Underwater world Galapagos Islands
12.03.2008 32 °C
Before we set off on our Galapagos trip we spent a couple of days in Quito. I was pleasantly surprised by Quito. I had read the streets were unsafe at night and there was much petty crime during the day, but have not felt unsafe for one moment. The old town where we were staying had quite a European feel. A maze of streets, full of old mediteranean buildings, each shop or hotel front painted a differerent colour. You are not sure what the shop is until you peer behind the coloured facades.
Quito is full of churches, many built on ancient Incan sites. Some of the churches are amazing one in particular had its interior completely guilded in gold!
As we were so close we made a trip to the Equator. Funnily enough the official monument is actually 200m from the actual Equator, this was discovered with the modern technology of GPS. We did actually take a walk to the official Equator and balanced an egg on the head of a nail and watched the water spriral in different directions dependant on whether you were in the northern or southern hemisphere (although this effect is actually disputed by scientists).
Our plane to the Galapagos was delayed and we were worried that we would miss our boat but as we were later to find out the rest of the passengers were also on the same plane. As soon as we turned up to the jetty we were greeted by basking seals, barking away "urrp, urrp, urrp" which roughly translates to "welcome to the Galapagos, have a nice stay!". I had a feeling this was going to be a good trip.
The boat (Millenium) we were on was fantastic. It was actually a catamaran so more stable on the water. Bedrooms were spacious with showers that had huge windows so you could have a view across the ocean. The shower was one with the best view I have ever had.
We first visited San Christobel Island to see the Giant Tortoise. We had seen Hariet the Giant Tortoise in Aus zoo before but seeing them in their natural habitat was something special.
Over the next couple of days we were to have some of our most memorable moments yet. We went to Espanola Island and had our first snorkel around some rocks and met our first sea lion who was extremely playful and was playing hide and seek round a large rock with us. The afternoon was pretty special as we spent an hour or so wandering on the beach among hundreds of sea lions of all shapes.
We then hiked amongst the marine iguanas, also known as Christmas iguanas as during the mating season their skin turns a vivid green and red. We saw sand stingrays and a pair of turtles mating.
The hikes on land were just as interesting as the snorkles. As well as the giant tortoises and iguanas the islands are teaming with an abundance of birds. We were lucky enough to have an avid bird watcher in our group who helped point out Blue Footed and Masked Boobies, Great Blue Heron, Galapagos Hawk, many finches including the Warbler and Cactus Finch, Cattle Igret, Penguins, Flamingoes and Frigget to name but a few - thanks Gert!
One of the most memorable experiences was the snorkle we did at cormorant point on Floreana Island. The water was exemely clear and there was an abundance of wildlife. There were many different types of fish including the Puffer, Needle fish, Parotfish, Yellow tail Surgeon fish and so many more. As we were admiring the many different colours we spotted a small reef shark swimming near a small underwater cave. Then another slightly larger white tipped reef shark appeared, then a third! We couldn’t believe our luck. As one of the sharks was getting brave and started to swim closer to the group a massive sea lion came from nowhere and started to chase the shark away. Then he headed towards me straight for my face, at the last moment he blew bubbles and swerved to the right, then again, eye to eye, then he swerved to the left. He was quite a big fella and a little intimidating but i knew he was just having fun.
I duck dived many times getting a closer look at the bottom of the ocean and the many types of starfish, sea cucumbers and sea anenomies. We even caught a glimpse of a turtle.
We saw many, many creatures and even a slipper lobster. I was leasurly floating on the surface trying to take it all in when from underneath me came a sealion. I really wasn't expecting it and squeeled into my snorkel. As I came up for air several others of the group did too and greeted me with a wall of laughter. Apparently I was the only one who didn't see him coming. I can laugh at it now but my godness I nearly pooped in my cozzie!
The snorkle on the last day was also fantastic. I am a bit of a water baby and love to swim in the sea. Paul loves to see the massive cheesy grin on my face every time a snorkel is mentioned. This time we spotted three, yes, three turtles eating seaweed from the rocks. We must have watched the turtles for at least 20 minutes, following them as they drifted on the ocean current, occasionally piercing the water for breath, inquisitively peering at us from time to time, probably wondering what strange creatures we were. We decided to swim from the rocks to the catamaran, very brave but we were all caught up in the adrenaline of the snorkel. The water became surprisingly deep very quickly. I had to really control my emotions as fear welled up in my chest. We were not too far from the boat and the beach was a long way off so the most rational thing to do was to continue to the boat, although I didn’t feel very rational! Imagine my horror when from the murky waters infront of me appeared a shark, much bigger than the reef sharks we spotted earlier. It got as much of a fright as we did and quickly turned and disapeared once more. We later found out it was called a Galapagos shark, about 2.5 meters long.
We really felt we could have spent another week at the islands as we were having so much fun but we are far from disapointed we have seen so much it really was an absolute joy.