Posts Tagged With: Galapagos

Day 243: Quito – Ecuador – Feb 15th

Today is our last day in the Galapagos. Our flight is scheduled for 10:30am, and because of us everyone on the boat has to get to the airport early even though their flights are all at 12:30pm! Feel sorta bad…

Our last excursion was an easy one, but one that ended our trip marvelously. Taking a 6am dhingy ride out into Black Cove Turtle Bay, our guide made a bold statement: “This is a sea turtle mating ground, if we don’t see any turtles mating then that means mating season is over!”. Sometimes, it’s strange how humans like to witness amazing moments of ‘life creation’ by other animals…. which literally is like watching animal porn, but this is in the name of science!

The cove was full of the usual suspects, but spotting them is always exciting. Golden rays, reef sharks, and of course, sea turtles! There was several coves which had an ‘entrance’ covered by mangroves, but once you get into the cove, it was like hitting the jackpot for spotting turtles! The cove was so quiet, you can hear the turtles coming up to the surface, and taking a deeeeep breathe. And it seems like mating season is still on, as TWO turtles would come up for air at the same time! Haha, it was really interesting!! We are also puzzled at how, two turtles with fins can manage to ‘hold on’ to each other during the process…..

Back to the boat, we ate breakfast, packed our bags and said farewell to the crew members and our home for the past week. We did the reverse commute back into the airport, and before we knew it our flight landed and we were on our way back to Quito! We met many new friends, getting extremely close to wildlife, and had an incredible time on the cruise and were a bit sad to have to go. One thing we didn’t miss though, was actually living on a boat!

Taking an AeroGal, we thought it was the discount airline of the region until we got aboard the plane and were seated in wide, comfy seats and had our own personal TVs. For a 3hr flight, this seemed a bit excessive, but getting to watch episodes of Modern Family, The Office and other shows made time past much faster and we made it into Quito at about 3pm. We were quite familiar with the city now, and there wasn’t much left to see so we spent the afternoon posting our blog…

One downside of living on a small yacht is that… the food quality seems to be lacking and was reminiscent of airplane food. It’s food, it’s edible, but they all taste the same and it gets tiring real quick. Back onto the mainland, we headed for the closest restaurant which happens to be a Vietnamese restaurant! It was well regarded by people, but we not only was it overpriced but also over-rated. In fact, our bowl of pho was cold and the beef was raw, and covered by a handful of rotten-looking beansprouts. Gross. The portions were also soooo small, we had to grab a hot dog a few hrs later to fill up.

Note: Postage in Ecuador is super expensive! It costs $2.00USD for each post card.

Note II: The official currency in Ecuador is the $USD. Question for any economists out there, how does any country manage their economy this way….? They do mint their own coins though, which makes it even more strange.

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Day 242: Golindrina Yacht – Galapagos Islands – Feb 14th

A slight change of plans, as we didn’t have to walk at all in the morning, but instead took a ‘dhingy’ (the small boat that shuttles us around) ride around Eden islet. Everyone was in full wet suits, as the clouds were smothering the skies and rains were starting. Heck, I didn’t even bring my camera! But, the Galapagos has its way of surprising everyone, and by the time we got out near the islet, the rain stopped and a bit of sunshine came out. It just so happens, these picturesque scenes of blue-footed boobys were chilling on a picturesque rock, with iguanas and crabs (all endemic to the Galapagos) just serving as a backdrop!! AAHHHHH!

After the dhingy ride, we went for a snorkel around the island. There weren’t enough equipment to go around for everyone, but everyone played nice and shared. Sometimes it’s strange as you would find it somewhat gross to drink something from the cup of a stranger, but it’s totally permissible to take offer your snorkel to someone else, and the other person would be happy to suck on the snorkel you’ve been sucking on for the past 20mins?!?! Anyways, we had some pretty amazing swimming with some inquisitive sea lions, saw several sharks, schools of fish, and just perfect snorkeling you can imagine for about 1.5hrs.

