Days 41 to 44 – Sail away, sail away, sail away…

A slightly strange airport experience on our Galapagos Tour, run by a company called G-Adventures.

The tour people organise everything.  You hand them your passports on the bus to the airport (a weird feeling) and then just go where you are told. After 5 weeks of independent travel this is an odd feeling and feels a little like a school trip at first.

Getting to the Galápagos Islands from Quito takes two  short flights, on the same plane. We land briefly at Quayaquil to refuel and it’s a pleasant journey with Niki making friends with Celsey and Kyle (from Canada) whilst I read a H.G.Wells novel on the Kindle.

As you get near to the Islands the cabin crew walk down the plane with aerosols to “fumigate” the overhead lockers. Contamination of the Islands is something they are keen to  prevent though they seem to not be interested in the bags under the seats?

At the airport we pay $100 to enter the National Park (but sadly no passport stamp) and take a short bus journey to our boat “The Queen of the Galápagos”, our home for the next 3 nights.

The boat sleeps 16 plus 10 crew (who for the most part do a good job of keeping hidden) and is pretty luxurious with en suite, king sized bed and nice communal areas to relax in. All rooms (incl the showers) have ocean views!

The time on the boat follows a fairly standard pattern of plentiful food (meals and snacks) and a mixture of snorkelling and land based walks round some of the Islands.

The Islands are not the lush green tropical paradise you might imagine.  Geologically they are new, formed 3-5 million years ago from volcanic activity, and new land was added as recently as 1893 following the last eruption (after Darwin visited). They have a slightly barren and volcanic look about them – Niki accurately described it as a Greek Island crossed with the Wild West, azure blue oceans and cactus covered dusty lands.

Barren is not the word to describe the wildlife on this archipelago. There are numerous species (corrected – thx Nick) that we see during the trip, including:

Giant green sea turtles, White tipped sharks, Hammer head sharks, Dolphins, Blue footed boobies, Giant and Magnificent Frigates (with wingspans >2m), Marine and Land Iguanas (the former the only sea faring lizard in the world), Sally Lightfoot Crabs, Sea Lions (including baby sea lions – a whole world of cuteness), a whole host of marine life and of course, Darwin’s famous finches.

Whilst the variety and beauty of these creatures is wonderful – the most awe inspiring part was how close you could get to them and how totally unbothered they were about your presence.  Walking on the Islands you literally have to watch your step for fear of treading on a baby sea lion or marine iguana – and it’s a good job that the “do not touch” message was repeated regularly, particularly in the presence of baby sea lions. Whilst snorkelling sea lions would swim with you and you had to activity paddle at times to not bump into them!

Needless to say our tour group walked round like the paparazzi snapping the wildlife and burning through memory cards at a rate of knots.  The gallery has some of our favourite pics from the trip – we hope you enjoy them.

Our group consisted of 7 Australians, 4 Brits, 3 Canadians and 2 Norwegians and another highlight of the trip was the fact we all got on so well.  During the activities, relaxing on the boat, over drinks and dinner the conversation always flowed (including the Aussies questioning Prince Harry’s heritage!) and we made some good friends.

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