Galapagos (miss you already)

Probably the most difficult thing about visiting the Galapagos (aside from actually getting on the plane to leave – God that was hard) is trying to write about it afterwards without using too many cliches, expletives, and annoying adjectives such as AMAZING and STUNNING (oh and capitalisation, come to that).  Needless to say, we had the week of our lives (cliché #1: apologies).

We travelled around the islands in the fair vessel Eden, along with one of the nicest groups of 14 fellow passengers we could have ever hoped to end up with (especially in the middle of the ocean). Our guide, Franklin, provided us with a fit-to-burst itinerary that had us up at the crack every morning and in the dinghy off to another island – each one unique in character and landscape, not just to each other but to anything we’d ever seen before.  A couple of treks everyday kept our cameras and our pointing fingers busy, as we saw more species of birds than you can shake a stick at (not widely encouraged in the Galapagos). Just a few that I can remember: Boobies (of the red footed, blue footed, Nazca and masked varieties); finch (of the parrot, big headed, vampire and Galapagos variety); Frigates; Gulls (swallow tailed and Lava); Albatross; Heron and Penguin (woohooo!). One of the most surprising things was not just the abundance of different birds, but the fact that you can get so close to them without bothering them (apparently they haven’t learnt to be scared of humans over there).

A Blue Footed Boobie - my favourite kind of boobie
Nazca Boobies
A penguin!

As well as trekking on land we also spent a lot of time in the water, which offered up its own box of delights. Once I had gotten over my lifelong fear of deep water (only 4 days in!) I was able to really enjoy the snorkelling and not just grip Nick’s arm in terror every few moments. It was completely worth climbing out of the dinghy in the middle of the scary sea for the amazing (there we go, it had to come in somewhere) experience of swimming with Giant Turtles – they make it all look so graceful, Stingrays, penguins and shoals of weird and wonderful fish, as well as the playful Sea Lions that barrel around you before coming close to plant a kiss on your mask (I only freaked out the first time).

Swimming with a Giant Turtle (thanks for the photo Peter!)

We also saw plenty of Sea Lions ashore, and managed to time one of our dinghy rides perfectly to float past a newborn pup on the beach, cord and blood and all. No, it really was lovely. In a rare break from snorkelling and trekking we also had the immense privilege of spending an hour sunbathing on the beach alongside scores of sea lions sleeping, just the odd grunt now and again as an alpha male lazily showed everyone who was boss.

Sunbathing with the Sea lions
A Sea lion pup

There are too many highlights to list (without getting annoying) but I can’t go without mentioning again the fantastic group of people we had the pleasure of sailing with, so thank you to you all. We loved having the opportunity to celebrate Marion’s 60th birthday with her and her fantastic family; we took plenty of wisdom from The School of Hard Knocks, and we all in all had a brilliant laugh. Franklin, Kleber the Captain and his crew all made the trip all the more memorable, so huge thanks to them as well.

And now for a load of photos. If you want even more photos the entire album can be found here

Sea Lion and Boobies posing together
A Giant Tortoise staring us out
Kleber the Captain and his friend the Sea Lion
Unique terrain created by a lava flow from a volcanic eruption just over 100 years ago - luckily it has cooled enough to walk on now!
Marine Iguanas
Always choose the lesser of two weevils
Looking happy post crack-of-dawn snorkel

A 36 hour trip to Japan now awaits us…

(In Quito buses play Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. Who knew?!?!)