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South America Trip (day 8-12): The Galapagos Islands

South America Trip (day 8-12): The Galapagos Islands

Although not quite feeling like I had enough time for Quito, I continued on my adventure and headed to The Galapagos Islands.  I must admit that I was a bit worried, not having had time to plan any accomadations or tours ahead of time but I figured I´d show up and see what kind of deal I could get.  Luckily enough I ended on first-class yacht that holds about 16 people and I´m certain I paid less than the passengers that booked it in advance.  The cruise was one extra day in The Galapagos and I made the compromise in my schedule by pushing my return flight out one day so that I could make the most of my time there.  I arrived on a wednesday and was to join the other people on the cruise the following day.  Of course I did what I do when I have a day to spare – figured out the town, ate and went to the internet cafe to update my blog with the previous destination.

          Since I arrived in the Baltra airport, my first day was spent on Santa Cruz island in the city of Puerto Ayora.  It was a cute little city and I ran into a guy in the street that offered me a private room for $15/night.  I walked about 30 feet down the street with my 40lbs of luggage thinking I was going to find something else and promptly turned around to take him up on his offer. The hotel/hostal was called Hotel Elizabeth and the friendly gentleman did deliver on his promise. I regret slightly not going to the Charles Darwin Research Station but I really just wanted some R&R before I embarked on the ¨super cruise.” I know i´m young and all but this thing was so jam packed that I started wondering if I was going to fall asleep right in the middle of a snorkeling session!

So let´s talk about this jam packed yet highly enjoyable 3 day cruise. In Santa Cruz we went to a park area to see the giant tortoises and what a sight they were!  We also went to see a large crator with lush vegetation. The daring Australian, Tom, and I followed the guide down a crevice that led to the face of one of the sides of the crator.  The view was spectacular and I was happy to engage my rock climbing skills even if for only a few minutes.  Once we returned to the boat I was presently surprised by the very lovely dinner the cook had prepared. My time in Ecuador has made me a lover of plantains cooked and prepared in every way possible.  There seemed to be no trouble avoiding wheat products – YAY!

The giant tortoises that can be found on Santa Cruz Island

Day 2 was my first full day on the ship and it kicked off with a bang, well a rooster call, at 6:15am by our very entertaining guide. First we went to Rabida Island to check out the sea lions, full seals, pelicans and crabs. Once we returned from this little early morning excursion we quickly suited up in snorkeling gear to sea the rest of the animals that live underwater. I unfortantely do not yet have an underwater camera but I did see a white tipped shark, a black manta ray and many beautifully colored fish. Later that day we headed to Santiago Island for some more snorkeling.  At this point I finally started getting used to  only breathing through my mouth and I even dared dive down 5 or 6 feet to get some closer looks at my water loving friends. For the last event of the day we ended up on Chinese Hat Island. Being one of the more recent island´s created by the ever continuing volcanic eruptions from a hot spot that lies beneath The Galapagos, we were able to see how the lava had formed the island.  What a day!!!

Sweet slumber of a sea lion on Chinese Hat Island

Loving the iguanas on Santiago Island!

After day 2 I wasn´t sure if I´d make it through day 3 but I still managed to get up early wanting to catch some good pictures of the sun rising.  Completely unbeknownst to me there was a beautiful view of the moon at about 5:35 am.  Closer to 6 am came the sun and I was happy having had a 2 for 1 photo op.  After the morning rooster call and blaring music, the first stop on day 3´s agenda was Bartolome Island where we climbed to the top of the highest point of the island, with the help of some wooden stairs, to see a beautiful few of some near islands. Here I spent much time trying to master the jumping off a fence picture.  I finally get a descent picture but my quadraceps are still sore from how many times I jumped!  Afterwards we went snorkeling again.  I didn´t see many new things in this snorkeling excursion but I did chase down a swimming penguin which was one of the highlights of my day.  I was swimming nearly as fast as I could just to keep up with the penguin who was swimming casual. I didn´t realize this of course until he sped up and was out of sight in about 3 seconds.  After that hard work I had a much deserved break laying on the beach after a brief trip to see some sharks swimming near a nearby shorline.  Having walked around in my bathing suit most of the day I managed to get many mosquito bites on my back and upon returning it was quite apparent that I was about to break the island rules of not carrying sand from one island to another.  I had sand EVERYWHERE and even after the unexpected hosedown upon returning to the boat, I still had sand in unreachable crevices that I will spare you the mentioning of.

Sunrise from the cruise ship

The life of a pelican on Bartolome Island

The view from Bartolome Island…along with my 43rd jump!

Day 4 was really only a morning excursion but I found it to be one of the most enjoyable.  We took a dingy, just like every day, to North Seymour Island, where we went on a little hike to see frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, sea lions and iguanas.  I was able to get some great pictures of all of the above and I truly enjoyed playing with my settings on this day to get great pictures after having learned from all my mistakes of the previous 3 days. Photographer in progress but I still have much to learn!  I will miss the warm weather, the amazing scenary and animals, the very entertaining guide and all my newly made friends on the Yolita II.  Thanks everyone for making it a memorable experience!

The first thing I saw on North Seymour Island was this friendly bird who clearly wanted to tell me something!

Frigate birds – the male is trying to attract the female by puffing up his little red balloon

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