Finding Nemo

Solo Pup @ Santiago Island, Galapagos

Boobies and Volcanoes @ Punta Moreno, Isabela Island, Galapagos

Cruise Day 1- Finding Nemo

The day has finally arrived! We have been so excited about this part of the Galapagos and have heard so many amazing stories of people seeing whales and all kinds of other incredible animals on their cruises! We may be pretty much bankrupt after just four nights at sea but we were feeling really hopeful it would be so worth it!

After some horrible cold showers we left the “luxury” of Hotel Carliza 1, we went for a late and massive breakfast. Jess ate a ginormous Bolon (patacón, egg, cheese fried ball) and I had eggs and patacóns (fried platano discs, my favourite food in Ecuador!).

Lava Lizard @ Fernandina Island, Galapagos

We could see Nemo 1 from the dock and could not work out how on earth anyone was going to be able to sleep on there, where were all the cabins? How would 12 passengers plus crew fit?! I didn’t think a Catamaran looked much like a submarine but maybe everything was under water?! We were waiting at the dock for half an hour, a little panicked as there was no one else there. We double checked our info, we were definitely supposed to meet at midday, definitely at Puerto Ayora port, definitely the 23rd August. We saw a big gaggle of grey-haired, white American tourists and felt very anxious that we had booked an old people cruise (so pretty much any cruise), they hobbled past and were led onto Nemo 2, another more swanky Nemo boat. We breathed a huge sigh of relief. It’s not that it would have really mattered and to be honest we have met so many amazing travelling 60+s whom we have loved getting to know but our fear is that it would have been a certain type of older cruise traveller…. Let’s just say that everything would have likely moved a lot “slower” if we were in a that kind of group. Just then, someone shouted “Nemo uno?” at us from a dingy bobbing around the port. We were very relieved but a little confused as it was just us. We were ushered into a boat by Fabiàn our guide and José the Co- captain, we had finally found Nemo!

Fish @ Under The Sea, Galapagos

As we pulled up closer to Nemo 1 we could see it was much bigger than we thought and the cabins were all hidden. It was amazing! Such a snazzy boat! Our cabin was incredible, not cramped at all and really well thought out. The bathroom tap doubled as a pull out shower head, the toilet paper was on a holder in a cupboard that just swung out when you needed it and never got wet. There were towel rails and hooks everywhere, compartments for all our stuff and a bunk bed with a double bed at the bottom. The boat had huge spaces for socialising with sunbed mats and benches and even two big nets you could laze around on and enjoy the sea spray! We had struck gold, as if our time on these insane islands could get any better!!

From Heron In @ Fernandina Island, Galapagos

We met Heather and Mark, originally from the UK but had emigrated to Melbourne ten years ago and now definitely identified as Australian (to be fair, I would too after Brexit). They had also just arrived and we had lunch together which was a bit of a challenge after having Had such a huge breakfast only an hour previous! We hung out for a bit on the roof and then met everyone else who had already been on the cruise for four days- Trevor and Kerry (hilarious brother and sister from The Jersey Shore celebrating Trevor’s 30th), Eivind and Elice (a lovely couple from Norway) and Julia (a totally nuts but awesome woman from the UK) and her two teenage sons- Kai and Morgan. Actually, a lot of our group were our kind of people, other than all being super nice, Kerry worked in an Aquarium and lectured marine biology, Trevor was in renewable energy and Julia worked in environmental law. Such a lovely group, it was a great mix of interesting and friendly people.

Iguana Party With You @ Fernandina Island, Galapagos

Everyone headed off to the Darwin centre which due to a mix up with our itinerary we had already done so we did a bit of shopping instead. Bought some excellent hammer head jewellery and awesome Blue footed booby t-shirts. Back on the boat for 6pm for yet more delicious food. There was a big birthday cake for Trevor, and Evind and Elise had bought him an “I love Boobies” t-shirt which seemed to suit him fine.

