Day 16 – Our final day

Our flight out of San Cristobal wasnt until 12:30pm so we thought we’d have a little lie in. However, our bodies were so used to being awake early that we were both awake around 7am.

We packed a few bits and then I took some photos of the hotel. The 2 photos below are of our balcony and the view from our balcony.

And this one is looking down into the garden on the ground floor.

The hotel has a massive cactus growing up through the floors. I have no idea how old it is.

We had breakfast before finishing our packing and heading into town to say our goodbyes to the sealions.

I’m going to miss hearing the strange noises they make, especially the barks of the alpha male.

We saw what I think was a spotted sandpiper amongst the sealions – he was very well camouflaged.

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And then I managed to take a typical Galapagos photo with a blue-footed boobie, an iguana and a sally lightfoot crab.

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And also some pelicans

And this poor guy who had obviously been caught up in a fishing hook at some point.

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The sealions are so chilled and definitely the cutest animals on the islands.

Neither of us really wanted to leave but at some point we had to head back to the hotel to get our taxi to the airport.

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The airport at San Cristobal as only 10 minutes from our hotel. From there we flew to Guayaquil and then from Guayaquil to Bogota – the bags went all the way through this time so the transitions were a lot more relaxed! At Bogota we had a couple of hours to kill so we found a bar and had some lovely red wine.

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From Bogota we flew back to Heathrow. As we flew over England the clouds lifted and the view was really nice.

Jamie picked me up from the airport which was lovely as I didn’t then have to worry about public transport or getting a cab.

The Galapagos islands are a truly amazing place to visit. I have never been anywhere where you can get so close to the animals and the marine life is so abundant.

 

Day 15 – La Loberia beach and relaxing

When we got up this morning it was a little bit murky and it had been raining in the night, but the sun was trying to poke through. We had another leisurely breakfast and were joined by two brave feathery friends.

After breakfast we headed into town and I hired a wetsuit and fins before walking the 2.5km down to Loberia beach. It was a really nice walk through the town and down to the beach. We passed a mining area but I am not sure exactly what they are mining here.

The beach is beautiful.

And there were lots of sealions to greet us.

Some of them were playing in the shallow pools and the alpha male came along and joined in too.

The sealions seem to use the rocks as pillows – it doesn’t look particularly comfortable but they don’t seem to mind.

So after admiring all the sealions I got changed into my wetsuit and went for a swim. The water was quite shallow which meant it was quite easy to see all the different fish quite close up.

There were also a few turtles around – a couple of them just relaxing on the sea bed.

I spent a good hour and half swimming around and then, just as I was about to get out I spotted two sealions. They were darting around and playing and a couple of times they came right up to me. I got a great video of this.

As I got out of the water the weather started to turn and it started to drizzle a bit.

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So I got changed quickly and we wandered back into town. We walked a slightly different way and came across a really amazing building which I think was an art centre as well as a hotel.

We also passed a church, where again, the native animals were prominent in the design.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped of  to have a brownie and a coffee at Nico’s hostel in town. The brownie was delicious.

Once we were back at the hotel we just chilled for a bit and did some packing before heading back out. On the way into town we came across one of my furry friends.

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We went to Midori for cocktails and dinner. I’ve got to say, the food here was not as good as the Midori in Santa Cruz.

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After dinner we decided to explore and see if there was any good nightlife. We went to El Barquero, one of the bars recommended in the guide book. But, as we were out of season, it was actually really quite there. We had a couple of drinks, chatted to the other two guests and then decided to head home.

Day 14 – Highlands, El Junco and Puerto Chino Beach

The plan this morning was to go to La Loberia Beach as we had a free morning, but when we got up it was wet and drizzly outside. So we decided to have a leisurely breakfast and see how things went. A little friend joined us at the breakfast table looking for crumbs.

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By the time we finished breakfast the weather hadn’t improved that much so we made a decision to go shopping instead of to the beach. As we made our way into town we saw  sealion just lying on somebodies front porch.

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We ambled down the main street, popping into almost every single shop and made a few purchases such as shot glasses, jewellery, t-shirts etc. It was quite relaxing and the best thing to do when the weather wasn’t so good.

We also took some photos by the massive San Cristobal sign.

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After our shopping trip we went back to the hotel and then we were met by Nico who was our guide for the Highland tour in the afternoon. We set off all together in a taxi and our first stop was the Casa del Ceibo. This was a 300 year old ceiba tree with a tree house halfway up.

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You can actually hire the tree house and spend the night here if you fancy it. However, there’s no covering to the windows so you would need to wrap up warm.

We walked over the rope bridge to the tree house and explored inside – it actually had everything you needed for a night’s stay including a shower and toilet. Normally you can leave the tree house by sliding down the pole on the side but because it was raining and the pole was wet we weren’t allowed to do this in case it was too slippery.

At the bottom of the tree is another entrance to the ‘downstairs’. This is just a dark space that looks a bit like a dungeon and feels a bit creepy.

Because of the success of the tree house the owners have now built a boat house in the trees which is also available to stay in.

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Following our clambers up, down and in the tree we got back in the taxi and headed to El Junco Lagoon. On the way we went through the town of El Progreso. Back in 1891 Manuel J Cobos started to develop a sugar cane factory in the area. He recruited jailed mainlanders to come and work in the factory and he also minted his own money called the cobo. This all went really well until 1904 when Cobos was stoned to death when his workers revolted. His son took over but was not particularly successful and El Progresso is now just a small village. Cobos had a number of illegitimate children and the current mayor is a descendant of the original J Cobos.

After  a little while we cam to the start of the trail leading to El Junco lagoon. El Junco is formed from a cinder volcano which is a volcano made of ash. The ash forms impermeable layers when it gets wet and forms the lagoon. Junco is a type of weed that grows in the area.

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As we walked up the path in the drizzle we saw a few tree finches. The male finches are black and the females are grey. We also saw a Galapagos fly-catcher and these birds are very territorial, so he was very protective of his little area.

One of the main plants growing in this area is the Miconia plant which can only grow at altitudes of 500m. This plant comes from the cacao plant family.

As we walked up the steps to the top of the lagoon, Nico spotted a rat on the path. He kicked it really hard, it ricocheted off one of the steps, shook itself and ran off into the undergrowth. It was so funny to watch, and as rats are an invasive species, nobody on the Galapagos islands really like them and try to kill them.

We were lucky to spot a ting warbler finch in the bushes. This si a really small finch and weighs less than 2g.

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The area around El Junco is wet and humid at least 50% of the time. It was really misty at the top and we couldn’t really see the freshwater lagoon, just the outline of it.

