29 September 2011
This morning we flew from Guayaquil to Baltra Airport in the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands are 1000km off the coast of Equador, right on the equator. Baltra Island is just north of the main island of Santa Cruz, it was used as a US Military base during WWII and was stripped of almost all its vegetation. At the airport we walk through a trough to sterilise anything on our shoes and are thoroughly searched for anything that might harm any of the wildlife in this precious sanctuary.
We are met by our Naturalist Guide Daniel who will accompany us for the next week. We transfer to a bus to take us to the ferry to Santa Cruz and then are met on the other side by a bus that will take us up over the central highlands of Santa Cruz with a visit to see Giant Tortoises. Initially we just see green fields but then gradually we start to spot the tortoises grazing. We have to walk quietly because they have very sensitive hearing. We learn that their shells are a bit like a topographical map – when they are young the ridges around each of the mounds on the shell are close together and in very old tortoises the mounds are nearly smooth. We are shown the inside of a shell and see where the vertebrae attach to the shell, and see that male tortoises have a concave underpart to their shells so that they can balance on top of a female for mating.
Then we continue to the other side of Santa Cruz to Puerto Ayora, the main settlement of the Galapagos with about 15,000 people, and the port area that most of the charter boats leave from. We have a chance to walk around the main Malecon or promenade area and also visit the Fish Markets where we are entertained by a sea lion who hangs around like a puppy and the ever expectant pelicans.
We are transferred to our vessel the Monserrat and are allocated our cabins that will be home for the next week. We will sleep on board and mostly sail between islands at night to maximise the time spent at the various islands. We have 10 of us, 8 crew and Daniel our guide.
All visitors to the Galapagos National Park must be accompanied by a registered guide. There are only a set number of boats that are allowed to be in the park at any one time and each is on a predetermined route and schedule. This is to help ensure minimum disruption to the wildlife but also has the benefit to visitors that there is only ever one other boat wherever you visit and only one group of people on each island point at any one time. Most boats are small and take only a few passengers in order to further reduce the impact.
For similar trips see:
Peregrine Adventures Travel Destinations (Comfort and independent tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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