A few beers and then a very early 9.30 bed time. We had an 11 hour sail ahead of us. It was pretty bumpy but luckily I took one of my old friends Dramamine which sends me into a bit of a snoozy state but I didn’t get sick. We slept so well, I knew the rocking and the engine noise was going to be great for me at night time!

Diversity Shot @ Punta Moreno, Isabela Island, Galapagos

Cruise Day 2- Yellow Land Iguanas and Giant Tortoises

The next morning we got up at 5.30am to try to spot whales as we were still cruising along. No luck unfortunately, just sea lions and lots of birds.

After a delicious breakfast we went on a little boat trip around Punta Moreno. We saw hundreds of Blue-footed boobies and pelicans diving in for the breakfast, frigate birds, sheer waters, pelicans, swallows, about 10 Galapagos penguins, the Flightless cormorant (endemic to the Galapagos), more sea lions, loads of Marine iguanas and of course crabs.

Iguanita @ Isabela Island, Galapagos

We went for a short 1.5 hour walk around on the Sierra Negra and Cerró Azul, the lava rock was created by the most recent eruption two months ago. We walked on Pahoehoe (pa-hoy- hoy) lava, which means “rope” in Hawaii as it kind of looks like lots of rope laid down and AA lava (ah-ah), which means “hurt” as they used to walk around barefoot on it and well, it hurt. Memories of GCSE geography came flooding back!

Lisa Simpson @ Urbina Bay, Isabela Bay, Galapagos

Whilst walking around Punta Moreno, we could see many vents in the distance, some were steaming, it looked prehistoric! We saw flamingoes, a young Razor snake (the same type of snakes that chases the Marine iguana young on Blue Planet 1! So, you can imagine how excited this made me!) and Porcupine pufferfish swimming in the little lagoons that had been made through the cracks in the lava.

We headed back to the boat for a snack, quick change into wet suits and back on the Zodiak dingy to go snorkelling. The visibility was quite bad because of the algae bloom and plankton. We did however manage to see hundreds of thousands of anchovies in enormous schools which was spectacular as they swam frantically. You could see the occasional shimmer from their silver colouring. We also saw loads of turtles and swam with sea lions so you know, just another day in the Galapagos. I felt like by this point we may have reached a bit of a saturation point with sea turtles, not to sound ungrateful or unimpressed with them but we have definitely stopped filming them on the GoPro. We have also stopped “power swimming” over to see them unless they are feeding or doing something other than bobbing around!

Flying Pair of Hawks @ Urbina Bay, Isabela Island, Galapagos

A Pair of Galapagos Penguins @ Punta Moreno, Isabela Island, Galapagos

Back on the boat to warm up, dry off and eat another delicious meal. Each meal time there are so many different options and it kind of feels like there are at least two proper full meals in one. they are going to have to roll us off of this boat. Two and a half hours of sailing before our next stop- Urbina Bay.

Within two minutes of walking onto the island (back on Isabela) we were faced with huge Yellow land iguanas and the biggest tortoises we had seen yet!! We managed to see 12 land iguanas both males and females and about six tortoises. We also saw the Vermillian Flycatcher which Fabian was very excited about.

That evening we all sat up top enjoying the beautiful sky and actually sailed for the first time (as oppose to using the engine). As the sun went down it got a little chilly so we went down and chatted all together in the awesome dining area before dinner. This boat was honestly just incredible, everything was perfect!

We made it to our destination which was next to Ferdinanda island to the west of Isabela. With two other small cruise boats either side (these are the first other people we had seen) we anchored down and spent the night swaying gently in the calm waters.

WHALE!!! @ West of Isabela, Galapagos

Cruise Day 3- Blue Whales and Orcas!!!

