Nothing could compare to the magnificence of my favourite day on Espanola, but I did feel that North Seymour Island was a fitting end to what had been a mind-blowingly brilliant week of my life. That morning we were yet again treated to a new and wonderful spectacle: that of the male frigate birds doing their magnificent red breasted display for the ladies. I had of course seen these birds (sans puffed up neck) the very first day, and also from afar as they sat on another boat in the bay at Santa Cruz Island. But being able to watch up close and hear these birds as they blew up their necks into massive bright red balloons was really cool. The rest of the island was just a very pleasant stroll through some of the creatures we had all grown to love over the last few days – blue footed boobies, land iguanas and of course the ever gorgeous sea lions and their pups. A perfect finish to a perfect week.
The Galapagos Islands Tuesday 2 October 2012 Isla Santiago: Puerto Egas AM – Playa Espumilla/ Caleta Bucanero PM
Today we commenced our time on Santiago Island by walking along the coast to a point where it is possible to see seals. There were the usual supply of iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs along the way as well as sea lions and turtles in the water. But for whatever reason it did not seem to wow me quite as much as previous days, and I do recall thinking that I was glad that we had been here for the first half of the trip as the new people had missed out on some rather spectacular days. Nonetheless, despite my blasé attitude that morning we were treated to a seal sighting. One lone seal but it was good just the same.
In the afternoon there was more snorkelling to be had and I was lucky to see lots of interesting creatures – turtles, sea lions, sharks and sting rays. I had bought a disposable underwater camera on Santa Cruz the day before so I was happy to be able to take some shots of my own. It was a little frustrating for me to have seen so many amazing aquatic sights at close quarters the past few days and not be able to capture the memories for posterity. I have yet to get the photos developed so I have no idea if they are crap or not! However, we were with a great group of people on this tour and we have all exchanged details so we can share photos, so I can at least keep some snaps from the others for myself.
In the afternoon our captain, Augustin, let our boat slowly cruise past some impressive island coastline. We were advised that two of the rock formations were “The Bishop” and “The Elephant” with a little bit of imagination you could see how they came to acquire these names.
The Galapagos Islands Monday 1 October 2012 Isla Santa Cruz: Tortoise Reserve AM Crater Gemelos Highlands PM
It turns out this day was entirely on Santa Cruz. It was a 6am start for breakfast, then early to the tortoise breeding centre. We saw dozens of tortoises ranging from weeks old to over 100 years old. We saw Lonesome George’s enclosure, who died earlier this year. He was the last surviving tortoise from Pinta Island.
After we said our goodbyes to those who were leaving for the airport, we walked into the town. There we spied a very tempting group of lobsters at the open fish market and it wasn’t long before we were scheming to buy ourselves some for lunch. Mel, Jo, Damien and I each bought a whole lobster. They were $20 each but the very generous fisherman sold them to us for $15 as we purchased four. There were big smiles all round!
We spent the next couple of hours souvenir shopping, buying some Chilean chardonnay to go with our lunch. Damien and I enjoyed a couple of Coronas as we tuned back into the world again at the internet café. It did feel slightly weird being back in “civilisation” after days at sea with just us and the creatures of the Galapagos. I really did feel like my little Galapagos bubble had been burst when we awoke to the sights and sounds of human beings that morning. Anyway, it was fortuitous that we spent some time interneting, as Damien read a story about and Aussie and an Pommie who had been kidnapped by paramilitaries in the nature reserve in a part of the Eucadorian Amazon (Cuyabeno) that we were planning on going to. This coupled with the fact that the girl at the South American Explorers Club told us of a similar kidnapping in the area 5 years earlier made us decide that it may be safer to go to the Amazon in Peru instead.
Back on board we enjoyed a couple more beers in the glorious sunshine out on the front deck of the boat. Mel and Jo joined us and it is fair to say we were all feeling quite merry at the prospect of our lobster lunch! We were all stoked to spy the magnificent frigate birds on a nearby boat, their red necks puffed out and on display. I now know that these are the same species of bird that I saw flying above the boat on our first day in the Galapagos.
We enjoyed our sumptuous feed of garlic lobster and I dare say there were a few envious eyes (and stomachs) on the boat! After lunch we went back on land to get more supplies but didn’t make it back in time before the next activity. Thus we were whisked away to walk amongst giant wild tortoises about 45 minutes inland.
The Galapagos Islands Sunday 30 September 2012 Isla Floreana: Post Office Bay/Mirador de la Baronesa AM Punta Commorant/Devils Crown PM
Today we started early and walked a small distance up to a viewing platform on the Island of Floreana. We were regaled with the colourful stories of the lives of some of the early European and Ecuadorian settlers here. One in particular was interesting – that of the Baroness who had two European and one Eucadorian lover. The island itself was quite desolate looking, and it was interesting to note that there was not an abundance of wildlife like some of the other islands we have visited that have not had human inhabitation.
We went back on board for breakfast and then returned to the island to go to Post Office Bay. Here a number of us posted postcards in the island’s post box. This place has been used for centuries by sailors as the dropping off point of mail. The system works by each individual leaving whatever mail they wish sent to their home, and then the next passerby checks over the items left by previous visitors. If there is mail for someone in the area the next person will be travelling to, they take the item(s) and hand deliver it to the recipient. I posted a postcard to Mum and Dad so it will be interesting to see how long it takes to reach them. I took a note that is for someone in Otavalo, the next town we will visit after we leave Quito on our return to the mainland.
Our next activity was some snorkelling off a beach on Floreana. The water wasn’t super clear but we all saw a green turtle. As the visibility wasn’t the greatest I decided to do some laps along the beach instead for about 45 minutes, which was nice and whilst I was swimming another green turtle swam past in an area that had great visibility so I swam around after it for a while too. Most of the others spent the time snoozing on the beach.
Our next snorkelling location was at a place called the Devils Crown. It was a group of black rocks in the ocean that formed a shallow bay in the middle – the crown. This was a very enjoyable snorkelling experience as it was different to a lot of the others we had done. The ocean was a bit rough that day so not as many of the other passengers went out. There were a lot of very large and brightly coloured star fish in the water which I have not seen a lot of previously. There were some sharks on the ocean floor and Antonio (one of the crew) would swim deep down and stir them up so we could watch them dart away. It is quite impressive how deep he can dive and how long he can stay underwater! At the end of our snorkelling session Ciaran, Mel, Antonio and I swam back to the boat. Jo joined us a little further on when she got dropped off by Daniel in the dingy.
In the afternoon we walked to Cormorant Bay which is a pretty beach with white sand and aqua water. There was the usual supply of Sally Lightfoot crabs and sea lions. The sight that captured us the most though was the large school of sting rays that lay on the ocean floor near the water’s edge. They moved up and down the sand in rhythm with the waves. I must have taken over 100 photos in an effort to capture the spectacle but I am not sure that the pictures illustrate just how good it looked at the time.
We then got back on board for the long boat ride to Santa Cruz to enjoy a late dinner on board as we docked in the bay. It would be the last night for a number of our fellow passengers as they will be leaving the next day.