After a couple hours lazing on the ship and watching fellow travelers do some crazy jumps off the top of our boat, we took a nap and were awaken by the bell which was to call for all passengers to get ready! We were doing a nice hike around Cerro Dragon, or Dragon Hill where it is famous for spotting land iguanas. It was a nice walk, and saw some pretty awesome land iguanas (which are TOTALLY different from the marine iguanas) in all their golden yellow glory. They have different colours, different diets and totally different behaviours compared to their black marine iguana cousins. We also found a nice colony of blue-footed boobys standing close to the dock as we were about to leave, giving us a final chance to snap some pictures of these awesome birds.

It was snorkel time again, but we were weary of jumping into the water and took a break instead, ending our snorkel streak with the high note of this morning’s awesome swim. Dinner, conversation and several beers later, we were up on the deck just gazing at the amazing stars that blanketed the skies thanks to no light pollution. And not used to being in the southern hemisphere, the stars were actually in a different alignment than we’re so accustomed to with the dippers being close to the horizon and Orion’s belt being much higher than we’re used to. Ha ha…. science is awesome.

We also saw a sea snake off the side of the boat (someone had a really strong flashlight), then out of nowhere a sea lion comes out and eats it! Wooo, crazy. The sea lion proceeded to do some strange poses next to our boat, showing off her cute feet and tail….. well, an awesome way to end the trip! One last excursion tomorrow and we’re back on the flight out to the mainland….

Galapagos Rocks!

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Day 241: Golindrina Yacht – Galapagos Islands – Feb 13th

Today we spent all day in and around the main port on Isabella island, Puerto Villamil. The town is nothing like Puerto Ayora where it seems like there are actually people living, here it is purely a docking area with some nice blue waters and a tempting beach next to it.

A 45min ride in this awesome buggy got us to the base of the Sierra Negra volcano. A brisk 45min hike up some muddy trails got us to the mouth of the massive crater. It is actually the second largest volcano on an island, with the largest being the one in Hawaii. The whole volcano is now dormant because the magma underneath the crust has collapsed under its own weight (not a very scientific term), but back in 2010 there was a small, minor eruption resulting in some newer, blacker lava rock off the one side! It was pretty cool, and the size of it was pretty amazing.

In the afternoon, we visited yet another tortoise sanctuary which helps tortoises on this particular island only! And even within the island, around different volcanoes there are different types of tortoises…. Galapagos is crazy!

And what a day in the Galapagos would be without some snorkeling! We were dropped off on this beautiful white sandy beach lined with palm trees. There weren’t too many tourists, and a local bar served up some of the best coconuts we’ve had so far on the trip. We got ready to jump into the water for snorkeling, but quickly realized despite the deceiving water colour, the visibility was probably the worst we’ve had so far! It also didn’t help the waves were really strong, making it less than pleasant to snorkel. Even the most avid snorkelers called it an early day, and we ended up having fun chatting at the local bar for about 2hrs, sipping on some refreshing coconuts!

The Boat: We had some tourists leave us and some fresh blood join for the rest of the cruise, as the boat is also sold separately as a 4day and 3day package. We had a shortage of snorkels when we started, but we borrowed some from the sister ship. Problem was, somehow when the new people joined the ship, the snorkels were gone and we have even less to go around for everyone! W T F? What kind of business is this?

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Day 240: Golindrina Yacht – Galapagos Islands – Feb 12th

Docking at Puerto Ayora, the boat dropped off passengers and picked up some new passengers for the rest of the cruise. For us, it was a big waste of time as we spent the day mostly in the mainland of Santa Cruz doing some very uninteresting things we could’ve done ourselves!

We visited the Charles Darwin Station, an animal refuge centre mostly there to protect the baby giant tortoises from each individual island. Since Lonesome George died last year as the sole giant tortoise of this subspecies from the small Pinta Island, the world has lost one more species of animal. The refuge here raises the baby tortoises until they reach 7 years of age, and then are let loose into the wild. Without this, the eggs won’t make it out of the ground before rats, dogs or boars eat them. An unfortunate reality, showing us the consequences of introducing foreign species into ecosystems, and pretty much the byproduct of humans. There are some stories of conservation and how the agencies try to save these animals from extinction. Apparently at one of these islands, only 2 males and 14 females remained and now all the turtles on that island (after the repopulation program) are children of those 2 males!

