Exploring Darwin’s paradise – 2 weeks on the Galápagos Islands 

Brilliant white sand beaches, a jungle highland and an abundance of wildlife everywhere the eye could see. What more could you want for a holiday within a holiday ! We had decided before departing New Zealand to South America that Galapagos was a must do on our list, a fire mainly fuelled from BBC’s planet earth documentary narrated by our main man Sir David Attenborough. A lot of fellow back packers on the South America trail skip on the old Galápagos Islands, due to the reasonably significant cost to visit this paradise with flights alone around $500 USD each return. I’ll post more details about the costs and some handy hints in the next blog. But all in all we were blown away with the place, and it probably just pipped the Bolivian Amazon Jungle as my stand out memorable adventure.

Now prepare yourself for a lot of fish photos in this wee blurb. Armed with Phill’s GoPro we were pretty set for 2 weeks of snorkelling and scuba diving as the only way to escape the equator tropical heat. We split our time staying between the islands Santa Cruz before and San Cristobel after haggling our way onto a last minute 8 day cruise, which was definitely the way to go if your not pinched for time to get the most of island life.

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Isla Santa Cruz 🍦🏊🏼🐢

Arriving at the Baltra airport; a bus, barge and public bus will get you to the Santa Cruise community of Puerto Ayora. This is the biggest settlement on all the islands, despite San Cristobel being the archipelago capital. We meandered around to find some accomodation and set of to suss our way onto a cruise. A lot of people either do day trips or short cruises, but we were keen on a full blown 7 night/8 day voyage to maximise the island adventure. Sussing out some different options and with brilliant advice from fellow kiwi amigos (thanks Jemma!🙏) we ended up getting the last spots on Lonely George, a scuba dive capable catamaran named after the islands most famous resident. With a couple of days to spare before departing we had plenty of Island based activities to keep us occupied. This included

  • multiple daily trips to the ice cream shop to relieve the 30+ degree humid heat
  • tortuga ranch called El Chalto to watch the giant tortoises roam around in their natural habitat and venture through 500m lava tunnels
  • day trip to Isla Isabella to see the tortoise breeding centre and watch marine iguanas laze on the beach from our hammocks drinking mojitos. I did regret not staying here overnight to walk up th volcano, isn’t hindsight a wee prick sometimes.
  • small walk to Las Greitas swimming hole for cliff jumping where fresh meets salt water
  • visit to the Darwin research centre to see the embalmed Lonely George and learn more about the wildlife conservation. Old mate George was the last survivor of his kind of Tortoise who had unfortunately been left on Pinto island eating cactus on his own for over 50years, before being discovered and brought to the research centre to try and breed unsuccessfully.

Solitario Jorge Cruise 🛥🦈🐠🐢🦎🐡

Heading off on our boat cruise for 7 nights we were a tad apprehensive about the other passengers who could make or break the experience. Now with our choice of mid range boat, we were super lucky 90% of the other passengers were within a couple of years of our age which led to fun filled evenings of rum drinking and fierce card games. The boat had a small crew, naturalist guide and 16 passengers, with each double room having its own tiny ensuite although Phill decided swimming twice a day therefore didn’t require use of the shower the entire time anyway.

Everyday on our cruise consisted of snorkels, walks and early starts to beat the heat and catch the wildlife. Our itinerary mainly focused around Isla Santiago, Isla Rabida, Baltra, North Seymour, and San Cristobel for different dive spots. This was slightly changed due to some typical South American engine faults fixed by cheap parts, running on one motor the whole time which then managed to get water in the diesel keeping the engineer working round the clock. Our 6am scuba dive at Albany rock and similar time snorkel at North Seymour were definitely the most amazing for the marine life, including Manta Rays, Eagle Rays, sea horses, penguins, turtles, sea snakes, white tip reef sharks, Hammerhead sharks and an abundance of fish life, with the clearest water I’ve ever seen at Island Chinese hat! We were also fortunate enough for our boaties to navigate the rocks into Isla Mosquera, where we spent a couple of hours hanging with the super playful resident sea lions who insisted on biting our flippers and chasing us up the beach!

After 7 nights we were ready to depart back to land for a decent nights sleep without an engine starting at 3am, although rather wobbly after spending 24/7 in the rolling ocean. Definitely some memorable experiences and I’d highly recommend this to anyone !

 

Isla San Cristobel 🌊☀️

Arriving back in Santa Cruz, we jumped back on a ferry across to San Cristobel to spend our last couple of nights with a few others from the cruise. New friends on the boat had highly recommended the Kicker Rock scuba dive, especially following the encounter with our cruise dive master not even wearing a BCD which was super dodgy. We chose to go with Fan Dive Galapagos, run by the all round good sort Santiago who went over and above for us, even arriving at the pier to farewell us at the end of our trip. We got two dives at the infamous Kicker Rock, through the channel between the two rock formations and off the end of the peninsula. We were treated to a local squad of hammerheads circling a huge school of fish, Galapagos sharks, sea lions catching their lunch, barracudas and a gazillion other fish imaginable. This was definitely my highlight of the time on the islands!

The remainder of our time was just chilling at the local beaches (there’s one directly opposite the university which made me very envious at my own uni’s city location back home), feeling throughaly refreshed to head back to the mainland and jump into the last two months of our adventure !

Next stop 🔜 Baños de Agua Santa

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