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Old 10-14-2012, 12:59 PM   #47
Cisco_k OP
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Joined: Feb 2009
Location: Houston, TX
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The trip to the islands began on Sunday morning with a trip to the airport and a flight of about three hours which included one stop. I found myself sharing a row of seats with two of the nine students that were going to be on our boat. The students were going on a one week cruise as part of a semester abroad course that focused on biology in Ecuador. Other than the students, their professor and his assistant, we were two of the four other passengers. The boat has a crew of seven, plus an English speaking guide, and up to 16 passengers.

From the airport we caught a bus to the harbor where we were transported by one of the boats skiffs to the ANGELITO I. Joe and I had an upper deck berth, which was nice because we had windows and a door that opened to the deck. All berths are two person with a bunk bed and a bathroom with toilet, sink and shower. It may not have been as plush as some of the new cruise ships but it was complete and good for our needs.

One thing that really stuck out was the quality of the meals. We had the usual three per day plus snacks after excursions. There was a full variety of food prepared for us and it never seemed to repeat. The two cooks couldnít have made more tasty or presentable food. It was better than any cruise ship that I have been on, even when taking into account the special meals that one can pay extra for on a cruise ship. We always had fresh fruit and vegetables as well as a variety of meats and fishes.

I was impressed by the skills of the crew in handling the boat and in handling the skiffs that transported us to and from islands. A few times the waves were fairly high when we had to step out on a rocky shore and the skiffs were maneuvered and held in place against the rocks in a way that amazed me. The crew was also as friendly as one could hope to find. The boat was always kept clean and orderly.

The time for excursions and snorkeling was maximized by traveling mostly at night while we were sleeping. Our meals were almost always served while we were anchored in protected waters so that the boat was stable while we ate. A few times while sailing at night, we did have some rough waters and it was difficult to find a position to sleep in where I wouldnít keep rolling back and forth and waking up. Some of those on board had a problem with the pitching of the boat when it got rough, but they took something for their motion sickness and no one had any problems after the first day. The problems that Joe and I had the most were walking when the boat was moving about. We found ourselves bouncing off the bulkheads and stumbling about like drunks. And, we didnít have that much to drink either.

We were up and eating breakfast at 7:00, in the skiffs at 7:30 for a morning excursion. The excursion either went until just before a 12:00 lunch or it went until about 10:00 when we would return to the boat and get ready to go snorkeling for about an hour and a half. For the snorkeling the adults wore wet suits while the students choose to save $5 per day and swim without one. The water was cold even with a wet suit and Iím not sure how the students made it other than they are young. The tours were very relaxed and everyone had all the time they needed to look about and take photographs. Sometimes we would get pretty strung out because we didnít have to stay in a tight ball but we did not move on to the next sight until we were all ready.

The tours of the islands were amazing because none of the wildlife was afraid of us. One could go right up to mother sea lions and their young, or birds nesting in bushes or on the ground and none of them moved. While on one beach a sea lion came over within six inches of my foot, sniffed my leg and proceeded to put its head down and snooze. In the water the sea lions would seem to play with us by charging right at our face and turning at the last minute then zipping around and under us. The sea turtles paid us no attention at all as we swam around them. The iguanas, both the land and the sea ones seemed as though they couldnít care less about our presence. The sea iguanas would often be found on the rocks in heaps of ten or fifteen as they warmed in the sun and they acted as though we werenít there. One actually had to watch their step to keep from stepping on iguanas or other lizards. We saw birds sitting on eggs only a foot or two away from us and birds returning from the sea to feed their young right next to us. It was truly an amazing experience.

The government has special rules for the tourist in the park and it is all intended to not only preserve but to restore it to the original conditions before man and the introduction of so many foreign species of plants and animals. On one island there were over 100,000 goats that had to be eradicated because they had gone wild and were stripping the island clean of vegetation. Tours are restricted to visiting certain islands only on very strict rotations and groups are limited to 16 people and one guide. The guides are all trained and registered. There are pathways to follow on the islands and there are restrictions as to where swimming and snorkeling can take place. But, all the restrictions do not seem to have an impact upon what the visitor can see because the wildlife has settled not only next to the paths but on the paths as well. The only real limitations for visitors are to not take anything at all from the islands, to not touch the animals and to take no food ashore either for the animals or themselves.

It was a very enjoyable experience on the boat. The students were all well behaved and even tolerated Joe and me giving them our conservative view of how the world should operate. If one is interested in a trip to the GalŠpagosí Islands, I would highly recommend using this same travel service. The service, hostel and boat are all co-owned and they take pride in providing the best service possible. To book something with them, or to just find out about it, go to:

Our boat and home for the next five days. It was constructed 20 years ago in the GalŠpagosí Islands of local wood. It is 70 feet long, 22 feet wide, with three decks and a speed of 10 knots.

Our plush accommodations. It is not an optical illusion; the top bunk is narrower than the lower one. Joe had first selection choice so I got it. At least there was almost half an inch to spare between my head, feet and walls.

The professor and most of his students having our first lunch.

The rest of us at the second table.

We received daily briefings from our guide Fabian about where we were going, the history and what we would find when we got there.

One of the first land iguanas that we encountered at our first shore excursion. Itís about three feet from snout to end of tail.

The sea iguanas were all black so that they would absorb heat from the sun before diving for food.

The larger sea iguanas would have some color, but mostly dark. This one is about 3 feet long.

Notice the white crystals on his snout. They have formed from the salt that is sneezed out after they ingest sea water.

Getting and out of our two skiffs was a bit tricky when the seas were a little rough.

After each excursion to an island or for snorkeling, the crew would have a snack ready for us upon our return. Notice who is first to grab something. Oh, by the way, Joe wears a lime green shirt.

There were even Galapagos penguins.

Sally Lightfoot Crabs were plentiful. They are dark when young but after several molts, they turn bright red and orange. I understand they are tasty but protected.

Hereís a look at some of the coral that grows around the islands.

One of many large schools of fish that one sees while snorkeling.

he sea lions love to check out the snorkelers and would swim close and blow bubbles in ones face.

In one area we swam with about 15 giant sea turtles. One could swim up close enough to touch them and the turtles didnít pay any attention.

Here is a close up of the turtle eating sea moss off the rocks.

And, there were other fish swimming about us. We saw three different types of sharks from the docile White Tipped Galapagos Reef Shark to a more aggressive hammerhead. I donít know what this one is. It was about five feet long.

I had to get into one photograph with the sea lions.

This pup seems to be making the most of waiting for mother to return from eating and feed it.

This is what the sea lions do really well on the beaches and rocks.

This oneís wait for mother to feed it is over.

This male bull had been swimming in the water keeping other males from coming ashore but came out and put itself in from of some of his harem when he though we posed a problem. He gave loud warning calls to let us and any other sea lions know that he owned this part of the beach.

This pup is so new that its umbilical cord is still attached. It can be seen draped across the motherís flipper.

Here is the famous Blue Footed Bobby and her young chick.

This chick is waiting for the mother or father to return and feed it.

It wouldnít be a trip to the Galapagos without seeing the tortoises.

Over the years much of the population of tortoises was wiped out by either hunting, rat infestation or other introduced predators. The park service has a well-developed program for hatching and reintroducing tortoises to all the islands.
"Right is still right if nobody is right, and wrong is still wrong if everybody is wrong," ~Archbishop Fulton J Sheen

Cisco_k screwed with this post 10-14-2012 at 08:23 PM
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