My transition from jungles to islands started some 40 km from Cayenne in French Guiana. After 6 connecting flights, 4 passport controls, hours of layovers, two bus rides and a water taxi, I joined Julie on the Galápagos Islands. The decompression has begun – though, with so many things to do here, I’m not sure how relaxing it will be.
Right off the bat, we went to the Darwin Science Station. On the way there we stopped at a tiny fish market where a few pelicans and a sea lion were waiting to get their share of the catch. We also stumbled upon a pier full of iguanas warming up under the sun and bright red crabs climbing the pier walls.
At the Station, we saw dozens of giant tortoises and a mummified Lonesome George. He was the last of the extinct Pinta tortoises. Now I have seen two mummies: his and Lenin’s.
For dinner we went to a street full of small restaurants that put their tables right on the pavement. We shared a huge lobster that we picked out of a dozen crawling on a table. This was a nice ending of a looong day.
Next morning, we rented snorkeling gear and walked to Tortuga Bay, a white sand beach. As soon as we got there, we saw several big iguanas crawling on the sand and a sea lion laying in the shade of a tree. We donned our wetsuits and went snorkeling. There was nothing spectacular at first, but then Julie spotted a sea turtle, I saw a white tip shark, and both of us followed a stingray for a little while.
Afterwards, we went snorkeling at La Grietas, a crack in the lava connected to the ocean by a small tunnel. There wasn’t many fish but the view of the vertical drop was impressive.
For dinner we went to the same street as yesterday; this time we shared a large bruja fish. It was delicious. We polished it off with ice cream.
On Tuesday we took a local collectivo to Santa Rosa and walked to Rancho El Chato, where giant tortoises live in their natural habitat. We started to see tortoises as soon as we turned to the road leading to the ranch. Once at the ranch we went through a few lava tunnels, then strolled in the field where a couple of dozens of tortoises were eating and relaxing around us. They were a little bit sheepish – they would hide inside the shell and make a hissing noise when people got too close. They looked like prehistoric creatures from Jurassic Park.
Then we swung by Los Gemelos, two volcano craters. As it was drizzling we decided to go back to Puerta Ayora and take it easy for the rest of the day.
Dinner? Same place!
We finished the day at the pier watching baby sharks swarming around.
On Wednesday we went scuba diving. Both Julie and I have scuba cards. The only problem: we haven’t dived for over 15 years. But it would be a shame not to dive in Galapagos.
For the first dive, Julie chose to go with the beginners’ group. Not me; I didn’t want to waste a dive in shallow waters. At first, I had difficulties to descend, then keep myself off the bottom, then I got some water in my mouth. I tried to purge it a few times but I only got more water in and I started to panic. Luckily our instructor was nearly and I finally got the water out of my mouth. Shortly after I ran out of oxygen and had to go back up.
For the second dive, they put me in the beginners’ group! We saw a few hammerhead sharks, a turtle, and tons of fish. At one point a whole flock of eagle rays slowly passed underneath of us.
Everything would have been great if not for me getting seasick. I spilled my guts out between and after our dives.
Of course, it was a bit reckless on my part to attempt to dive without remembering what’s what. But I couldn’t resist.
For dinner… guess where.
On our last day in the Galápagos Islands, we explored Isla Plaza Sur, an islet off the coast of Santa Cruz Island. As our boat approached, we could hear the distinctive noise of sea lions. There was an abundance of them: laying on rocks, feeding their pups, hunting fish. We saw a couple dozens of colorful land iguanas and even witnessed several iguanas fight over a cactus leaf. We also saw many birds, including Nazca and Blue Footed Boobies. The red color of the vegetation with the backdrop of turquoise water was incredible.
We headed off to the north shore of Santa Cruz to snorkel. I got cold very quickly and swam back to the boat but Julie stayed in the water longer and was rewarded: she saw schools of colorful fish, three white tip sharks and a couple of sleeping manta rays.
When we returned to Puerto Ayora I did a small lap around town on my Brompton to wrap up the vacation. For our last meal in the Galapagos: another huge lobster for me and ceviche for Julie.
It was a short but very pleasant vacation. To see everything on Galapagos, you need a couple more weeks. We may come back one day.
The Galápagos Islands in numbers:
3 km – distance cycled; after my Guyanas adventure, it was time to rest
1 – island visited, out of 13 major ones
2 – huge lobsters were eaten
2 – dives were done
18 m – depth of the dives
1 – school of eagle rays seen
2 – sea turtles were seen
4 – hammerhead sharks swam by
3 – white tip sharks encountered by Julie