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Normally we would’ve walked around the perimeter of the lagoon but as there was very little to see in the rain we decided to head back down.

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Our next stop was Galapaguera which is a place where giant tortoises live in semi-natural conditions.

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There are over 800 tortoises in the centre. The tortoises have their vocal cords but don’t make many noises, except the male grunts like a cow when mating. The females fight off the males because they only want to mate with a strong male who can over power them. The tortoises here are slightly smaller than they would be in the wild due to the fact that they are in a smaller space.

We saw lots of baby tortoise and they were tiny. The ones in the photos below are less than a year old.

The young tortoises are kept in pens until they are around 4 years old after which time they are moved to larger outside pens until they are 8. After this they can be released back into the wild. The numbers on their shells relate to their order of hatching. The sex of the baby tortoise is determined by where they are in the nest – the male eggs are lower down and the female eggs are on top. The baby tortoises weigh around 27g when they hatch and they remain inside the nest for 30 days. The reason for this is that when they hatch they have an open wound on their abdomen so this needs to heal up. The tortoises lay 4-10 eggs and can continue to reproduce until they die.

As they age the shell of the tortoises grow with them so they develop more rings on the shell.

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On average a tortoise covers around 500m and this increases during the mating season. They only mate once a year. There are two different populations of tortoises in San Cristobal and they come from the same genetic pool. Scientists are currently exploring if the two populations are different species and how.

One of the main trees in the tortoise centre was a poison apple tree and the sap from these trees can cause a severe rash.

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On the way out we spotted a yellow crowned heron. The one in the photo is a juvenile. These birds are scavengers and can eat the baby tortoises.

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Our final stop was Puerto Chino.

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This is a lovey beach area, and had the weather been better we might have gone for a dip. The cacti on the way down, like many on the Galapagos islands were like trees. The spines at the bottom of the cactus are really tough and very sharp, whereas those at the top are a lot softer.

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We saw a small medium beak ground finch by the side of the path too.

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Once we got to the beach there were several sealions. The alpha male had an altercation with a younger male, but the younger male backed off so it didn’t lead to anything.

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Over the years the sealions have got slightly smaller as this means that they have less also leaner and have skin to be exposed to the heat so they are able to cool down easier. They are also leaner and have less fat than previously. The male sealions stay in their colonies until they are around 7 years old, after which they leave to form a bachelor colony. Here they eat as much as possible to build up their strength and then challenge an alpha male. They stay as an alpha male for around 2-3 years.

Sealions still have 5 digits on each fin and 3 of these also have nails on them.

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The male sealions have a bump on their head which is formed from bone and gets bigger as they grow. This identifies the males from the females and they also use it when they fight each other. Sealions sweat oil from their skin and this helps to reduce friction when they walk along. Sealions have muscles which can close their nostrils which helps them to equalise pressure in their ears when they dive.

Nico told us a hilarious story about a sealion in his boat. He used to have a small boat and at one point when he went out to his boat there was a male sealion in it. The sealion had been living there for quite a while and had deposited his waste material at one end of the boat. Nico started to clean it all up with water and try and chase the sealion off the boat. As he was cleaning the boat another boat went past causing a wave in the water which made Nico fall over – straight into the shitty water! He was not happy! He managed to get the sealion off eventually and clear up all the mess!

On the way back to the taxi we saw a little hermit crab -there are two species of hermit crabs in the Galapagos islands.

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Once back at the hotel we got warmed up and then went into town for a cocktail at Muju’s overlooking the sea.

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For dinner we went to El Cranrejo Loco – where I had red crab which was delicious. It came with a hammer and chopping board as I had to hammer the crabs open to get to the meat! We took the shells of the crab and some meat with us when we left to leave in the trees for the wild cats.

On the way home we stopped and played with a little tabby cat near our hotel.

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Day 13 – Espanola

This morning we had a quick breakfast at the hotel before heading into town, picking up our wetsuits and fins, and meeting up with Jose at the pier. There was the usual gathering of marine birds, crabs and sealions at the port.

At the port we met the rest of our group who were from all over the world but had come together to crew a ship the following week.

We set off for Espanola island which was around a two hour boat journey.  Espanola is the oldest of the Galapagos islands and is estimated to be around 4 million years old. We docked at Punta Suarez and took the dinghy from the boat to the island.

As soon as we got onto the island we saw the marine iguanas. The ones here on Espanola are different to the others of the Galapagos islands as they have a unique red and green colouring which is why they are called ‘Christmas iguanas’.

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The iguanas were literally everywhere, you had to be really careful not to step on them. Like other marine iguanas they have a long flat tail to help them swim and dive and they can also slow their heart beat to enable them to dive for up to 60 minutes. They came to the island millions of years ago and have adapted to their environment. They eat red and green seaweed which gives them the distinctive colouring. The male iguanas are more colourful as they are able to swim further out to sea and therefore, can get the better quality food. The males also have more spikes on their backs. The iguanas regulate their body temperature by warming up in the sun.

As we walked along the path we were joined by a couple of mockingbirds. The mockingbirds on Espanola are different to the ones on other islands and are called Hood mockingbirds as the island used to be called Hood island after Viscount Samuel Hood. The hood mockingbird has a slightly longer and more curved beak than the mockingbirds on the other islands.

We also came across a number of lava lizards, darting between the rocks. There are 10 different species of these lizards across the Galapagos islands. The male lava lizards tries to mate with any females that pass through his territory. They raise themselves up on their feet, creating a gap to allow air to circulate, to try and let their bodies cool off. They also sometimes raise their tail in the air for the same reason.

There were a number of sealions on the rocks and sandy areas. The sealions always give birth on land and then feed their pups milk. After around 7 months the young sealions can get their own food but that doesn’t really happen and they stay with their mothers and rely on her for food until they are around 3-4 years old. The female sealions live longer than the males.

We were also really lucky to see a Galapagos hawk just sitting on a bush eating the placenta of a sealion. The Galapagos hawk only came to the island around 150,000 years ago. People used to kill the hawk as it would often eat the baby chicks from the marine birds and also any chickens. The Galapagos hawks mate and stay together for life on Espanola island, whereas on Isabela island the females mate with around 7 different males to ensure extra protection for the babies. Apparently when Darwin came to the island he tried to shoot a hawk but it just sat on the barrel of the gun as it was so tame and had no fear of humans.

As we walked along the areas between the cliffs were very rocky but the rocks were like big stones and very smooth. The terrain is pillow lava and was normally at the bottom of the sea but due to uplift is is now forming part of the land and has been eroded by the waves to form smooth rocks. The landscape is known as rolling rocks.

