The Galapagos: Ticking it off the bucket list

Hello again! I’m back on the mainland. I’ve not written for a while as the wifi in the Galapagos was temperamental at best so decided to save this post until i got back to better wifi…

The last week has been AMAZING. The Galapagos has always been on my wish list, and i can’t quite believe I’ve been there and seen the sights I’ve seen! It will stay with me for a very long time!

But i’m rushing ahead – i need to introduce the central characters for my Galapagos week

Tour Guide: Juan – our friendly, knowledgeable guide who really made the week what it was – interesting and great fun

Tour Companions: Ellen & Chuck, the loveliest couple from Vancouver who were delightful company for the week

Ellen & Chuck
Ellen & Chuck
Juan - the best guide ever!
Juan – the best guide ever!

Support characters: Mark & Avis from the US who joined us for a few aspects of our trip- and to whom i am grateful for the pics of me snorkelling. (more on that later)

And of course all the animals i’ve seen during the trip

The First Islands- Baltra & Santa Cruz

The Galapagos have not been as expected. In some instances they have blown my mind, but not in all ways. Lets start with arriving into the islands. Baltra airport is fairly standard, but once you get out you need to fight your way onto a bus which takes you to the docks, onto a small boat, and finally onto Santa Cruz – the main island. It isn’t that big an island, but it holds thousands of people. And you can tell. It is busy, getting built up, and not the idyllic island i had pictured.  This was to be our base for only a few days, but my initial impression of Galapagos was a little low. Yes there was a fish market where the workers cleaned and gutted the fish, and yes there were sea lions and pelicans who waited for the bones to be thrown their way. But that was kinda it! A parade of tourist shops, a nice beach and a few restaurants, and that is pretty much all there is to see. Not what the Galapagos was meant to be like in my head!

Me on the first boat to The Galapagos!
Me on the first boat to The Galapagos!

I was escorted to the hotel where i checked in, and then headed down to meet the rest of the people on my week itinerary. In fact, it was just two others (Chuck & Ellen) and we were very happy to be just three. 3 is the magic number (as many of you know!) and it meant we could do what we wanted, change the itinerary if we wanted (we did!) and just spend as long as wanted on the aspects we liked. And we made the most of this!

The Second Island – ISABELLA

After our first night we made our way slowly over to Isabella – the largest of the islands, but home to only 2000 people. It was a very rocky boat to get there. And many of you know i don’t like boats! The girls will recall me on the catamaran… Nat will recall me on the little rickety boat in Thailand… Work peeps (old Limes mainly) will recall me on the 2CV Southampton boat… Boats and I just don’t mesh! But, i knew that there was no other option, so i just sucked it up. Sods law, the water was rough. One of the passengers who had done the crossing over 20 times said it was the worst he’d ever seen! I’m glad i only found this out at the end of the crossing. Juan & I sat up top near the captain which meant lots of sea air (good), lots of sea spray (not so great) and a very bumpy ride (bad!). I literally held on to my seat for the whole trip!! My hands were so sore by the end! But i had survived!

This is what I looked like on that boat!

Not my best look :)
Again… Not my best look 🙂

Once we got to Isabella though we were happy. It was more like i had expected. Beautiful… quiet and sunny!

White sand and blue skies - happy days!
White sand and blue skies – happy days!

We decided to switch our tour around to stay longer on this lovely island! Now I shan’t go into too much detail about each and every day, but instead summarise in bullet point (my favourite type of summary!)

  • Visited the giant turtles which was very cool
  • Kayaked around an island for the first time.. and survived!
  • Snorkelled with animals four times in the week! Saw some stunning sights including a family of turtles all around me!
  • Hiked an active volcano
  • Cycled around the island to see the Wall of Tears
  • Walked around Tintoretta island seeing hundreds of iguanas, as well as white tipped sharks and sea lions
  • Visited the Charles Darwin breeding farm (disappointing)
  • Relaxed on Tortuga Bay – a beautiful beach

So managed to fit quite a bit into my week.

As interesting as this all is, i’m sure you want to see some photos of my week… so here goes! (Click on them to see bigger versions of the pics if you so wish!)

IMG_2308
Sweet dreams Sea lion!
P1060668
Iguana who i called Skeletor
Giant Tortoises - loved them!
Giant Tortoises – loved them!
Sea Lion after a spot of swimming
Sea Lion after a spot of swimming
White tipped reef sharks
White tipped reef sharks
Crabs
Crabs
A blue footed booby! Almost didn't see one - but thanks to eagle eyed Chuck we did!
A blue footed booby! Almost didn’t see one – but thanks to eagle eyed Chuck we did!
Me Snorkelling!! (thanks to Mark for the pic)
Me Snorkelling!! (thanks to Mark for the pic)
A seal in the water - thanks to Mark for the pic!
A seal in the water – thanks to Mark for the pic!
Me centimetres away from some penguins... amazing! (Thanks to Mark for the pic)
Me centimetres away from some penguins… amazing! (Thanks to Mark for the pic)

And that’s just some of the animal pics! we also saw flamingoes, penguins, yellow lizards, amazing fish and turtles. A lot of these things were seen snorkelling. I sensibly had brought with me a waterproof disposable camera for my snorkelling time – but ended up buying another one as i got a bit camera-happy!

So i’d never been snorkelling before. It both filled me with dread and excitement. I really wanted to see the fish, but as a somewhat nervous swimmer it held a lot of negative thoughts too.

Over the week, i ended up going 4 times! Suffice to say i got the hang of it! The first time was nerve wracking, and this idea about not using your nose to breathe was new to me, but once i calmed down, realised the wetsuits were pretty buoyant, and that all the guys around me were there if i needed them, i started to relax. And the second I stuck my head in the water, all worry disappeared from my head.  The fish! The colours! The algae! Just wow! One time the guide started shouting and we all swam over and saw a turtle nesting area underwater. About 6 massive turtles all just swimming centimetres from me without a care in the world. That was a massive highlight! They are so graceful and stunning to watch swim around. I also saw a stingray which was fun, hundreds of different fish, penguins and more. The sea lions were so fast darting around that from afar i really enjoyed it, but when they zoomed past you and brushed behind you before you could realise, that really got my adrenalin going!!

I’m really hoping that some of my underwater photos will be passable, but hard to know until i get them processed. So we’ll see soon 🙂

The whole week was just amazing. Being surrounded by all these fearless animals, seeing some beautiful sights and making friends at the same time is a recipe for success!

I was sad to leave at the end of the week, but with only a few more days to go until i hit Peru my next adventure isn’t far away!

Can’t believe Country #1 is nearly over… this sabbatical is gonna fly 🙂 🙂

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