No Napagos-Galapagos!

WAAAAH! @ Los Túneles, Isabela Island, Galapagos

Why Are We Holding Hands?! @ Isabela Island, Galapagos

Day 1- Arriving and the Darwin Centre

Our adventure began at Guayquil Airport where we had to get in a long queue to get a tourist card and pay our “tourism fee” of $20/pp, to then get in an adjacent queue to get your luggage searched and approved to then queue for actual check in. We were chatting to a lovely British family who we later bumped into almost everyday on Isabella island who after a while of waiting, the Dad Chris decided to drop out of the tourist card queue and do all the bag stuff. I followed and after a couple of rotations back and forth I’d manage to have all our bags checked and tagged and even check in without Jess even being there. We got our tourist cards and were off! We sat down for a coffee and Bec and Adam (the Kiwi/Aussie couple we had met in Mexico, again in Guatemala, Colombia, and Ecuador) came running past looking a bit panicked. They had flown from Quito with a stopover here and then we were all on the same flight. Only problem was their plane stewards had told them to stay on the plane but they later found out the plane was destined for San Cristobal and not Baltra where we were all staying for the first night. Worried their bags were going to San Cristobal they had to disembark, go collect their bags just to check them back in again! Panic over we all sat and have a coffee before boarding our plane. Ad and Rach were on a slightly earlier flight to us.

Snoozing Sea Lion @ Isabela Island, Galapagos

The flight over the islands was amazing, the landscape looked mostly flat, rocky and arid with occasional volcanoes sprouting up. We flew over one small island that was just a huge crater.

We landed at Baltra Airport (apparently the worlds first Eco-Airport, whatever that really meant), one of three airports in the Galapagos located on Baltra island, a very small island that just houses the Airport north of Santa Cruz. We were led off the tarmac into the little terminal where we paid our $100/pp National Park entrance fee and had our bags sniffed by an adorable chubby black lab who Jess soon had on his back rubbing his belly (after it had done his duties of course!). The four of us, together with John an Irish guy whom Bec and Adam had met a few weeks before got a $5 bus to a ferry boat (literally a five minute journey), a $1 two minute ferry across the canal to the main island of Santa Cruz and a $25 Ute taxi to Puerta Ayora. We hadn’t even arrived at our hostel and we had already spent $131 each! We knew the Galapagos was going to take a ginormous chunk out of our budget and it will mean we have to go home at least a month earlier than planned but we didn’t care, we were here and we were excited, bring on the wildlife!

Stretching In The Sun @ Isabela Island, Galapagos

In the taxi to our hostel we saw some Giant tortoises just chilling at the side of the road! We checked in to Hostal Carliza II, chucked our stuff in our rooms, packed a bag ready for anything and set off to find Adam and Rach and head to the Charles Darwin Centre. On the way we saw our first Marine iguanas and Galapagos sea lions. The Marine iguanas were the ones from Planet Earth- the ones that get chased by the Razor snakes. It was amazing, they were just everywhere with not a care in the world.

Giant Tortoise Foot @ Darwin Centre, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

The Charles Darwin Centre was ok, lots of enormous Giant tortoises which was great and a breeding programme with lots of babies and adolescents. Perhaps the adult enclosures were a bit small and it was a bit short of information but we did visit Diego the pimp tortoise who had fathered over 800 children. We also met Lonesome George, the last tortoise of his species who had never had any mates. This was probably the oddest part of the tour, we went in with another group and were ushered into a small “climatisation room”. We had to adjust to the 18 degree room we were about to walk into so we stood for two minutes in air con. Then we went into what can only be described as Lonesome George’s Moseleum. There he stood in a big glass cabinet, enormous in size, smile on his face, dead and stuffed. No flash photography sign on the front of the glass, of course, George hated the flash. There was a curtain at the back of the room blocking the light that was a recent addition because his shell was bleaching. After our allotted six minutes (seriously that’s the maximum time you are allowed in there, we were ushered into another climatisation room, who the fuck knows why. Why on earth would you need to acclimatise before going back outside?! It wasn’t another entry sometimes, I checked.

Say “Ah” @ Darwin Centre, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

On the way back from the Darwin Centre we had a quick peak in some souvenir shops and went in search of wetsuit to hire.