The cliff faces were pretty spectacular too.

The cliff tops and faces were full of Nascar boobies. This type of booby is heavier than the other species of boobies so it nests on the cliff in order to catch a strong wind to help it fly when it takes off. The Nascar boobies have higher levels of testosterone than the other boobies, it is 3 times higher in the Nascar boobies. This means that they are more aggressive and they are known as the ‘angry birds’. Like the blue footed boobies, the Nascar boobies lay 2 eggs with the older chick often killing the younger one. However, the adult birds also bully the young chicks, pecking them and often killing them.

The Nascar boobies spend a lot of time in the water so are often seen cleaning their feathers.

Like the blue footed boobies the female Nascar boobies are slightly larger than the males and they make similar sounds too. The Nascar boobies pick up small twigs and bits of materials and lay them on the ground to mark an area. They don’t actually build a nest but it seems to be a ritual as they actually lay their eggs on the beach. The male and female Nascar boobies pass small ‘presents’, such as twigs or small rocks, to each other to show affection. We saw them doing this and it was really sweet.

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We also saw a couple of oyster catchers on the beach, they stand out with their red legs and eyes. We also saw a swallow tailed seagull and a grey warbler finch but they were too far away to get a decent photo.

The area we walked in was part of the dry zone of the island and the water from the spray of the waves is really important to the area as it provides moisture for the vegetation. We saw a plant called ‘scorpion tails; which provides food for the finches.

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Espanola is the only place in the world where you can find the waved albatross as it nests here.

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The waved albatross do sometimes lay an egg and then abandon it as there is not always enough food for them. They only lay 1 egg which they then incubate until it hatches. The gestation period is around 60 days. They actually move the egg around 40m away from where they initially lay it to a more protected area. If they lay their eggs too late in the year then the chick is not advanced enough to fly in December when they leave the island. The waved albatross can fly up to 3,000km to find food. We watched a couple of waved albatrosses doing a courtship dance, rubbing beaks, swaying their heads and making a clicking nose with their beaks.

After they leave the island they don’t return until they are around 4-5 years old. The waved albatross doesn’t reach sexual maturity until they are around 20 years old and they live until they are around 50 years old. When they mate they mate for life. We saw a couple of albatross chicks on the island too – they are extremely well camouflaged.

As we came to the end of the trail on the island we saw a razor snake. There are around 10 species of snakes on the Galapagos islands.

 

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And we then came across another waved albatross couple.

When we got back to the beach there were more sealions to admire and take pictures of.

Just before we got back on the dinghy, 2 male Christmas iguanas decided to have a fight. It was really aggressive as they head butted each other and whipped their tails around as they kind of danced around in a circle – I have some of it on video.

The gene variation on Espanola island, like most of the Galapagos islands, is very low. This means that the immune systems of the animals is also low so one new disease could easily eradicate an entire species. Wild goats and rats have been eradicated from this island.

In 1967 they found only 14 tortoises on the whole of the island and only 2 of these were males. They took these tortoises off the island and into a breeding centre to ensure that they found each other and mated. They also had some extra hep from a tortoise from a Californian zoo called Diego. Since this time they have been able to reintroduce around 2.000 tortoises back onto the island. Tortoises are extremely important as they help to create the ecosystem.

It was really  noticeable on this island that the animals and birds have absolutely no fear of humans, which was great to see.

Once back on the boat we had some lunch before putting on our wetsuits  and getting ready to snorkel.

The water was just as cold as yesterday so I only stayed in for about an hour. But we saw lots of reef fish including king angel fish, Sargent fish, cardinal fish and also hieroglyphic hawk fish.

We did also see turtles and sealions. One of the guys in the group was really good at diving in his wetsuit and he played with the sealion. At one point the sealion nipped his fin which is what they do to each other when they want to play. It was very cute.

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We had more hot, sweet tea when we got out of the water, and some delicious cake. Once back at the pot of San Cristobal we dropped off our wetsuits and then headed back to our hotel for a freshen up and change before dinner.

For dinner we went to Giuseppe’s which was a small restaurant right at the other end of town. Juan had recommended it to us and it was a great recommendation as the pizzas were amazing.

 

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On the way home we came across the ugly bird again – I am not sure what it is but I think it was some kind of heron. The sealions were also lounging around on the streets.

At the bottom of our road we saw my new feline friend, very happily poised on a motorbike.

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My favourite picture of the day was when this little sealion looked directly at the camera – it makes his face look really strange and sad.

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Day 12 – Tortuga, Cerro Brujo and Kicker Rock

It was a very early start – we left the hotel around 630am, picking up ‘breakfast in a bag’ as we went. Very kindly the owners of the hotel also got up early and made us some fresh coffee before we left.

We met our guide for the tour, Jose, at the shop where we had hired our wetsuits and fins from. We walked down to the main pier to meet the other members of the group. On the way there was a blue heron just happily perched on the railings.

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And a bit further along we had a typical Galapagos scene with a pelican, a blue-footed booby and sally lightfoot crabs all together.

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The pier is quite long and very picturesque.

As we were waiting for our boat we saw a sea turtle swim past.

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There were supposed to be a number of people joining us on the day trip but unfortunately many of the group who had planned to be in San Cristobal were flying in from Quito and because of the troubles in Ecuador at the time the flights had been cancelled so they were unable to join us. The Galapagos islands were not directly involved in the issues going on in Ecuador but the delays, changes and cancellations to flights were having some effects as people were unable to get to the islands. The trouble was caused because the government were planning to get rid of fuel subsidies and this was something that the general population were not too pleased about. Apparently though, this was just the surface of the problem and there were many underlying issues. Luckily there were no marches or protests happening on the islands but there were quite a few demonstrations in the cities on the mainland.

So, in total there were only four of us on the day trip; Faye and I and an Irish guy (I think his name was James) and another guide who was with the James, The other guide was called Lenka and she was originally from the Netherlands. She had been travelling and then met a guy whilst on the Galapagos islands and ended up coming back and marrying him.

The first stop was going to be Tortuga but in the way we passed Kicker Rock, otherwise known as Leon Dormido (sleeping lion). You can kind of see the shape of a lion with its head down and its tail pointing upwards. This is a sheer walled tuff cone that has been separated by erosion.

As we made our way to Tortuga bay we also passed the rock at Cerro Brujo, other wise known as witch hill. This hill is an eroded tuff cone and has been formed by lava that has low viscosity and few bubbles. This lava breaks whilst still solidifying and is pushed forward by lava that is still flowing from behind. People used to extract salt from the lake on the hill and use it to preserve food.

