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Galapagos Islands: trip report of a magical 15 days cruise


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After the second snorkeling activity of the day, we went ashore at Punta Moreno and did a bit of dhingy riding after.


When a Spanish Bishop who discovered the island set foot on Isabela, he struggled to find fresh water to drink and finally was forced to chew on cactus pats to quench his thirst. Cacti and mangroves do not need much to survive - and those and lava shape the scenery. However, in some lagoons, flamingoes have settled. But the habitat is still quite hostile. The lava formations are extraordinary - we could see different kinds of surfaces, tunnels, collapsed tunnels, etc. The were formed depending on the speed of the lava flow.








On the way back to the Samba, we had a closer look at some lava rocks from the sea. There were lots of iguanas and penguins and we were able to watch them until the sun set. Amazing light and a great end to a fantastic day!







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Day 7: Floreana


After another open ocean passage on the way to Floreana, we woke up in another habitat again. Floreana is a very green island, covered with trees, lichens and epiphytes. We went to the highlands first. After walking for about 100 meters, we spotted an owl not too far away - a rare sight here, a good start of the day!




We visited the freshwater spring and Pirates' Cove where the compelling human history of Floreana started in the 1800's. At Asilo de Paz we heard the fascinating story of the Wittmers, Doctor Ritter and Dora, and the famous Baroness and her three lovers - a story with all good ingredients of a crime story: love, fights, murder!




In an enclosure, we were able to see giant tortoises again - both juvenile and adult ones.




On the way back down, we climbed Cerro Alieri. From the top, we had great views both of the highland and down to the harbor and the small settlement. And before going back on the boat, we saw two very cute sea lion pups! One of them was suckling and an even smaller one rested on the steps down to the water.





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In the afternoon, we went snorkeling at a really nice place close to a sea lion rockery. Again, lots and lots of beautiful tropical fishes and reef sharks.






Later, we navigated to Santa Cruz. On the way, we watched a movie about the human history of Floreana. It's called "The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden" and was very educating and entertaining at the same time. And the chef made lots of popcorn for us ;)


In the evening, we arrived in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, the primary population center of the islands. Anchoring in Academy Bay, we had the most amazing dinner of all nights. The tables were even prepared with white table cloths etc. for the special occasion and we were served as much fresh and very tasty lobster as we could possibly eat! So yummy! After dinner, we were offered to go ashore to visit a bar and get a taste for the nightlife of Puerto Ayora, but we all opted to stay on board, had a glass of wine after dinner and went star gazing after dinner before going to sleep.

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Day 8: Santa Cruz


Before breakfast, I went outside with one of my fellow shipmates and two cups of coffee to just enjoy the early morning and talk a bit. Then we saw movement in the water, but the "something" disappeared again quickly. Then, there it was again - a shark?! In the harbour?! But yes, then there were two, and they were definitely black tipped reef sharks. Then they became 3 and 4 and 5 and 7 - wow! Later, the crew told us that there are indeed a lot of sharks around the harbour as they come to get the fish scraps from the people selling fish close to the pier. The first sighting even before breakfast!




After breakfast, we went ashore - and recognized a familiar face from the documentary about Floreana we watched the day before. And indeed, it was one of the descendents of the main characters of the movie. At the pier, sea lions awaited us, lying on the pier, on banks, everywhere!


From there, we went on a small bus that brought us into the highlands. On the way, Juan told us a lot about the area. First, we went to a tortoise reserve where we first learned some more things about the tortoises and could see and touch the casts of three turtles (that had previously died) that were displayed. Then we went for a walk in the reserve and saw lots of the giant tortoises! Some of them were resting in the mud, some were having breakfast (yummy, guavas!) and some just sitting somewhere in the grass or below a tree. Moreover, we saw a lot of finches and other birds.










Then we went to see "Los Gemelos", two collapsed craters in the highlands of Santa Cruz that are home to more finches, mockingbirds and a diversity of indigenuous plants. We also saw a lot of Scalesia trees there. After a walk along the two craters, we ventured a bit into the mature forest - it again looked completely different from everything we had seen before.





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After a very good lunch back in town, we went to the Charles Darwin Research Center and got some explanation about everything we saw on the way. Once there, we started reading everything that was on the billboards there, very interesting and tons of information! They also have a few displays there - ranging from huge (a big whale skeleton) to tiny (sand samples of different colors from different islands). There are also photographs from a resident photographer.


Then we went on a walk around the station and the tortoise breeding center where again Juan explained everything in detail to us. We saw Diego, an old male tortoise that helped to save his species. He is called Diego because he used to live in the San Diego Zoo before he came back to his origin. Apparently, he does love to reproduce (unlike Lonesome George) and has fathered hundereds of small tortoises. Usually, they keep one male and one female to reproduce together, but Diego has so much fun with the ladies that he stays with five of them and keeps them occupied...




There were also a couple of land iguanas.




We also got to see the remains of "Lonesome George".




And of course the baby tortoises! They are bred in the Research Station - who would have thought that such trivial things as hair dryers could be used for the conservation of tortoises? The eggs need warmth and hair dryers are used for that in the "cabinets" where the eggs are incubated. There, we learned a lot about the whole process from mating to eggs to hatchlings. The baby tortoises are kept in the Research Station for about two years before they are reintroduced into nature because many of the babies would have died in nature within those first two years. That way, their numbers can be increased.






In the late afternoon, we had some free time in Puerto Ayora so could buy postcards and souvenirs or just spend some time people watching. The "fish market" was very interesting. People played volleyball close to the pier in the evening which seemed to attract a lot of locals, great fun to watch. And in the evening, the black tipped reef sharks come closer and can be seen from the pier.

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Day 9: Floreana


During the early morning, we navigated back to Floreana and woke up to another part of the island. Before breakfast, we went on a panga ride around Champion Islet. This small piece of land is one of two places were the Floreana mockingbird survived after its extinction on the big island. And we saw a few of them, big success! The landscape is comprised of cacti and terracotta. The mockingbirds loved sitting on and flying from one to another cactus.






Driving around the island, we came into a sheltered area where a lot of sea lion pups played. It was so much fun to watch them, they were really curious and loved playing with us too! They came really close to our pangas, we just waited and got the motors out of the water so they couldn't hurt themselves. I would have loved to get into the water right then and there to not only watch, but take part in the action ;) A little further, there were more adult and baby sea lions ashore.











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1 hour ago, BieneMaja said:

Then, there it was again - a shark?! In the harbour?! But yes, then there were two, and they were definitely black tipped reef sharks. Then they became 3 and 4 and 5 and 7 - wow! Later, the crew told us that there are indeed a lot of sharks around the harbour as they come to get the fish scraps from the people selling fish close to the pier. The first sighting even before breakfast!


There are floodlights at the piers, so you can see the sharks swimming at night quite easily.

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This is a fascinating report. Enjoying it very much!

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On the way back to the Samba, my snorkeling buddy and I were both so excited about the sea lion pups that we decided to have a very quick breakfast and then leave again as soon as possible for snorkeling around Champion Islet instead of having a full hour on the boat before venturing out again as planned for the schedule of the day. We then talked to the others who might be snorkeling as well, had a quick 10min breakfast, let the crew know about our wishes (of course if could be arranged...), changed into our wetsuits and left again 15min after arrival ;) So we had more time with the sea lions, 1:45h instead of the planned hour! And it was so much fun!!! The sea lions were incredibly playful and loved to dive with us. I enjoyed it at least as much as they did! How could you not?! And amazing tropical fishes as well.



















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