Yeah, you read that right- I went to the motha uckin Galapgaos!!!
Not a place I had ever planed to visit in my life, but that´s just how things work, isn´t it...
So, part of the reason I went was to visit a friend who lives and works out there. You may remember her as my roomate and friend at the Divertigranja farm I worked on in Oaxaca (and she´s even from the Fort!). I took a bus to Guayaquil from Lima and then flew out to the islands for a 10 day adventure. Since sailing was out of the question I just stayed with Kirsten and did day trips from Santa Cruz island. And to make things even better, I had Nana´s (my grandma´s) journal of her and Papi´s trip there in 1987 to compare things to!!!
Here are the highlights (so now I´m basically going to explain absolutely everything I did, minus people trowing up on the boats... haha):
Bay Tour- The first time I ever swam with sea lions! They rocket straight toward your face at record speed and then take a 90° turn at the last second. It´s incredible to be in the water with all the small females and the huge male just hanging around in the background and sweeping throught every once in a while to check things out. We also saw over a dozen white-tipped sharks. Blue Lips- The water is cold!!!
Floreana- Aside from the rough ride out it was a great trip! When we first got to the island we went up to the highlands to see tortoises, pirate caves, and the "homes" of the first inhabitants on the Galapagos. Shortly after that I was attacked by one of Darwin´s lovely finches- so sweet. Then the first place we snorkeled we saw several penguins, but at the second site we saw four sea lion pups! They were so teeny and fluffy and hardly knew how to walk, although one was practiging in a little pool on the beach. It was one of those "Aaaaaawww" moments.
That night for dinner we were invited up to the neighbor´s house for a lobster fiesta(which only makes sense seeing as how Titi is a fisherman and the yard was full of lobsters that morning-literally a few dozen lobsters on the grass outside when we woke up) The lobsters were cut in half, stuffed with garlic and grilled- insanely delcious!
A Day on the Island with Kirsten- We took a shared taxi out to one of the hundred billion lava tunnels on the island to explore. The landscape up there was beautfiul and we just wandered for a while. Although balckberries are just about the worst invasive species on the island they´re a delicious snack all along the pathways. As we were enjoying the views and the berries we saw a few tortoises and finally started counting, the day´s grand totaly was more than 40- and all in the wild! The lava tunnels weren´t super deep, but we did see something incredible- an owl. It flew down and looked straight at me for 5 solid minutes and then did the same with Kirsten. We were both completely blown away!
Bartolomé- Far and away the most beautiful island in terms of landscape! The lava has a gradation of color because of the iron oxidizing over time, the sand is almost perfectly white and makes another impressive gradation of the blue-green water up the beach. The island is sort of the shape of a bean and from the high point you can see down around the whole thing. There´s also a crater under the surface of the water and you can see turtles and sea lions swimming in it. Snorkeling was pretty good but the sea lions were really putting on a show on te beach. Then we saw blue-footed boobies, lava herons, iguanas, lizards, penguins and lions resting together. From the boat we could also see incredible Galapagos sharks swimming underneath. On the boat ride out and back we was tons of eagle rays jumping out of the water, flipping around, and then slapping back down onto the surface. It´s beautiful to see their shiny diamond-shaped dody flip form black to light grey.
Isabela- This was a "3-day" tour involving a bit much time on the boat- I can´t believe I wasn´t half as sick as everyone else. Anyway, in the afternoon we saw flamingos, walked the beach, had dinner, and enjoyed the company of everyone in our group. The next day we rode horses up to the top of Cerro Negro volcano which has amazing lava formations we walked around for hours. That afternoon we watched the marine iguanas "sneeze," which is actually them filtering the salt out of their bodies. Then we snorkeled with sea turtles, I swam with one for at least 5 minutes and it was incredible, we also saw tons of beautiful sea-stars, rays, and the biggest sea cucumber I´ve ever seen.
Seymour- This is an island that people really go to to see birds- and boy howdy did we (plus some land iguanas, which are beautiful colors). I was several friggots with the red balloon on their next all puffed up for mating, which was my goal fo the day. We also saw tons of baby friggots in nests and some boobies as well. The strange thing though were all of the mummified birds sprawled around the island- sort of an eerie feeling...
The Galapagos were not at all what I had expected, especially in terms of the poeple. Thousands and thousands of people live there, the majority of whom are from Ecuador- I though it would be all extranjeros running tour compaines. So I had fun meeting people, speaking spanish, and seeing such indredible and important wildlife!!!