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One part of the rock has been named ‘the cathedral’ and it is rather awe inspiring. The dark parts of the rock are from where the lava has flowed down the rock.

There was also a lava channel in the rock which is where the rock itself has been eroded by strong winds causing it to break.

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You could also get a great view of kicker rock through the channel.

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There were a number of pelicans perched on the rocks. Jose told us a story where Christians believed that the pelicans were giving parts of their bodies to their baby chicks and therefore worshipped them as martyrs. The reason they believed this is that when the adult pelicans feed their young they often spill the fish from their mouths and the people thought this was part of the pelican’s body.

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After a while we reached Tortuga bay. This has been formed by lava flows and uplifts and the temperatures here vary between 14-30 degrees Celsius.

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The white beachy area is formed form shells that erode and get smashed against the rocks.

Almost immediately we got onto the island we came across some mockingbirds. These particular mockingbirds are Chatham mockingbirds as San Cristobal used to be known as Chatham island. They colonised this island around 3-4 million years ago and are one of 4 species of mocking birds across the Galapagos islands.

There have been many eruptions over the years and the as the hot lava flows over the islands it kills the plants in its path. After the eruptions, lichen eventually establishes itself on the rocks and starts to break down the rock and form small areas of soil. This soil enables some plants to grow, which in turn, die and provide organic material for more plants to grow.

20191015_150746 The mangroves arrive via the ocean currents as the seeds are quite heavy and can be carried in the water. They help to form an ecosystem and provide food, nesting areas and refuge for animals. The population of the mangroves is increasing. Initially they were cut down s they cause areas to become swampy and smelly. but now, their importance is recognised as they can also act as a barrier against natural disaster.

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We came across a natural lagoon which was more brackish as it was slightly salty. Some goats come to this area but they are an introduced species and they compete for food so their numbers are controlled.

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We also came across a small collapse in the lava.

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And then we came across something really weird – a couple of goat skulls on the rocks. Apparently some people kill the goats for the meats but they cut off the heads and the trotters as they are then lighter to carry off the island. You could still see the little goatee beards.

Amongst the rocks we found sally lightfoot crabs. These crabs got their name from a dancer. During the second world war Baltra (near Santa Cruz) was used as a military base. Different entertainment acts came and performed here, including Marilyn Monroe. One of the dancers who performed here was called Sally and the solders thought that she crabs moved like her and so named then after her. The crabs shed their shells as they grow and these can often be mistaken for dead crabs. It takes a few days for the new shell to harden and this is when they are at their most vulnerable.

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The majority of he lava is pahoehoe lava, which forms when the lava moves more slowly. We saw some spiral cones which form as the lava moves upwards and then rains down again. The lava takes many months to turn black, it is orange for around 3-4 weeks and then slowly starts to cool. The south of the island is greener than the north as the clouds move over the mountains and then deposit their moisture here.

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San Cristobal island is around 8 million years old but some of the lava is only around a 100 years old due to an eruption at this time. The island still does have dormant volcanoes.

From  Tortuga bay we travelled to the beach at Cerro Brujo. This is a beautiful white sandy beach. Apparently the majority of the beach is from the poo of the parrot fish. These fish eat the coral and then poo it out to form the white sand and each fish can produce up to 1 tonne per year.

There was only our group on the beach so we all went our own ways to enjoy the scenery and the sealions and other wildlife.

The scenery was amazing and it was very relaxing just to wander around and sit down and take it all in.

The water also looked very inviting – but I knew how cold it would be so didn’t venture in!

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And of course there were colourful marine iguanas and sally lightfoot crabs around too

After our time on the beach we went back to the boat and had a delicious lunch of grilled fish with rice, crispy plantain and vegetables. It was delicious.

It was then time to snorkel. The boat travelled over to kicker rock and from here we jumped (or rather slid) from the boat into the water. Unfortunately James had never snorkelled before and he found it all a bit over whelming so he didn’t join us in the water.

The water was freezing, colder than any of the other days, as the water was really deep around the rock. But there was loads to see. I spotted a sea turtle almost immediately and as we swam along we saw around 20 of them, all swimming together – it was a fantastic sight! You can see how deep the water was as the sun reflects through it.

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We swam around the rock and we saw more and more turtles as well as a huge range of reef fish. Faye and Lenka got out after about an hour but I stayed in for another 30 minutes or so. I was so glad I did too because later on I literally swam alongside a sealion for a couple of minutes – we were just swimming along looking at each other. I don’t have a photo but the guide took a short video which captures a bit of it. It was one of the highlights of the trip.

It took me a while to warm up once I was back on the boat but I really enjoyed the snorkelling. Once back on the boat I had a lovely hot cup of sweet tea and we headed back to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

At the port there were, as usual, sealions to greet us.

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After dropping our wetsuits and fins back at the shop we decided to wander down the main street to see what else there was down that end.

There were a few statues to note and a shipwrecked boat which we later found out was a little souvenir shop, but with nothing particularly worth buying in it.

There was also a helpful map of the island.

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We then headed back to our hotel to watch the sunset from our balcony with a glass or two of wine.

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And after the wine we walked back into town for dinner. We both had fish and chips in Midori  – my fish was in an orange bbq sauce which was actually really nice.

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And the views on the way home were pretty good too.

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This is my favourite photo of today – Faye took it whilst on Cerro Brujo beach. Its just so cute.

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Day 11 – Goodbye to Isabela and on to San Cristobal

We had a bit of time in the morning before we had to be at the airport to get the plane to San Cristobal. So we had a leisurely breakfast and then headed down to the port area. We walked down a mangrove surrounded path  to Concha Perla.

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I thought this was going to be a nice beach area where we could sit and soak up the sun but basically it was a wooden platform where you could get changed into wetsuits and go snorkelling. Whilst we were there a small group came along and they all went snorkelling. One of the guides offered us wetsuits and said we should join them. But we decided against it as we had already seen a lot of animals and fish in the water. From the platform you could look out to Tortuga island.

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Another guide, Richard from Isabela, chatted to us. He was very charming and was happy to practice his flirting in English!

We stayed in Concha Perla for a little while, chatting and enjoying the scenery and then made our way back to the beach area. On the way back there were a couple of sealions sleeping on the path. I stroked the one in the second photo, even though you’re not supposed to touch them. It was so soft and silky.

We wondered along the beach and found some rock pools but there wasn’t much to see in them. Obviously there were sally lighfoot crabs and marine iguanas around.

I took a photo of the iguana trail on the sand.