We woke up for breakfast at 6.45am before heading to Fernandina island where we saw literally hundreds of Marine iguanas lazing, snorting and stinking up the place. Fernandina aslike Isabela is one of the youngest islands (only 5000 years old) in the Galapagos archipelago and parts of it are still “growing” and rising by 5-7cm/year. Unfortunately we saw two dead sea turtles that had gotten themselves stranded by the changing water level and a few dead iguanas. On a brighter note, we also saw some Galápagos penguins, another Razor snake and a family of Flightless cormorants nesting. As we were casually watching a pair of Galapagos hawks, Jess yelled “WHALE!!”. Everyone looked out to sea and it was indeed a whale, not just one whale but five! And not just any whale, only bloody BLUE WHALES!! We took a quick vote to sack in snorkelling with feeding marine iguanas and cut our walk short to jump back in the Zodiac and whizz off to get a better look. The vote was unanimous, I was so excited I felt sick. For me, Blue whales were the ultimate animal I assumed I would never see in my life!

All In Proportion @ West of Isabela, Galapagos

We almost ran back to the Zodiac and set off. Two other boats were already buzzing around with loud engines which seemed to be disturbing the whales so we didn’t have much time. There was an important Marine Ranger around so we went to ask permission to get a closer look and he said yes so we zoomed off. We cut our engine and drifted along near some whale footprints (slick puddles where the whales have breached the surface for their breaths) and waited patiently. Before long we heard another huge exhalation of air and right in front of us was this enormous mass spurting out air and water. As the huge blow hole appeared out of the water the back of the whale kept coming and coming, it was gigantic!!! One of the most surreal animal sightings ever, and I have seen my fair share of extraordinary wildlife! Over the next half an hour or more, we saw five whales come up for air, on average they took three breaths which meant we got to see them up close, they were unimaginably big. They were bigger than our boat by almost 10m! We managed to be right near the largest one which Fabián thought was about as big as they get (approximately 30m). More than a couple of times it came up right in front of the boat which was insane. One time we almost saw its whole body as it came up, it was nuts! I of course had to change my battery and change out my SD card during these sightings but luckily it was a solid half an hour of great close sightings so I managed to take hundreds of photos and a few shakey films. It all got a bit much when as one of the whales was on the surface a mole mole (Sun fish) jumped out of the water in front of us. This is pretty rare to see and they only ever jump out one at a time. We then saw some rays jump out in the distance and honestly I felt sick with insane wildlife overkill.

Blue Whale Blow Hole @ West of Isabela, Galapagos

After the most amazing 45 minutes of my life we headed back to Nemo to get ready to squeeze in a quick snorkel. The water was again very cold but a degree or so warmer than the day before and the clarity was much better. We saw the usual 20 sea turtles, hundreds of cool colourful sea enemies and star fish, Marine iguanas feeding which is always pretty cool, a Galapagos penguin (on land, we have yet to swim with one but by the way things are going, even that doesn’t seem unachievable on this trip!), and a swimming flightless cormorant that chased me and nipped Elice! It was terrifying! Of all the things that I could be chased by underwater and it’s a flightless bird.

Flightless Family @ Fernandina Island, Galapagos

Back on Nemo for a hot shower and snacks before a lovely lunch and two hours lounging around the boat while we navigated to our next spot- Punta Vincente. Over an hour and a half in, Captain George said to me in Spanish that he thought he may have seen some orcas. I was a bit worried I hadn’t understood as I got so excited and knew Jess would be elated! I asked him to repeat and it was true, I told everyone there maybe Orcas and everyone jumped up and went into frantic panic mode (except poor Eivind who was in the loo!). Jess and I lost the plot as this would really tip off our entire trip. About 30 seconds later Jess had flown down a ladder and run to the front of the boat just as they popped up again right in front of the boat about 50m away. I was trying to climb down a ladder with my stupid gigantic camera but managed to snap a few fins from the middle of the boat. Incredible!!! We then saw two more pop up quite far off the side of the boat and they were chasing a sea lion! Trip made! Blue whales and orcas all in one day! Then of course another Mole mole circled the boat which was very cool.

