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Review: Galapagos Islands

Attraction - Others

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

My adventures in the Galapagos from the ship Balmoral

  • By SilverTraveller PatBernice

    1 review

  • February 2012
  • On your own

13 people found this review helpful

Galapagos – South American Cruise 2012
Wed 8th Feb
I´m sorry I haven,t sent pictures but the machines in Equador are very slow and will not take the size. We left the ship wed 8th at Manta and flew to Quito, the capital of Equador, high up in the Andes, in fact its one of the highest cities in the world(its higher than Macchu Picchu) Before going to the hotel we went to the equator site, the GPS and the Original French one. That was amazing, as a teacher I learnt so much about the earth,s geography, what a marvelous resource to get children to understand what happens at the equator, we learnt about the winds north and south, we saw that water spun down a drain hole in different directions depending north or south of the line – and on the line itself, it did not spin but went straight!! Also it is very difficult balancing when you stand on the line itself, its to do with pressure north and south. Also strength just evaporated on the line, trying to prise hands apart or down was hard off the line and as soon as you both stood on the line it was easy. That was very educational and great fun. We went back into the city just as it was getting dusk, from a high point we looked down on this sprawling city, a huge metropolis, 47 km long, it is defined by volcanoes surrounding it. 14 million people live in Equador, 2 million in this city. Quito is very central in Equador, and recession has not hit them as it has hit the west, the whole of South America is on the up. There are 16 of us and Sara the tour guide from the ship. We next got out in the central square, this reminded me of Cusco (Peru) very Spanish in design, this old part of town has been there for 100s of years. Time just flew by so we went straight to eat, I was begining to feel the affects of altitude, a bit whoosey, a bit jet lagged! A good meal in a good restaurant. For desert I tried many different exotic fruits, yummy. Back to the hotel, early flight in the morning, didn,t sleep well but up at 5am, breakfast at 6 and to the airport at 7. Our flight to the Galapagos was at 8.30am. We got to Baltra, a small island just north of Santa Cruz, by 11am(back one hour), the main inhabited island of the Galapagos, a small military airfield surrounded by cacti, water, it was exciting. We were taken by coach to a boat to Santa Cruz, lots of iguanas, pelicans, seals, even saw a blue footed boobie!! On Santa Cruz off to see giant holes where steam from volcanoes just collapsed the ground, even went down a giant lava tube!, lots of unusual plants, birds. Two naturalists Marco and Andres were our guides. You are not allowed anywhere without guides and there are strict rules on how to behave. If they have any hope in keeping this environment, these rules must be stuck to. After that, back in the coach – hot and humid with occasional downpores making it steamy. My camera just has not stopped clicking, especially with our visit to an area where GIANT tortoises lived, there were hundreds of them, we wandered between them, they had no fear of humans. That was BRILL! 97% of the Galapagos is a national park but 3% is privately owned so there is a town of 15,000 people and some farms with introduced produce being grown. The government have allowed this so that they can be self contained and grown their own food. Most things are expensive, purely because of the distance to get things to the islands. Now at Finch Eco Hotel, very pleasant, modern natural place right on the waters edge, you get water taxis into town. Eating tonight at 7, up again tomorrow morn early for some more adventures in this land that was forgotten, who knows what I,ll see but I,m as excited as hell.

Thurs 9th
There are moments when we know we have lived, when we are excited that it hurts, when tears come to your eyes because what you,re seeing is special. We went on a cruiser around the Santa Cruz island, saw pods of dolphins, manta rays and many different birds. When we arrived at a small island towards the north of Santa Cruz, there was a nursery of sea lions, mums, dads and many babies, frollicking on the rocks by the jetty, to be so close to these animals who were not the slightest bit interested in these two footed intruders was just awesome. The dads were guarding their brood and territory and the mums were teaching the youngsters how to fish, it was just so special. Very hot even though there was a layer of cloud, even with my 70 factor sun screen, I had to apply it many times, this is the equator and the sun is directly overhead. We walked about 1.5Km around this island, cliffs one side sloping down to a beach the other. a forest of cacti trees under which land and sea iguanas love to shade, low pink and red scrub covering most of the island. The land iguanas, as big as a cat with full mating colours of red and yellow basking under these cacti. The sea iguanas a more sober shade of black, blue with prehistoric ridges along their spines, this truly is the land that time forgot! Many types of finches flitting from scrub to cacti. Walking up to the cliff, blue footed boobies, red billed tropic gulls with very long tails, Nazca boobies, all stood there majestically, refusing to move even when their space was invaded. None of these creatures are afraid of humans, several land iguanas passed directly by my foot as I stood mesmerised, videoing, they just thought I was handy shade!! We are begining to gell as a group, looking out for each other, everyone realised this was a special day, seeing so much wildlife, learning about them and tomorrow will be the same. I snorkelled around the coast, traffic jams of fish you felt you could reach out and touch – magic. big blue with yellow tails, small black and white striped, layer upon layer – magic. Back to the town where I bought up the shop! Many little things to take back to the ship and give as souvenirs, a box of wine, t-shirts, sets of stamps. Didn,t get as far as the hotel, after the short water hop, plenty of wareside bars had a “happy hour”, so 3 beers later, sauntered back to the hotel, for a plate of fresh fruit and to email my thoughts which I just had to write down. We are up even earlier tomorrow for more snorkelling this time with penguins – the Galapagos is the only place for penguins outside of southern icy climates. There will be more sea iguanas and sunday, a date with Lonesome George. There are just some places on this earth that make you feel so good – this is one of them. It is expensive to be here, but for a very good reason, to try and preserve this special place. If there is one thing that you should do in your life, it should be to come here, you will not be disappointed.
There is so much I forgot to mention, that a good nights sleep made me recall. The islands are still growing, the ones in the S.E. are the oldest and the volcanic plate in the N.W. is very active, the youngest island is a very live volcano. It does not explode like some continent based volcanoes, but oozes like the Hawaiian chain. There are no known predators to man or beast, therefore creatures can grow to enormous sizes like the tortoises. Although there are mosquitos , they do not carry Malaria. The only trouble on the horizon is if the newest island blows its top, then all the islands will be affected. That is the only problem otherwise its a paradise that time forgot. Tourism is now strictly contolled, many cruise ships have now been stopped from coming here, only ships carrying less than 200 can get permission. Everything is tightly regulated so people cannot move without an official guide. Only 1% of the group of islands is allowed to be polluted by tourists. These islands were created from the deep pacific. they are moving towards the mainland by about 3cm a year, so if we could come back in 1000 years time, this would be a very different environment. You are not allowed to go closer than 6 feet towards the all the creatures. They are not interested in humans, and just regard them as an extension of the landscape, hence a iguana invaded my space and just thought I was shade! I have bought a good book about the Galapagos so I hope to understand more before the end of the cruise. till later this evening,

