|The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands
“Las Encantadas”, well, yes, they most certainly are- ‘the enchanted isles’, or ‘misty isles’.
Which we can certainly relate to, after having quite a few misty days there! The name
“Galapagos” means giant tortoise and is the only home in the world to this specific
species. In 1959, 97% of the archipelago became a national park.
An epicenter for marine biologists, scientists, conservationists, naturalists and the like,
these islands are regarded as one of the most fascinating island groups in the world. In
fact, there is no place on earth quite like the Galapagos. It is most famous for the
observations of Charles Darwin, made here in 1835, while onboard the British naval
vessel the ‘Beagle’, which lead to his ‘evolution theory’. The Galapagos are a diverse,
newly formed group of islands and have a very unique and interesting evolutionary history.
The fauna and flora found here have indeed specially adapted and evolved to survive in
what can be a harsh environment for them. This is one of the things Galapagos is famous
for, the sheer size of some of the plants and animals. More than anything else, tourist
flock here (some 80 000 per year), for the special endemic species, found only in the
Galapagos. Some of these would be ; the giant tortoise, blue footed boobie, seal lions
Galapagos penguins and Galapagos white-tipped reef sharks, among many other
specializes plants, shrubs and birds. No where else on this planet can you see such a
unique array of land and marine animals.
I had the privilege of doing a dive charter for 4 days, out around the isles east of
Floreana. In as few as 10 dives I saw- moray eels, garden eels golden rays, marble rays,
manta rays, sea-horses (one of the rare, special finds). All kinds of fish, from angels,
trigger, surgeon, to scorpion fish, turtles, sea lions, white-tipped Galapagos sharks, and
hammerhead sharks-shawls of them, all around you- ‘the’ diving experience if your in the
Galapagos! I also got to see the legendary post office, in ‘post office bay’. This consists of
2 propped up, empty barrels, erected by buccaneers, whalers and sailors. The purpose of
which is to serve as a drop of point for letters, in hopes that someone else will come along
and collect the letters with the same destination as themselves. This tradition is still
carried out today. As a sweet novelty people are still leaving letters there
for someone else to pick up and deliver. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to leave any letters,
as my unexpected visit to the bay was in the middle of the night, while looking for turtles
laying there eggs.
Being a ‘yachtie’, as your main stop over point you will find yourself in Porta Ayora, Santa
Cruz. Possibly after you stop at Santa Cristobel on the way there and before you stop
over at Isabella.
We all found out quite quickly, that you tend to be very limited, as far as ‘doing your own
thing’ goes. For example, out in the anchorage, you need to take a ‘water taxi’ to deliver
you to shore and back, sometime this can require long, frustrating waits, while the taxi
driver finish his siesta!
If you want to go exploring anywhere to need to pay and go on an organized, guided tour.
This is true for Santa Cruz and any other islands you wish to see, either on a day trip or
on a couple of day charter. This all the sailors found to kind of defeat the purpose of
having your own boat-having to pay to go on another to visit the islands. This said there
are still many enjoyable tours you can do around Santa Cruz, as well as other nearby
islands. I know Russell did the day tour-up the volcano, and lava tubes (quite a great walk
though lava formed tunnels). I did a day dive tour, which was also very well organized and
So after 10days, or so, everyone is about ready to move on out- deeper into the pacific.
Joining Free spirit on a Saturday, by Tuesday we were provisioned, fueled-up (we even
had a very kind French couple along for the ride!) and ready to hit the island Isabella.
Puerto Villamil, the only village on the island, has sandy roads and a very quite and
relaxing atmosphere. We got to see the wetlands, as well as Muro de las Lagrimas (wall of
tears), which was built by convicts. There were great views out over the landscape and
the most ‘close-to-silence’ I have heard in a very long time. It had a feeling of wilderness,
uninterrupted, but inviting wanting to make us camp out under the stars. We also got a
chance to go up ‘Volcano Negro’, at 1200meters it’s the second highest volcano in the
Galapagos. It is also the second biggest volcanic crater in the world, (11miles in
diameter), second only to the one in Tanzania. After getting a taxi up though the lush
green lower level areas, we jumped onto horse back and trekked for and hour
and a half or so, past the volcano crater, which was veiled in miss. A bit unfortunate as far
as seeing the spectacular sight goes, but adding to the mysterious journey up to the
‘Volcano Chico’ offered views across the whole middle of the island, looking out to sea on
both west and east sides. We could see the distinct path of the lava flows down the
ragged terrain. The landscape at the summit is quite rightly compared to the surface of
the moon! After initially dismounting the horses and walking for an hour, you get to a pure
multi colored rock extravaganza! Lava tunnels, gaseous discharges, yellow sulphuric
rocks, black lava ash, red stone. I forgot lunch, which turned out to be a great move, as
we got to go off, with the horses, back to base camp on our own accord, without the other
flock of tourists and there accompanying noise! It was wonderful, descending the volcano
in the misty quite. An ‘other-worldly’ experience!
The next day we did a snorkeling trip around in the bay. This included a visit to a natural
rocky reef to see a whole swarm of white tipped Galapagos sharks. There were at least 40
of them, just some 3 meters away from your feet! I saw huge turtles, rays and played with
the seal lion cubs in the shallows. We also got to see the penguins and blue footed
After loosing two of our prized pineapples to mold, we re-stocked on some avos and paw
paws, strolled along the white sandy beach, and mentally prepared ourselves for the trip
ahead of us- 3000miles of sailing across some of the most remote ocean in the
world…bring it on!
We left the tranquil anchorage, which was then over full since no one could leave on the
Friday, it actually being the 13th as well! We pulled up anchor, after French toast for
breakfast and did a tour around the bay to say cheers to our friends. We received some
encouraging calls “see you in the Marquesas”, “good winds” etc! What a nice feeling to be
part of a larger group that you are all in this together, in a way. Helping each other out
with weather reports, routes intended, advice on islands, maintenance assistance, and
general encouragement. I have already met so many amazing people on this trip I am
embarking on-sailing from Europe, and eventually all the way back there! After spending
a whole season classic yacht racing in the Mediterranean, I am finally finding out what the
‘cruising community’ is all about!!