Free Willy @ Galapagos

Jess and Trevor on Oca Watch @ At Sea, Galapagos

We anchored down at Punta Vincente Roca and jumped on the Zodiac to go through a cool cave where we could see lots of fish. We jumped in for a snorkel and honestly after thinking we had reached turtle saturation point, we were surrounded. In a small cove next to the cave we must have seen over 200 turtles! A layer on the ground sleeping, a middle layer just going up and down feeding and a top layer just bobbing around. We also saw lots of fish and swam and played with Galapagos Fur Seals! These are not really seals as they still have the external ears but they are a bit bulkier, have bigger bulbous eyes and also have a layer over their eyes underwater that makes them look glassy. They also have a shorter snout, look more like little bears, have longer whiskers and are nocturnal. They are still technically sea lions but are called Galapagos Fur Seals.

Galapagos Fur Seal @ Punta Vincente Roca, Galapagos

Jess had hopped back on the Zodiac before me as she was a bit chilly and I was off exploring the scary cave darkness with Eivind and Trevor. Once I hopped back on the boat Fabián told me that him and the crew had been thinking about it and discussing it for a while and they had decided that Jess and I should have a cruise wedding. The Captain would marry us and we would have a big party on the boat. Not really sure of the seriousness or legalities of his proposal but we nervously laughed along.

After another hot shower we did a bit of hand washing and hung out on the top deck before dinner. The meals just seemed to get better and better, and bigger and bigger! There is always lots of choice and we ate five times a day. Plus there are crackers, biscuits, sweets and chocolates available all the time as well as constant tea and coffee. We were in backpacking heaven.

We stayed up really late that night until the the big 9pm chatting then went to bed because we were navigating all night and it was starting to get a bit choppy. I took a Dramamine and was out within half an hour.

The Biggest Giant Tortoise We Had Seen @ Urbina Bay, Isabela Island, Galapagos

Cruise Day 4- Sea Lion Pups And Boat Parties

The next morning we woke up to a cloudy and grey sky but calm sea. No one else around us, just our boat. We were next heading to Santiago island at Punto Egas to the east of Isabela. Santiago Island was used as a port to sell iguanas, turtles, tortoises and salt. They sold live tortoises to pirates and whalers and the island is about two millions years old.

Razer Snake @ Fernandina Island, Galapagos

We were the only ones there, other than of course the animals. On our walk around the area we saw the cutest baby sea lions ranging from just one week old to three months. Here is a little we have learnt about Sea Lions-

• Baby sea lions shed the umbilical cord at 5/6 days

• The mothers go out to fish for days at a time and the babies can go without food for a few days, once they are a couple of months old, they can go without food for a month

• The mothers feed them up as much as they can when they are not hunting and feeding themselves. They grow in size pretty quickly

• Sea lions can hold their breathe for hours and have reached a record depth of 513 meters in the Galapagos which was measured by a submarine

• They shed their fur all the time like dogs

• The babies have to learn to swim straight away. If they don’t want to, their mothers pick them up and dump them in the water.

Blue Foot Reflection @ Galapagos

We also saw lots of Sally light foot crabs and some empty shells. A little about these colourful crabs-

• These crabs can shed and change their shell up to five times a year

• The females who have a larger “undershell” and look a little smaller can carry up to 40,000 eggs

• Even when they grow out of their old exoskeleton, their new one they grow has the same print on the shell like a finger print.

• Their shells are made of kerotene, like our fingernails

Frigate Jones @ Galapagos Skies

We also saw Galapagos hawks fighting, oyster catchers, the non endemic Whimbrel from North America, the Galapagos dove, some Yellow warblers and pelicans.

We walked along the incredible lava formations, across bridges that had been formed (arches), around beautiful clear blow holes and pools, it was really amazing.

