The highlight of my whole trip is now the Galapagos islands - it is the most amazing place I have ever been - even though I know I say this a lot just see the photos! I originally booked a four day cruise as the Galapagos is quite pricey, however at the end of my first trip I decided to extend my stay as I knew the islands in the south were supposed to be even more incredible with more mammals rather than birds and how often are you in the Galapagos?!! Unfortunately or not, depending on how you look at it, there are no day trips to the islands that I wanted to visit (or so I was told by my guide) so I had to find another cruise & luckily managed to find a last minute cruise on an amazing catamaran called Seaman II, twice the size of the previous one, only one hour before they were due to set sail - nothing like a bit of last minute planning! I have to say the first cruise was good but the second one was out of this world and had the best bunch of poeple on board - how lucky am I!
The first day on Estrella del Mar (first boat) we spent visiting the Charles Darwin Centre which houses the giant tortoises and lonesome George - the last remaining tortoise of his kind in the world. They have a conservation project where they breed the tortoises and then release them when they are five years old so we saw all stages of their development. The next few days were spent heading up to the north islands over the equator. The islands in the north tend to be much quieter with fewer tourists as the number of licences are restricted to 14 in order to conserve the area. One morning we visited an island called Genova and saw the rare short eared owl. Over a period of around 15 minutes we watched the owl hop around the storm petrols habitat and didn´t think he would catch anything as he kept moving so all the birds could see where he was. However a little later he finally caught one and when we walked round the corner to see where he had landed, the owl was only a few feet away from us. We took some amazing pictures and even the guides were really excited and started taking pictures as it is a rare sight to be so close!
Not really being a bird watcher even I was impressed at the sights we saw. There were blue footed boobies which are beautiful with the brightest blue feet, it looks so strange! There are also red footed boobies which are really nice and as you may have guessed have bright red feet! The most impressive birds for me were the frigate birds. The male has a huge red pouch which he fills with air to attract the females - its a crazy sight. The birds are often on the ground and as you walk by they do not move even when you are almost touching them. It is really incredible to be so close to all the animals. You would have to see it to believe it.
My favourite moments had to be with the sea lions. They are so much fun and really playful. As soon as you arrive on the beach they rush over to you and sniff your legs tickling you with their prickly whiskers! Every day we spent time snorkelling in the crystal clear waters with the hot sunshine on our backs and the sea lions swimming alongside you. One time we even had penguins - it was amazing. The sea lions like to swim at speed towards you so you think that they are going to crash right into you, then at the very last minute they swerve away! One of the best spots we went snorkelling was two days ago at Devils Crown. This is an old crater and there are literally millions of fish swimming in the water. We saw two sharks lazing on the sand at the bottom, a huge sting ray, a beautiful turtle just sauntering along with his little flippers and thousands of colourful tropical fish everywhere. I have never seen anything like it. And, the BEACHES, oh my goodness, I thought I would cry...Espanola has one of the most incredible beaches ever. The sand is pure white and so soft. We watched marine iguanas coming in on the surf and climbing over each other on the rocks, sea lions sunbathing and feeding their young, bright red crabs on black volcanic rocks - it really is paradise and I didn't want to leave. I must have taken hundreds of pictures and cannot even begin to describe the views...I don't even think that the photos really do the place justice - wish I was still there now!!
One evening I attempted to sail the boat. It is impossible! Somehow with hardly touching the wheel, when the captain headed out of the room for a few minutes, the boat somehow managed to turn itself 180 degrees and we started heading back in the direction we had just come...no matter how hard I tried could not get us back on course...all very embarassing!! But I don´t think my fellow passengers noticed!
All too soon my time in the Galapagos was over and it was a very sad moment when I had to say goodbye to all my new friends on the boat with whom I had shared so many amazing experiences and had so much fun especially on the last night when we moored in the harbour and all went out to dance salsa...am still useless but it is so much fun!! I sometimes feel that all I do out here is keep saying goodbye to people and then I feel so sad and lost for a few moments. With a bit of sadness in the tum I headed back to Quito yesterday arriving in the cloudy rain after my sunshine paradise - how depressing. However, 5 minutes later I had checked into Cafecita, bumped into my friend Iris and French chick and went back to happiness straight away. Then a few minutes later when popping out to do some laundry bumped into Mike from the first day in Quito so within minutes go from being alone, felt like I knew lots of people again - it is such an emotional rollercoaster out here sometimes!!!
Tonight I head to Rio and sometime next week will be meeting up with my friend Reshma hopefully at Iguazu Falls which I am really excited about. My mum is coming out too, so looks like the travelling fun is only set to continue! This really has been the experience of a lifetime and I am so happy that I took the decision to come here and do this. I cannot believe how fast the time has gone and when I think back to Guatemala it feels like a lifetime ago! It has all been so much more than I ever expected and I will never forget the time I have had out here and the people I have met. In two weeks I return home which will be weird, but in some respects it will be nice to have some normality back in my life again!
Hope this chat finds you all well and that I haven't made you too jealous! If you do ever get the chance to go to the Galapagos I would highly recommend it - it really is an incredible place.