The rest of the morning was spent lazing around at an ice cream shop before our afternoon excursion of… seeing giant tortoises in a reserve outside of town! It was a great tortoises day, and seeing these guys is really cool just to marvel at their age, their horrible ability to sense danger, and the amazing way these animals live. We found out the reason they make this funny “Uhhhh” sound when they hide into their shell is because they have massive lungs, so when they sense danger they let out the air in their lungs to give their head more space to slide inside!!

Then we walked/crawled through a lava tunnel, a naturally occurring phenomenon due to lava flow cooling at the surface but still flowing freely underneath, resulting in these really cool tunnels. Actually, they’re cool in theory but seeing them is rather unimpressive, and we made the mistake of carrying a backpack + DSLR into one…. guess we expected a dark, wet and damp underground tunnel to have more than just empty space?

The weather was great in the morning, but once we finished our tours it started pouring rain, and we got soaked running around the town trying to find some Pringles. Alan also got electrocuted when trying to open the ice-cream freezer at a convenience store!! Yayyy, shoddy appliances.

Today is also the last day of Carnivale in Puerto Ayora, and the crewmembers all seem very eager to go to shore and join the party. We’re rather content at staying on the boat to avoid the massive water/chalk/canned bubbles fight in the town.

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Day 239: Golindrina Yacht – Galapagos Islands – Feb 11th

The day’s itinerary isn’t as packed as it has been, and we just had a nice walk in the morning and some lazy beach/snorkel time in the afternoon.

Once again, another docking, another landscape. The animals are also slightly different, and we actually saw some rare fur seals (not to be mistaken for sea lions that are as abundant as tourists). They are slightly smaller, with a shorter nose, but their most discernible trait are their larger eyes which are necessary to fish at night and in deeper waters. They’re still just as cute though!

The afternoon we took a quick stroll through Bucanero Bay, which we assume is probably where all the buccaneers or pirates hung out back in the day when the Galapagos wasn’t a nature reserve but rather a place for pirates to hang out, drink rum and slaughter tortoises for meat. The highlight here is the ‘praying rock’.

Beach time was great though, as snorkeling is fun, and the beach had this cool red sand with some really pretty rock formations all around. The normal characters were around, with the addition of some pelicans who were actually dive-fishing about 3m away from us while we were snorkeling!!! It’s really funny, as once the pelican dives in, a bunch of other birds land on its head and try to steal its catch…. haha, jerks, go catch your own fish!

There never is a dull day in the Galapagos, and if you pay attention, everything is different. The differences may be slight, but realizing the fact that the distances are also at a minimal, and you’re still on the same freakin’ island, you appreciate the miraculous forces of nature much much more.

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Day 238: Golindrina Yacht – Galapagos Islands – Feb 10th

Docking at Moreno Point, we did a hike up some rugged lava rocks. Looking like a desert of lava rock, it was crazy to stumble across this massive green sinkhole in the middle of nowhere. Apparently, fresh water flows from the mountains through crevasses in the lava rock and fills several ponds and sinkholes, being a hotbed for life. CRAZY. The Galapagos really is strangely inhospitable on land, and those animals that do make it have some very specific traits making them survive the harsh conditions. And strangely enough, there were two flamingos just chilling in the ponds, along with some massive fish. The whole place exerted such an eerie calm, like living in a world of its own.

The mandatory snorkel time came after, and despite the rains and strong currents, we toughed it out as this area is popular for spotting sea horses! We tried to look for the little fellas in the green algae, but our mofo guide forgot one little detail….the seahorses are RED and hide in the red algae! Jerk. Oh wells, there were plenty of tortoises, and swimming face to face with one as the currents pushed and pulled both of us together and observing the graceful ways it moves around in the water was well worth the effort.

Back on board, we ate, did some reading on the deck and quickly fell asleep. Before long, the ringing sounds of the “time to go” bell woke us up, and we went out for a hike. It was raining, but no fear we have our Gore-Tex jacket to save us from being soaked, while the others went out in their jeans and cotton hoodys. Bad idea for them! We also made the stupid idea of bringing our P&S and our DSLR. The DSLR hung uncomfortably around my neck underneath my hardshell, while the P&S was in the pocket. After the hike, I was bone dry inside, but when I unzipped the pockets to reach for my camera, I felt a puddle of water……… SHIT. Pulled out my camera, and you can literally pour water out of it… SO SAD!

