Hanging with a sea lion
I am overwhelmed. There is just too much to say about the last week on the Galápagos, or maybe I´m just getting lazy after a year of blogging. Either way, I plan to save most of my stories for in person chats with family and friends when I return home next month, but feel free to send me questions. My main message is this: GO! I know it is expensive, but if you can, organize your trip when you reach Quito. You will save money. I talked to one gal on my boat who was also doing the five-day cruise and she paid twice what I did because she booked from home. That´s a lot of money when you consider how much I paid. So if you have the time, get to Quito, book your trip a week or two in advance, and then travel around for a while before it starts.
You can also do it on your own. I just met some students here from the States and they flew out there and hung around for a week, bargaining for day tours at good rates. I think there was some major flirting going on on their part to get these deals, but you can just go out there and piece things together.
Sally lightfoot crabs on Santa Cruz
Having said that, I loved, loved, loved my tour. We flew into Baltra and then headed to the islands of South Plaza, Santa Fe, Espanola (the best this time of year in the south) and Floreana before returning back to Santa Cruz and the largest city of Puerto Ayora.
Sometimes we traveled between islands overnight, sometimes by day while I laid flat on my back to avoid being sick. Our days went mostly like this: early rise, big breakfast (as was lunch and dinner), jump in the dingy for a wet or dry landing on one of the islands, explore, take loads of pictures, learn a ton of info from our guide, and then back to the boat for lunch. We usually had an afternoon siesta and then an afternoon snorkeling session before dinner. I can´t think of a better way to live! The wildlife was the highlight, but I also lucked out and had a fun group on my boat (mostly my age), a great guide, hilarious Capitan and good crew.
One almost climbed in my lap until I moved and then he backed away
My favorite activity was snorkeling. My last afternoon I swam with sea lions.
One played with me for a while, circling around me and blowing bubbles. Every once in a while a penguin would dart by. I even snuck up on one hanging on the surface, but when he saw me, off he went. I´m sure the fact I live in a landlocked state and don´t do this very often is part of my excitement, but I couldn´t get enough of it. At one point we were snorkeling off this big rock, but there was a major current pushing us along causing me and four other girls to get separated from the group. Luckily we ended up following the assistant guide, who at one point swam down to the bottom, grabbed something and brought it back up. It was a puffer fish that was fully expanded as its defense by the time he reached us. He was round and the size of a volleyball. Oh I wished I had an underwater camera then! We each held him and then off he went. What a treat! That day we saw the most sharks, sea turtles and other underwater creatures, including a moray eel.
The other amazing thing I saw one day was this massive school of fish. As I approached I thought it was a big rock, but upon getting closer, saw it was a group of dark fish, thousands in all. Once in a while one would turn sideways, revealed a silver glow from the deep below.
Sally lightfoot crab (they apparently eat each other)
On land there was much to see and you could get up so close to the wildlife. I saw about 15-20 speciecs of bird and about 15 other species of animal on land and underwater. I loved the Blue-footed Boobies. We lucked out and saw the Waved Albatross mating on Española. Every time of year there is something special happening. It´s just never a bad time to be there.
Of course there are a ton of Marine Iguanas everywhere, always underfoot so you have to watch where you walk. We only saw the Tortoise at the Darwin Research Centers on Santa Cruz and Isabela, but they are still in the wild.
A land iguana - they eat cactus flowers
After my organized tour, I took a ferry over to the largest island of Isabela, home to about five volcanos. I did a horseback riding tour to Sierra Negra, the oldest and highest one that just erupted in 2005. You could see the lanes of lava flow that have since solidified into dark rock and ash. The horseback ride was a little stressful as we had to trot through wet mud, with the horses slipping and sliding under us. My horse managed to make it through without falling, but others were not so lucky.
It was really interesting to walk around in an active volcano! I was glad I tacked on some extra days to see the volcano as I felt my trip to Isabela really rounded out my experience.
A marine iguana - they are good divers but I didn´t get to see any underwater.
I see that I´ve still managed to write a long blog despite my intentions, but there are so many little stories to tell. I´ll cut it here so I can get out and see Cuenca, where I am now. I spent all day getting here and have to leave tomorrow for what will be two days of buses to get to Lima by Sunday. So go to the Galapagos!. I actually plan to go again someday, but next time I plan to be certified to dive with an underwater camera ready.