The journey to the Galapagos was a very easy one. We got up relatively early and made our way directly to the airport. We had to have our bags checked for items prohibited to be taken to the islands as well as pay an airport departure tax. Once done we were able to check in and within a couple of hours we were in the air. Once in the air the airline treated us very well as in the 1 ¼ hour flight they gave us a drink and some breakfast. On arrival on the Galapagos Islands we went through security and paid our $100 entrance fee. This concluded we went through to collect our bags and were also given a pin badge commemorating world tourism day. With our bags in hand we were met by Ivan, our tour guide for the next few days. He got us on board the right bus which took us to the bay where our boat, The Rumba, was anchored. At the dock we were greeted by 5 or 6 sea lions that were lazing on the benches meant for tourist. A small motor boat came and picked us up and took us over to The Rumba. We met in the dining area of the boat where we were assigned our rooms. Sue and I had an upstairs cabin which, like all others, came equipped with bunk beds and a small bathroom. The bunk beds were just long enough to fit in and wide enough to fall out of, so I offered Sue the top bunk. We got our bags in the room and went back to the dining area for the orientation. We were sharing our boat with 7 other people, 3 guys biking from Alaska to Patagonia called Andy, Manfred and Wallace (known to Sue as the Hells Angels), a British girl named Clare and her Swiss boyfriend Joel, and an Italian couple called the Italians. On a side note about the names, I was desperate for Manfred to fall off the boat so I could shout 'Manfred over board!' but it wasn't to be. We were told the general rules of sticking to the paths to avoid stepping on nests, no flash photography, no touching anything alive or dead etc. At this point it is probably easier if I describe day by day the activities we undertook, counting arrival day as day 1.
After settling in on the boat and having lunch we sailed for about an hour to a beach where we were taken on a walk by Ivan. We used the small motor boat towed behind the main boat to get ashore. Once ashore we walked along the beach where Ivan first pointed out the crabs that inhabit that part of the Island. The crabs were a red colour but can be up to seven different colours in their lifetime depending on their age. We moved past the crabs where we saw the remnants for a US battle ship that had been lost in the war. We then came across the Galapagos Iguana which was black in colour and can turn red during mating season. All of the ones we saw were black but Ivan assured us we would see red ones later in the trip. Amongst the numerous birdlife we saw we had our first glimpse of the Blue Footed Bobbie. We also walked to a small lake where we saw flamingos feeding on shrimp. It is because they exclusively eat shrimp that they are pink in colour. We walked back over to the beach where we had our first opportunity to snorkel. We were told to grab snorkelling equipment that fit which meant I had a mask and snorkel but no flippers due to my lady sized feet. Regardless I jumped in the water with the rest of the group. In the water I managed to spot some different varieties of fish (it was hard not to) but Joel, the sharp eyed Swiss, spotted our first sighting of a Ray. It was hugely exciting to us all to have seen a Ray and it whetted our appetite for more of the sea life we were hoping to see. After our short snorkelling excursion we were taken back to The Rumba where we had an hour or so to relax before having dinner and an extremely early night.
