29.05.2016 - 07.06.2016 30 °C
The Galapagos consist of 16 islands, only 3 of which are inhabited. The best way to explore it is by cruise, which guarantees you to see as much as possible of it without wasting time in boat transport back and forth. Cruises are usually really expensive but Sam and I managed to get a last minute deal on an 8-day cruise in First Class boat Nemo II focusing on the South Eastern islands, and still had 2 days to explore Isabela, one of the other main islands located more West.
Life on the boat was amazing! We had delicious food prepared for us by our on-board cook as well as snacks and drinks throughout the day. Contrary to most other cruise ships, our boat was a catamaran which was really nice especially when we had the sails out in the evening. Our cabin was tiny but cozy and we loved sitting on the deck upstairs while the boat was sailing or just relaxing on the sofas downstairs, sheltered from the wind.
The most striking for me, despite the obvious beautiful beaches and wild landscapes, was the wildlife: we saw endemic species that don't exist anywhere else, but above all we got incredibly close to them, sometimes only a few centimetres, yet they were so tame and so not bothered about being observed; it was an absolutely unique and incredible experience!
DAY 1: BALTRA & SANTA CRUZ
We arrived at Baltra airport in the morning where we met Miguel, our guide for the next 8 days. We then all headed to the port to board our boat where had our first lunch and met the rest of our group: Ursula and Andreas, a lovely German older couple, a German girl with her mum, an Italian couple, a French guy, Vinay, an Indian guy living in Holland plus HannaLore and Jeroen, a Belgian couple on their year-long honeymoon who arrived the next day: with Sam being British, we pretty much covered Europe haha!
In the afternoon we went for a walk on Bachas beach, which was everything we had dreamed of: pure white sand, turquoise water with black marine iguanas & red crabs. This was our first view of a Galapagos beach and we couldn't see how it could get any better, but the best was yet to come...
DAY 2: SANTA CRUZ
This is the main island where most people live in the capital of Puerto Ayora. However there are lots of places to explore which remain deserted. We went to the highlands to see giant tortoises in the wild. They can live up to 150 years and weigh up to 250kg! You can easily distinguish them as the males are always bigger than the females. You can also tell how old they are by looking at the lines on their shell, the less defined they are the older they are, as they get eroded by plants and rocks. Next we visited a lava tunnel formed by the lava flow underground - most islands used to have or still have today some form of volcanic activity which is easy to notice as you walk around. Back to Puerto Ayora, we took the opportunity to buy a waterproof iphone case which proved to be incredibly useful!
After lunch we were supposed to visit the Charles Darwin Breeding Centre for sea turtles but it was 80% closed so Sam and I decided to go to Tortuga Bay instead. A nice long walk led us to a very large beach with only a handful of people but a lot of marine iguanas. We even saw a heron snap an iguana just in front of us!
That evening we sailed through dinner to get to San Cristobal which made me feel sea sick so we got an early night.
DAY 3: SAN CRISTOBAL
We woke up at 6am for our first snorkelling at Kicker Rock: thank god I had a wetsuit as the water was freezing... We saw a lot of animals including a lot of colourful fish, our first sea turtle, and a few sea lions, it was amazing! After a good breakfast that helped us recover from the cold, we went for a walk on Cerro Brujo, where we saw a lot of sea lions on a beautiful beach with bright turquoise sea - we had some free time to sit down, chill on the beach and enjoy the striking scenery.
After lunch we went to Lobos island, where we saw the famous blue-footed boobies from very close! We observed a lot of females keeping their eggs preciously. We also saw a few Fregate birds which have a red throat pouch that they inflate to attract their future partner.
We then had another snorkelling session near Lobos island where we were lucky to follow a sea turtle from very close! The water was very clear so we saw it perfectly well - they are so graceful when they swim, it is incredible to witness it...
We sailed through the night towards Española island, I took a sea sickness tablet that knocked me out so slept like a baby hehe...
DAY 4: ESPAÑOLA
In the morning we went for a walk on Suarez Point where we saw a lot of sea lions again (by then they had slowly started to become our favourite animal!). There were a lot of birds too, including the Galapagos hawk that we were able to approach from very close, and most importantly the albatros: this is the only island in the Galapagos where you can see it! They look really beautiful and are very impressive when they fly with their 2.5m wing span. We went towards another part of the island to get an amazing viewpoint by a giant cliff where the waves crashed on the rocks and a big geyser of water created a rainbow...
After lunch and some resting time on the boat (=nap in the sun on the deck), it was time for snorkelling in Gardner's Bay, the water was very cold so I didn't take part in the second snorkelling closer to the beach: we were looking for sharks and couldn't find them anyway. Then we went for a walk on Gardner's Bay where there were a lot of sea lions just resting there and a beautiful panorama: water was the purest turquoise colour, it was incredible...
DAY 5: FLOREANA
We started our day with a walk to Cormorant Point which has a very dry and desertic landscape, covered with holy trees (Sandalwood) and where we could only find one flamingo. We also had a walk on the beach and found some olivine, a light green semi-precious stone naturally present in the sand.
