September 30, 2012 - We flew to the Galapagos twice. The first time, we were in sight of the runway basking in sunlight when the plane turned around supposedly for weather related reasons. Later we found out that this was not the case. Most likely, LAN was subject to a tiff over landing rights.
The net result of all this is that we ended up back in Guayaquil, in a top end hotel, courtesy of LAN. We made it on schedule to the Galapagos the next morning.
A few hours later we booked a week long cruise starting the following day. It proved to be a very good one on a large boat with lots of space. The sixteen passengers on board were mainly colorful Australians, with an Israeli "white hat" hacker thrown in for good measure. Conversations were lively and quite varied.
The wonders of the Galapagos do not start when you set foot on land and see your first blue-footed booby. Mystery starts at night, in the toilet bowl. Bioluminescence lights up the bathroom when you flush as seawater is used.
Our daily routine was quite rigorous, with a wake up call at 5:30 AM and a beach landing at 6:00 AM. Breakfast around 8:00 AM, snorkeling at 10:00 AM and lunch at noon. More water time at around 2:00 PM and a second landing at around 4:00 PM. No time was lost and during each excursion I shot around three to four hundred pictures. Night times were used for sorting through the chaff. A red-footed booby below.
Only three percent of the Galapagos is visited or routinely occupied by humans. The other part is left alone and visited by conversation officials only. The rules as to where each tourist boat can go is prescribed by the government, ensuring equal distribution of the tourist load but also allowing for some favoritism for those with good connections.
A large number of the species we saw only occur on the Galapagos, and of those, some only on specific islands. The phrase "endemic species" was uttered by our guide a number of times a day.
Aside from the variety of wildlife, the other unique feature is the animal's complete lack of fear and in some cases unhealthy curiosity. Snorkeling with sea lions was a blast as they want to interact. If you dive and corkscrew while doing so, they mimic your movement. More than once a sea lion would swim straight at your face, only to miss by a whisker and shoot past the length of your body with no room to spare.
Photo courtesy of Lucienne Oud
Wandering around the islands, always on a path accompanied by a guide, it was hard to sometimes not stumble over sleeping sea lions, or nesting boobies. The one below is a Nasca booby.
The surroundings were not too shabby either.
The Galapagos are volcanic, with a number of active hotspots.
The oddest and most unexpected animals on the the equator are penguins.
Of course there are Albatross as well.
And of course, blue-footed boobies are everywhere.
A young booby in its nest.
A picture of the boat we were on.
After eight nights at sea, we were happy to get back to land. The whole western side of the Galapagos is part of a different trip schedule, so that will have to wait for a next visit.