Wandering in America del Sur

Ecuador-Travelogue  |  Travel time: July 2005 - March 2006  |  by Allison Webb

Voyage of the Daphne - Part 2

Left without incident on our Aero Galapagos flight with its iguanua logo, to travel 1000km as the albatross flies to Baltra, a small island right beside Santa Cruz the main island where our boat the moored. In the airport saw all the tanned and relaxed people and hoped that we would leave looking the same. As it turns out we would not be disappointed.

The Galapagos Islands are made up of 19 volcanic islands and many small islets comprising 7882 square kilometres. Discovered by accident in 1535 by a Spanish explorer who had drifted off course, the islands were used for years by buccaneers, sealers and whalers who came aboard for water and food, primarily the giant Galapagos tortoise for which the islands got their name. In 1835 Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos and made all kinds of notes and collections of wildlife from the islands. Ecuador officially claimed the islands in 1832, but the islands were sparsed inhabitated and used primarily as penal colonies. In 1959 this all changed when the penal colonies were closed and the archipelago became a national park! Seeing the opportunity for economic gain, organised tourism began in the late 1960s and now more than 65,000 people visit the islands each year. And now we were one of them!

The trip started off relatively slow as our naturalist guide met the other passengers and we spent a few hours on land walking in the presence of giant tortoises. But what we really wanted was to see our new home, Daphne. Later that afternoon around 5pm we loaded onto little zodiaks and skipped across the water towards a boat moored in the distance. Within minutes of our feet touching her decks we were in love. Daphne was a lovely boat with all kinds of common areas, decks covered and open with inviting deck chairs, a bar-dining area and a living room complete with book exchange and dvd. And we all lucked out with rooms up top with big windows and doors opening to the outside deck. And while they were small, we preferred to think of them as cozy!

Only when we heard the familiar sound of the anchor being hauled up and the boat began to roll, did we feel like the trip was actually beginning. A sense of excitement and the fact that we were really on the Galapagas began to take hold!

The next 7 days began to blur as we experienced wildlife overload. Now whatever anyone could write or tell you or whatever we had read, nothing could truly prepare us for the number of animals that we would see up close and personal on the islands. And it wasn´t just the animals that made it magical, but the stunning scenery that complemented the wildlife.

Our tour covered 9 islands, each slightly different and of their own character from the volcanic ash and sweeping curve and vista of Bartolome, to the red, red, sand beaches of Rabida, to the turqoise tropical waters and flour soft white sand beaches of Espinola, to the mangroves of Santa Cruz. All of it was absolutely stunning.

Everywhere we were treated to views of animals so close that we had to be careful not to step on them. Particularly vulnerable were the sea lions and iguanas who just loved to bask in the sun and usually lazed on the prescribed walking paths which you must stay on to minimize impacts. And it wasn´t just one or two of the species, but literally hundreds in many cases.

And the other amazing thing was the lack of fear of the animals towards humans. It was almost as if they were trained to pose for photos they were so calm. At times we wondered if the Darwin Centre actually had them on remote control in order to act for the tourists! But no, it was the real thing. Something so phenomenal I now know why they say that you can never experience this anywhere else in the world!

We saw the famous blue footed boobies with their striking blue feet who danced the mating dance for us complete with their hilarious song, frigate birds with the males in courtship ritual blowing out their red sacks to full proportion, sea lions with their pups not more than a few days old, mask footed boobies with their chicks covered in fluff, iguanas of all different colours from red to green to yellow trying to attract a mate and the ubitiquous Sally Lightfoot crabs who scurried to and fro in their bright red shells adding colour to the black volcanic rocks.

And then there was the marine life! There is nothing quite like swimming with tons and tons of colourful fish in all kinds of nooks and crannies, starfish (seastars) of purple, blue and orange, white tipped reef sharks, turtles, sea lions, dolphins, rays of many species including the golden rays, eagle rays and manta rays and my favourite, the most northerly penguin species in the world, the Galagapos penguin who are like torpedos in the water! Snorkelling was a joy while we were on the lookout for new species everyday or another glimpse of the sharks (not too close please!), sea lions, turtles and rays. Sometimes the water was a little cold, but we braved it without wetsuits -after all we´re from Canada! - and just kept on going! At Espinola Island, they practically had to drag us out because the snorkelling was so good!

Life on the boat assumed a regular ritual and we were old hands by day 2. The morning began with breakfast at 7am, followed by a quick zodiak trip to the nearest island and a walk where photo opportunities abounded. After that we would take a break until about 10:30 when we´d snorkel ´til 11:30 and then return for lunch at 12. We would stay out of the sun during the hottest time of the day and usually motor to spot. In the afternoon around 3pm, there would be another trip for either a walk or zodiak trip along the shore. We would return around 5pm and have free time until our dinner at 7pm. After dinner, the fab 4, Kelly, Rob, Kurt and I would while the hours away with scrabble and drinks before retiring at the late hour of 9pm although a couple of days we actually made it to 10! All that sun and fresh air really tired us out! Then we would get up and do it all over again!

The food on the boat was incredible and we indulged in tons and tons of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and seafood daily. The crew was fantastic and kept Daphne very shipshape. We spent hours just reading on deck and were happy for the book exchange and it seemed like a real vacation. The only down side of the long crossings were the rough seas which made several people very unhappy as we rolled in our berths all night! But for me, it was another reminder of the ocean life and I sat in my berth reading and smiling to myself and later got rocked to sleep by the rolling waves.

