Galapagos, San Christobal, Espanola, Floreana, Santa Creuz
The flights from Cuenca to Quito and from there to the Galapagos went well even if a bit delayed. I did not have to pay any excess baggage although I now had all my things with me. There was a short transfer in Guayaquil and we were quickly brought from San Christobal airport to our ship, the PC Millenium. It is fine, very luxurious, with big cabins with large windows. The food is also good but it is not allowed to catch fresh fish like we could in the Seychelles. However that ship was much more cramped but I think more seaworthy. This one rolls a lot because of the high superstructure. Everybody is here as planned, including some members of the sport club and some previous travel companions of Juan’s. In the afternoon we had quite a long drive in a blue bus (seemed very familiar) for a short walk to a tortoise rearing station. One also sees the inevitable Darwin finches and mockingbirds, which led him to his theories of evolution. Each evening the programme for the next day is carefully explained.
In the Garner Bay on Espanola there were lots of sea lions on the beach together with red and green iguanas. Neither were quite so big as I had expected but maybe the black iguanas on other islands would be bigger. This was followed by a snorkeling session along a rocky shore, which had quite a lot to see, including three sea lions swimming by, which I had never experienced before. In the afternoon we landed at Punte Suarez and visited the blue-footed boobies and frigate birds, which were very similar to what I had seen on the Seychelles. Unfortunately the albatross breeding season was over and there were none to be seen.
The ship had travelled in the night to the island of Floreana. First there was viewing of flamingos in a brackish lake near Cormorant Point and then swimming from a beautiful sandy beach whilst watching boobies and pelicans diving for fish. There are turtle tracks in the sand and one occasionally pops its head out of the water. Also interesting was the large and colourful painted grasshopper. At Post Office Bay our guide related some of the history of the Galapagos Islands and the Widmer clan who used to live there. After dinner on the boat we visited Puerto Ayora, the main town of the Galapagos on Santa Creuz.
Today we walked up the ‘mountain’ to see giant tortoises in the wild. It was rather wet and muddy on the hill (500m.) where they live on Santa Creuz, but we saw several including two big 150 year old males, before it really started to rain. 97% of the Galapagos is a desert. We were in the other 3%. The tortoises were just found singly in the bushes, except for a mating couple – no big groups. On the return journey we walked through a lava tunnel, which at one point was so low that it was necessary to crawl. Afterwards we visited the Darwin Research Station where some threatened species are bred in captivity. Lonesome George, the only surviving giant tortoise from the island of Pinta, was also there of course but I do not expect the breeding attempts with him will ever be successful. They have been trying since 1972, when he was found. We could only see him as a wet black mound on the far side of the enclosure – not close-up as I had seen him on television.