Posted by: catamarantwooceans | May 26, 2009

Galapagos tour

26.04.09 – Sunday – In the morning we saw the “Millenium” at anchor not far from our position. She is a 22 meters catamaran built in 2000.

The Millenium

The Millenium

We were supposed to meet with the other passengers at 1230 on the city dock but it seemed a better idea to take our luggage to the ship with the dinghy instead of dragging it ashore. We then had the oppportunity to look her over. I was impressed by what I saw – I did not expect such luxury!  The rooms were big, there was a bathtub plus shower and air-condition! We met the captain, Darwin, who used to be a commander of a submarine in the Equadorian navy.

Our Naturalist, who on these boats runs the tours and the comunication with the guests, was Galo, a native of San Cristobal.

Galo

Galo

 Another outstanding figure was Xavier, the waiter and barman, who also did a seaman’s job when needed and was a very nice guy. When we came aboard we were treated to lunch.

In the afternoon we were taken to Darwin research center. The center people are trying to revive and enlarge the turtle population in the different islands, which was decimated during many years of exploitation for the meat, the eggs and the shells. They are incubating the fertilized eggs, letting the small turtles grow in a protected environment. When those are big enough they are released to the island the eggs were taken from. In the center there are some big creatures, doing their share in the reproduction department and attracting the numerous tourists.

Big guys

Big guys

lovely face

lovely face

Big mouth

Big mouth

In the evening we had a cocktail party on board, crew all dressed in white, then a briefing about the next day’s program after which another meal was served. Of course we met the other guests: an American couple from Idaho, a young English couple on an extended honeymoon – over a year – a German couple, another English/Australian couple. Two guys from Australia and finally a couple from New York. Most of them were doing the eight days tour. After we retired to our rooms the “Millenium” began motoring to the next day’s destination – Santa Fe island.

27.04.09 – Monday – We did a “wet landing” as opposed to a “dry landing” in a bay in Santa Fe. This means that the ship’s panga takes you close to the beach where you go into the water and wade ashore. On the beach lay quite a number of sea lions sunning themselves and seemingly uninterested in the human intruders. From time to time they opened a lazy eye, uttered a snort and went back to snoozing.

Gili & friend

Gili & friend

On the beach

On the beach

Walking a trail inland we saw land iguanas and a Galapagos hawk.

Land Iguana

Land Iguana

Hawk

Hawk

One of the interesting elements regarding the Galapagos wildlife is that the creatures are not afraid of humans and you can approach them to a very close proximity.

The pangas took us back to the ship, passing a certain point near shore where a group of white tip reef sharks were moving in shallow water. We then went snorkling, a bit disappointing for those who just came from Cocos island but still some nice tropical fish were seen. The water is much colder than it is in Cocos, so after about 25 minutes I climbed aboard the panga. After lunch we did a “dry landing” on a small island off Santa Fe and again watched the unique flora and fauna. Galo explained some interesting facts concerning the evolution in the islands. For instance, according to him, the cacti that were food for the land iguanas developed a trunk from which the leaves grew. The same plant, on islands with no land iguanas had no trunk at all.

We entered the rythem of life on a tour boat; Breakfast, island tour, lunch, rest, another tour or snorkling, back on the ship around 1700. Dinner at 1900 preceeded by a briefing on the next day’s activity. The “Millenium” would motor through the night to the next destination. Incidentaly – on a single engine. It seems the start switch of the starboard engine is faulty and they are waiting for a replacement.

28.04.09 – Tuesday – The day started in Isla Rabida, a small island near the bigger Santiago. This one has reddish sand due to the high iron content in it. There is a tiny lake near the beach where Flamingos used to dwell. Unfortunately, the park rangers cut the mangroves that separated the lake from the beach, the sea-lions found the lake attractive and displaced the flamingos, who left for some other location. We snorkled along the shore and, in addition to the regular stuff, saw a 2 meters white tip shark. Very exiting for Gili.

The afternoon was spent in Santiago, where we saw a big population of marine iguanas and sea birds.

Sea Iguana

Sea Iguana

Beauty or a beast?

Beauty or a beast?

Igu with friends

Igu with friends

The gulls and boobies performed spectacular dives, spotting their prey, folding wings and going into the water at steep angles, sometimes 70-80 degrees. In the evening we were treated to a BBQ dinner on the aft deck.

29.04.09 – Wednesday – During the night the “Millenium” repositioned herself to Isla Bartolome which has a track with wooden steps up to the volcano crater. Not a classic crater, as the rim broke up and filled itself up, but you could see lava runs down the slopes. The view from the top was incredible.

St. Bart

St. Bart

St. Bart 2

St. Bart 2

After we descended the pangas took us around the rugged shore, where we saw some spotted eagle rays and a few penguins.

Penguin

Penguin

We than snorkled but the visibility and sun angle were not too good so we went back to the ship. At noon the ship went to take fuel in the navy base on Baltra and we were “forbidden” to go on deck while this operation was going on. Later we motored to North Seymour, a small island with a big population of nesting and courting sea birds. After landing and bypassing an angry Alfa male sea-lion,we walked the island’s trails. We saw blue footed boobies caring for their single or two eggs and one even had a newly hatched chick.

Booby eggs

Booby eggs

Another impressive chick was that of a swallow tailed gull, almost big as his parent but still covered in soft dawn and of course still flightless.

Mom & chick

Mom & chick

Males were trying to attrack females. Frigates by inflating the huge bright red sack or pouch that they have on their chests and boobies by doing a little dance – one foot at a time in the air and then spreding their wings high and wide. Absolutely no fear from the many visitors around them.

Male frigate bird

Male frigate bird

Courting Booby

Courting Booby

The little one

The little one

30.04.09 – Thursday – Last day of the tour. The “Millenium” took us to Isla Lobos, near San Christobal, where we snorkled in a bay full of young sea-lions. Diving with them and watching their agility and playfullness was great fun and a fitting finish for a successful tour. We said goodbye and went ashore. We had to stay the night on San Chritobal because the ferries to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz leave early in the morning. So we saw a bit of the town, including the visitor’s center with a display explaining many interesting facts about the Galapagos. A walk in the bush, beer in the hostel’s bar ( they have 675 cc Pilsener bottles) and then dinner in the “recommended” restaurant in which we were the sole patrons concluded the day.

San Christobal

San Christobal

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