We left mainland Ecuador by plane and arrived on a small island called St. Cristobal, in the Galápagos. On our arrival we were greeted by the barking of the local sea lions, they are part of the everyday life here and have made pretty much every beach their own. They looked pretty friendly but gave a angry bark if you got too close. And I wasn't about to find out if it was just for show.
The first day was spent snorkelling and although the temperature is what you would imagine near to the equator the water clearly has other ideas. A icy cold Arctic current is what allows these islands to be so unique in their wildlife and I found out how cold it was pretty quickly, let's just say my nipples were like bullets as I took the plunge. The water is crystal clear and as soon as we entered the water at Darwin Bay, the point Darwin entered the islands, we were accompanied by turtles, over a meter long gracefully gliding through the clear waters, those of you who have witnessed this will know it's beauty. We were also joined by sea lion who it turns out, are actually a lot friendlier in the sea. As you swim along they swim next to you, diving in and out of the waters surface, playfully swimming around you investigating the human that has entered their home. They're so quick it's hard to keep your eyes on where they have actually swum to and before you know it they're brushing past your leg, or in Emma's case, grabbing hold of your flipper!. There's also the vast array of fish that fill the waters, blissfully feeding off the coral, taking no notice as you swim over to get a closer look.
One of the great things about the Galápagos is that the animals are not scared of humans. You can get insanely close and they don't even bat and eyelid, obviously apart from the sea lions on the beach (something to do with their mating season apparently). With this in mind the next day we went in search of sharks, an hours boat ride to 'Kicker Rock', toilet roll at the ready I jumped off the boat with my snorkel and half heartedly put my head into the water looking for sharks. The water out here was even colder, so I had managed to get hold of a less than flattering wet suit For the trip. Along the way we saw turtles, sea iguana and eagle rays all going about their day to day lives with not a care in the world, they definitely didn't has the same view of sharks I did! We were bobbed around by a pretty strong current as we swam around the rock and with the risk of a major anti climax we didn't get to see shark, the currents were too strong but I think I'm ok with that. No sharks was good for me! But what we were reward with was a trip a little know island bay that isn't accessible from the land, which meant we were the sole human inhabitants of the bay that afternoon. Here we spent the afternoon warming up and watching birds dive into the waters to feed, before making the trip back to civilisation.
The next morning we embarked on a 3 hour boat ride to the home of the deceased 'Lonesome George', Santa Cruz Island. Our early morning journey was rewarded by a pod of Dolphins that took the time to swim along side our boat. Jumping playfully in and out the water as the boat flew along, smiles on everyone's faces. The dolphins looked so happy, the vast ocean was theirs to roam free in. It's beyond me as to why people would want to see these animals or any other animal in anywhere else but there natural environment.
When we arrived in Santa Cruz island itself it hosted untouched beaches, giant tortoise habitats, pelican feeding frenzies and a collection of land and sea iguanas.
The tortoise were once thought of as dinosaurs by the first voyage that landed on the island. Some adults species roam around with a shells 1 meter high and a neck that can extend the same distance again. Like other animals on the island they're not afraid of humans and on four legs walking towards you it's not surprising that they were described as dinosaurs by those who first found them.
Each afternoon, at fish market time the Pelicans visit in their swarms. As each fish is sold a pelican looks longingly, waiting for its next feast. As the afternoon goes on their patience is of course rewarded and they are thrown the scraps of fish that are left unsold. This turns into a mini food frenzy and a few sea lions even join in on the action for good measure.
The sea iguana can be found littering the streets and beaches of the Santa Cruz Island. Over a meter long they lie flat on their bellies to dry themselves, occasionally blowing snot and salt to clear their nostrils. A jet black colour witch clawed feet, a mythical dragon is how they could be described, expect they're peaceful and offer no harm to humans.
Naturally we spent the day wandering the island coming across many species that are endemic to the Galápagos. The climate here is like no other in the world, meaning the all animals have developed their own sub species that is unique to each of the islands. Once upon a time there could have been a host of different animals but it really is survival of the fittest here and the animals that adapt the quickest are naturally the ones that survive.
The Galápagos was amazing, I'm pretty sure my words won't have done it justice. But it is a place you have to visit understand its true pleasures and stories.
And so we head off to Peru!