The Stunning Galapagos Islands
00° 44.8 South 090°18.4 West The Galalpagos Islands otherwise known as The Enchanted Isles because they certainly were. We took a 5-day holiday aboard Daphne with air-conditioning while someone else did the driving.
We arrived Wednesday 10thMarch at 10am – what a relief. We found a space to anchor and Tony from BWR came on board to complete our check-in process. Bill wanted to put the temporary fix on the shroud straight away. I again found myself holding on to the mast but in the anchorage I felt more in control. Bill had to spend quite a bit of time filing the bottle screw so we made the right decision not to attempt it at sea. That evening Enchantress and Lucy Alice joined us for champagne to celebrate our safe arrival and then we all went ashore to The rock for happy hour; a big cheer went up when Bill walked in. We ate out in the kiosks, a row of ramshackle restaurants with tables and chairs in the street; it was good value and nice food. We slept well that night.
Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz was established in the early 1970’s and is full of multi-ethic contrasts between the Ecuadorians and immigrants of European decent. It thrives well on the passing yacht trade and visitors flying in to join the many island cruises available. It has a very good water taxi system so it wasn’t necessary to put the dinghy down.
There was a good supermarket by the dock and a good market further up in the town. I spent the next few days back and forth from the internet café trying to log on to a very slow connection to download our mail and various other tasks. The cost of living seemed cheap in the Galapagos so we enjoyed several meals out for a change.
On the Sunday Tony from BWR had arranged for us all to have Sunday lunch in a lovely restaurant at Angermeyer point just across the bay. Luckily it was on the water taxi route so we didn’t have to take our dinghies, which was probably just as well because it had a very small landing stage. It was a lovely day but very hot as usual. We all had a delicious barbeque meal with some wonderful salads. Afterwards we walked to the beach but as it was Sunday the beach was a bit crowded so we went back to the boat.
We had an ‘out and about’ day on the Monday. It started with a taxi ride to the Darwin centre. There is a very good breeding programme involving giant tortoises to try to prevent them from becoming extinct.
We were able to walk around the raised walkway overlooking their pens. We found Lonesome George in one of them with his girlfriends but sadly he wasn’t showing any interest. There’s a possibly that once he dies that particular breed of Tortoise will become extinct. We spent a couple of hours wandering around there. We walked back into town and, after spending a bit of time in the internet café, we joined the rest of the BWR crews for a coach trip to a nearby farm for a briefing for the next leg. The farm was also a resort hotel with a pool so after the briefing some of us got changed and enjoyed a refreshing dip in the water. The bar was opened and ‘all was happiness’ to quote Tony from BWR.
A local band came to entertain us and played some traditional pipe music. We all enjoyed a delicious barbeque before returning to the boats by coach.
On Tuesday our new rigging parts arrived in the afternoon and Bill was anxious to fit them before we left Camomile at anchor while we were on Daphne. Ian and David came over to help. I spent the afternoon packing our bags for our mini holiday.
Wednesday morning we locked the boat, got in a water taxi and went ashore. We were met by Charlie our guide and naturalist and left in a coach at 11.00 with the crews of Enchantress, Lucy Alice, Mercury Rising, Fai Tira, 2 of Roundabouts crew and 3 Canadians. We were off on our holiday and guess what – it was raining. We drove for an hour to the other side of the island where Daphne was waiting for us. She was a really nice boat and had just had a refit. We were shown to our cabins, ours was really nice on the upper deck. It had a double bed, a nice shower room but best of all, air-conditioning. We sat down to a nice lunch while the crew gently motored us round to the next bay.
We all got into the large dinghy and were taken ashore. We went for a walk along the beach and saw lots of blue-footed boobies. We snorkelled off the beach where there were lots of fish. We returned to the boat to relax for a few hours and have a long shower.
We got changed and joined everyone in the little lounge, which was beautifully finished in wood with new seating. We were offered a welcome cocktail and introduced to the crew. There were seven, all men, including the captain plus Charlie who spoke perfect English. We introduced ourselves while Charlie translated for us. We sat down to a delicious dinner in the little dining room/bar before retiring to our air-conditioned cabin. Heaven!
We awoke to a beautiful day. During the night we had motored to the small island South Plaza. Located on the east of Santa Cruz, the main characteristics are the Opuntia cacti and the carpets of red sesuvium, a succulent plant that turns green in the rainy season. The cactus is the main food of land iguanas. We landed on a jetty and went for a nice walk to see the land iguanas sunbathing under the cacti.
The more you looked the more you saw, there were so many and they weren’t bothered by us walking past at all. As they approached each other they would nod their heads up and down which is their sign to say ‘this is my bit of land’. We had a beautiful walk up over the hills. We saw swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropicbirds nesting, and boobies roosting on the south cliff of the island.
As we walked back to the jetty we saw lots of sea lions playing in the water below and sunbathing on the rocks around us. We were taken back to Daphne where the bar man had fruit juice and cookies waiting for us. I could get used to this.
We weighed anchor and motored 2 hours to Santa Fe, which has one of the most beautiful coves in the archipelago.
A turquoise lagoon with two small white sand beaches which are protected by a peninsula where sea lions lie in the sun. After lunch we swam near the boat and saw lots of fish. We were taken outside the cove in the dinghy and snorkelled back. We saw a sea lion in the water and swam with 2 big turtles. At the entrance to the cove there was a fish ball below us. I’ve never seen so many fish together; there were literally millions of them. Later in the afternoon we landed on the beach.