The evening was spent enjoying happy hour cocktails, eating lobster and of course playing Monopoly deal because we know how to have a good time.

Day 2- Concha de Perla

The next morning we were up and out very early for our ferry across to Isabela island (the one shaped like a sea horse). After an unfortunately cold shower, quickly grabbing some bakery goods, apparently Jess’ best pan de chocolate outside of France (this is such nonsense, she has no idea the quality of incredible bakery goods Europe is going to rain down on her next year, she will be so pleased), we jumped on a very bumpy ferry. Almost everyone felt unwell especially Adam who got very sick into a plastic bag, twice. Luckily the ferry was small enough so we could all watch him and make him feel even more embarrassed.

With feet on dry land and everyone feeling substantially better we had arrived on Isabella, the most westerly inhabited island.

Blue Footed Booby @ Los Túneles, Isabela Island, Galapagos

From the dock that was laced with lounging sea lions we were picked up in a ute and driven off to our Hostal- Posada de Caminante. After a small mix up with the rooms and our bookings we were unpacked into our rooms that were huge and each had a fridge!. Our day packs re-packed and ready for anything we headed off. Like the super nerds we all are, we had coined the popular New Zealand motorcycle safety slogan “all the gear, all the time” as in our day packs we always had clothes for all weather conditions, a spare set of dry clothes, bathers, mask, snorkel, rash vest and swim shoes, towels, food and water, go pros and normal cameras plus spare batteries, spare SDs, hats, sun cream and often a packed lunch. Very prepared and not willing to miss a single second.

We walked to a place called Concha de Perla and went for our first snorkel. We had to walk around so many Marine iguanas and past sea lions laying on benches. The site is at the end of a board walk between the mangroves and the sea. We saw two turtles a few fish but the visibility was quite bad. A sea lion did whizz past Jess which was exciting. Little did we know then that this was going to happen daily and things were only going to get better and better. As we walked back, we passed playa Isabela the main beach where we saw even more sea lions crossing the road (on the zebra crossing!!) and hanging out on the beach.

Later on we had some beers on the beach and Adam cooked us a family dinner.

Six Boobies @ Los Túneles, Isabela Island, Galapagos

Day 3- Wall of Tears

The next morning we got up and had breakfast before heading off to rent bikes to cycle to the famous “Wall of Tears”.

Helmets on we set off with our gigantic back packs with absolutely everything in out of the small town and down a sandy road. It was a bit of a grey day and had started to rain. Rain didn’t stop the wildlife so it certainly wasn’t going to stop us! Along the way we stopped a lot because there were Giant tortoises on the road every 20m! It was just amazing! In the wild, totally care free as they have no predators and clearly do not care about humans! It took us over an hour to get to the wall with all the photo stops.

Sea Turtle @ Isabela Island, Galapagos

The Wall of Tears has been left to remember all the prisoner mistreatment on the Galapagos. It was constructed by prisoners between 1945-1959 where Isabella held a Penal Colony. Maybe it was just the grey and gloomy weather but it was quite a creepy site and apparently it was named not only to remember the prisoners who illegedly died during the process but also it was known to emanate eerie cries!

Once at the wall we hiked up a lot of stairs to an amazing viewpoint where Jess told an Ecuadorian and his child off (in Spanish may I add) for trying to touch a lizard. There is a two metre rule between people and the wildlife on the Galapagos which admittedly is sometimes hard to keep if they are either on the footpath you’re not allowed to stray from or swimming at you. One sure way to avoid it is by not picking them up. Unfortunately it seemed to be mainly the mainland Ecuadorians that didn’t seem to grasp or follow this simple rule. The viewpoint was amazing and you could see for miles. Flat sparse land filled with mainly volcanic lava rocks and cacti.

Lava Lizard Saved By Jess @ Wall of Tears Lookout, Isabela Island, Galapagos

FIGHT! @ Wall of Tears, Isabela Island, Galapagos

As we climbed down to the bottom of the viewpoint we saw a pair of Giant tortoises fighting. I say fighting, the way they “fight” (usually over territory or females) is to stand up as tall as they can and stretch their necks up as far as possible. Whoever is the tallest wins, it’s that simple. The slightly shorter tortoise slowly walked off after losing the lamest fight in the world and we continued on our bikes to El Estero.

