Sailing the Galapagos
A trip of a lifetime, in a trip of a lifetime, in a trip of a lifetime... It's starting to feel like we are living the storyline of inception... Except significantly less stressful.
We took a tangent from our regular South trajectory and went West, to Galapagos. Our itinerary would include ten full days in the Galapagos: seven days spent on a cruise through the North West islands and three days on Santa Cruz Island. We flew into Baltra Island a day and a half prior to our cruise and flew out of Baltra a day and a half after our cruise. In hindsight, we would have combined the days on the arriving end. It seems that most people fly in for their cruise and skip exploring the islands themselves. We really enjoyed spending a few days wondering Puerto Ayora, which has great opportunities for seeing a ton of wildlife. Spending time around here, you will soon become accustomed to Sea Lions using bus stop benches as their personal resting perch while they re-oxygenate their blood for another night of hunting (that's right, these Sea Lions are nocturnal). Your average water taxi, say over to Las Greitas (~5 min) will likely involve stingray and pelican sightings. A walk through the Darwin Research Station will be filled with Giant Tortoises engulfing Elephant leaves, hissing at you as you walk by, and observing hundreds of small Giant Tortoises who are growing (an incredibly slow process) to an appropriate maturity so their shells are hardened enough to withstand attacks from Rats when they are released back into the wild, which takes about seven years. When all of these animal sightings begin to become routine head to Tortuga Bay, an absolutely stunning beach, with powder soft sand, beautiful turquoise water, and hundreds of marine Iguanas wandering about. You will be able to observe them swimming around, and if you're lucky and have your snorkel gear, take a plunge around the rocky outcropping at the beach headland and you might even see them feeding on the algae. We observed all of this wildlife and we hadn't even stepped onto our boat cruise. An added bonus is the incredible Empanadas and an amazing pork soup that you will find in the market square (Calle 55 and Jose Joaquin de Olmedo). Empanadas are a $1 each and well worth it. Grab a couple/three and you're set for dinner. One thing that we were happy about, is Puerto Ayora wasn't wallet-busting expensive like we had thought it was going to be (except for the taxis which are unbelievably expensive). You can easily find accommodation for $40/night and good $5 meals.
I know I'm kicking a dead horse here, but the cheaper the food generally means the better. I know it sounds weird, but the expensive food which is geared to tourists is almost always terrible. It is a really poorly done version of what you're used to eating at home. Get out of the tourist's areas and sit down where the locals are. You won't regret it.
Excited to begin our seven-day boat cruise, we would make the forty-minute journey back to the airport to meet our tour group. We were a group of thirteen, assorted ages and nationalities, but all English speaking. Rose and I were eager to converse on a deeper level than we have been, as we aren't able to hold any meaningful conversations in Spanish. It felt unusual to be able to communicate so easily again. This is something which I miss the most while traveling. When you can’t speak the language you are left with a lot of time for introspection… Never a good thing.
I have begun muttering to myself as we wander through South America, so this opportunity to stretch my mouth and my mind couldn't have come at a better time.
If you're like me, you are going to obsess about which boat cruise to do when you go to the Galapagos. It is a mind-numbing process as you learn about the itineraries of each boat, the boats themselves, the availability, and the price. This took us a solid two days to hammer down and involved a lot of emailing tourist agencies and negotiating prices. Not fun. We booked our cruise a week prior, while we were in Quito, and after conversing with people on the boat, most other people booked around one to two weeks prior, too, which we were surprised by. We read countless TripAdvisor and other reviews and settled on a boat which we thought provided the best itinerary. We would learn later that the itineraries change every year, so don't put too much stock into the itinerary reviews from years past. In the end, we chose the NW route because of the reviews saying that it was better... We have absolutely no way of knowing whether or not it is, but we enjoyed it. That being said, the two highlight islands are split so the only way you can see them both is if you do a fifteen-day cruise through both itineraries, which I suspect would be way too much time on a boat for most.
Our days were filled with snorkeling, kayaking, and some short island walks. Our route was set up well, in that it worked us up to the highlights. Initially, we saw lots of red and blue footed Boobies - I know some of you are immaturely chuckling, Sea Lions, and Iguanas. As you progress through the cruise you realize that these animals are practically everywhere, and become a bit of joke.
Seven days of cruising through the Galapagos on a boat named the Beagle; we felt just like Darwin! And we experienced only minor bouts of seasickness! We made sure to stalk up on motion sickness medication before leaving Quito, which really saved us.
One of the nights, the boat was rocking back and forth so much I had to hold on in the top bunk while I tried to sleep.
In addition to the motion sickness, we might have lucked out on food poisoning, too. Likely because we have been traveling for several months, our stomachs are more resistant to illness-inducing bacteria, which saved us from a mild bout of food poisoning that was affecting the other passengers on board - a perk to eating street food!
We enjoyed the mix of people on the boat. It’s always interesting hearing perspectives of other travelers from around the world and travelers of different age groups. Expectantly, everyone's favorite topic is American politics, and specifically Donald Trump. It must be frustrating for American travelers who are constantly questioned on the subject.
The highlight of the trip was without a doubt the snorkeling. Generally, there would be an opportunity to snorkel twice a day; a welcome chance to stretch our legs and lungs. Everywhere we snorkeled was incredible. Here, you won't see any corals - the area is not conducive to reef growth, but you will still get brightly colored fish and tons of marine life. Read my next blog to experience what it is like to snorkel at the most magnificent snorkel spot on the planet!
Other amazing creatures we saw:
Land and marine Iguanas