We then went for snorkelling in Champion islet to once again see a lot of wildlife: a few sea lions with their babies playing really close to us, a beautiful white spot eagle ray, and even a white-tipped shark! We also saw some colourful King Angelfish and Razor Surgeonfish.
After lunch we went for a walk to Buccaneer Cove, and went down into a 100m-long lava tunnel, where it was pitch black! Then we visited Post Office Bay where sailors have been leaving their post without postage since 1913: the tradition says that you should have a look through the postcards and take with you the ones closer to your home to deliver them to their recipients!
We then went snorkelling from the beach where we saw a lot of sea turtles, one of them so close I could touch it, it was incredible! They are so graceful and peaceful when they swim... While we were sailing we also saw humpback whales which is quite unusual and very impressive, they can be up to 16m metres long! In the evening we set the sails and gently glided towards our next island while the sun was setting in the background, it was lovely.
DAY 6: SANTA FE & SOUTH PLAZA
In the morning we went for a walk on Santa Fe island, where we saw a very dry desolate landscape with giant cacti. We were lucky to find land iguanas, which look very different from marine iguanas with their pale green colour. They eat the fruits of the cacti and sometimes wait for weeks under a tree for a fruit to fall! We also saw the cutest baby sea lion who was walking towards the sea: he was so tired he had to stop and lie down every 5 min haha... The water was a beautiful turquoise colour, perfectly crystal clear so we saw sea some rays from the boat.
On our snorkelling session near the beach, we saw some giant Damselfish which are blue-gray when adults but bright blue with iridescent blue spots when young. We also saw a young sea turtle with a beautiful carapace.
In the afternoon we went to South Plaza island, a tiny island of only 1km2 but with an incredible landscape thanks to red plants called Sesuvium creating a beautiful colour contrast. You can find there Bachelor's rock, named that way as it is the final resting place of many former alpha male sea lions: after a tiring season of mating and fighting other males to keep their harem of 25 females, defeated males, too old to continue, head there to finish their days. Some of them get so depressed that they throw themselves off the cliff! We saw as well a lot of graceful tropicbirds flying around as well as yellow land iguanas.
DAY 7: SOMBRERO CHINO & BARTOLOME
On that day we woke up early to do a work-out session on the deck! Probably a good thing since we ate sooo much food during the entire cruise... We then all went for a walk on Chinese Hat island (I don't actually think it looks like a Chinese hat haha) to see beautiful landscape with volvanic rock and turquoise blue water. We went snorkelling in Sullivan Bay, in between Sombrero Chino and Santiago for 1km with the current, where we saw a lot of starfish and our first Galapagos penguin. We also saw a white-tipped shark from upclose, it was very impressive!
After lunch we had our last snorkelling session around Pinnacle rock, I was a little cold but the scenery was beautiful. Finally we walked on Bartolome island up a lot of stairs to get a beautiful view across the bay and a great group picture. It was our last night so we enjoyed some wine on the deck while the sun was setting, what an amazing setting for an 'apéro'...
DAY 8: SANTA CRUZ & ISABELA
On our last day we woke up early to do a tour of Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz island in the dinghy. Surrounded by white and red mangrove trees, we spotted some black-tipped sharks, a lot of rays and even a sea turtle.
After breakfast it was time to go back to reality... almost. We said goodbye to everyone and after a bus, a boat and another boat, we got back to Puerto Ayora. Sam and I then headed to Las Grietas, a really scenic swimming hole set in a canyon. We got there after a little water taxi and a 30min trail going through a salt mine with pink water and a little beach with nesting iguanas. We then got on the boat with HannaLore and Jeroen to Puerto Villamil, the main city on Isabela island, for our last Galapagos adventure.
DAY 9: ISABELA
The next morning we allowed ourselves a little lie-in in a normal sized room and enjoyed a nice home-made breakfast with the Belgians. Puerto Villamil is a very peaceful and laidback town, a nice change from busy and ugly Puerto Ayora. After a quick walk around town we booked our Tintoreras tour by boat. We got to see a lot of Galapagos penguins which are the smallest species of penguins: they are so cute! They swim a bit like ducks which is quite funny to watch... Then we had a walk on the Tintoreras islet where we got to observe at least 20-25 white-tipped sharks resting and swimming in a little cove where they like to be as the water is always warmer. It was amazing, some of them were adults and about 2m long! Afterwards we went snorkelling and saw a lot of sea turtles, sharks again and the most playful sea lions that we'd ever seen. They were swimming straight towards us before moving away at the last minute haha...
We then went for a walk to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre, passing through a salt lagoon with flamingos. On our way back we stopped for a drink on the beach in a lively and fun beach bar as the sun was setting before having a nice dinner.
So this is the story of our incredible Galapagos adventure! I am so glad we did it, it was a bit of a splurge and definitely outside of the backpacking scene, but definitely one of the highlights of my trip and a once-in-a-lifetime experience...
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as we enjoyed our time there!
Lots of love