We wandered through the woods to an opening surrounded by mangroves. There were only four other people there and some sea lion pups were playing in the water. We all jumped in with our snorkels and spent the next hour or so watching and swimming with sea lion pups, it was incredible!! They loved the Go Pro and kept biting it. I saw one playing fetch with a branch all on its own. I had to restrain myself from throwing it for him.

Personal Space @ Isabela Island, Galapagos

Tongue @ Isabela Island, Galapagos

We sat and had lunch before moving onto the spot where we walked along a pathway that was honestly choca-block with Marine iguanas resting, sneezing out salt and generally stinking up the place. They really do smell awful, they often poo and then eat their poo as they can’t digest and use all the nutrients from the algae they eat the first time round so why not give it another go. I assume that’s why they smell so bad because they are wet and surrounded by their own faeces all the time.

Sally Light-Footed Crab @ Playa Amor, Isabela Island, Galapagos

We made a few more stops on the way home at various lagoons, view points and beaches including Playa Amor which was covered in an indescribable number of Marine iguanas and Sally Light-footed crabs.

Grumpy @ Isabela Island, Galapagos

We carried on past the town to the Salinas where we saw some flamingoes feeding. Throughout the day we kept bumping into the lovely English family we met at the airport (Chris, Kate and their son Josh) so once we were done with cycling we all had a drink together at a sunset bar where we tried to tightrope walk (rather unsuccessfully after two cocktails), played volleyball and football.

A bit of food shopping on the way home and family dinner was cooked by Adam and myself. A few drinks and we were all wrecked and had one of many early nights.

Playful Sea Lions @ Isabela Island, Galapagos

Day 4- Los Túneles

The next morning we were picked up at 7.30am for a trip to Los Túneles also known as Cabo Rosa. We were piled into a ute and driven to a shop to get all of our wetsuits fitted. They only have utes here, literally no other vehicles and they are all Toyotas, Nissans or Chevrolets/Holden. We had been wondering how they get vehicles as we haven’t seen any car dealers. I guess they get shipped over but that must be so expensive!

The water is pretty cold here, we have all been snorkelling in rash vests and Jess, Rach and I have had those little “sea shoes” to keep our feet a bit warmer but after half an hour of snorkelling without a wetsuit its time to get out. Suited and booted we were driven to the dock and boarded a boat that took about 45 minutes over semi choppy sea. Adam was made to sit at the back on his own in the open air. He got soaked but at least he didn’t get sick. “Better wet with sea water than your own vomit”, another catchy phrase of the trip I had coined.

Golden Rays @ Los Túneles, Isabela Island, Galapagos

We arrived at an alternative site to the real Los Túneles because the swell was to big to dock at the original site (although none of us realised this until the day was over, plus we didn’t really care). We could see a small colony of Blue-footed boobies which was amazing! We had seen a couple fishing around the docks but seeing them up close was really something. They have these insane faces with eyes in the back of their beaks which makes them look even more nuts. The name “booby” comes from the Spanish “bobo” which means stupid and it is not even referring to their ridiculous crazy faces, it’s the way they waddle. Lots more information about these amazing birds to come.

We continued on land and walked over some cool lava formations and around little pools. We saw an enormous Marble ray, Whitetip sharks, heaps of crabs and even a baby octopus walking on land!

Seahorse @ Los Túneles, Isabela Island, Galapagos

Mantaray @ Los Túneles, Isabela Island, Galapagos

It was then time to suit up and jump into the very cold water to do some snorkelling. It was pretty shallow and at times the visibility wasn’t the best but when it got really shallow it was crystal clear. We saw loads more Whitetip sharks, three types of turtle, the same gigantic Marble ray, a school of Golden rays (so beautiful!), Spotted eagle rays, Tube fish and a load of other cool fish.

On the boat back we were lucky enough to see Humpback whales! Not just spurting air but full on breaching right near the boat multiple times, it was incredible!!! The Galapagos is just incredible! We had already seen so much and we had only been there for four days!

