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Galapagos Islands Cruise: Alan’s dream

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Kicker Rock Galapagos Islands

Alan tours the Galapagos Islands

Alan Lyall has just got back from a dream trip to the magical Galapagos Islands, where he cruised for a week on the Letty, one of the first class Eric, Flamingo and Letty series of boats.

Check his photos on Facebook, and read his colourful and honest day-by day account of Galapagos life, with many firsts and a lifetime of memories….

 

Day 1: San Cristobal: Airport – transfer to yacht – Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and La Galapaguera (L,D)

After the short flight to San Cristobal, and once all 20 of my new shipmates on board the Letty were gathered together, we set off on a small coach for the few minutes drive to the pier in Puerto Baquerizo.

Dodging snoozing sea lions, we boarded a panga (zodiac) and headed for the ship. Cabins allocated and bags already there, we gathered for a welcome briefing and then lunch.

Then it was back into the pangas and a walk along trails near the Interpretation Centre where we had our first taste of the Galapagos. We saw finches, had views of the sea and came across an odd-looking statue of Charles Darwin.

Dining would prove to be a real highlight – a four course dinner with beer and chat followed.

Conversation centred on sea sickness patches and pills. I saw on the bar a jar of sea sickness pills. I wondered if I would need them.

I dreamt I was holding on for my dear life on a very turbulent aircraft.

 

Day 2: Pinta Pitt, Cerro Brujo (B,L,D)

0600am wake up call. I was up before, showered, sea legs fine, waiting to take pictures at sunrise.

After breakfast we head off in the pangas making a wet landing (wet feet) on a beach at Punta Pitt. Sea lions everywhere including baby ones frolicking in the waves, and my first marine iguana!

We then hiked into the hills and were treated to our first, and only, sightings of the red-footed boobie.

Back to the boat where we were kitted out in our wet suits and snorkels and flippers. We then had our first snorkel in choppy waters, I saw my first parrot fish and the highlight was swimming with the sea lions. I was ecstatic after the hour spent in the water and used an expletive adjective with the word brilliant to describe the experience.

We were then back to the boat, snack, and lunch whilst we set sail for Cerro Brujo.

In the afternoon, we went for a panga ride, through a cave with Kicker Rock in the background, into a rock formation called The Cathedral and then to a beach.

I saw the beach and all I thought was wow wow wow! Pristine white sand, no people (except for the 20 of us now), sea lions, crabs scuttling along. I had never seen a beach so beautiful. I struggled into my wet suit (this was new to me).

I learnt that the zip goes to your back and once you put your leg through the arm its difficult to get out again. I loved the snorkelling especially as I’m not too good with the heat, and the water was a great temperature for me. I bobbed along, marvelling at the different fish, the colours and thinking how great this is.

In the late afternoon we headed back to the boat and snacked. Hmm.

We then set sail for Espanola, circling Kicker Rock at sunset. Stunning.

Briefing, great dinner, beer and bed.

This night there were no dreams of turbulent aircraft and no feelings of sea sickness.

Sea Lions on Beach Espanola Galapagos

Sea Lions on Española beach Galapagos

 

Day 3: Pinta Suarez, Gardener Bay (B,L,D)

We are anchored off Punta Suarez, Española Island and after breakfast we take the pangas and head to shore for a dry landing – this time no wet feet.

However on the jetty we must skirt around dozing sea lions and must make sure not to step in and slip on their poo. Marine iguanas..and more marine iguanas and sea lions galore! We head off into the undergrowth and suddenly I think..what’s that under the bush? It’s an albatross! We are soon mesmerised by their mating rituals and dances, the noises and then the drumming sound. Ringo Star eat your heart out.

We then settle by the cliff edge and watch these huge birds waddle to the edge and jump off in order to take flight. We continue walking around and spot our first Nazca boobies, iguanas everywhere and then the comical blue footed boobies. And yes their feet are blue!

Back to the boat and we set sail for Gardner Bay with a snorkeling interlude. This time the sea is much calmer and plenty of fish to see. After lunch we head to another pristine beach with sea lions, iguanas and spot our first stingrays at the water’s edge. As I walk along there is a seal pup following me, swimming in the surf. I wish I’d had my video camera. Great day and, as our guide Gaby said: ‘Another day in paradise,’.

 

Day 4: Punta Cormorant, Devil’s Crown, Post Office Bay (B,L,D)

This morning we wake up next to the Devil’s Crown on Floreana. We head to Punta Cormorant and this island is very different with a low, lush looking vegetation. We spot flamingoes – that surprised me – and then come to the beach where we can see turtle tracks where they had made their way to the sea. Another first! More blue footed boobies and we could also see the stingrays in the surf…not putting my feet in there.

