As mentioned in my previous post, week one was all about getting out to the uninhabited islands and learning about the animals, birds and geology of this beautiful place. I have done a day by day write up as some are interested, and we want the record – may be too much information for many, in which case, scroll away…..
I was still a bit weak following a nasty bout of food poisoning as we boarded the plane full of excitement.
I was a bit anxious my health would let me down, but while I felt somewhat tired and drained for the first few days, it didn’t stop me doing anything. We were determined not to pass on a single activity, and didn’t.
And thanks to all who asked – I’m fully recovered.
We landed on San Cristobal island in the late morning, and went through a rigorous screening process to ensure we weren’t bringing in anything that could damage the islands. No fresh food is allowed to be brought in, and you have to declare things like hiking boots that could potentially bring in soil from elsewhere (I forgot to declare the lumps of lava we have been carrying around since Chile and spent the week fretting about it, but owned up on departure with no problems).
Once through, we were met by the wonderful Malena, one of the naturalists on the boat and a really warm woman who made our week even better. She even lent me her hat when my beloved Gorongosa National Park one from Mozambique mysteriously disappeared.
All the passengers congregated and went through introductions – there were 19 of us on the boat; an Australian family of four (parents and grown up kids in their 20s), a pair of American psychiatrists, a Swiss-German couple around my age on their second trip to the Galapagos, a British couple of vets, an American retiree, two other retired British couples, a retired couple from New Zealand, and us. Lauren was made most welcome by all as the only child on board.
We were taken to the Letty – stepping around sea lions and marine iguanas that had made their way up to the pier in the small town. We transferred from the pier to the boat by panga, a rigid inflatable we would spend a lot of time in over the next few days.
After a welcome briefing we were shown to our cabins, where we quickly dumped bags, and reconvened for a wonderful lunch of fresh vegetables and two different meat/fish options. Lauren was delighted by the quantity and quality of the food, which remained excellent throughout.
Next, we applied vast quantities of suncream, and re-convened in the lounge for our first outing, a visit to a tortoise breeding centre in the highlands of San Cristobal. They have these breeding centres (there is another on Santa Cruz island) to ensure that the various species of giant tortoise don’t die out, as they were not succeeding at maintaining their population in the wild. In the past they were decimated by pirates and locals, as well as more recently by rats, goats and other introduced species. Today signs are good that they are now breeding in the wild, as when juvenile tortoises are released they are fitted with a tag, and more and more tortoises are appearing without tags, having been bred wild.
The breeding centre was interesting, with tiny babies in pens and bigger juveniles in ‘semi-wild’ enclosures to teach them how to survive, but of course we all wanted to see the ‘real thing’ in the wild, scheduled for later in the week on one of the more remote islands.
We returned to the boat for welcome cocktails with the whole crew, hosted by Captain Peter. Much to her delight, Lauren was given a special non-alcoholic cocktail. Those for the adults were blue and red and most definitely alcoholic! We all introduced ourselves to the crew; Lauren, to great applause, entirely in Spanish.
While dinner was being served (the food was consistently high standard, with buffets for breakfast and lunch and a served 3 course dinner with wine in the evening) we set off for our first destination; we would cross the equator overnight to reach Genovesa island by morning.