But as all good things must come to an end, in the morning of our 8th day, we were up for breakfast at 6:30am and a sad goodbye to Daphne and crew. We were headed for the famous Charles Darwin Research Station for a tour before finishing our trip. After Kelly, Rob, Kurt and I just couldn´t bear to call an end to our Galapagos adventure so we stayed in the tiny town of Puerto Ayora and hung out in the sweltering heat, shopped, went to the beach and sat in awe of the entire experience which had been so phenomenal.

But we couldn´t be islanders forever so 2 days later we caught a truckride on the street to the bus station to the ferry to the bus to the airport and flew out, this time to Quito where other adventures would await. But for us, it felt like our holiday was done. Nothing we could ever do would ever top the Galapagos experience and we knew that we´d been incredibly fortunate to do it. All the extra cash that we had forked out for a good boat had been totally worthwhile as the entire trip was unforgettable. And all we can hope is that whoever you are reading this, that you, someday, hop on a plane for this unique, paradise and wonderland because it is truly one of the most spectacular places that I have ever seen and no words can ever begin to do it justice. Just go and experience the magic yourself!

And lastly ... for those of you who haven´t had enough of these photos - Kelly and Rob have graciously given us their underwater photos so you can relive our snorkelling experience, but unfortunately the computers here can´t resize them so please go to their website to see just how amazing it was and click on Galapagos underwater photos 1 and 2 (thanks you guys! Aussie´s rock!):

www.planetranger.com/kellyandrob

The official airline of the Galapagos

The official airline of the Galapagos

With lots of legroom! Air Canada could take a lesson or two!

With lots of legroom! Air Canada could take a lesson or two!

Our fantastic crew in dress uniform

Our fantastic crew in dress uniform

Another of the chef´s creative meals!

Another of the chef´s creative meals!

Our cozy, little cabina

Our cozy, little cabina

On the zodiak trying not to get fried from the sun

On the zodiak trying not to get fried from the sun

sea lion pup on beach - only a few weeks old and already posing for the camera

sea lion pup on beach - only a few weeks old and already posing for the camera

The idyllic beaches - Bachas Beach

The idyllic beaches - Bachas Beach

Post Office Bay - a long history still carrying on. Originally used by whalers to drop and deliver mail and still being used and possible faster than Canada Post - we´ll see as we left a postcard there for delivery!

Post Office Bay - a long history still carrying on. Originally used by whalers to drop and deliver mail and still being used and possible faster than Canada Post - we´ll see as we left a postcard there for delivery!

Iguanua on Espanola Island ready for mating! Hence the bright colours to attract a partner

Iguanua on Espanola Island ready for mating! Hence the bright colours to attract a partner

Just another night of the ongoing scrabble challenge while the crew looks on! Note increasingly tanned faces!

Just another night of the ongoing scrabble challenge while the crew looks on! Note increasingly tanned faces!

My fave - the blue footed booby

My fave - the blue footed booby

On Isla Bartolome and its lookout - what a vista and not bad for our first island, Rob, Kelly, me and Kurt (lots of pasty white, but not for long!)

On Isla Bartolome and its lookout - what a vista and not bad for our first island, Rob, Kelly, me and Kurt (lots of pasty white, but not for long!)

The very prolific and colourful, Sally Lightfoot crab

The very prolific and colourful, Sally Lightfoot crab

Silvery vegetation on Isla Bartolome - amazing that anything can grow in the volcanic sand

Silvery vegetation on Isla Bartolome - amazing that anything can grow in the volcanic sand

The viewooint and islets on Floreana Island

The viewooint and islets on Floreana Island

Mother and master footed booby chick on Espinola Island

Mother and master footed booby chick on Espinola Island

An oyster catcher at rest

An oyster catcher at rest

Chef and apprentice taking applause for another fantastic spread

Chef and apprentice taking applause for another fantastic spread

Ah, it´s a tough life - relaxing on Daphne´s backdeck

Ah, it´s a tough life - relaxing on Daphne´s backdeck

Sea lions at Santiago Island - sleep, sun and swim - not a bad life!

Sea lions at Santiago Island - sleep, sun and swim - not a bad life!

Estrella del mar (seastar) on the red, red sands of Rabida Island

Estrella del mar (seastar) on the red, red sands of Rabida Island

More iguanas than you can shake a stick at!

More iguanas than you can shake a stick at!

Aussie´s doing what Aussie´s do best! Kelly and Rob on the top deck of the Daphne!

Aussie´s doing what Aussie´s do best! Kelly and Rob on the top deck of the Daphne!

Giant Galapagos tortoise - the island´s namesake at the Charles Darwin Research Station

Giant Galapagos tortoise - the island´s namesake at the Charles Darwin Research Station

© Allison Webb, 2005
You are here : Overview The Americas Ecuador Ecuador-Travelogue
The trip
 
Description:
My trip through Peru before heading to Chile to work for 6 months and then travels afterward in South America
Details:
Start of journey: Jul 05, 2005
Duration: 8 months
End of journey: Mar 02, 2006
Travelled countries: Peru
Chile
Argentina
Uruguay
Ecuador
The Author
 
Allison Webb is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 14 years.