Well we've been back from the Galapagos Islands now for the best part of a week after our eight great days in the islands!
We transferred from our hostal in Quito's old town to our tour hotel in the new town and took a big step up in luxury, but so it should have been too - Galapagos tours are not cheap! After a lengthy minivan-plane-plane-bus-ferry-bus process we arrived into the islands and got hugely excited at seeing a red crab on the rocks and a sea lion lounging on a bouy enroute to our boat! Ahh what wildlife novices we were on the first day!
We arrived onto our boat anchored in a rather choppy Puerto Ayora bay and immediately set about finding our sea legs. I was looking down the toilet for mine and Ryan was looking overboard for his. Neither of us found them that first day!
After lunch on board we were grateful to head back to dry land and bus off across Santa Cruz to walk through some massive underground lava tubes and see the giant tortoise. Passing back through a varied island landscape that included coffee bean bushes and banana trees we we're loaded back on board where we managed to eat a little dinner and head straight to bed to ensure we didn't see our dinner again that night!
The next few days were the best of the trip as we explored the southern islands of Florena and Espanola. The bays we anchored in were sheltered and our night sailings were in calm waters. The sun came out and we saw a plethora of wildlife on our landings on these islands - on Florena - sea lions playing in the surf and lounging about on sandy beaches, sea turtles skimming along beneath the surface of the sea, crabs crawling over rocks, pelican's with gullets full of fish. We saw a trio of flamingos at a lagoon, bright pink from their shrimp diet, we walked carefully on white sand beaches full of nesting hollows from sea turtles, and stood in the shallows as a school of diamond stingrays washed in and out around our legs with each wave.
On Espanola we are stalked by mockingbirds seeking our water bottles and we slip by marine iguanas warming themselves in the sun and spitting out salt water. Later we watch blue footed boobies doing their mating dance, see banded Nazca boobies, spy on the waved albatross and their fluffy chicks and get lucky enough to see a brand new blue boobie beneath his parents as they swap shifts to keep him warm and safe. We are treated to the most delicious banana fritters back on board and I think my birthday can't get any better! But the most massive banana birthday cake I've ever seen, complete with candle from the crew top off a grand day!
We have an early morning dingy ride around Black Turtle Cove where we see pelicans and boobies pepper the calm waters with dive bombs from great heights in search of breakfast. Somehow pelicans with webbed feet stand atop flimsy mangroves as we search the waters for stingrays, baby Galapagos sharks, and sea turtles feeding on the underwater branches of the mangroves.
There were two snorklings each day and Ryan saw all manner of fish, stupendously sized stingrays, a shark, and swam with sealions.
Half way through the trip we pick up a dose of what we are referring to as 'bum sickness', maybe it was something we ate as a few others on board are not well either. We also are tiring of the food onboard and dealing with landsickness each time we land on an island, with the phantom boat swaying disappearing just as its time to head back to the boat!
The new and amazing wildlife continues unabated - frigate birds and their chicks, lazy land iguanas, some stunning views from atop volcanic islands with red beaches, submurged calderas and grottos formed by lava paths. We get lucky and spot a couple of the diminuative Galapagos penguins. And of course there are sea lions at every turn!
Enroute back to Santa Cruz for our final night onboard the boat, we are treated to a sperm whale sighting! On Santa Cruz we see Lonesome George and baby tortoise in the breeding program before we repeat the bus-ferry-bus-flight-flight-minivan sequence and arrive back to Quito.
We enjoy a hot shower that doesnt sway and dip with each wave and set to finding our landlubber feet. We join our great boat mates in one last dinner together before we head off in our separate directions.
We really enjoyed all the fearless and up close wildlife that the Galapagos Islands offered us. It was a once in a lifetime trip for sure! We found our sea legs too, but I wouldn't go so far as to say eight days on a boat is enjoyable for eight days!