Whale Hello There! @ Isabela Island, Galapagos

We walked back into town and stupidly decided to go back and revisit the sites on the way to the Wall of Tears which took us forever on foot but we did manage to see more sea lions playing at El Estero, a thousand more Marine iguanas and just sat and watched the high rough surf.

Back at home, family dinner was cooked by Bec and Kiwi Adam, another incredibly surreal day.

Day 5- Tintoreras

We had a nice lazy morning, cooked a huge breakfast and changed all of our reservations to head to San Cristobal a day early as after today we felt we would have done everything we wanted to do on Isabela. The people on Galapagos are super laid back and kindly changed both our all of our hostel and ferry reservations with no charge and no question.

Today we were going kayaking and snorkelling around Tintoreras which is a group of small islands south-southeast of Puerta Villamil where we were staying. We went to Pahoehoe agency to get our gear and were picked up and then driven to the port. Both Jess and I and Ad and Rach have a pretty bad history of being in kayaks together. In short, Jess and Rachael think steering a kayak is like a car and if there is even a second delay then we (Adam and I) are apparently doing it wrong and they basically turn into these kayak gremlins, so for safety sake we decided to pair up as the Gremlins in one kayak together and Ad and I in another super power kayak. Even if they did want to get annoyed at each other they couldn’t because they had made such a fuss about it! It went very well, no arguements and only minimal splashing but lots of competitive racing.

Competitive Kayaking @ Tintoreras, Isabela Island, Galapagos

On the way round in our kayaks we saw our first Galapagos Penguin, the worlds second smallest penguin (second to the Little Blue penguin found in Australia if you are interested). We also saw two sea lions on an old boat (no people on it), as if they had commandeered it for sea lion business, which is basically just napping and a bit of barking. We saw one adult male sea lion alone on a pontoon and our guide told us that sea lions reach sexual maturity between 6-12 years old, after that if they don’t mate then males tend to seclude themselves and even take them selves out to sea to be eaten! How sad is that?! We shouted some positive life advice at the lonely male sea lion and carried on paddling. We tied our kayaks up to a buoy and carefully shifted off them into the sea and went snorkelling. The water was so cold and the visibility was pretty bad but we did manage to see many turtles- we were literally running into them, some very cool fish, and of course some playful sea lions.

Boobs @ Los Túneles, Isabela Island, Galapagos

We kayaked back and hung out on the beach for a bit with loads of sea lions who were lounging around on the benches. We watched a game of musical chairs as they competed for the best bench and one male sea lion just ran around (flopped about) barking at all of them until he finally decided just to lay in the sand.

We sat and had lunch on the beach and watched Marine iguanas swim in. Bec was too cold to get back into the water so went to warm up at another beach while the rest of us headed back to Concha de Perla for our last snorkel on Isabela. It was amazing, the clearest water yet. We saw two turtles, loads of fish feeding, a spotted eagle ray and marine iguanas swimming. This was the first time we had been actually in the water with the marine iguanas and they were amazing! Such powerful tails, their legs literally do nothing as their tails just propel them through the water effortlessly. Jess and I were following an iguana swimming and suddenly got caught in a rip. We got dragged out but we managed to just sit and float along until we could grab onto some rocks and pull ourselves back so as not to get dragged right out to sea with the boats! There is a reason they have big green “STOP” signs but our heads were underwater following this amazing iguana as we flowed right past the sign!

Chilling Out @ Los Túneles, Isabela Island, Galapagos

Everyone got out to enjoy the animals from the pontoon while I spent the best part of half an hour teaching Rachael how to duck dive. The sea lions were laying on every step to get out of Concha de Perla so we had to kind of wait for a while and eventually just step over them. One woman was trying to get in the water for ages and a sea lion literally just wouldn’t let her, she was screaming, it was so funny.

We dropped our wetsuits (that they had kindly let us have for the whole day) and headed back to the the beach in front of the Sunset bar where we found Bec for beers and an ice cream.

I cooked a huge spaghetti bolognese for family dinner and we had some more beers, some Cuba Libres and said goodbye to Bec and Kiwi Adam who we thought we wouldn’t catch again. Another tough day in paradise.

Blue Feet @ Los Túneles, Isabela Island, Galapagos

Huh? @ Isabela Island, Galapagos

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