We could see Spotted eagle rays jumping out of the sea from the shore. The reason why they jump out of the water is believed to be to get rid of lice and parasites on their backs and/or for mating and socialising as they only do it in groups. They jump out and land on their backs like a belly flop.

Jumping Ray @ North of Isabela, Galapagos

We spent some time on the black sand beach snorkelling and relaxing before heading back to Nemo for lunch. Sometime after lunch three fishermen pulled up in a small motor boat. They knew the crew from Puerto Ayora and exchanged a few things. We got three really huge fish and our crew gave them water and yoghurt. Andrés And José gutted the fish out on the back platform of the boat (my nautical vocabulary is fairly limited) and sent the frigate birds into a frenzy! They would throw unwanted off cuts of the fish up in the air and the frigates would go nuts!

We hung out on the boat for an hour before heading off to our next destination- Espumilla Point. Here we had our very last snorkel around these huge rocks that went all the way down as far as we could see. It provides a lot of shelter so we saw lots of baby fish. We also saw a cool Scorpion fish, a White tip shark, lots of other cool fish I am yet to identify and of course- swam with Fur seals (that are not really seals). We snorkeled around for a full hour and no one wanted to get out.

Fabián dragged us all out and once showered, warm and dry and of course full of snacks and hot drinks we headed on a ship ride around Bucaneers Cove.

Sunset Star @ Somewhere Out At Sea, Galapagos

Pirates and Whalers used to come here. There were some interesting rock formations shaped like an elephant and a “preying Buddha”, you had to really use your imagination for the latter. As we were circling around the rocks we saw a pair of turtles mating on the surface. When turtles mate they do it on the surface as they need to breath and the female basically has to do all of the swimming work to hold them both up.

Beautiful Playful Dolphins @ Galapagos

We had a nine hour navigation ahead of us so we set off and everyone enjoyed sitting up top, having some drinks and watching enormous rays jumping out of the water and doing flips. We must have seen over twenty rays over the course of two hours. We watched the sun go down and Fabián gave us our last briefing of the trip.

Before dinner, Andrés the Barman made everyone a cocktail and Fabián made a really nice speech and we all thanked our amazing crew. We then all went round and said what we thought was the best thing about the cruise and had our last dinner together which was about three meals in one. We drank a lot more, Julia bought everyone some bubbles and we danced the night away to DJ Jess and DJ Julia. Dancing on the boat while it was swaying madly was a bit of a challenge but everyone was pretty buzzed so it didn’t matter. The crew were also having a great time and just couldn’t believe Jess had an all Spanish playlist. Andrés just spent the night ringing the dinner bell.

Cruise Day 5- The Sad Goodbye

Half of the Nemo Crew @ Nemo 2, Galapagos

On our last morning we were up even earlier than normal for a boat ride around Daphne island to see the nesting Nazca boobies. We saw a few Nazca chicks with their parents, Blue footed boobies, Noddies, Galapagos gulls, pelicans, sea lions, frigates and one puffed up male Magnificent frigate with the red throat (they do this as part of their mating ritual to attract the ladies!), it was the first one we had seen the whole time as it is not the mating season for them.

After our last breakfast together the time came to pack our bags and say goodbye to our new friends and luxury lifestyle that we had quickly become accustomed to. We were dropped back at Baltra Airport as everyone except us was flying out. We said our sad goodbyes and thank yous to our lovely new friends and crew and hopped back on the airport bus down to the canal ferry to Santa Cruz. Lucky for us the bus was free because we came off a boat not a plane!

Dip A Toe In @ Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

The cruise has been the absolute highlight, a very expensive but 100% worthwhile highlight! It really was more like three days and four nights based on the actual times we started and finished, not quite five days and we wish it had been longer as it was just magical! Our crew were outstanding, our guide was ethical, knowledgeable and very funny and we had such a lovely group, not to mention our boat was amazing!!

The Galapagos dream is not quite over yet, we were now off back for our last few days in Santa Cruz to do some more diving!

Feeling Crabby @ Galapagos

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