We let it dry out, but there really isn’t much I can do. The Goretex was let out to dry in on a hanger in the covered deck. Next morning….. because the boat was going through some rocky waves and windy rains, a second unfortunate event happened as my beloved jacket was GONE! That’s like…. a lot of good gear just broken/lost, and also a good chunk of change as well. We made a little joke out of it though, imagining the jacket had a mind of its own and feeling guilty for soaking our camera, it didn’t want to face us anymore and found a new home with the sea lions…. or so we’d like to think.

Hope the park rangers don’t come back and fine us for littering.

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Day 237: Golindrina Yacht – Galapagos Islands – Feb 9th

The itineraries for the day seem to follow this trend. Land tour + snorkel/swim session in the morning, then hop onto the boat for lunch while the captain sails to an alternate location, do another land tour + snorkel/swim session in afternoon.

In the morning, we visited Fernandina, one of the youngest islands in the Galapagos at around 100,000 years, formed by a volcanic eruption. The predominant wildlife we saw today was….marine iguanas. They were EVERYWHERE. On the rocks, on the beach, in the sand, and sometimes chilling in the middle of your path. We almost stepped on a few as their camouflage is amazing in the dark volcanic rocks. It was pretty fun just sitting around staring at them, as they’re completely unphased by people’s presence, and they just lie in stacks, and occasionally spitting out some snot. That’s how they get rid of all the salt they ingested when they eat algae underwater, so if you imagine like 80 iguanas just taking turns shooting snot, it was gross but sorta funny.

After a bit of snorkeling in some cold waters with not so great visibility, we were back on the boat for lunch.

Next island, we beached onto a black sand beach which was really cool looking. We took a long walk around and saw quite a bit of wildlife. This time the land iguanas and hermit crabs were the most abundant, and we also saw several giant tortoises and a really cool looking Galapagos hawk!! Land iguanas are not the same as marine iguanas as they can only stay on land (brilliant name!), and they are also yellow and much much fatter! One giant tortoise was walking in our direction on the path, and we just waited there until he got about 1m from the guide and suddenly ‘felt’ us there, made this strange “Uhhhh” sound and retreated into his massive shell. SO FUNNY! These guys are really interesting, and are able to live into time immemorial. We saw one just grazing for some poisonous apples (it helps the tortoise’ digestion, but kills humans) about 3m from the pathway and he just totally went on his business without caring for us at all.

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Day 236: Golindrina Yacht – Galapagos Islands – Feb 8th

Today is an exciting day! We’re going to board our boat and go on an 8 day cruise around the islands! There are a lot of remote places you can’t reach within a day, and the cruise includes the mandatory Galapagos guide who would (hopefully) educate us a bit on the special animals that live here.

We were told to arrive at the airport by 10:30am to meet our guide. We got there before 10…and ended up waiting until 12:30pm until all 16 of the passengers got together. Arriving on the boat, we had a nice little lunch (everyone was STARVING) and began setting sail for our first destination, the strangely named islet, Chinese Hut.

Our first impression of the guide was rather strange, as somehow he sounded bitter and made some unwelcoming remarks. And our first activity was to snorkel in the bay, but when we got changed and was ready to go, they told us they didn’t have enough snorkels…. W T F? You’re taking us on an 8 day cruise with 8 days of snorkeling/swimming with a set number of passengers, but they somehow didn’t have enough snorkels? Eventually they got us what we needed, but they just didn’t feel like they were trying very hard….

Snorkeling though, was extremely fun! There was such an abundance of fish, really cute and strange looking dolphin fish, and Jiajia even saw some white tip sharks and sting rays! Seems like Alan never has the luck to see everything.

Next, we landed on a beach for a wet landing, meaning you’d be landing on a beach and likely to get yourself wet because of the waves..haha. The tour of the island, strangely named Chinese Hut, was brief but saw the standard sea lions, iguanas and crabs… they’re EVERYWHERE! The sea lions were as cute as always, and the several baby ones just makes you want to take one home… There were also some penguins diving around shallow waters where we landed, doing their thing and catching fish. The sand here was white, and apparently each location has different types of sand, even on the same island! The islands are really amazing!

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