South America 2009 – The Galapagos Islands (2)

Monday, 2nd March – Wednesday, 4th March

Monday morning we had a wet landing on Floreana Island at Cormorant Point. It appeared quite lush and we walked across the neck of a peninsula at the back of the beach, past a lagoon with flamingos, to another beach where there were sea turtles and rays in the surf, and the tracks of turtles on the beach where they had travelled up the beach in the night to lay their eggs.

We then set off for a snorkelling trip to the ‘Corona Del Diablo’, an island with a sunken crater on one side. Although it was choppy and the tides were strong this was the most spectacular snorkelling trip of my life. We saw myriads of fish, sea turtles, white tipped reef sharks, sting rays and eagle rays.

In the afternoon we visited Post Office Bay. Historically, this site is the location of a wooden barrel that was placed in the 18th century by the crew of a whaling ship. It has been used since this time by mariners and tourists as a post office. The idea is to carry letters to their destination by hand. We swam from the beach until chased off by flies. We were back on the boat by 3pm to travel on to Santa Cruz.

We were up early on the Wednesday as it was a transfer day. We were taken to the Charles Darwin Research Centre to see the breeding centre for giant tortoises. We walked through a number of enclosures and saw Lonesome George the last tortoise of his type from the island of Pinta.

We were dropped off in town (Puerto Ayora – the main town of the Galapagos) whilst all the other passengers were taken to the airport for their flights home (we were staying a full week). We shopped for souvenirs then went back to await the new arrivals including a new guide.

After lunch we took a coach up into the highlands to visit a giant tortoise ranch where there were a large number of tortoises in the wild. We also saw a Woodpecker Finch using a cactus spine to collect grubs. We visited a lava tunnel on the way back. That evening we joined the new arrivals for a cocktail reception – we were now the experienced ones and could answer their questions about the boat and the islands.

Wednesday was spent around Santiago Island; first at the descriptively named Chinese Hat a tiny island separated from Santiago by a narrow channel. From the panga we saw penguins, a Lava Heron, a Galapagos Hawk, and Blue footed Boobies. On the island we were mesmerised by a baby Sea Lion crèche, then walked by a lava field and saw the pioneer plants. We snorkelled off the island with a number of sharks, passing penguins and large fish.

That afternoon we landed at James Bay on Santiago Island. We walked the rocky coast and saw myriads of Marine Iguanas; many resting together away from the sun. We walked back through the interior with lots to see – Darwin Finches, Mocking Birds and Lava Lizards.

Trad. – Trigal Trigal (from ‘The Soothing Sound of Pan Pipes’)