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Back at the port there were loads more sealions. One of the smaller ones climbed up the wall and then chased us down the path. It felt quite intimidating but I think it was just playing with us.

After playing with the sealions we found a couple more relaxing on the benches.

20191014_11365620191019_200819 We then walked along the beach for a bit and took some photos in the play area.

We had an early lunch on the beach – some rolls and cake that we had helped ourselves too from the breakfast buffet. It was quite sad to be leaving Isabela as it has a really relaxed vibe.

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Emily came and picked us up from the hotel and drove us to the airport which was only 10 minutes away. The airport building had not been completed, so whilst the external structure was there the inside had never been finished and there were no windows and just a handful of plastic chairs to sit on. There was a nice painting on the wall though.

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Once the pilot arrived we had to weigh our bags – they should be 11kg or under. Faye was ok but mine were very slightly over, but as the flight wasn’t full it was ok.

The plane we flew on was a tiny 9-seater plane. Our pilot, Marco, asked if anyone wanted to be co-pilot and Faye accepted the job! We all had to wear ear defenders as the noise inside the plane was really loud.

The views as we took off and landed were amazing!

As we travelled between the main islands it was quite cloudy so you could’t see as much, although we did see one of the smaller islands below us.

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It took around 45 minutes to travel around 190km between the 2 islands. It was a fascinating flight and I wish all flights could be so interesting.

We were met at the airport by Juan Carlos – our Galapagos Adventure guide for San Cristobal. We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel and on the way Juan pointed out a few points of interest. Our hotel was slightly out of town near Playa Mann beach, about a 10 minute walk into the main street.

Juan dropped us off at our hotel, which was really lovely and the best out of all the hotels we had stayed in. We quickly unpacked, met the owners of the hotel, and then Juan walked into town with us and took us to a shop where we could hire out wetsuits from. It was the same place that would be taking us on our day trips whilst in San Cristobal. Once our wetsuits and fins were sorted we walked back through town to the hotel, On the way back some sealions had sat themselves on a couple of the outside seats at a restaurant who then put a reserved sign on the table!

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The whole of the front of San Cristobal had sealions along it.  It was beautiful to see, with lots of mums and their young pups. We noted that one of the younger sealions had tags on its flippers. This is so its movements can be monitored.

At the beginning of the main street is a statue commemorating the HMS Beagle and Charles Darwin. Faye tried feeding him ice cream!

Along the seafront we also saw blue-footed boobies and pelicans and crabs.

And then as we were heading home we spotted the alpha male. The male sealions are a lot bigger than the females and they have a slight bump at the top pf their heads.

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We made our way back to our hotel and then decided to walk up Cerro de las Tijeretas. otherwise known as Frigate Hill. To get onto the path that takes you up the hill you have to walk via the Interpretation Centre, so we had a quick glance around as we passed through. It took us around 30 minutes to walk to the top of the hill where the views back over the main port town were lovely.

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You could also see down over the path where we were going to walk down past Playa Baquerizo and the huge Charles Darwin statue.

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After taking in the views at the top of the hill we walked down to the Charles Darwin statue. This is a huge statue and marks the spot where Darwin originally disembarked in the Galapagos islands on 16 September 1835.

As we walked down to the viewing point the sun was starting to set.

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We decided to walk down a bit further to Punta Carola to watch the sunset over the beach. What we didn’t expect to see was a whole load of sealions resting on the beach – many of them lying in a line across the sand.

From here we just walked back to our hotel and watched the sun completely set from our balcony whilst drinking a glass or two of wine.

After sunset, which is around 6 – 630pm, we walked into town to get some food. WE stopped at one of the closer restaurants, Muju, to eat. The food is all organic and produced on the island or is from the sea. I had a lovely piece of white fish and vegetable rice.

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On the way back we spotted a funny looking bird – we think it was some type of heron.

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Day 10 – Wall of Tears and Los Tuneles

Faye and I really wanted to go and see the wall of tears but were due to go on Lava Tunnels tour at 11am, so we decided to get up super early and cycle out to the wall before the group tour. We hired two bikes the night before from Emily’s shop so we were up and ready to go early in the morning.

The cycle ride out to the wall of tears is around 7km from the edge of town. Quite close to the start of the path we came across a cemetery.

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The cycle ride was mainly along a rough path but some parts were by the side of the beach and so were covered in sand. It was really hard to cycle through the sand, even on a really low gear, so a few times we had to get off and push the bikes as we nearly slipped over. The path to the wall of tears was not too strenuous but was actually a slight incline all the way up – as well as few hills!

On the way we came across some giant tortoises just by the side or in the middle of the path. We obviously had to stop and take some photos – and I even tried to feed one but he really wasn’t interested!

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It took us just over an hour to get to the wall itself, you had to walk the last little bit from where you can park the bikes.

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Between 1946 and 1959 there was a penitentiary colony on Isabela. The Galapagos islands were, at this time, just a distant retreat for adventurers, a place for outcasts and political prisoners and common delinquents. The wall of tears is the only remaining evidence of a prison camp where prisoners were often abused by those in power. The construction of the wall was pointless and futile as the wall served no purpose.

The wall is around 100m long and really thick. It is preserved as a monument to remember those who were forced to build it under harsh and abusive conditions.

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By the side of the wall was a path leading to a couple of viewpoints so we climbed up to have a look at what we could see.  You could look back to the main town in Isabela, Puerto Villamil and also out to the island of Floreana.

There used to also be a US radar station based here. During the penal colony times the iron from the radar station was removed and taken by prisoners to Puerto Villamil to build the roof of the church.

You could also see La Tortuga (an island shaped like a turtle) from the viewpoint.

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And we also came across a yellow warbler.

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We then walked back down to our bikes and cycled back into town. The way back was much easier as it the majority of it was downhill, although we did have to use the brakes quite a lot, and they were very squeaky. We were back at the bike shop by around 930am so we went and had a coffee before getting changed and waiting to be picked up for the next tour.

We were picked up from the hotel and taken to the port where we met some of the other people who were going on the tour with us – in total there were about 10 of us. The sealions were chilling on the benches.

We headed off in a little panga boat to the lava tunnels. It was absolutely amazing how the captain navigated the boat through the small channels, especially as the water was so shallow. We were allowed to sit on the front of the boat and you could se turtles and other animals and fish in the water.

Cerro Azul volcano erupted in 1998 and these formations were formed from that eruption. The surface of the lava cools the quickest and forms a skin, similar to that on boiled milk, and becomes black and solid. The lava underneath is still hot so it keeps moving and once all the lava has flowed through you are left with chambers which then form tunnels and caves. Over time the rocks erode, break down and collapse.

