Ecuador Day 9 – Galapagos Islands

A rough night, the boat rocking and rolling in the swells, smashed from sadistic wave to sadistic wave as though it were a tiny piece of driftwood. The boat lurched and groaned almost as much as I did, through a long 11 rollercoaster hours. At times the boat seemed to take off and fly for what seemed like forever, before crashing back down into the angry sea. The window in the bathroom was open a little, and I could hear the water gushing in – at times the water was level with my little window. I couldn’t get up to close it, the sea wanted me to just lie there and listen to it’s fury. I lay there listening to the harsh sea battering the little boat, and wondered what would happen if the boat gave up it’s fight with the raging ocean. We’d never be found. Sunk without trace. I awoke (though I don’t remember sleeping) feeling not too fresh at all, and nobody else looked any better, though after breakfast and stretches on the deck I felt much improved. It was a glorious sunny day, and the sea had evidently popped a couple of valium and was placated. Time for another packed day.

The first activity of the day was a trip to Isla Fernandina, a name given in honour of King Ferdinand II of Aragon, who sponsored the voyage of Columbus. It’s the third largest (and youngest) island in the Galapagos. It’s basically an active shield volcano that last erupted in April 2009, and as a result of the volcanic activity little plant life can be seen here, but other forms of life are thriving. We went to a place called Espinoza Point. We left the boat on time, free of the burden of the Maltese couple, who had decided to leave the tour prematurely and stay on the inhabited island we had been on a couple of days earlier instead, citing sea-sickness due to the rough nights at sea. As soon as we stepped onto the island, we knew we were in for something special. Fernandina is known to be the most pristine of the islands in the Galapagos, with an abundance of wildlife and no introduced species, thereby preserving its raw qualities. The lava rocks were covered with mating and fighting iguanas, huge things, as well as numerous seals and crabs. It was here that we saw the flightless cormorant for the first time too, flapping its pathetic little useless wings (it can’t fly, it lost the need to as there are no predators of this bird on the Galapagos). It was an amazing spectacle, nature at its rawest and least spoilt. We walked all the way up to a lagoon via impressive lava landscape, where we could see a collapse in the caldera in 1968 had created a big lava pool, where, incredibly, fish were swimming. Apparently, they get swept in with the sea as tiny embryos and develop into big fish that can never leave that little pool again. A bit like being born in North Korea I imagine. They, like the fish in the lava pool, have no idea of the huge world that lies outside their little world. The same could be said of people who live in Singapore too long. The same could be said of many people from my home town, Brighouse, I suppose.

We came to a wonderful lagoon where we could see marine turtles swimming around, hear sea lions barking, and then just stop and listen to the sounds of nature, and to the sounds of our skins being burnt to a crisp under the wilting sun. Time to snorkel, then. The snorkeling around here promised much, but sadly only delivered a few sea turtles, barely visible in the murky depths. Visibility was shocking, and it was right now, I thought grimly, that I wouldn’t want to meet a shark.

After lunch it was time for another snorkel, and this one was spectacular. I saw no fewer than 12 huge sea turtles, and swam with some of the graceful creatures for a time, watching as they chomped away at the algae on the rocks. A couple of seals bolted past me at one stage, and then I came across a whole colony of penguins sitting next to a colony of blue-footed boobies. It was an incredible dive, exhilarating with the warm strong currents sweeping me along. I dragged myself back onto the dinghy a very happy man indeed.

After a short break we all headed to Darwin volcano, at 1325m the fifth highest in the Galapagos, for a hike to the crater rim, which offered spectacular views across a lagoon and onto the sea at one side, and over a ghost forest (one ‘populated ‘almost exclusively by the dead-looking trees) on the other. Getting back in the dinghy we saw a colony of flightless cormorants and a family of seals. Back on the boat, we all had a few beers watching the sunset, thinking how lucky we all were to be here. After dinner, most people went to bed, though some stayed upstairs with a speaker having an impromptu party. Tomorrow, unfortunately, was our last full day in the Galapagos.

Author: Neil

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