South America 2009 – The Galapagos Islands (1)

Friday, 27th February – Sunday, 1st March

Our arrival in the Galapagos Islands was at Baltra Airport, which had been an American airbase during World War II. It took a while to have our passports checked and to purchase the National Park pass ($100). We were met by our guide and taken by bus to the dock to transfer to our vessel the catamaran M/C ‘Anahi’. We were greeted on the dock by Sea Lions, Marine Iguanas, Brown Pelicans, and a Penguin in the water.

The Anahi had 8 cabins and was spacious. It had two ‘Pangas’ (inflatables) to transport us to shore and for snorkelling trips. Breakfast was served in an interior dining room whilst lunch and dinner was served outside near the bar area. Our fellow guests included Americans, Australians, English, Dutch and Germans.

After lunch we had a dry landing at South Plaza, a small island off the cost of Santa Cruz. We walked around the island with our guide and saw an amazing variety of animals and birds – and on our first day as well. Sea Lions, Land and Marine Iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs, Tropic birds, Frigate birds, Swallow tailed gulls, blue footed boobies, Nazca Boobies, Shearwaters, Darwin finches and Lava lizards. We were amazed that the birds, even with eggs or young, showed absolutely no fear of humans. We had expected that with the land creatures from wildlife programmes we had seen but it came as a surprise with the birds. Our guide told us not to approach nearer than one metre and to step back if they approached us (which the baby sea lions tended to do).

That evening we dined outside but were surprised to find ourselves alone after 8 pm. All our fellow guests had flown in from Quito and had been up very early in the morning (our flight from Guayaquil was at 10 am).

We motored overnight and arrived at San Cristobal Island. We first went to the Interpretation Centre at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno the capital of Galapagos Province. We had time in town and used the internet in a café and bought a T shirt and watched Sea Lions, Marine Iguanas and Blue footed Boobies on the beach. After lunch we went snorkelling with sea lions and shoals of fish at Isla Lobos. Later in the afternoon we walked round the islet and saw Frigate birds displaying their puffed up red breasts and baby Nazca Boobies. That evening all the guests managed to stay up later!

The following morning we had a wet landing at Gardner Bay, Espanola Island. This was along sweeping beach with crowds of sea lions all along the beach. We followed this with a snorkelling trip and then, after lunch went for a walk along a rocky trail at Punta Suarez. We saw seabird colonies, particularly Nazcar Boobies with eggs and babies, a Galapagos Hawk and a blowhole where water spouted 50ft in the air as the surf came in.

Fleetwood Mac – Albatross