The island contains one of the largest sea lion colonies. A trail runs alongside the coast and then crosses through an Opuntia Forest. The Santa Fe species of land iguanas are larger and of a paler yellow than on the other island but we only saw one. On our way back we walked passed the sea lions lying on the beach with out a care in the world and they weren’t the slightest bit bothered by us wandering amongst them.
On Friday morning we found ourselves anchored off the island of Española that, as one of the smallest islands, is flat with no visible volcanic crater or vent. We landed on the beach for our daily walk. There were lots of brilliantly coloured marine iguanas lying in the sun on the rocks and walking across the beach, again oblivious to our existence. We continued to the seaward side of the island and saw lots of nesting birds including Nasca boobies, Mockingbirds, Galapagos doves and Galapagos hawks.
It was amazing to be so close to birds with their young. This photo of a Nasca boobie with her baby was taken right next to them and not with the zoom lens, they were sitting in the cliff just above our heads. We stopped on top of the cliffs for a photo opportunity. With the heavy swell running below it was creating a spectacular blowhole with thundering spray shooting 30 metres into the air.
The spray was forming beautiful rainbows as it fell back onto the rocks. It was a spectacular sight. We returned to Daphne for lunch and motored round to Gardner bay on the eastern side of the island with its magnificent beach again full of sea-lions. In the afternoon we went for our usual snorkel. We were dropped off about 1km away and drift snorkelled back. We swan into a cave where lots of fish were collecting in the entrance. The captain and some of the crew were in the water with us and spotted a shark and several turtles for us. We returned to Daphne to relax on the sun deck before dinner. We motored to the island of Floreana over night.
Saturday was our last full day on Daphne and they seemed to have saved the best for last. We were anchored off Floreana, perceived as one of the most exotic islands of the archipelago.
We were in Post Office bay, home to the legendary post barrel that whalers used to send their mail. There were letters and postcards in the barrel. Traditionally if you put an item in to be posted then you take one out to post. We all choose some postcards to be sent on from our next destination. I took one for New Zealand, which I’m going to hand deliver, one each for Sweden, US and Ireland, which I’ll send from the Marquesas. We continued on to the lava tube. We had to climb down a ladder to enter and it was very dark inside. We paddled in the pool but Susan and Glenda very bravely waded deeper and swam in it. I’ve seen too many creepy films to venture further forward in the dark.
We came back to the surface and walked back to the beach. Just as we were leaving in the dinghies we caught sight of some rare Galapagos penguins swimming close to the boat.
The crew moved Daphne nearer to an eroded volcanic vent called the devils crown.
We were all loaded into the dinghies for a snorkel. It was probably the best snorkel we have ever had. There was a fantastic array of wildlife, white tipped and black tipped sharks, manta ray, octopus, starfish, turtles and hundreds of different kinds of fish. We were dropped off at one end and drifted with the current over the top of all the wildlife. It was like looking down into an aquarium, just out of this world.
Not believing they could top the devil’s crown, after lunch we were taken on our last walk.
We walked past a lagoon, which seemed to have a pink hue to it. It had lots of elegant flamingos standing on their slender legs; we stopped for a while to watch these graceful birds wading through the water picking at the tasty morsels beneath them. We continued along the trail to a beautiful white sand beach made from ground coral so fine it looked like flour. This is the nesting sight of the green sea turtle.
Tracks were evident across the beach where the turtles had dragged themselves above the waterline to lay their precious eggs. Sadly we watched a Frigate bird repeatedly dive into the sand dunes trying to grab the baby turtles as they were emerging from their nest. The Galapagos policy is not to interfere with nature and we weren’t allowed to chase the birds away. We turned our attentions back towards the water and saw several turtles waiting to land on the beach, which they would do after dark.
We also had rays swimming around our feet, there were so many we had to be careful where we stepped. The fine sand was lying on their backs.
We wandered over to the rocks around the edge and saw many Sally Light foot crabs with their beautiful red and white spotted legs attached to their blue spotted bodies running sideways across the beach.
It was probably the beautiful beach we had been on, it certainly had the most wildlife. We reluctantly left the beach and walked back across the island looking over our shoulders many times to get one last view of the stunning blue water.
We returned to Daphne ready for the journey back to Santa Cruz. Bill wanted to have a look at the bridge and was welcomed in. Pictures were taken with the Captain and we asked him if they ever see Dolphins.
As if on cue the call of “Dolphins” was called out and everyone rushed to the bow of the boat to watch them. We’ve had Dolphins many times swimming in our bow wave but Daphne was travelling at 15kts which is twice as fast as Camomile and the Dolphins were still managing to keep up. The extra speed seemed to excite them more because they were also leaping right out of the water in our wake. It was going to take quite a while to get back so we watched a BBC Galapagos documentary, which was very interesting. We arrived back to a cloudy evening.
Camomile was still where we had left her. The crew kindly took all the men round to check on their boats and they managed to bring back various bottles of alcohol. Most of the crew went off duty leaving us all to have a party on board. The next morning we reluctantly packed our bags and enjoyed one last breakfast together. Sue and David, crew from Roundabout had finished their time with the BWR and headed to the airport. The rest of us went on our final excursion to the Highlands to visit a Tortoise Sanctuary.
We donned Wellie boots and went to find the tortoises, who were wallowing in the mud. We went back to the dock for our luggage and were taken back to our boats. What a fabulous time we’d all had. We spent the next few days getting ready for our longest passage …… across the Pacific Ocean.