28.09. – 04.10.2016
Galapagos, here we go! We really did think about whether to visit these islands or not, since the costs are immense – but we will never come back to Ecuador only to visit Galapagos, so let’s do it. We finally sit in the airplane which brings us to Baltra Island, where we are supposed to be picked up from our guide from our boat Santa Cruz II. Oh my god!! The famous Galapagos islands, and we are here! But what is so special about these islands? Here is a brief introduction:
The Galapagos Islands area situated in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 km from the Ecuadorian coast. This archipelago and its immense marine reserve is known as the unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’. Its geographical location at the confluence of three ocean currents makes it one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflects the processes that formed the islands. These processes, together with the extreme isolation of the islands, led to the development of unusual plant and animal life – such as marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, giant tortoises, huge cacti, endemic trees and the many different subspecies of mockingbirds and finches – all of which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection following his visit in 1835.
The Galápagos Islands may just inspire you to think differently about the world. The creatures that call the islands home, many found nowhere else in the world, act as if humans are nothing more than slightly annoying paparazzi. [Source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1 and http://www.lonelyplanet.com/ecuador/the-galapagos-islands/introduction]
To be honest, we are really curious what the rest of the guests on the cruise might be like… in our imagination, we’ll be sitting at dinner with 70 years old ladies and gentlemen, being dressed fancy and watching us suspiciously. 🙂 We’re more than happy when we spy some other backpacks being loaded on the bus which transfers us to the dock to board the boat – more young people like us, yes! 😉
With small boats, called Pangas we are being brought to the very big cruise ship, lying majestically a couple of meters away from the dock. On board, the crew welcomes us with a delicious Guanabana juice and we are being brought to our room. OMG. The second of many “OMG’s” which will follow. 🙂 Our room is great, with a huge bed, oceanview and a comfortable bathroom size. Right away lunch is served from the buffett – delicious, OMG. 😉 We enjoy choosing whatever we would like to eat and how much we want to eat. We are in food heaven! We sit alone at our table for 6, when the waiter points two girls in our direction: Martina and Eveline from Switzerland, our lovely company for the next 5 days. 🙂
Our program, except eating half of the lunch buffet, is to see North Seymour Island in the afternoon. We already have our group with which we’ll be visiting all of the surrounding islands and additionally, our guide Henry who will explain us evey detail about Galapagos. The first island, according to Henry shows a wildlife full of bird colonies, blue footed boobies, sea lions, land iguanas and frigate bird. And wow, we saw each one of them, even the famous blue footed boobies, which are endemic species on the islands. This island set the expectations already very high and we cannot wait to explore more!!
We cruised through the night to reach Isabela Island the next morning. We actually crossed the equator twice on our way! Our destination on the island is Punta Vicente Rosa, where we start exploring the coast by panga. Well, at least I’m sitting in a boat while Jakub discovers the under water world by snorkelling. We saw turtles floating through the water, sea lions playing in the water and again, the camera couldn’t capture these incredible moments. Returning from the boat ride the first thing I did was joining Martina and Eveline for the jacuzzi – so posh. 😉
In the afternoon, Fernandina Island (Punta Espinoza), the youngest island of the archipelago awaits us. It offers a very unique environment with black lava soil and mangrove trees. Black Marine iguanas take a sunbath on the hot stones, a Manta rey in a laggoon majestically makes circles, sea lions sleep ashore and we spot the flightless cormorant! Evolution at its finest, because the flightless cormorant regressed his wings to be able to dive depeer. A great day ends and although the program will be strict during the next day, we enjoy this cruise so much.
