Tuesday 7 December
We had a late night before our journey to Galapagos. And once in bed, neither of us seemed to sleep well – we were both so incredibly excited about the next part of the holiday. Our yacht, Isabela II, holds 40 passengers, and is in the luxury class of boat touring the archipelago (which means we have about 10 or 11 passengers to 1 naturalist guide, and the yacht has lovely food and amenities). For us, the trip is particularly nice – due to an early-bird special, we scored the ‘Owners Cabin’ (which is a slightly larger cabin) at not much more than the regular double cabin price.
After our briefing and safety drill, we headed ashore at North Seymour (on the island of Santa Cruz) and were immediately floored by the proximity and number of animals. The naturalist guides must be regularly amused by tourists ‘just off the boats’ going ape over the first sea lion and taking photos of it madly, not believing him when he says that we will see hundreds more, just as close. At this spot we did see many sea lions of all sizes, marine iguanas, magnificent and great frigates (that’s their names, not our choice of adjectives), blue-footed boobies and other smaller lizards and birds. One of the most lovely moments was when a week old sea lion was calling to his mother, and she was answering him, and watching them galumph their way across the sand and rocks towards one another, calling in a ‘marco, polo’ like fashion as they went.
Thinking of this as an expedition cruise, rather than a luxury one, we have come a little under prepared in the clothing area. People seem to still ‘dress’ somewhat for dinner, and we are stuck rotating the 2 ‘smart’ outfits each that we brought with us (leaving the rest of our stuff in the B&B in Quito). Oh well. We still look fab! Dinner was a 4 course meal, and they are making quite a bit of a culinary effort for us vegos (there are quite a few on board).
Wednesday 8 December
What a lovely change to have a wake-up call at 7am instead of 5:30am! Bliss!! Breakfast, as with all of the meals, has options varied and plentiful. Nic even indulged in nutella on toast – chocolate withdrawals have kicked in!
The island we visited today was Espanola (English name – Hood), with our first disembarkation at Gardner Bay. It was a wet landing where we strolled along a soft, white sandy beach amongst sea lions, sunning and playing and suckling, all apathetic to our presence. On occasion, a curious sea lion would approach to investigate the tall visitors, but if they got too close we backed away, as instructed by our guides, and continued along the beach. Highly amusing were the Espanola mockingbirds, who knew that the water bottles we all carried contained that very precious substance – fresh water. They followed at our heels and along side us, like dogs, glancing up to see if we were going to give them what they wanted. Whenever a daypack was put on the ground, they were straight at it in an attempt to get at the water in the bottles. All this is because years ago, twits began giving them water, so now they can’t really be bothered finding it themselves. Some humans are knobs!
In the morning we went deep-water snorkelling and saw lots of King Angel fish, yellow tailed surgeonfish, and parrot fish. Other people saw manta rays and sea lions frolicking, but we haven’t had that pleasure yet. Nic got cold in the water after about 30 minutes and called it quits. That is something that was quite a surprise – being near the equator, one would expect that the water is warm, like in any tropical environment, but it’s not. At this time of year, the water is only about 17°C (which for John is fine, but Nic prefers Fiji water temperatures – that of a warm bath!).
The afternoon’s dry landing was at Punta Suárez (also on Espanola) and we saw oodles of sea lions, stunning Christmas marine iguanas (so called for their red and green colours), blue-footed boobies (a big favourite!), Nasca boobies and albatrosses (both adults and juveniles). One of the cutest walks on any living creature is that of the albatross. It’s almost like a cartoon – like the bird is trying to be funky or cool, but is quite gormless, but nevertheless, endearing! In fact, they almost walk like a new Commedia dell’arte character, a cross between Pantalone and Brighella.
We saw an odd briefing/presentation that evening in the lounge aboard Isabela II – it was lots of old black and white footage of the first white people who lived on the Galapagos islands – an eccentric German dentist and his lover (neither of who had any teeth!!), who had an unusual relationship with a donkey (footage of her holding his front legs trying to make him dance with her!). Gummy Germans living with a donkey in the Galapagos in the 1930s. Odd indeed.
Thursday 9 December
This morning began with a wet landing on Santa Maria Island (Floreana Island) at Punt Cormorant. We walked to a brackish lake in the middle of the island, which is usually where the flamingos gather, but it was the wrong time of the year. Shame. We continued walking to another beach where we saw some green sea turtles and a small manta ray swimming along the shore. We weren’t allowed to partake in any activities on that beach, due to it being a location for turtles mating and birthing. Saw a giant blue heron elegantly catching fish – the Audrey Hepburn of birds, so graceful and stylish, but doesn’t try to be!
In the afternoon we had a deep-sea snorkel around a large chunk of volcanic rock rising out of the sea. The water was the clearest we have ever seen. Nic swam with a juvenile sea lion, that came right up and looked into her face, only an arms length away – magic! Also saw 3 white tipped reef sharks, circling below us – so graceful – had no interest in us whatsoever. Saw oodles and oodles of fish, many we hadn’t seen before, and in huge numbers. Best snorkel so far. Enjoyed the Jacuzzi afterwards, rinsing the wetsuits after our snorkel adventure – nice way to warm up after the cold water.
Our last activity of the day was visiting Post Office Bay. The original purpose of this barrel sitting in the middle of nowhere, was for passing sailors to call in and pick up anything that was addressed to where they were going (leaving anything not in the vicinity of their destination), and hand delivering it. So they try to keep this little tradition alive by encouraging us to ‘mail’ a postcard (by dropping it in the barrel), and taking any that we are able to hand deliver. Lovely idea – we’ve taken 4 to deliver around Sydney when we get back. Quite a few fools didn’t actually address the postcards – either not quite understanding the concept, or lacking belief that the cards would ever get to their destination. Still fools!
We savoured some champagne before dinner whilst talking with a lot with new friends. Can’t believe that there are still four days to go!