Puerto Ayora Travel Blog› entry 3 of 26 › view all entries
I set the alarm today, and headed for the airport. True to my 'fly by the seat of your pants' attitude this trip, I tried something I've never done. I showed up at the airport to try to get a ticket on a full flight. There are four flights per day from Guayaquil to the Galapagos Islands. The travel agencies had told me that all flight were full through the weekend, but I heard there was a possibility that travel agencies will release tickets they do not use the same day. After waiting for about three hours, I got the good word. It was go time. I bought a ticket for 30 minutes from then, and a return to Quito on Monday.
The airport for Isla Santa Cruz is actually on a nearby island Isla Baltra, which was at one point an air base. Once off the plane, I was met by a few different tour agencies. I was not opposed to the idea of a tour, just opposed to paying a whole lot. I eventually settled on a tour that stayed in hotels, as opposed to on a boat, and I was assured that the hotels would all have A/C and hot water. The tour would include sights on both Isla Santa Cruz and Isla Isabela about 30 miles away. All meals were also included, so it seemed to be pretty good after haggling on price for about 10 minutes.
It took about an hour of bus, boat, and pick-up truck to get into Puerto Ayora.
The first stop was at Isla Santa Fe about 8 miles off shore. There was a large group of sea lions on the rocks, and several marine iguana as well. By the way, marine iguana are really the ugly cousin of the iguana I saw the day before in Guayaquil.
We weren't given any flippers, but the masks seemed to be ok. Randy and I jumped in, and two other people and a Carlos the guide went as well. Everybody else stayed on board. There was one other small inflatable boat there with a few snorkellers, and I headed that direction until being called back. We cruised around for a while not seeing much, and then followed Carlos to another area looking for sharks and rays. I heard Carlos call out 'Sea Lion!', and saw him pointing. I saw a lone sea lion moving right to left at a very good speed until he went out of sight.
The next stop was back on Santa Cruz, and we passed close by more sea lions, blue and red-footed boobies, pelican, and frigate birds. More good photo ops to be sure. We then visited a nice little cove where usually there are sharks and/or rays, but the water was very murky and there was nothing to be seen.
Back onto the boat an on to the next sight. We stopped in front of a beautiful house, and were told to grab our snorkelling gear. We walked past an old salt flat with some mining activity, and over a lava trail into the island. Randy and I were wondering if it was some sort of a joke that we were carrying snorkelling equipment this far away from the shore.
The water was crystal clear, but it was brakish. It was fresh water that has mixed with sea water seeping in through the far end's rocks. The cliffs were at least 25 or 30 feet high or either side, and the water may have been almost as deep. The snorkelling was ok, but the kids jumping from the cliff walls was much more interesting. Randy was rating them as they jumped, and they loved it. The kids were leaving just as we gathered the courage to start climbing the walls.
Randy was much better at the climbing then I was, and he later revealed he had taken a class. He was able to get up to about 20 feet above the water and did three or four jumps.
On the long walk back to the pier most of the group was stopped at a little bar near the start mine. One of the guides was attempting to coax a swiss woman to drink the local 180 proof fire water. I took a whiff, and it really seemed lethal. Pass. We walked back to the boat and caught sight of a large leatherback turtle cruising through the shallows. He circled back a few times before heading out into the bay.
After getting back the boat, the guides spotted a pair of sea turtles in middle of the bay. They seemed to be engaged in an amourous activity, and were going at it big time. We cut the power and floated around the couple while several more turtles cruised around us. Flippers were waving out of the water on three sides of the boat, and it was hard to count them there were so many. Photo ops galore, but I'm not sure they look like anything but the Loch Ness Monster or Ogo-Pogo.
After that it was back to the hotel, a tasty dinner, a cafe con leche, and internet 'til 10:30pm. I burned some pix onto a cd for Randy, and found out he was on TravBuddy as well. I also tried Skype for the first time to call my parents. It worked pretty well, but there was a delay that made me think that I was a foreign correspondant on CNN. Bedtime and air conditioning felt great.