Jan 27

Galapagos – our trip starts to evolve…

by in Galapagos

Galapagos

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After leaving behind Peru it was time for the last but one big trip. And we had saved one of the best until now – the Galapagos. Flying to Quito we were quite sad as we knew that our time away was now finite, and it wouldn’t be long until we were headed back to the US and back to normal life. Whatever that is.
So we were determined to make the very best of our last few weeks.

We had arrived  and were quickly transferred to our home for the next 8 days. A beautiful boat called Eric. Part of a trio owned by Ecoventura the trip would include sailing to different islands, nature walks and hikes, snorkelling, swimming and kayaking and our favourite activity of all – eating!

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Pepe…

The first day we were welcomed and found our cabin, then set about getting back to shore for a hike around the San Christobel park. We were with the two naturalists on board, not naturists, but naturalists- essentially they are guides that are employed by the National Park of Galapagaos and are assigned to each tourist group. Only a certain number of  permits are issued per year, but this is in reading in a direct response to how many people want to come, so they are trying to keep the islands intact. It is a precarious position, with the short term gain of money from tourists, being pitted against the long term damage that all is tourists will do, as well as stretching the resources even more. Today there are many stop points and checks to try to eliminate contamination between the 140 or so islands, but this is a ever difficult task when even one piece of contaminated fruit could pollute and even destroy some of the endemic species. And of course there is the threat of the wildlife being captured and smuggled out for sale aboard. A couple of years ago a German was stopped with bagfuls of the iguanas that he was hoping to sell. He is now in prison but with the demand for these exotic creatures comes people willing to break the law to capture them and made a quick buck.

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Yellow Warbler

Our walk was a couple of kms, along a trail that would take us from the first tortoise we saw Pepe, who at 63 years old was busy resting as he clearly was exhausted. We saw yellow warblers, finches, lava lizards, the cotton plant which has a beautiful yellow flower, and then I managed to amuse Darin while trying to take a photo of the only pollinating bee – the carpenter bee- who managed to fly too fast for me even though he was laden down with his tool belt…

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Galapagos Fly Catcher

Down by the water we saw the first booby of the trip – no not a flasher but a blue footed booby. They are just normal looking birds with amazingly bright feet – almost like they have stepped in paint. They were hanging out in the rocks above the water and Darin went for a swim while I watched the boobies.  On the rocks were red crabs that don’t have pincers. I was taking my national geographic photo and almost got washed off the rocks, so beat a hasty retreat. Dang it, we were only on day one and I have been outsmarted by a bee and a crab. What does that make me?
You guessed it – crabbee!!!

Back on the boat we showered and got dressed for dinner. 
No Captains table for us tonight, but delicious food and good wine, and pleasant company .

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Cerro Brujo

After a good nights sleep and delicious breakfast day two was all about the beach at Cerro Brujo. We got in the dinghy and had what us called a wet landing, where you pull up as close to the shore as possible and jump out. Walking along the beach you get incredibly close to the sea lions who are laying about on the beach.

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Sandy the sea lion..

Some had small cubs who were trying to feed from Mum, and we witnessed a couple of fights between large bulls who were challenging each other to be king if the group. A group of sea lion females have one large male in charge who mates  with all the females.  Where the small sea lions play in the water almost in a nursery environment there is a male in charge who is considered the beach master, and he will supervise the young while they play in the shallow water.

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While Darin was swimming in the sea I was watching the ghost crabs. I was waiting for the perfect shot of the crab coming out of his hole and dumping the sand where he had been doing some refurbishments but unfortunately sat for ages and watched and he never came out again with sand. It was like the Great Escape and building the tunnel when the workers come out with dirt and release it from their trousers.

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Ghost crab…

In the afternoon we had another wet landing on Pitt point. We had a hike around the island and saw our first red footed boobies. They were very close to us on the cliff edge almost oblivious to us. The islands are really trying to keep a close guard on the local domestic animals, they aren’t allowed to roam free and each one is chipped to make sure if there are any animals wandering around they can quickly get returned. They learned the lesson the hard way after two dogs were responsible for killing a few hundred iguanas. They weren’t killing them to eat, but merely playing with them, picking them up and shaking them leaving small teeth marks in the iguanas skin. It wasn’t the picking up that killed them, but the bacteria in the bite wound. That is why the control of domestic animals is so strict now.

There is supposed to be cat on this island, and it kills the small birds. So far they haven’t been able to catch it, and we didn’t see it while we were hiking.

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Red footed Booby

The landscape is almost barren in parts with few plants and flowers. But what it lacks in color in the landscape is more than made up for win the wonderful wildlife. The return to the main boat was pretty scary, the waves were much higher and the guy had trouble getting the dinghy close to the shore. He made it and we all clambered in, just before two massive waves crashed into the boat. We were soaked, and sitting in about a foot of water. I was terrified the boat was going to sink but we made it back and luckily I had wrapped my big camera up in my waterproof jacket and put the rain cover over my camera bag else they would have been ruined. Not my favorite activity, but we made it bag with a huge sigh of relief.

When you arrive back the man in charge of the service is waiting with a drink and snack, anything from empanadas, small banana fritters, guacamole and pitas, or something similar. Then time to shower and change before dinner, which is always delicious. I can feel the waistbands on my trousers getting more snug each day…. Oh well. Never mind. We’ll deal with that later…

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