Baltra, Santa Cruz, Plaza island and Santa Fe
22.06.2011 - 23.06.2011 27 °C
- **So here it is. So many of you have said how much you are looking forward to the Galapagos photos that I hope we don't let you down. There are a lot so I am going to do it over three blogs incase the computer implodes! The ones we upload are of course only a fraction of what I took - but I'm sure you don't want to see 300 photos of sea lions today.***
We met our group at the Hotel Quito which was well posh (by our current standards!); a pool and everything. We had a hilariously bad welcome meeting with a very substandard powerpoint presentation which REALLY wound up Noush, the PP guru!
At 6am the next morning we headed off to the airport to fly to Baltra in the Galapagos....needs to be mentioned that this was Anouska's birthday so it was a pretty giddy time! We arrived in Baltra at about 11am and once we were all together headed off on a bus across the island - it's tiny - it took 10 minutes. Our first views were of a volcanic landscape, scrubland and then ....the sea. Turquoise and glistening, to me it always feels like coming home (you're going to have to forgive me waxing lyrical just a wee bit).
A short hop across the water and we arrived on Santa Cruz - the most populated islands in the Galapagos with about 10000 inhabitants (I think this is right - forgive me if not). We jumped on another bus to traverse this island which took about 45 minutes and reached Puerto Ayora to meet the zodiacs (big dinghys) that would bring us to the Xavier III - our home for the next 4 nights. Once we reached the boat we met the rest of our group who were on a longer trip and had been there for three nights already (lucky, lucky, lucky, LUCKY buggers!). The boat slept the 16 of us plus crew which made it blissfully small - no big cruise liners for us. It had viewing platforms and sun decks and en suite cabins, a dining room and a large saloon....I've never been on a cruise boat before and was pleasantly surprised. Our group was brilliantly diverse - I even got on with the Bush supporting Republicans (Jodie and Aaron y'all deserved that one after the Brit bashing), as it should be, 6 Brits, 3 Americans, 3 Canadians, two Germans (one by way of New Zealand), one Japanese man and a Swiss. Made for some brilliant dinner conversations!
Right - to the good stuff. We spent our first afternoon at the Darwin research centre which is used primarily as a breeding centre for tortoises. It is also the home of Lonesome George - who isn't lonesome at all and has two lady tortoises in his enclosure with which to repopulate his species - but no luck so far. George appears to have lost his mojo. Although about 110, George isn't the oldest tortoise in the centre - Diego is a sprightly 125!! Amazing - and bloody massive. We saw some other critters en route so I'll just let the photos do the talking....
On our way back to the boat we passed a a small fish market. I would bet there aren't many places in the world where the fishmonger has to contend with this....
That night we spent time with the group, learning about the next day´s activities from our guide, Hansel - an ex navy seal and biologist who really knew his stuff. Noush was also presented with a birthday cake prompted by another member of the group which was very sweet (in every way)...Aaron took the photos though so they'll come later.
After a short journey during the night (I'm not going to moan about it, engines are noisy and the seas are pretty choppy at this time of year - but we didn´t come all this way to sleep!) we awoke in the south of Plaza Island. Hansel led us all in an exploration of the island, it´s only 100m across at some points, but boy, do they pack in the wildlife!
Things to know about sea lions; they don´t get as big as seals (think elephant seals); they have ears, seals don´t; they hunt when they need to but basically lie around a lot; they get scales and rubbish stuck in their throats and cough like cats with furballs!
We moved to Santa Fe island over lunch and spent that afternoon snorkelling off the back of the boat but the underwater camera is film so we won´t have the shots until we´re back. It was great though. Then it was time for some more refreshments, some dinner, a beer or two and another bumpy night as we headed to Floreana.
More to follow.......got a plane to catch!