Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Ecuador - Galapagos

Galapagos Islands was never in our original travel plans, due to a few reasons, cost and time but having spoken to friends on the way (thanks Rich and Linds) we thought we would rock up to Quito and see if we could get a last minute deal. Having done a bit of research it was evident that is was possible but not commonly done or often successful.

We planned to arrive into Quito on a Friday morning as we knew a lot of the boats leave over the weekend or early during the week. With no reservation made we had to be prepared wait about for days/weeks or not going at all…..risky but also big rewards if we could pull it off.

So after another enjoyable over night bus…. a quick shower and breakfast we headed to a travel agent for opening time to see if there were any last minute deals. With luck on our side we spoke to a Canadian guy (Paul) who owned Carpe Diem Adventures and he happened to have 2 spots left on a 4 day tour.. 1 double room on The Galaxy www.galapagosgalaxy.com.ec/galaxy_yacht.html . A 1st Class 5 Star boat with 4 levels including a deck with porters, waiters, bartenders and an amazing chef. The trip was usually 1500usd pp for 4 days, however we did not even pay half that and the great part about it, it was leaving the next morning…almost too hard to believe! Spirits were high! About 15 minutes later another couple came in looking for the same thing, they were gutted when they found out we just beat them.

So with that settled we packed our stuff and danced in celebration of our luck!

Most boats at this standard are usually full of much older, wealthier people but we were so lucky to have a whole boat of people under the age of 35, except 2 grumpy Germans…haha. We ultimately bonded well with a top english couple with a good sense of humour; Louise and Leigh who were enjoying a few months in central and south America on their honeymoon.

We flew into Baltra on Santa Maria, an island close to San Cristobel which is one of the biggest Islands in Galapagos where we were taken to the other side of the island to see some Giant Galapagos Land Tortoises and to check into the boat.

It is so hard to sufficiently describe the next 3 days as it was like nothing we have even seen or experienced. Mornings started at 7am with a 3 course breakfast of fruit, hot breakfast and coffee. We would then snorkel for a few hours and swim and play with baby sea lions. Our guide Pepe born in the Galapagos with 9 years experience knew his stuff when it came to the history, geography,geology, flora and fauna of the area which really helped improved our knowledge. We wont add all the details on the blog but it really is fascinating and worth a few google searches of your own to learn about Darwin and the Galapagos plus the under water currents that produce such an amazing environment. The days also included island walks where we would see sea lions, Galapagos sea iguanas, boobies red and blue feet plus Nasca boobies (we were tempted to buy the tourist t-shirt “I love boobies!”), flamingos, frigate birds, hawks and the list goes on with way to many varieties to mention here. What impressed us was the amazing diversity and healthy populations of animals here surely something worth saving from humans and other introduced animals.

On the snorkeling side we visited the Devils Crown (an inactive underwater volcano) which was pretty impressive, we saw some lazy looking white tip reef sharks, a vast array of fish, a poisonous sea snake or two and many other marine life I wont mention. Now the toughest statement we have to make on the snorkeling in Galapagos and at risk of sounding strongly patriotic is that it was ok but visibility was at times poor and the marine life in volume was not that great…the benchmark we used however was the Great Barrier Reef in Australia which in our experience is still number one for marine life in terms of volume and colour of what you see (happy to be corrected here if someone has been else where in the world they can recommend is better!).

So in summary the initial 4 days of sun, eating, swimming were world class and highly recommended…a point worth making is that they are now year on year heavily reducing the numbers of people who can visit Galapagos – somewhere about 120,000 can visit now per year compared to 180,000 last year and the cut is due to happen again so long story short get to Galapagos SOON before it disappears (theories depict this as possible) or truly becomes a more expensive elitest holiday.

What makes Galapapos special is its uniqueness and from a point of view of the animals they were safe in the presence of humans as we weren’t actively hunting them for food or other malicious purposes…this was something we will never forget.

After the 4 day tour we spent a further two nights on San Cristobal in Galapagos eating, drinking, swimming (see the theme here?) and we also went on a day trip with a bunch of divers to a place called Kicker Rock, an amazingly tall volcanic rock island protruding from the water with animals again in abaundance. Here we snorkeled with many sharks in dark waters which was frightening at best! We were explaining to the locals that we can never get out of our minds the idea of the murderous great white sharks back home and the Jaws movies of course, I guess it didn’t help when they made Jaws music as we entered the water! So another negative here was that after speaking to the divers they mentioned it wasn’t that great in visibility but as they say its luck of the draw with the ocean as some days its clear and you can see the bottom.

So Galapagos finally drew to a close sadly but it left us with an experience which arguably was the top of the pile for the trip so far.

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1 comment:

  1. the link to the pics dont work guys!