Before lunch we walked over the lava. We came across a blue footed booby nest with one of the adults sitting on top. The adult was vibrating its throat and it dos this to help it cool down.

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The birds incubate immediately after producing their first egg as the heat of the sun would kill the embryo. A second egg is often laid around 5-7 days later. After around 1 month the first egg hatches so the parents feed the newborn hatchling but also continue to incubate the second egg. Obviously the first chick is stronger and is more likely to survive than the second one.

We also came across a family of blue-footed boobies were both the babies had survived. The young boobies, although a similar size to their parents, have white feet and these ones were around 4 months old. The young boobies flap their wings to exercise them and get ready for when they will be able to fly. The feathers of the juvenile boobies are also a different colour to their parents.

Quite often the parents distance themselves from their babies as the juveniles can be extremely demanding. The parents feed their young until they around 10-12 months old.

Just as we were returning to the boat we saw another nest where the female had literally just laid an egg. It was the sweetest thing as both parents were there  and they were honking and whistling to each other and rubbing their necks together.

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We saw some brown noody terns on the rocks too. These birds always nest in the nooks of the cliffs to protect their eggs from predators.

Once back on the boat we had our packed lunch which was a delicious rice and vegetables dish. We then got changed into our wetsuits so we could go snorkelling.

As soon as I got into the water I saw a turtle and a white tipped shark.

As we snorkelled among the tunnels and channels we saw and swam with a number of turtles and also a lot of different reef fish.

As we swam out into the slightly deeper water the guide who was with us pointed out a seahorse attached to some plants on the sea floor. I must admit there is no way I would have spotted it if he hadn’t have pointed it out. I never thought I would see one of these creatures in real life!

The guide also pointed out a small cave under the rocks where some sharks were congregating.

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And then, just as we were about to head to the boat we saw a whole bunch of golden rays – there must have been around 20-30 of them, just swimming together close to the mangroves.

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And then we also saw an eagle a ray, which was beautiful and so graceful in the water.

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It was an amazing snorkelling session, we saw so much and everything was so close again.

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This time we had to get changed on the boat as the journey back to the port was around an hour and we would’ve been too cold keeping our wetsuits on. At the port there were more sealions chilling on the decking.

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In the evening we went back to the endemic turtle for dinner as the food was delicious and it looked like their pizza was amazing. So I had pizza and Faye had tacos – both of which were delicious.

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After dinner we visited the local church. Again they seemed to worship the endemic animals as they were painted on the walls and were part of the stained glass windows.

And then it was back to the hotel where we packed some bits and then we were off to bed.

Day 9 – Volcano Sierra Negra

We asked for an early breakfast yesterday so we could have something to eat before being picked up by Emily who was going to be our guide for the day.  we left the hotel around 7am and headed inland towards the largest volcano on Isabela.

As we drove to the volcano, which was around a 45 minute drive, we chatted about Isabela. The population on the island is really small with around 3,000 people living in the urban areas and only around 250 people living in the highlands. There is a large indigenous population from Ecuador and many of the surnames are the same. They also look similar and often use each other’s passports to move around. Electricity was only introduced to the island 15 years ago.

The Galapagos islands only became part of Ecuador in 1832, with the republic of Ecuador only forming in 1830. Floreana was the first island to be named and was named after the president of Ecuador at the time. They used to eat the giant tortoises and and use the fat from their bodies for oil.

We arrived at the trail for the volcano and Faye and Emily payed a quick visit to the ladies whilst I played with a dog that was there.

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Sierra Negra is estimated to be around 535,000 years old and has the largest caldera / crater of all the Galapagos volcanoes and the second largest in the world. It is 7.2 by 9.3 km.

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As we started on the trail we noticed that the trees growing on the land on the sides of the path were Guava trees. These have been introduced and have become invasive. The wood is very strong and is often used as support material for other platforms. The Guava is cut and replanted and regrows easily. The fruit from the trees has many seeds so is widely distributed meaning they grow over a wide area.

The guava tree has a really pretty white flower.

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Some walnut trees lined the path. These used to be used as fencing so they are planted in a straight line and are equi-distance apart. They outline the perimeters of the land.

Some of the land towards the bottom of the volcano is used for cattle to graze on. They like a plant called elephant grass. However, if the grass becomes too long the roots grow larger and the cows don’t like walking on it.

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On the way up we saw a Galapagos fly-catcher. They become more yellow as they age.

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This was the first view we had of the caldera.

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The caldera was formed from the 2005 eruption of the volcano. It has more vegetation growing on it as it is older. The lava rock is initially black and the darker zone is where the lava originally comes from and it goes brown as it cools down.

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You can see how the lava flowed.

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The volcano last erupted in June 2018 and covered around 2km squared. The eruptions are fairly gentle and are like boiling milk spilling over. There are more dangerous eruptions on the mainland. The yellow alert for sierra negra came in January 2018 and the volcano erupted around 6 months later.

The bottom of the crater is formed mainly of aa lava but there is also some pahoehoe lava too.

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After around 1 and a half hours of walking we reached a resting place where we stopped for a snack and a nature toilet stop. There was a Galapagos mockingbird at the resting spot, looking for any titbits that were dropped on the floor. There was also a small ground finch.

From the resting place we had a view over Elizabeth bay. You could also see Volcano Alcedo in the distance as well as the four brothers, which are mountains attached to Isabela.

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Isabela is made up of 6 volcanoes and forms a seahorse shape with Sierra Azul forming the belly fo the seahorse (this can be seen behind the crater of Sierra Negra). 5 of the 6 volcanoes are still active with only Volcano Ecuador being inactive. The island is moving at around 6cm per year eastwards. The hotspot for the formation of the volcanoes and therefore the islands, is under Fernandina.

We continued walking up the volcano and on the way we came across a plant called Darwinian tammus. The pirates used to use this plant to brush their teeth and freshen their breath – we had a go and it had a really strong flavour to it.

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We decided to walk on to the site of the latest eruption. You can see in the photo below where this is as it is the black part with no vegetation.

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There were a number of cacti growing on the side of the volcano, and we also came across an orange tree where someone had obviously thrown away the seeds from their orange.

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When we reached the place of the most recent eruption it was like walking on crunchy honeycomb and was definitely aa lava.

The lava was really colourful. There were hair-like strands on the lava which almost looked like spun sugar and a new theory is developing that these are strands of glass.

We took some photos at the eruption site, it felt strange walking over lava that was so recently formed.