Back to the boat and then deep water snorkelling around the Devil’s Crown, an impressive looking ring of rocks. We let the currents take us and many fish – King Angel fish, shoals of surgeon fish and then a turtle missing one of its front flippers.

Then on the bottom in the sand I see a shark seemingly sleeping. Looks innocuous enough. 10 minutes later a sharp intake of breath and there below me, only a few metres away, is a white tip shark swimming along…..it’s big, and looks like a real shark, and I am swimming with it.

No worries.

Then another one……the opening bars of music to Jaws go through my head…I’m not scared but I would lie to say that I didn’t feel a little apprehensive for a bit.

Later on the boat I am proud and excited. I swam with sharks. HUGE Sharks – so my mind tells me. Been there, done it.

After lunch we head for Post Office Bay. We take our postcards and look through the mail there. There are no cards for Edinburgh so I don’t take any to deliver. I leave two. I wonder if and when they will ever be delivered. We then snorkel off the beach and come across an enormous sea turtle. I float, watching it, mesmerised.

The days just keep getting better.

 

Day 5: El Chato (Highlands), Los Gemelos and Darwin Research Station (B,L,D)

This morning we are anchored in the bay of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. This is the biggest town in the Galapagos and there are several hotels, and a plethora of souvenir shops, restaurants and bars.

We head inland to visit two craters called the Gemelos (Twins) and head off to see the Galapagos Tortoise in the wild, visit a Lava cave and the Charles Darwin Centre.

Lonesome George is no longer there but there is Diego the Professor. He was brought in from San Diego Zoo to teach the younger tortoises how to mate. He did a brilliant and energetic job, hence his name.

It’s hot today and I’m glad I have been packing on the sun cream. Some of the others have not been so wise and are suffering.

We have free time in the evening to explore the town and then its back on board as we set sail for Sombrero Chino Island (Chinese hat) to the north of Santa Cruz.

Kids with giant tortoises Family holiday Galapagos

Giant tortoises, Galapagos

 

Day 6: Bachas or Mosquera, Bartolome (B,L,D)

I’m up before wake-up call, on deck, and there is this incredible island in front of me – a Chinese Hat.

We have some great deep water snorkelling in the morning and our first sightings of the Galapagos penguin. I’ve swum with turtles, sharks sea lions – and now penguins.

We then set sail for Pinnacle Rock off Bartolome Island and more deep water snorkelling. I’m loving the snorkelling. I also understand that the wet suit is great as not only does it keep you warm, as the water can be a bit cool, but also protects you from the sun and is a buoyancy aid.

After lunch we head to Bartolome and climb to a viewing point at the top of the hill. The Island has a barren, pitted, volcanic aspect. From the top there are also great views of Pinnacle Rock and my chance to take the classic photo of said Pinnacle Rock.

Back on board its time to reflect and also we have a small party this evening on the sun deck. The others dance the Macarena whilst I watch. In bed before 10.

 

Sally lighfoot crab Galapagos Islands

Sally Lightfoot crab, by Peter Norwood

 

Day 7: South Plaza Island and North Seymour (B,L,D)

This morning we are anchored off Plazas Islands. As we head to land I can’t help wondering at the prickly pear cacti – they appear to have trunks.

We are soon amongst the sea lions and big land iguanas. We walk to the other end of the island where there is a long cliff with hundreds of sea birds whizzing past. Dodging the sea lions and iguanas we walk along the cliff tops and I’m amazed as we can spot shoals of King Angel fish from our viewpoint.

It’s back to the boat and we head for Seymour. I watch the frigate birds follow us, perch on the boat and I try and spot turtles and other sea creatures in the wake.

In the afternoon we step onto Seymour. It’s Saturday and there seems to be Saturday night disco fever. Blue footed boobies everywhere waddling, courting, posing, dancing – blue-footed madness.

There are hundreds of frigate birds with their red sacks inflated trying to attract attention, pelicans diving into the water, large land iguanas strolling around and even the gulls are getting into the action. It’s all happening on Seymour. Gaby did say we would see more on Seymour. She was right. Another great day in paradise.

In the evening we set sail towards San Cristobal as it’s time to go home.

 

Day 8: San Cristobal: Interpretation Centre – transfer to airport (B)

Bags are packed and outside the cabin. We say goodbye to the wonderful crew and head into Puerto Baquerizo where we visit the Interpretation Centre which has a comprehensive display on the islands’ geology, habitation, flora and fauna.

We have a little time to wander around the town, again dodging the sea lions on the steps, benches and pavements.

Not long after, I am comfortably strapped into my seat flying back to the mainland.

All I can say is this trip was Galapatastic.

I wished, I wished, I wished.

And my wish came true.

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