Day two started at 7.00am to the sound of an empty coffee jar being banged with a spoon. We dragged ourselves out of bed in to the dining area where we enjoyed more spectacular food before getting ourselves ready to head out in the small motor boat. The motor boat took us to a lagoon surrounded by Mangroves trees. Once entering the lagoon Ivan had to cut the engine on the motor boat and instead used a paddle to manoeuvre us around. The purpose of this was so that we didn't scare of any of the wildlife we expected to see. After a short while seeing nothing we suddenly heard the sound of a sharp intake of breath, this breath it turned out came from a turtle poking its head above water to get some air. We saw many of these Pacific Green Turtles in the lagoon as they swam just below the surface around our boat. We then saw an Eagle Ray as it quickly swam passed the boat high enough to the surface to get a good view and a photo. After having waited a while to see anything suddenly the wildlife was everywhere to be seen. Soon after the Eagle Ray swam past Ivan spotted a Black Tip Reef Shark lurking just below the boat close to the Mangroves. We all quickly turned out attention to the shark and soon realised there was more than one circling in the water. These animals again started a flurry of pictures being taken before they withdrew to deeper water. We had been the in the lagoon for the best part of an hour so started to make our way back to the Rumba. On the way out of the lagoon Ivan spotted a Stingray and two infant White Tip Reed Sharks. Once back on board the boat we prepared ourselves for a couple of hours travel. Sue and I sat up on the sundeck of the boat watching the scenery go by. We saw a Sea Lion relaxing on a buoy as well as the spectacular sight of a Stingray jumping out of the water and doing backflips a couple of times. After a couple of hours travel the boat anchored and we got ready to go out on the small boat for a snorkelling expedition. I still hadn't found any flippers so had to make do with just a mask a snorkel. Ivan lead us first to a turtle that was sitting on the sea floor before making our way over to the rocks on the shoreline where we expected to see plenty of wildlife. We saw lots of varieties of fish before towards the end coming across a White Tip Reef Sharks and both Eagle ray and Stingray. The great thing about this snorkelling trip was that the waters we swam in where fairly shallow so we felt very close to the animals. The whole snorkelling trip lasted about an hour and I was absolutely exhausted but thankfully lunch was ready once we got back on the boat. After lunch we had to travel for another couples of hours. Unfortunately we had to go out in to more open water which meant rougher seas. With full bellies this lead to most people feeling a little unwell, Sue took a sea sickness pill and I retired to bed hoping to sleep though the worst of it. Whilst I didn't get much sleep I did manage to make it through the journey, as did Sue. The purpose of the journey was to take us to another island where we were going to make a shore landing. We all filed on to the small motor boat and head over to the shore where we were greeted by about fifty Sea Lions relaxing after a hard mornings taking it easy. After lots of photos and 'oohing and aahing' over the baby Sea Lions we went for a walk around some of the island paths. On this walk we saw more birdlife and iguanas including a large khaki coloured iguana. Whilst walking around the paths we would often come across a Sea Lion lying across the path blocking our route. Ivan's favourite joke, repeated numerous times, was that these were passport inspectors. We headed back to the boat where we had a couple of hours relaxing time, dinner and then a very rough night. The rough night was due to the fact we had to do eight hours overnight travel so as not to waste valuable time travelling during the day. Due to the time of year we were travelling the waters were much rougher, making it the off season and the reason we got such a good deal.
The coffee jar again rang out waking us from our very short slumber and signalling the start of another exciting day. After breakfast we headed on to an island where we were hoping to see a variety of bird life as we undertook a fairly moderate trek. We were greeted on the beach by more Sea Lions including a baby who was a matter of only a couple of hours old. We headed inland where we again saw plenty more Black Iguanas although these ones were red due to it being mating season. We stuck carefully to the path around the island so we didn't destroy any nests. We soon came across two Blue Footed Boobies with chicks in their nests as well as a Boobie sitting on its egg. We also saw two Boobies dancing to attract each other, Ivan joked it was the same ritual as backpackers at the disco. We walked a little further around the island where we came across a baby Albatross which was not the most attractive of animals. Still it was cute in its own way and warranted a photo or two, obviously close by where the adult Albatross too. Once we walked past the Albatross we saw a geyser which was spurting water high in to the air which we watched from a cliff top. It was at this look out that the Tropical Bird with its long tail and an Eagle were flying above our heads. This cliff was also the Albatross airport as the Albatross would run off the edge of the cliff, catching flight before they hit the ground. We finished off the rest of the trek and head back to the boat for lunch. We again travelled after lunch and I repeated the trick of going to bed to combat the effects of sea sickness. We journey lasted three of four hours but we eventually made it to another island. We jumped in the little boat and headed for the shore. We were given a couple of hours free time and it was suggested we walked along the shore line where there were more Sea Lions and then go snorkelling. We followed orders up until the point of going snorkelling as unfortunately it started raining. Sue and I took the option of getting cold and wet on the beach rather than colder and wetter in the water. Thankfully of the two or three people that did brave the water they didn't see any spectacular sights so we didn't miss out on anything. We went back to the boat where we were treated to warm snacks and a nice hot cup of tea. We had a couple of hours of free time before dinner and again the dreaded overnight travel. Thankfully it was due to be only six hours rather than the previous nights eight.
