“I’ve seen enough boobies for today” Things you thought you’d never hear your husband say 🙂 But fair cop… these are the red and blue footed avian varieties of boobies, indigenous to the Galapagos Islands and we had indeed seen rather a lot of them on that particular day. By far the best way to see the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands is on a cruise and our friends Mark and Lindsey have flown out from UK to join us for one of the most exciting legs of our South American trip. It’s more than just a wee bit exciting, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. For our flights to Galapagos we need to get to Quito. Let’s first pick-up where regular Cuthbert followers last saw us: leaving Peru and crossing into Ecuador…
Up to Quito
Crossing the Rio Zarumilla from Peru to Ecuador is like being teleported to a different world. Did Scotty just ‘beam me up’? 🙂 Crossing the bridge, we suddenly leave the dry warmth of the Peruvian desert and enter a lush, green, humid Ecuadorian banana-land. Our first 400 km in Ecuador takes us through acre after acre of bananas; names such as Dole and other fruity conglomerates appear on the plantation gates. In this part of the world the Banana is King!
We spend our first night in Ecuador in the humid lowlands of the banana and cocoa plantations. On day two we’re heading back up into the Andes highlands and stop-off for a couple of days in beautiful Quilatoa. The area is named after and is famous for an (allegedly) stunning crater lake, unfortunately we find only a cloud-filled hole in a mountain-top 🙁 To compensate for our disappointment, we find some mountain paths in a cloud-free zone and have a fun encounter with some friendly llamas.
Moving on swiftly, it’s only a couple of hours drive to Quito and we’re really chuffed to finally meet-up with our great friends Mark and Lindsey. Just two more sleeps before our Galapagos extravaganza, but first we’re spending a couple of days together in Quito. As with Lima a few weeks ago, the capital of Ecuador is leaping straight into our hit-parade of Top Five South American cities. The old town is atmospheric, a UNESCO Heritage Site with lots to see. The new town is clean and feels safe, there are some good restaurants. We rather like it here. As mega-cities go, this is quite a cool place, but not quite as cool as our next mission… yes… whilst the UK forges ahead with the Brexit blagging and the USA amuses the world with the ‘Hillary and Donald Show’, we’re off to see giant tortoises, turtles, marine iguanas, red-necked frigates and blue-footed boobies!
As our plane approaches for landing on Baltra Island we peer out of the window to see our ship, the Silver Galapagos, anchored out in the bay. It’s a fast transfer by zodiac boat; within 30 mins of touching down on the runway we are sitting out on deck, sipping cocktails in the sunshine and tucking into a delicious grilled seafood lunch watching seals bobbing in the sparkly-blue water around us. Could life get any better??? Well actually… yes, it could! Over the next seven days we have experiences with wildlife that far exceed our most ambitious expectations.
So why is Galapagos wildlife soooo amazing??? Well it’s partly because some of the species are unique to the islands, but it’s mostly because there are no predators. The critters are not hunted by anything, so they have no fear. As you walk amongst the birds, iguanas, tortoises… whatever… they just sit and stare, almost posing for the camera. Some of them even put on a bit of extra entertainment for the punters… a mating dance maybe, or showing-off their babies. The whole place is a marvellous spectacle.
The cruise takes us first north across the equator to Genovesa in the far north of the islands, then slowly back to the southern hemisphere to the most southerly point – Espanola. There is an action-packed agenda of three activities each day, when we drop anchor and take zodiac boats out to explore both on land and on/in the water. We kayak in rocky bays full of turtles, swim with fur seals, and race in a zodiac amid hundreds of cavorting bottle-nose dolphins. Snorkelling is a regular and unmissable activity. Favourite quote of the week from our snorkelling guide: “The sharks are here… Quick! Jump in!” Errr… okay… they don’t look too big so we obediently jump in to snorkel amongst them, together with the turtles, sea lions, rays and shoals of tropical fish… breath-taking. From the zodiac we see a couple of Galapagos penguins on the rocks. As the ‘Law of Sod’ dictates, this is the only trip on which we don’t have our cameras so we have no evidence of this (apparently rare) sighting, but we really did see them… honest guv’ 🙂
On land there are also many amazing ‘Attenborough Moments’, but our ‘Top-of-the-Pops’ include: the mating dance and clacking-beaks ritual of the albatross; the prehistoric colours of the large land iguanas; the scarlet puffed throat of the courting frigate birds; the exquisite turquoise feet and curious eyes of the blue footed boobie bird; the black-scaled marine iguanas emerging from the waves to blend seamlessly into the volcanic grey shore; baby fur seals playing on a pure-white sandy beach; the glistening orange shells of the Sally Lightfoot crabs scuttling around the shores; the slow, determined stomp of the giant tortoises heading to lunch. It’s all rather… umm… struggling for words here… splendid, marvellous, extraordinary… don’t seem to do it justice somehow.
I could ramble on with more detail, but the story is probably best told by a small selection of our hundreds of photos. Not only is Galapagos a fantastic trip-of-a-lifetime opportunity (if you ever get the chance… do it!) it is also a treat for us spend time with Mark and Lindsey. Big thanks to them both for booking and arranging this trip and for flying half-way around the world to share this special place with us, it is really one of our most memorable adventures ever. The Silver Galapagos was a fabulous boat: great service, delicious food and drink, and the amusing Braulio providing our meal-time entertainment of ‘What’s that tune?’ 🙂
Waaaay to soon, we’re back in Quito airport saying a sad farewell to Mark and Lindsey as they fly back to UK. For us, it’s a short taxi ride and we’re back home in Cuthbert, ready for the next overlanding adventure – heading back south towards Peru. “Uh? But didn’t you just come from Peru?” Well, yes…. but we’re heading back again! That’s another story… 🙂