On the fourth night of our trip we crossed the equator back into the Northern hemisphere. We would cross it another 3 times on the trip. This night was a long sail and it was the roughest night of the trip as we rounded the top of Isabella Island. Whilst none of us were sea sick, we did not sleep well as the boat was crashing through the waves. We could also hear all the crashing from upstairs as cupboards came open and more than a few plates and glasses broke. The next morning we awoke in a beautiful still bay on Isla Santiago. After breakfast we took the boat over to the beach and went in search of fur seals. Fur Seals are smaller then sea lions and hunt at night so we found them curled up in little crevices in the rocks.
Snorkelling again was great as the water was so clear and there were great viewings of turtles beneath the surface of the water. Unfortunately as Alisha's underwater camera had stopped working we did not have any photos.
The afternoon followed a similar pattern of first viewing wildlife on land and then going snorkelling. In between all this, the crew served great meals on the boat. We had a full breakfast, a large lunch, dinner and snacks served after each activity. Fortunately we were doing lots of exercise with all the walking and snorkelling so were using up all the calories. In fact the trip was quite tiring with all the activity that we were usually tucked up in bed by 9pm.
That evening it was only a short sail to Rabida Island. Where the next morning we were able to see the Galapagos Hawk close up.
When we went snorkelling we were also fortunate to see a White Tipped Shark swim underneath us.
That afternoon we sailed back to Isla Santiago. The focus for the hike that afternoon was the amazing lava flows that covered that part of the Island. Whilst they looked fairly recent they in fact happened over a 100,000 years ago. The shape and patterns of the lava were amazing and it was a completely different world totally devoid of vegetation.
The lava was difficult to walk on and unfortunately one of our party fell on the lava which was very sharp and suffered a bad cut to her leg. The guide rushed back to the boat and bandages were applied. Unfortunately the cut was bad and it needed stitches. Fortunately we were moored up in the bay with some other ships, one of which was a larger cruise liner that had a mini hospital on board. They were able to stitch the cut up.
We were due to go snorkelling that afternoon but with the accident this was cancelled. As everyone was pretty worn out this was not a problem and we spent the time on top of the boat admiring the magnificent scenery and enjoying a few beers as the sun went down.
That evening we had a long sail to Genovesa Island. Genovesa is famed for the prolific bird life that can be found on it and when we awoke anchored close to the cliffs we could see and hear frigate birds, boobies, pelicans and gulls in great numbers. On our hike that morning we saw a number of species of bird that we had not seen before. Nazca and Red Footed Boobies were all over the place together with the Magnificent Frigate Birds.
We also saw Storm Petrels skimming across the lava. The Storm Petrels are preyed upon by the Short-Eared Owl which lives in little burrows in the rocks, so we had our eyes peeled for the owls and were rewarded with two sightings.
Unfortunately it was too rough to snorkel in the area where Hammerhead Sharks congregate in large numbers, so we had to snorkel along the cliff edge instead where we saw a myriad of different fish but unfortunately no sharks.
As we have commented before we could not believe how fearless the birds were and how close you could get. That afternoon we went on another hike on the island accessed from a lovely sandy beach. After navigating our way past the basking sea lions we had to then navigate ourselves around the birds on the path. They were literally congregated around our feet.
That afternoon we saw some endemic gull species. The Swallow Tailed Gull is the only gull that flies and catches it's food principally at night. We had seen a few following the boat at night but now we could admire them close up.
We also saw the Lava Gull which is endemic to the Galapagos and of which there are only about 200 pairs remaining.
Flying overhead were the beautiful Tropic birds which nest in the cliff walls where they are constantly harassed by the marauding frigate birds.
We finished our time on the island with a relaxing swim off the lovely beach, taking care to avoid the sea lions cavorting in the water.
We had been told that the journey back from Genovesa would be the roughest part of the trip, so despite it being the last night everyone was off to bed early. As it happened it was a fairly gentle cruise and we awoke the next morning early to enjoy the sunrise and a short cruise around Daphne Island before disembarking for the flight back to Quito.
We all thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Galapagos. They are a unique set of islands with an interesting landscape and some amazing wildlife. The fact that you can get so close to the wildlife makes it truly special. The snorkelling was also fantastic. Before in other places we have snorkelled we have been thrilled to see a turtle. In the Galapagos we saw dozens and really close up.
Alisha and Lucy have been captivated by the islands and learnt a lot though their time there. They never got bored and participated in all the activities. Even the snorkelling, although 10 minutes was usually enough for them. There confidence in the water has come on leaps and bounds and whilst they were swimming in a life jacket it was great to see them pointing out the fish and animals they could see beneath the surface.
We had deliberately chosen a small boat so we would feel closer to the water and have a more intimate experience and we are really glad we did. Yes, it meant on the rougher seas it was bumpier but it was good to be in a small group. The group was fun and got on well. We also had an excellent guide, Carlos, who shared with us his love of the islands and his knowledge of the wildlife. He was also good fun and patient with Alisha and Lucy. The crew on the boat were also great. Very helpful and attentive and also assisted with the girls. Overall we had a great time.
On arriving back in Quito we returned to the truck. We had left the truck in some "airport parking" about 5 km from the airport. We had had some GPS coordinates from another traveller of a hotel where you could park your vehicle while traveling to the Galapagos. However we had not been able to find the hotel. While wondering what to do we saw a sign that said VIP airport parking and then someone popped out from behind the sign who explained we should drive down the road as we would be able to park there. The parking was in a nice spot on a small farm with horses, chickens and even a peacock. They had adapted part of the land into a parking lot with lights and security cameras. They were very friendly and parking was only $6 a day and that included a free lift to and from the airport. They were more than happy for us to sleep in the truck so as it was late afternoon when we arrived back we decided to spend the night there before setting off on the rest of our Ecuadorian adventure.