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Sierra Negra means black jungle and you can see why the volcano was given this name. The walk to the top was not particularly strenuous but it was warm – I wouldn’t like to do the hike in hotter temperatures!

On the walk back down we spotted a smooth billed ani, which is a bird from the cuckoo family and has been introduced into the Galapagos islands. It is one of the birds that spreads the seeds of the guava trees.

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The Galapagos islands were first discovered in 1535 by the then bishop of Panama, Fray Tomas de Berlanga. The islands were often covered in cloud and so were known for a while as the enchanted islands. However, the islands seemed uninhabitable so nobody really wanted to claim them.

We stopped off at the resting place again for a snack and toilet break and came across some hunters who were out looking for wild pigs on their horses.

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The mockingbird was also still around.

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The walk up, across and down the volcano took around 6 hours, after which we drove to a gorgeous highlands farm called Camp Duro.

We had a delicious traditional lunch of grilled fish, rice and beans, plantain and some salad. We had fresh fruit for desert.

After lunch we took a walk around the grounds. They grow a variety of fruit trees here, papaya, orange and passion fruit. We tried a passion fruit that had fallen to the ground and it was really tasty but quite sour. The photo below is of a papaya tree.

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They also have a large banana tree plantation. The banana tree only produces one lot of fruit before it dies. But as the trees die they decompose and provide fertiliser for new trees to grow. So new banana trees just grow automatically and don’t need to be replanted.

The camping place also keeps a number of giant tortoises that they have received from the breeding centre. These tortoises eat a lot of the fruit which wouldn’t be there normal diet in the wild so they are going to study them to see if their diet makes any difference to them. Sometimes a tortoise will dig a hole and sit in it to cool down.

After our walk around the grounds, Emily drove us back and dropped us off  at a lagoon just outside of town. This is a lagoon where the flamingos congregate and we saw some there. The pink colour, and how deep it is, depends on the food the flamingos eat. So the deeper pink means they are healthier as they are eating more shrimps.

Just by the lagoon is the tortoise breeding centre of Isabela so we had a quick walk round that too. These tortoises, like the ones in Santa Cruz, feed off the ground and you can see that by the shape of their shell around the neck area.

At the breeding centre there were also another type of tortoise – the tortoises of five hills. Only a few individuals of this species were found on the slopes of Cerro Azul volcano, in a place called five hills. The shell of these tortoises are squashed down and it is unlike any other tortoise on the Galapagos islands. 18 adults have been living in the breeding centre since 1998 when they were first recused after an eruption at Cerro Azul. Two years after bringing them to the centre there were over 200 babies. They look very different, and almost like their necks are broken at times.

From the breeding centre we walked down a beautiful wooden pathway which took us over swamps and small lakes. Here we saw more flamingos and were able to get really close to them.

We also some kind of  wading bird. could be a stilt, and also a woodpecker finch.

And as always, there were iguanas sunbathing on the paths.

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As we came into town I found a friendly cat to play with.

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We went back to the hotel for a freshen up before heading out to The Endemic Turtle for dinner, where I had some delicious garlic prawns.

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And then it was off to bed.

Day 8 – Journey to Isabela and Las Tintoreras

We were packed, ready and waiting in the hotel reception at 6:30am.  Paula came and met us and walked with us down to the main pier. She left us in a queue whilst she went off to buy our tickets for the boat transfer over to Isabela island. As we waited in the queue I ate my banana bread that we had bought from the Deli the night before – it was absolutely delicious.

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It was quite confusing at the main pier as a range of boats were departing from it and all of them going to different destinations. You had to stand in a queue for your boat and then listen out to someone calling out the boat’s name which meant you could then walk down the pier and go through the checkpoint. At the checkpoint they checked your hiking shoes to make sure they were clean and you weren’t transporting seeds and other debris from one island to another. They also asked if you were taking any fruit into the country. I was glad we had Paula with us to sort out the tickets and which queue we had to be in. She also told us to get in to the water taxi last so we would be the first to get into the boat which meant we could get the best seats – these were the ones at the back of the boat facing forwards.

We had been warned that the boat ride from Santa Cruz to Isabela was really rough so we had taken some sea sickness tablets.

As we walked down the pier we came across a sealion chilling on a bench.

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We followed Paula’s advice and sat at the right end of the water taxi, a small narrow 30 ft outboard motor boat, that took us a short distance to the slightly larger boat taking us on to Isabela. And again we got the seats we wanted on this boat. The boat was packed, with around 28 people on board, all sitting around the edges of the boat and I was glad that we had seats where the air flowed around us – even though it was a bit chilly. The journey took around 2 and a half hours and was nowhere near as rough as we were expecting it to be – luckily!

As we came into Isabela, again we had to take a water taxi from the main boat to the port.

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Emily, our Galapagos Adventure guide, met us at the dock. She is originally from Canada, the French part, and has met and married a man from the island. She gave us a brief tour round town and as there is really only one main street it didn’t take very long. She then took us to her ‘Bike and Surf’ shop where we were kitted out with wetsuits and fins for our forthcoming trips, before dropping us off at our hotel. Emily talked us through our itinerary for the next 3 days.

We had a bit of time before we were due to meet up for our next trip so we decided to go for a little walk down the beach. Isabela has a 4km long sandy beach which is beautiful.

It wasn’t long before we came across some marine iguanas

and a pelican.

We then popped to a little kiosk for a toasted sandwich and a coffee.

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And then it was back to the hotel to get changed and ready for our bay tour of Isabela (Las Tintoreras – islets around the main island). The word tintoreras means a species of shark in Spanish.

We were picked up from the hotel and joined some others in a truck that took us down to the main port. On the path down to the port there were marine iguanas and sealions.

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We then boarded our boat, known as a panga, for the trip.

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It was just a short boat journey to the islets and the first thing we saw was the Galapagos penguins on the lava rocks.

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The male and female penguins look the same but you can tell the adults from the juveniles as the adults have a white line on their heads and a black line on their chests. The penguins don’t have any feathers on their feet as they don’t need them to keep warm.

The penguins can swim at speeds of up to 40km/hr. Currently it is their nesting season and their nests are more to the west of Isabela so there were not huge numbers of them around. The overall population across the Galapagos islands is 2,000 – 4,000. These penguins are endemic to the Galapagos islands.

We also saw some blue footed boobies and a nascar booby. These birds nest on the rocks. The nascar boobies are endemic to the Galapagos islands but the blue footed boobies can also be found on the mainland.

We then got off the boat for a walk across the lava formations. Immediately we came across a marine iguana ‘nursery’. The baby iguanas can’t dive so they feed on the algae on the rocks at low tide.

