When you can live without fear you embrace the world without fear. Is this good or bad?
If you are able to enjoy the experience of watching the wildlife of Galapagos from close by, you feel this freedom. How it must have been before creatures became scared of each other.
You also realize that once these islands were discovered by humans the perfect balance was disturbed. Using the unique turtles as living food source during long sea voyages resulted in 4 of the 15 species already becoming extinct. Humans also brought cats and dogs, pigs and goats that eat their eggs. Humans invading with their known fauna resulting in a very negative impact on the local flora and fauna of the islands.
After some of the world’s unique fauna and flora (almost) became extinct, now slow process is made to preserve this corner of the world. In my opinion best would be to ban all human activity and remove all imported animals and plants. Ban all tourism. But that’s easy to say once you already have seen it.
We contemplated a long time if we should create an ecological footprint to see the Galapagos, this corner of the world where creatures are still unafraid of human beings. We wondered if it is so unique? Is it different from anything we have seen.
We can say that after spending 10 days we are still torn between wanting to stay longer to connect more or banning all tourism.
There seems to be good waste management and there is a strict visiting schedule for each area. Limited number of boats for a limited time. And even if tourists ensure funding of further research, we also understand the negative impact of us consuming precious water, creating waste and wasting tons of gasoline to travel from one island to the other.
Coming to mind is the endless ocean, tiny spots of islands appearing in the distance, growing bigger than expected. Flat, tilled slats of land pushed out of the ocean. Images of fearless birds, playful sea-lions, spoiled tourists. Islands without water that still have vegetation and unique wildlife only found here, even different per island. Turtles as big as a coffee table. Nature adjusted to remote and bare and hard circumstances.
Our 7 day cruise on the Darwin, promoted as a basic cruise-ship and the only affordable possibility since we arranged only a few days before flying, was more luxurious than we had expected. Only minor disappointment was the noise of the generator that was running 24/7 to ensure we could have excellent fresh meals 3x per day.
We compared the possibility of island hopping, local hotels and day trips with the cost of a cruise. The difference in price, if we wanted to see the same, was not significant enough to choose for island hopping, especially if you think about the hassle of packing and unpacking. I do have to say that a 4 day cruise with a longer stay on Isabella island would now be my preference as with a 7-8 day cruise the midweek day is also used to switch crew and some passengers as they offer 3-4 day cruises on the same boat.
One of the main points of interest on Santa Cruz is the Darwin center which gives an insight on different land turtles and the discoveries Darwin made during his brief stay in 1835. This brief stay seeded his theory. Funny to discover that the first species he send home where lacking some vital info on where on which island they were found. Interesting walk and info but seeing the turtles behind walls like in a zoo is not so impressive.
Did you know the word “Galapagos” comes from the old Spanish word “galapago,” which the original explorers used to mean “saddle” due to the shape of the tortoise shells. The turtles can live without water and food for a year, travel miles for sweet water, can live past 100 years and weigh more than 220 kg.
Behind the center there is a beautiful beach with lots of sea iguanas, you recognize them by their black color and very thick lips. The first time they sneezed I pulled back as I thought it was to defend itself, but they sneeze to get rid of too much salt in their system. They pick up the salt from the sea whilst grazing algae from the bottom.
Monday afternoon we met the other 14 passengers, our guide and crew.
But before we set-off to the next island we discover a Santa Cruz turtle farm.
Local farmers have discovered the benefit of having wild land turtles wandering across their lands and opening lava tubes on their land for visits. Tourists are generating more income than meat farming. To see those giants on the road and between the cows is not matching in my brain.
Happy to have decided to do this trip before flying home for our winter stop as it starts to feel as a holiday, giving us time to reflect on the past months.
Tuesday, Santiago Island:
The wet landing at Egas Port is straight away a 10er. Sea turtle returning to sea, sea-lion with a new-born and a sea hawk eating the placenta all within the first minutes of landing.
Espumilla Beach on Santiago Island with salt covered sea iuguanas and -what are you looking at- crabs.
It is amazing to be so close to fearless wild animals, to walk pass them.
Some animals have colors and some don’t.Sailing to our next spot we pass Buccaneer Cove and some amazingly shaped rocks. The white covering on the rocks is from birds.
Wednesday morning visiting the most frequently visited and photographed site: Bartholomew Island, located at the center of the archipelago.
372 steps lead us to the highest point at 114 m above sea level. Due to its height, lack of humidity and being a relatively new island we see only pioneers plants. Rest feels like we are on Mars. Also a good example of well organised tourist streams. Each boat has a dedicated time slot to visit this site. At the top only with our group!Pinnacle Rock. The white sand is due to broken coral, other beaches have black sand, pulverized lava .
Pinnacle Rock is our wet landing site after breakfast where we enjoy our first snorkeling and see our first (and last) penguin.Santiago Island and anchor before Sullivan Bay. It looks like a recent lava flow but is already 170 years old. Only meager vegetation is colonizing this spot due to its isolated location. Wondering about this slow lava flow (no fierce eruptions), what a zen view it must have been.
How a small stone can alternate the flow.North Seymour, famous for its bird life. I have to say that my mind expected millions of birds and that we would have to step over them. This is not the case. You spot them, can walk past them and they don’t fly away but they were not with high numbers. We walk over up lifted sea floors. Seeing our first blue footed booby is so much fun!
But land iguanas and male frigate birds trying to impress females are also worth mentioning. Very interesting birds, these frigate birds. They catch fish by scooping them up from the surface of the sea and then continue flying. They never settle on the sea as they produce very little oil to protect their feathers and their wings are so long they would have problems taking off again.
Afternoon Santa Cruz Island offers us the pristine white Bachas Beach. Nice hike but no whaauw effect. Are we getting blasé?San Cristobal Island where we visit Pitt Point in the morning. Spotting the rare red footed booby! And watch some teenagers hanging out!
Afternoon we head for a scary shark festered site for deep-sea snorkeling. I would have loved to have swapped for diving and the security of an inflatable vest. I did not take a swimming vest as I presumed I would not be fast enough but now the endless deep blue sea below me is giving me the shivers. Top this off with hammer sharks cruising below you and you can ensure enough adrenaline for the next hours. Let’s say Kicker Rock kicks! Less shots because I was too busy surviving.
Day 6, Saturday is located around San Cristobal Island, Witch Hill and Lobos Island. White beached, strolling, snorkeling. And a final snorkeling from the boat with lots of turtles and some very playfull sea lions.
And then it is already time to head back to Santa Cruz where in the morning the group visits the Charles Darwin research center, but because we already did that we arrange our own tour. We could easily have returned that day but use the extra time visiting some other beaches and mangrove forests. Birds of Galapagos.
Galapagos was a great closure for this first 16 months on the road. Almost 20,000 km and so many impressions, people and countries. Has this changed us? Yes! Would we behave different when we return for a longer period in the Western world compared to the past? I can say now yes. We have changed and we are slightly different, more patient, more living in the now, less focused on material things. The winter stop have been some very intense months. Grateful to have spend time at home, grateful be able to leave again.
Thanks you all for following us. We are ready for the next chapter, some things have changed which we will explain in our next blog.