The Galapagos Islands are out of this world. They are the best thing I have done this whole trip. I went on an 8 day trip but could easily have stayed another week. I loved the wildlife; being on a boat; the group; the food and the our guide.
It is hard to know where to start because I could talk about the Galapagos for hours and then no one would bother reading my blog!! So first things first - the wildlife. Galapagos is unique because it has never been attached to any other masses of land so the animals have evolved purely in their environment - apparently Charles Darwin had a field day over here. What this means is that there are many animals here that you cannot find anywhere else in the world. Also because they have been cut off, they do not have the normal fear of humans which means they are very close and do not run away. There were days when we literally had to walk around the animals on the trail as they would not move. It was excellent.
The Galapagos is made up of several islands which have all been volcanoes in their day. This does not make them similar at all as there can be 1000s of years between their creation. Some have straight cliffs of black volcanic rock, others are covered in lush vegetation, others look more like a planet with red barren landscapes. Each are all beautiful in their own way. Being so different means each island tends to have different fauna and wildlife. It is very hard to get bored here.
The first boat was nice but small. There wasn't much room to swing a cat in the cabin. I was on the top bunk which was fine until we started traveling and there were some points where I seriously thought I was going to roll out of bed. The crew were really friendly and the chef was amazing especially given the size of his kitchen. Our favourite was the hot chocolate which awaited us when we came back from snorkelling. Despite the weather being really warm and sunny the water was freezing. Being a true Brit I braved the freezing water in merely a swimsuit but on the days with 2 snorkels even I had to get a wet suit. It was very cold. After 4 days, we were upgraded to a first class boat. Oh my gosh this was amazing. It was a big boat which therefore didn't rock so much when traveling. The best bit though was I got a cabin to myself!!!! It was awesome. I had my own shower and everything. It had a large sundeck which I spent most of my spare time on. It was lovely to be in the sun with the wind blowing through your hair watching the Frigate birds flying above the ship. It was equally nice to be sat there at night watching the starts and the moon set. The lower deck was nice and even had a plasma screen which I was able to see the second disastrous England match. Our chances are really not looking very good!!! The crew weren't as friendly but I liked the waiter who awaited us after snorkelling with a silver tray of canapes!!!!!! We were lucky to have the same guide throughout the trip - Fabricio. His knowledge and enthusiasm knew no bounds.
The snorkelling was so much fun. I got to snorkel with sea lions, turtles, sharks, and penguins. We saw so many different types of fish and it was star fish heaven! I have never seen so many different star fishes in my life. In fact I probably saw more snorkelling than I have ever done in any of my diving. The sea lions were very playful. They would try and pull you fins off with their mouths. They are really fast - one minute in front of you the next gone in a flash. I had a really amazing experience where one sea lion seemed to pick me for his play mate. He would copy everything that I did. So when I knocked the sand with my fin he would knock the sand with his nose. He would dart off and then come back almost nose to nose to me. It was a really special - I had made a new friend. I wanted to take him home!
There were lots of animals and birds on land. We saw the blue-footed boobies doing their mating dance. They take it all very serious but they look hilarious marching up and down. Their chicks are amazing and look like big cotton wool balls with beaks stuck to them. I wanted to take one of those home too! The Frigate birds were great. We saw ones with the red chests inflated and then they played them like they were drums with their beaks. The noise was excellent. We were lucky enough to go to one of the further islands and this meant we got to see the red-footed boobies. Very similar to the blue in that they also have web feet but for some reason they live and nest in the trees. It was strange seeing the webbed feet hanging onto the branches. One of my favourite was the albatross. They are beautiful and very proud looking birds. They were also in breeding season so we got to see their chicks too. Then there are the land and marine iguanas. There were hundreds all over. You had to be so careful not to step on one as they were so camouflaged. Often in mid stride someone would shout for me to stop and there below my foot about to be crushed would be an iguana! The marine iguanas were really cool as they would dive into the sea. It was amazing when a huge wave would hit them and minutes later they would resurface, dark against the white of the surf. There would be many sea lions on the beach and up in the rocks. Drying out and sleeping mainly. They were really cute. We got to see babies suckling on their mothers and others just playing in the surf and rolling in the waves as they hit the beach just for the fun of it.
From the beach you could watch the turtles playing in the surf and every now and again popping up for air. The rocks would be cover in crabs - Sally Lightfoot. They were a brilliant orange/red apart from the young who were as black as the rock and the only way to see them was when the rock actually appeared to move. The speed with which they moved was impressive. The beaches were really unspoilt and beautiful. It was a nice way to spend the remaining hours of daylight, chilling out with the sea lions!
One of the islands had a post office on it!!!! Basically a wooden box where sailors in days gone by would place mail and ships when going back home would go and see if there was any mail near where they were heading as they would pick it up and deliver it. The tradition was started 200-300 years ago and is still going strong! Now the tourists leave postcards and other tourists pick them up and deliver them. Further along from here are the lava tunnels. We went down into one which was not an easy task. It was very steep and dark. It was very magical down there. We sat in the dark whilst some of the braver in the group swam in a sub zero underground pool. It was eerie but peaceful.
A really special moment was when the boat was crossing a from one island to another and we were joined by hundreds of dolphins and I mean hundreds. You could see them for miles. There were several around the boat playing in the waves the boat was creating. Some of the dolphins were jumping out of the water and performing twists in the air. Someone shouted out 'This is better than Seaworld' - I had to agree. It was wonderful. I felt so privileged to be here to experience it.
It was a really expensive trip but I really felt I got value for money. I did not want to leave whereas others were ready. Rajiv said to me that this was because he was a land iguana and I was a marine iguana. I couldn't agree more. It was just one of those experiences which will stay with you for life.