7am and the coffee jar was ringing again so we rolled out of bed and through to the kitchen area. Our first stop after breakfast was over to an island that had been used extensively during the war. Still on the island where relics of its military past such as water collectors and buildings. We had two reasons to visit the island, the first was to visit a cave. The cave was made when the island was underwater, we could tell this as we could see coral on the cave walls. The walk down the cave was fairly difficult, at times we had to stoop extremely low and at other times hang on to a rope to drag ourselves back up in to the open. The second reason to visit the island was to go to island post box. The island post box works uses a different method to traditional post. The idea is that you can write a postcard and put it in the post-box, the hope is that someone else who lives close to your intended recipient will visit the post box, find your postcard, and then take it to the person you address it to. Unfortunately there weren't any letters addressed to anyone in the Chelmsford area so we weren't able to take part in the exercise. We headed back to the beach where we had some free time to go snorkelling. Again it wasn't particularly warm but I forced myself in to the water, the whole process of getting in taking at least fifteen minutes. I swam around for a bit not seeing much as the water was quite murky. I decided that I was wasting my time so I turned round to return to the beach. I swam swimming along not really concentrating on anything when I got a fright if my life. A huge black object was flying towards me an diverted away at a final second. It took a couple of seconds for me to realise it was a baby Sea Lion looking for a playmate. I saw the Sea Lion swoosh past another couple of times before it lost interest in its new friend and headed for Andy (one of the hells angels). I swam to the shore as quick as possible to tell Sue to get her snorkelling gear on and head in to the water. I manned the camera as Sue and some others from the boat got to play with the Sea Lions for about 10 minutes before it swam off for good. It was such a fun experience for everyone to be that close to nature and to enjoy that sort of playful interaction. After the mornings excitement we headed back on to the boat for lunch and then a short travel to another snorkelling site. The snorkelling site was around some rocks jutting out of the sea with a lagoon in the middle. The lagoon itself couldn't be swam in as it is too shallow. Ivan warned us that the current around the rocks was extremely strong so it was imperative that we all jumped in to the water at the same time otherwise we would be separated. This warning meant that there was no option to be tentative entering the water. When Ivan said jump we all plunged in within a couple of seconds of each other. This snorkelling trip was not as long or as hard as the previous one but the wildlife we saw was extremely rewarding. We again saw numerous fish, rays and sharks and for the first time a variety of colours of Starfish. After this trip we headed back to the Rumba so we could get our war clothes on before heading off to another beach. We walked across the island a short distance to reach the beach and on route we again saw Flamingos standing in the water eating shrimp. At the beach we were able to wade in up to our knees where we were sharing the shallow sand we Stingrays. We spotted loads f the stingrays buried in the sand and as the waves rolled in and out we would see them move position or try and bury themselves again. After a little while at the beach we went back to the Rumba for our last big sail. Thankfully this was through the remainder of the afternoon and early evening. We dropped anchor just off shore of the main island where the next day we would be getting our flight home. That evening we enjoyed another great dinner and shared a drink with Ivan and the crew. After dinner we had to pack up our bags to leave the next day. After an exhausting few days and the opportunity of a goods night sleep we went to bed nice and early.
For the last time the coffee jar disrupted my sleep and started our last day on the Galapagos Islands. Our flight our was at 11am which on the Galapagos meant if we were up early enough we could fit plenty in before having to leave. That day the coffee alarm clock was going off at 6.30am, this meant we were on the main island in time to be taken to visit the Giant Tortoises. I knew they were going to be big but seeing them for the first time their size still really surprised me. We walked around the fields where we came across upwards of ten of the giant animals. We then had the opportunity to try on a Tortoise skeleton. I comfortably got in to the shell and was amazed by how heavy it was and also how big it was. After this excursion we headed to the airport but not before stopping one last time to view two volcanic craters called the twins. Once at the airport we checked in and just had time for Sue to get a souvenir t-shirt before flying back to Ecuador. We had the most spectacular time at the Galapagos and it was such a stroke of good fortune that we found the cheap deal and got to have the experience we had. I will update you all soon on the Quito and beyond.