After arriving in Quito, Aoife and I went to our rather fancy hotel that was the start point of the tour. We met some of the group and headed out for our first dinner in Ecuador before an early night as our flight to the Galápagos Islands was fairly early in the morning!
After arriving in the Galapagos we met our guide for the trip and started the day by having a. Three course lunch followed by a stroll along the beach to the interpretation centre. Amazed at the animals already, we all excitedly took up close photos of sea lions, crabs, and Pelicans….little did we know this just the beginning of the amazing wildlife we would see. Unfortunately we were told that the Ecuadorian government is trying to open the islands up to further investment from foreigners and wants to build five star hotels! Definitely not what the islands need! We finished the afternoon by swimming on the beach and hanging out with the sea lions, not something you do everyday!
The following day we see up early for a boat trip to a rocky outcrop called Kicker rock. Here we jumped off the boat and started snorkelling around the island and through a channel in the middle. It was incredible! We saw sea turtles, sea lions, a white tipped reef shark, and huge numbers of enormous brightly coloured tropical fish. After exhausting ourselves, it was back on the boat to a paradise beach for lunch and some relaxation in the sun before heading back to our hotel late afternoon.
The boat rides between the islands on the Galapagos are absolutely horrific. Rough seas does not even scribe it. The waves were higher than our boat, and because only the rear of the boat was open, it was stiflingly hot. People were vomiting left right and centre despite having taken motion sickness tablets…and this was only half an hour into our three and half hour journey. Even the Dolphins following our boat did little to improve everyone’s morale! Eventually we arrived at Florian island, recovered from the seas in our beachside huts and ate lunch. The afternoon activity involved a short walk to a beach where we spent the afternoon snorkelling with large numbers of sea turtles. They were absolutely amazing! And exactly as the film Finding Nemo portrays them…chilled out and they were not bothered by us at all…even to the point where one tried to surface whilst directly underneath me! Each island on the Galapagos is completely different both scenery wise and wildlife. The following morning we took a walk into the highLands of the islands to visit some caves that European settlers lived in in the early 1900s and to visit giant land tortoises. Like the turtles, these were gigantic. They were not very active as it was a cloudy day, but this made it easier to have photo opportunities with them!
Our next island stop was Isabella island, here we went to see some flamingos – the pinkest I have ever seen! And we paid a visit to the tortoise breeding centre where conservationists are trying to reintroduce particular species of tortoises on the appropriate places on the islands (a lot had been killed off by human settlers for food). That evening we hit happy hour at a beach bar where I enjoyed passion fruit daquiris whilst watching the sunset…lovely end to a brilliant day.
The next day was an activity day…we Hiked up one of the volcanoes on the Island. Despite a bit of drizzle and it being very misty it was a lovely if not extremely Muddy walk. We reached the crater and due to the mist, could not see anything inside! Fortunately as we sat some of the mist cleard and we could see part of the 10km diameter crater- filled with black volcanic rocks. It last erupted in 2004, and the volcano at the North of the island erupted at the start of 2015. We had a lovely buffet lunch and then mountain biked down the volcano (not all downhill or flat as we had been led to believe!) before finishing the afternoon with a snorkelling session.
On our final morning on Isabela Island we went on a Bay tour. Here we got the chance to see blue footed boobies up close – their feet are so blue they look like someone has spray painted them. Absolutely incredible! We also got the chance to watch them feed. They dive perpendicular to the water about 5-10m deep, this startles the fish and then on the way back up they catch them. We walked around a few small islands off the coast and got the chance to see marine iguanas and lava lizards in HUGE numbers; you had to be careful not to tread on their tails! We then snorkelled again for what was my favourite time of the whole trip…I got to dive under the water and play wi two families of sea lions who rubbed around you and almost played tag. We then came across a huge group of penguins that were not afraid at all and swum alongside you, dived with you and at times got a little too close for comfort (their eyes are red, so they look slightly evil!). To top this all off, I saw the biggest sea turtle of the whole trip- it’s head was the size of mine!
What a trip! Even an iffy somewhat useless guide could not ruin the experience. I thought the Galapagos Islandswere a once in a life time trip, once you had seen it you had seen it, ..no..I would visit again and again. Look up amazing in a thesaurus and this would sum them up. They are worth every penny.