Galapagos -this destination is on many a bucket list. We were very fortunate to be able to visit these very special islands while waiting on our vehicle and fridge parts to arrive from South Africa.
Die Galapagos Inseln besuchen zu können ist auf dem Wunschzettel vieler Reisender. Wir hatten das Glück, diesen Traum zu verwirklichen. Für Naturliebhaber sind diese Inseln ein Paradies -und für Fotographie Interessierte ein ganz besonderes Ziel.
Galapagos consists of 14 main islands and more that 120 rocky islets, surrounded by 133 sq km marine reserve. In 1959 97% of the land area was designated as a National Park, 20 years later the islands became the first ever Unesco World Heritage site. Around 30 000 people live in Galapagos permanently and 200 000 tourists visit each year (about 3800 visitors per week). The name Galapagos means Tortoises and is derived from an old Spanish word for this animal.
From a number of fellow travellers we had the recommendation to visit the Galapagos islands on board of the Angelito I. The reason given was the impeccable quality and service and that the boat is a smaller one, taking a maximum of 16 passengers ( 8 double cabins) and she has a crew of 8. It is owned by 2 Galapeño brothers ( Hugo and Leonardo Andrade Serrano ) and the bookings and guiding is handled by the Swiss Cometa Travel in Quito. So we decided it is worth a try and that it only took 16 passengers appealed to us and so was the fact that all cabins have outside windows. The boat was also fully refurbished during 2013.
This information convinced us sufficiently to give it a try. Maja Homberger from Cometa Travel accommodated all our wishes,her 30 years of guiding in Galapagos showed in the information we received back promptly.
To view our first week’s route, click on the Cometa Travel link, select virtual map and view Itinerary A.
On Saturday we left by bus from Ibarra to Quito’s northern bus terminal Carcelen (2.5hrs ) and from here into Quito where we stayed overnight at Maja’s place. For the bus trip we bought an extra ticket to ensure that the photographic equipment would be next to us and not stowed where it could disappear. Public transport is safe and cost-effective in Ecuador – however we were cautioned that on bus rides baggage could be pilfered.
Next morning at 4 o’clock we were duly collected by her driver and taken to the airport, from where we departed on time, saw a number of the Ecuadorian volcanoes from the air, then stopped at Guayaquil airport to refuel and take on more passengers. From here it took 1.5hrs to the Galapagos airport on Baltra island (very flat, used to be an American war-time airport) where on disembarkation every visitor had to pay the US$ 100 entry fee to the islands.
Our guide for the first week, Efrain Zambrano, welcomed us and we were transferred to the Angelito I, in readiness for the new passengers for the week of which there were only 13.
Sunday: Baltra – North Seymor – Baltra harbour (13/11/2016)
We navigated to North Seymor island in hefty swell due to the supermoon on this particular weekend. Our first land outing produced some interesting sights -2 types of frigate birds (the larger Magnificent and the Great Frigate bird), young Blue-footed Boobies, yellow Galapagos Warbler, Galapagos dove, yellow land iguana and the black marine iguana, sea lions, brightly coloured crabs, Brown Pelicans and Lava Lizards.
It was quite a special feeling as the animals on these islands show no instinct to flee. Landings are well controlled so that only a few tourists visit at any given time and it is only permitted to walk on the prescribed paths with a qualified Galapagos guide.
On our return to the ship we spotted a ray and in the evening sharks circled the ship. The boat returned to Baltra harbour for the night.
Monday: Chinese Hat – Bartolome (14/11)
The boat left the harbour at 4am and sailed towards Chinese Hat island.
The morning outing was onto a small rocky lava island, where we saw Sea Lions with pups, a Galapagos Hawk trying to catch marine iguana, Lava Heron and crabs which had shed their shell.
This outing was followed by a snorkel outing, we saw Parrot-, Surgeon- and other Wrasses and many fish we did not know, but also Sea Cucumbers, Starfish etc.
In the afternoon we climbed the 140m high lava hill on island Bartolome, where the view from the top was spectacular covering some of the surrounding islands.
Per zodiac we rode past Pinnacle Rock, where we spotted our first Galapagos Penguins and some American Oystercatchers.
At 23:30 we departed towards Genovesa -the caldera of an extinct volcano, over 100m deep and open on one side so ships can enter.
Tuesday: Genovesa: Darwin Bay & Prince Phillips Steps (15/11)
First landing was at Darwin’s Bay where we saw Red-footed Boobies, Swallow-tailed Gulls, Nasca Boobies, the fast flying Red-billed Tropic Birds, Dracula Finches, Brown Pelicans, Galapagos Mocking Birds and Ruddy Turnstones.
We went for a swim amongst the sea lions and birds landed in close proximity. While snorkelling the viz was limited due to thermoclines, but we spotted Moorish Idol and some Pufferfish.
The afternoon outing took us up the Prince Phillips steps and during the walk we saw many Frigate Birds, Red-billed Tropic Birds, Pelicans, Boobies, Gal.Doves, Gal. Finches, Galápagos Short-eared owls and seals.
After an early supper the ship took bearing towards Puerto Egas on Santiago island.
Wednesday: Puerto Egas (Santiago) – Rabida (16/11)
The night ride was rough! Seldom have the islands seen such high swell, it was the first time that the fridge on board the Angelito I toppled over.
An early landing at Puerto Egas took place on a scenic pitch black lava sand beach. Along the rocks were blowholes pumping and we spotted Gal.Hawk. Many Marine Iguanas could be observed here as well as seals with pups.
The ship then sailed to Rabida island, where we landed on a red vulcanic sand beach. Here the vegetation had many colourful saltbushes, a small lagoon with an orange coloured Flamingo ( only one as the salt concentration at this time is too high) and we spotted Pacific Green Turtles. Galápagos Finches were spotted drinking from Cactus flowers.
During snorkelling we observed white-tipped reef sharks, seals, large starfish and many different tropical fish including Trumpet fish.
The ship took course to Puerto Ayora, the harbour on Santa Cruz island -we remained for the night in the harbour and appreciated a quiet night.
Thursday: Santa Cruz: Charles Darwin Station – Highlands of Santa Cruz (17/11)
In the morning a visit to the Darwing Research Centre was scheduled, where many large land tortoises are reared and we could appreciate the different developments of the animals depending which island they inhabitated and what source of food was available there ( length of the neck differed greatly).
There was sufficient time to take a stroll through Puerto Ayora and to appreciate the crafts, the buildings and the market.
In the afternoon an outing to the highlands took place by bus in order to see more tortoises and the large lava tunnels, that formed during an eruption.
The ship only transferred late evening to Isla Española, which gave the crew and passengers time on shore in Puerto Ayora.
This post covers 13th -17th November 2016