This day we start on Isabela Island again at Tagus Cove. We disembark with the pangas at this island, which provided a favorite anchorage for pirates and whalers over the centuries. A short uphill hike to the rim of a crater allows us to see the Darwin lake, filled with salt water. Afterwards, we head to the snorkel area. Lucky us that the Santa Cruz offers wetsuits, since the water temperature is only 18C!! Everyone tells me later that they saw turtles and even pinguins in the water… I only saw rocks and later my goggles floating down to the ground…I lost them, grrr. 🙂 Moreover, we suddenly here through the speakers: “Room No 105, Jakub and Ellen, are you back on board? Please come to the reception!” Damn it! We forgot to sign back in after our disembark! 🙂 The Santa Cruz ship hung a magnet wall with all the rooms and the amount of people in the rooms on the wall you necessarily pass before you leave the ship. The magnets need to be put on when you leave and removed when back…we forgot to remove them… happened once and never again! 🙂
Later that day we check Urbina Bay, a fascinating result of uplifting of ocean floor in 1954 and do a light walk to see huge land iguanas. This evening, we learn that Eveline is an amazing musician! We sip some rum on the deck and Eveline plays her guitar and sings…we hope this cruise never ends. 😉
Its already the 4th day on our cruise ship, time flies by! But we’re busy from morning until evening and really have to say: the itinerary and program are perfect!
Today we stop at Santa Cruz island, Puerto Ayora, the main island of the Galapagos islands. We disembark to visit the Charles Darwin Research station, which serves as the headquarters of scientific research as well. Here we see the giant tortoise breeding center and visit the museum.
Since we indeed enjoy the food on the boat and always eat a lot, we decided for some workout and do a bike tour to an ecological sugar cane farm. 😉 Our guides tell us all about the production process and the making of the strong sugar cane alcohol the farm sells, when we observe 2 Chinese guys from our boat holding 2 bottles of this alcohol in their hands. Okay, we have to admit: the alcohol is filled in small plastic bottles and might be confused with water… which obviously happened to the Chinese, because they take a huge sip and suddenly spit everything out! OMG, we’re almost dying from laughing!! 🙂 🙂 I know I know, it’s so mean to not warn these poor people, but “for the show” it was hilarious. 🙂
As we head to the highlands of the island to have lunch, we pass many green fields and are stunned to see giant turtoises walking around! Just like cows on meadow in Germany, we see the turtoises here in the nature – so cool! Our day ends with a great live band in the evening, playing some folklore songs from Ecuador. Man, this cruise really knows how to make us happy. 😉
Day No 5 is dedicated to Floreana island, where we head to the post office bay. Here we find a very cool place and love the story about it: there is this historic barrell where postcards are traditionally left for guests from other vessels to hand deliver them to their destination. Whalers and sailors used this system hundreds of years ago to bring news to their families. So whenever some ships stopped at the barrell the old sailors checked if the adresses of the letters are close to their home to bring it to the familiars – awesome! Of course we took some postcards with adresses of Stuttgart and also left one card… I’m curious when someone from Biberach stops by … 🙂
Afterwards, we kayak around the island and enjoy the warm sunny day on the sea. One last time we signed up for snorkelling at Champion islet and cormorant point. The water is actually crazy wild and the current strong, but once in we observe the wonderful marine life, we see sharks, turtles, sea lions, and colorful fish. We are so amazed by the wildlife and fascinated by it. The nature here is wonderful! Galapagos also taught us a lot about the protection of this sensitive eco system which we do keep in mind and are very careful when seeing animals. Watching is okay, but no touching. Keep distance to them, because you are the visitor, not them! But most of the animals were too curious and came very close!
The last evening on the boat offers a great program : we sing Karaoke!! 🙂 Of course I decided for a classic song: Backstreet Boys, Quit playing games with my heart. 😉 Thanks again, Eveline, for your wonderful voice and the support, haha!
Nooo! Is it really over!? Do we again have to plan everything by ourselves?? 😉 Honestly, it was a welcomed alternation to our typical way of travelling and we did enjoy it a lot to not needing to take care of accommodation and trips for one week.
For the last time we appreciate the wonderful breakfast buffet, the ocean around us, the great people we met and even get to see a presentation of all the pictures the boat photographer took during this week.
We disembark together and say good-bye to the amazing week! All in all, this cruise was simply marvellous. Beginning with the great itinerary which allowed us to see the remotest islands, the guides who were so passionate about their job and the nature they wanna protect and ending with the new friends we have made and the “worry-free-package”. We have seen a whole new world and realized that this trip has also changed the way we behave in nature, giving each animal their natural space and carefully taking steps when being outdoors. There is always the option to explore the Galapagos archipelago on one’s own and plan day trips to the islands. However, we seriously enjoyed the planned route and trips and recommend doing a cruise to fully immerse in this miraculous world.