Fri 10th Feb
Today we were up very early as we had a coach trip to the top of Santa Cruz island to catch the yacht to St Bartholemew, a small island off of Santiago (north of Santa Cruz). This island is a young volcano so the structures were very moon like, ropey lava (pa hoy hoy) with lava tubes, just look like a giant cake that had exploded out of its cake tin! It is a conical shape and we walked to the top in the midday sun! Slowly with many watering stops to reapply lotion and get the breath back, its 500 feet high with a wooden staircase to climb. The view from the top was awesome, sandy bays and lava structures, a lava field looked like a brown glacier!! Set in a vivid blue sea and the lovely breeze help to stop overheating. My dioloryte sachets came in handy here! Quite an achievement for most of the group, I,ve got quite a tan now, back to the yacht, there was another snorkelling group but I found that too much too soon and withdrew. We had a small dingy ride around the coast of this volcano, where we found PENGUINS! the only penguins in the world that are on the equator ( a good pub quiz question!!!) After another great lunch on board, back to Santa Cruise and back to the hotel. I forgot to mention on the way to St Bartholmew we had frollicking dolphins at the bow and aft of the yacht, what a lovely show they put on, the more we whooped and hollered the more they performed, jumping out of the water in unison( I think the pod had about 6) They followed us for quite a while and obviously enjoyed the encounter. Back at the hotel, tired but enjoying this further day, tomorrow we have to pack , we are going to the Charles Darwin Research Centre where they are breeding tortoises and Lonesome George will be there. This is such a magical place, I feel very priviledged to have had this experience. We arrive back at Lima about 10.30´- 11ish tomorrow night (12th) I am meeting Nila again the next morning, a lovely lady that took a group of us around Peru, that will be a good reunion. I doubt if I can make the next email until Arica, in Chile, a few days later. I do hope I,ve inspired you to save up and visit this fantastic place.

Sun 12th Feb
Up early again (5.30am) cases outside door ready for taking to the airport. After a 7am breakfast, another beautiful day, off to the Charles Darwin Centre. This is the centre where giant tortoises are bred. It’s also where Lonesome George is with his two female companions. However much they have tried, he’s not interested! There also is a farm of baby tortoises, Super Mario is another species of tortoise who has been incredibly successful at mating with five females, so there are many babies being looked after before they are released into the wild. Although all these are in enclosures, it’s amazing to see how big they are! All of this is out in the open and this place is not far from the main town. It was very humid this morning, so much so that I could literally wring out my t-shirt! When we got back to the airport, I just had to buy another t-shirt to change into! Flights were on time and everyone was euphoric at our experience. We all looked after each other, we were on a high.

Mon 13th Feb
We got back to the ship about 10.30 last night after a fabulous, fabulous trip. I opened the case but I did not unpack, I went straight to bed. Today I was up early, heavy fog at the port of Callao, I gathered the things for Nila together(she was the tour leader of the Peruvian trip I took in 2007) – I’m giving her lots of different items, clothes, books, toiletries as she helps the Andean families that are very poor. I met her again at the port gate, both our phones were not communicating. It was so good to see her again; she took me for a drive to a district near Miraflores called Bacacha, a bohemian artist place with narrow streets, cafes and restaurants, beautiful buildings, leading down to the sea. We chatted and walked, and then had a local soft drink in Mireflores, she was working in the afternoon so I taxied back to the ship so that we could have longer to chat. I love meeting up with her so is so enthusiastic and a lovely person. She had followed my Galapagan adventures and I think she has put it on her bucket list. Back to the ship for lunch and although I did not intend, but I bought many items at the market on the quayside again!. I’m collecting a lot of coffee to give as presents, my case smells wonderful!! A good sailaway deck party again, tons of energy dancing and then later in the Neptune Lounge, but suddenly I felt weary and went to bed. Put clocks forward, I slept 11 hours! Didn’t have breakfast till 8.15(forgot to put alarm on) A soothing massage, again I fell asleep, a port talk on Castro and again I fell asleep.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 1 Comment(s)

  • ESW
    over 2 years ago
    What a wonderful experience. I loved your stories about the equator.