the sand. These huge tortoises are the reason why the islands are called the Galapagos archipelago – In Spanish a Galapagos is a type of saddle which is a similar shape to the tortoises shell. Again the sun was cranking and the humidity must’ve been 99% so some people couldn’t hack it and turned back. Fortunately we started seeing tortoises quite early into the hike so everyone got to see some at least. Leon pointed out that up until 2 months ago there hadn’t been any rain for 12 months which made the islands look brown and bare, and it meant that it was hard to find animals because they were conserving energy. Three quarters through the hike we came to a watering hole with six large tortoises stocking up on water. We pushed on to the end of the trail in search of more tortoises but we didn’t find anymore. The hike was very satisfying but it was a workout. Everyone was exhausted so we had lunch and then we went to Cerro Brujo beach for a relaxing afternoon.
Overnight we headed south to the oldest island and went to Bahia Gardner beach for our first outing. We didn’t swim at this beach but we walked the full length of the beach watching the sea lions playing on the beach and the Iguanas clinging to the rocks while the waves crash around them. There was a whale skeleton on the beach which was pretty cool to see. Again the humidity was through the roof so everyone was very excited to learn that the next activity was snorkeling. The tender boats dropped us in a sheltered cove of a small island and from there we made our way around the calmer waters. As soon as we jumped in we were swimming with a Sea Turtle which was pretty cool. I managed to get about 5 seconds of footage before he took off like a shot. One thing that we learned on this first snorkeling trip is that Sea Lions are just as curious about us as we are with them. They were jumping off the rocks and swimming around us, even taunting us at times by swimming at speed towards us and then changing direction quickly.
After lunch we moved around to Suarez Point so we can see some different bird species. It’s not the right time to see the Albatross which was a bit of bummer but we did see plenty of Blue Footed Boobies and Nazca Boobies. Once again the island had Sea Lions and Iguanas everywhere and they definitely weren’t afraid of us. A Sea Lion was laying across the small landing platform and was bothered at all when we arrived. Leon had to encourage him to move over a bit so we could get past. The birds were great to watch as they soared along the coastline looking for unsuspecting small fish and then they’d plunge down into the water to claim their prize.
This was an action packed day… first we gorged ourselves on a big breakfast with omelettes and pancakes to get our energy levels up. Our first stop was Cormorant Point lagoon to see the Flamingos. We had to sneak in carefully so that we didn’t scare them otherwise they may stop feeding and run away. I had no idea that Flamingos find food by rapidly sifting through the mud with their beaks looking for tiny shrimp. The noise was the best part as it sounded like a room of frantic typewriters all clanging away. After this we walked to a nearby beach where the sea turtles lay their eggs in the sand dunes at night. Several turtles had laid eggs the night before, leaving tracks up and down the beach.
From here we moved around to Post Office Bay from some snorkeling. Leon was confident that this would be the best snorkeling spot of the trip and he was right. There would’ve been at least 10 Sea Turtles hanging around plus schools of fish and playful Sea Lions. My cheap underwater camera doesn’t do it justice unfortunately, but the turtles were so close and so inquisitive. On a whole you can tell that the wildlife here aren’t afraid of humans because they have so little exposure and are well protected.
After returning back to the boat and returning our snorkeling gear one last time we went ashore to see what Post Office bay is all about. Interestingly it all started in the 18th century when the crew of a whaling ship placed a wooden barrel on the shore and it was to be used as a post office. A sailor would check for letters addressed to where their ship was headed and then take those letters and deliver by hand. The tradition has continued with tourists leaving completed postcards in the box with the hope they’ll be carried by someone returning home. We did see some for Sydney but since we won’t be back for 2 months, we thought that we’d be providing an inferior service.
Santa Cruz Island
Unfortunately this was our final destination of the tour. One couple on the boat had a 10am flight and since we had one last activity on our itinerary before we all parted ways breakfast was at 5:30am! It was tough to be up and ready but we managed. Our last activity was visiting a Tortoise sanctuary in the highlands of Santa Cruz. Even though we had been lucky enough to see them in the wild, it was still nice to see the conservation efforts that they’re implementing. From here we headed back to Puerto Ayora as we had 3 nights before we head to Lima.
The time on the boat was busy but exciting and it wasn’t until we arrived at the hotel that we realised how exhausted we were. I guess it’s not surprising since there were some early starts and we opted-in for every activity to make the most of it. With that being said we definitely eased back the pace. We walked to the Charles Darwin research centre where many scientists are based for their time in Galapagos. We spent some time at our hotel enjoying the chance to watch some tv and movies. Today we went to Tortuga Bay for some swimming and sun. It was a 1.5 hour walk each way from town but it was nice to have one last swim before leaving.
Next stop is Peru where we’ll be meeting up with my friend Matt for 3 weeks of touring. We’re both pleased that he wants to come meet up with us again for more adventures.
RIP Brownie – Jul 2000 to Feb 2017
It’s with a heavy heart that we inform you all that Brownie has passed away. In the last year we’ve spent 9 weeks at Anna’s parent’s house where Brownie was an integral part of the family. She was 16, blind and deaf but she was always plotting ways to earn a treat or a pat… but mostly treats. She will be sorely missed.
Fail of the Week
On our last trip out on the tender boat the young deckhand was a little too confident and picked up the pace on the way back to the ship. The only problem was he didn’t see the rock just under the surface of the water. The boat came to a screeching halt and we all flew forward as we scrambled to hold on. Luckily no one was hurt, but I think he was worried it would be the end of him.
Meal of the Week
All week we feasted on different meals on the boat. They did a fantastic job of catering to varying tastes and dietary requirements. We had all sorts of options but we were particularly impressed with the sushi night, the omelette station and the fresh seafood. No photos I’m sorry… we didn’t want to be those people on the boat. It was already evident that we were the cheap people that bought last minute tickets!