150907 Quito – Galápagos Islands

Today started rather abruptly. The phone rang at 3:45am for us to get to breakfast and onto the bus for 5:00am. Our baggage had been collected at 10:00pm for a full ‘open the case’ inspection by authorities from Galapagos at 3:00am to ensure we had no seeds or unprocessed food hidden away, for Galapagos is ‘really’ protected. You are not allowed to even sail in its waters on a private basis.

After further ‘investigating processes’ at the Quito Airport, our flight departed around 7:00am for Guayaquil and then on to Baltra Island in Galapagos. Here, we were treated as if we had arrived in another foreign country with full immigration and customs procedures. Entry and what you bring is very strict with many rules while we are in the Islands.

As Galapagos is a National Park, the authorities want to keep Galapagos in the most natural state possible. We are asked not to touch the animals even though the animals do not show any fear of humans. The animals do not have any enemies and we must stay in groups on the trails. We also need to stay at least 2 meters away and if the animals come close, we need to step away slowly and quietly. Camera flashes need to be turned off at all times. Interestingly, 60% of visitors do not follow the rule that nothing is to be taken from the islands. (Our baggage is checked on departure) We can only eat on the ship and cannot use the islands as a toilet.

Selfie sticks are banned. In the past, visitors have used them to get ‘up close and person’ to the animals and this can scare them. However, fortunately, they can be used in the water and only if they have a floatation device attached to them. I had purchased a GoPro camera and floatation stick prior to leaving Australia and the news, at first, brought me thinking that I had spent a lot of money unwisely, until it was mentioned underwater GoPro is allowed.

As I look at the map, I think I am back in the Solomon Islands. The island names include Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela. Seems like the same adventurer visited both regions.

After departing the airport in buses, which allowed hands and bodies to be outside the bus if you wished, we boarded rubber dinghies for transfer to our ship the MV Galapagos Legend. It takes 90 passengers but this cruise is not full to capacity so we have a little more space to move.

After a lunch, we are presented with a plan for the afternoon, which includes a visit to a location on Ayora Port in the Santa Crus highlands where the giant tortoises are kept in their natural habitat. There are only two locations in the world where you find these giants; here and the Seychelles. They are huge and very slow moving but very quick to ‘pull their head in’ if danger comes their way. They can weigh between 250 and 300 kg and can live up to 150-200 years. Their principal threat has always been men. We found a few tortoises to ‘study’ and photograph that were quite willing to become stars in a way that they wouldn’t have comprehended, I’m sure. One we were watching had a yellow warbler dancing around it tough shell.

We also experienced walking through lava tubes or tunnels, which are the result of the many eruptions that have occurred in the island since its formation. The Pit Craters are seen as craters and its formation is not directly due to volcanic action. They were created as a result of the collapse or sinking of surface materials into cracks or manholes.

Our return to the ship was at sunset and we were able to enjoy ‘another tropical sunset’ before a meal and an early night.

Tomorrow, we take a study walk and try out snorkelling in these tropical waters.

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