As the iguanas grow they shed their skin and this is eaten by the lava lizards. The marine iguanas have a powerful, large tail which they use to swim and dive. Without their tails they cannot survive. The male marine iguanas become more colourful during the mating season and will fight other males in order to mate.

The marine iguanas on Isabele are one of 7 sub species and are the largest, reaching up to 1m in size. The female iguanas lay 6-8 eggs in their nest which is mainly a hole. Sometimes the sealions tread on the nests and destroy the eggs. Frigate birds also eat baby iguanas – they pick up the babies and then drop them to the ground to kill them, and then pick them up again in order to eat them.

The male marine iguanas are much larger than their female counterparts.

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There are more marine iguanas on Isabela than there are people. Many of the marine iguanas have white spots on top of their heads. This is from the salt ‘spat out’ from other iguanas, which then dries out.

Lichen grows on the rocks and forms white patches and the alga forms green moss like patches. The wind makes this southern area humid and encourages the growth of mangroves.

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We came across a very large group of white-tipped sharks. The sharks eat at night, mainly on tuna, and during the day they rest in the warm shallow waters.

When the sharks mate the male shark bites the female on the head so the female sharks often have scars on the top of their heads.

As we wandered along we came across a solitary sealion.  The mums go out to sea and feed for 3-4 days, leaving their pups on land. The alpha males protect the whole colony. The mum then comes back and nurses the pups for a week before having to go away again to get more food. Sealions have large eyes to help them see at night which is when they normally feed.

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After walking around the islets we went back to the panga to get changed into our wetsuits so we could go snorkelling.

We saw a whole variety of reef fish and some starfish.

We also saw several sea turtles. It was amazing to swim alongside these creatures and watch how graceful and peaceful they are in the water.

The are different sub species of the turtles – some are more brown in colour and others more green. The male turtle, like the tortoise, has a longer tail than the female. The turtles come up closer to the surface of the water if the water lower down is too cold.

We spent a lot of time swimming with the sea turtles and the fish. And then towards the end of the snorkelling we had a special treat – we swam through a really narrow channel where we had to swim single file to fit through. And underneath us were a huge number of white-tipped sharks, it was so amazing.

You had to keep a gap between yourself and the person in front so that their bubbles didn’t block the view which made it feel like you were the only one there. Occasionally one of the sharks would swim right up to you.

After an hour or so we went back to the panga and were taken back to the dock. We kept our wetsuits on as it was warmer than taking them off. Again there were a number of sealions to greet us on our return.

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We walked into the hotel lobby, still in our wetsuits, which drew some weird looks and went to our room to get changed and have a shower.  We decided to take a walk down the beach to watch the sunset over the sea and the sierra negro volcano as we drank a beer or two.

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After sunset we headed into town and decided to have dinner at one of the recommended restaurants – Coco Surf. It was a great choice and I had the buttered fish in almond sauce with risotto which was delicious.

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We also made a new friend as I fed her some of my fish!

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Day 7 – Chinese Hat

So this morning there was another confusion with pick up times. The itinerary we were working from said a 7:30am pick up from the hotel but the newest version said a 6:50am pick up from the pick up point on the main street. There we were, in the Deli, having a delicious cup of Galapagos coffee and waiting for our fruit and yogurt to arrive when the lady from the hotel comes in to say we should have already gone and be on our way to the dock area. Just at the same time our breakfast arrived. We quickly dispatched the breakfast into takeaway containers and the lady from the hotel called a taxi to come and pick us up. The first one we got in wasn’t the right one as he had no idea who we were or where we were going, but eventually we got in the right one and headed off to the dock area. The driver drove really fast down the roads, going over 100km/hr when the speed limit was 70!

But when we got to the dock everything was okay – the other people in the group were only just getting on the dinghy to take them to the boat and Diego, our guide, didn’t seem to be at all bothered that we were a bit late.

As we sailed out to Isla Sombrero Chino we passed the Bambridge rocks. One of these rocks is a volcanic carter and contains a turquoise coloured slat water lake where flamingos often congregate.

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As we neared the island, which is just south of Santiago island, you could see why it was called ‘Chinese hat’.

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Immediately we stepped onto the island we could see loads of sealions including mothers nursing their pups. It was so beautiful to watch and you could hear the pups slurping the milk.

We also a tiny sealion that was only about 1 week old. It was all on its own but its mum was most likely out getting some food.

The sealions’ diet is basically milk and fish and their English name is Californian sealion. As we walked down the beach we saw more mums with their pups – they seem to find the most uncomfortable rocks to lie on!

The photo below is of a mum playing with her pup – I took a video of this as well as it was so cute to watch.

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We saw some Galapagos hawks flying over the island. They eat the baby marine iguanas, lizards and snakes. They catch their prey with their talons and then peck it to death. They also eat the placenta from the sealions. The female Galapagos hawk lives with several males which means that when she produces young all the males look after it as it could be theirs. This has meant that they are 100% successful in breeding. The dots in the sky in the photo below are Galapagos hawks.

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The landscape was stunning. The island, like South Plaza yesterday had a red carpet of plants, these plants are green with small white flowers in the rainy season. You could also see where the lava had flowed down the side of the volcano into the ocean.

The water gets its lovely blue / turquoise colour from the plankton. This time of year there are more phyto plankton in the water due to the Humboldt current and at other times of the year there is more salt plankton which makes it a deeper blue.

We also saw some marine iguanas.

We had a little photo shoot on the island as everyone in the group was doing the same.

After our little hike around the island we went back to the boat where we got changed into our wetsuits and did some snorkelling.

We saw huge shoals of reef fish and some really large and colourful starfish.

But the star of the show was a sealion that came into the water and played with us, he was really quick and came right up to you before darting off.

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We also saw a white-tipped shark and then, right at the end, a little penguin swam past us.

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After an hour or so in the water we got out and went back to the boat to dry off and get changed as well as have some lunch.

As we started heading home we saw the Galapagos penguins on the rocks of Santiago island. These are one of the smallest penguins in the world and are endemic to the Galapagos islands. It is the only penguin found north of the equator.

We also saw some penguin porn!

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Our guide decided to make an unscheduled stop on Santiago island so we could look at the different types of lava formations. The lava was still fairly new and there were very few plants growing on it. The lava is formed from magma which comes out of the volcano at over 1000 degrees celsius. The lava we walked on was very heavy, smooth and compact (pillow lava) and contained a number of minerals including silicone, calcium and iron.

The formation below is known as a ‘cowpat’ and is formed from bubbling lava.

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The next photos are of a lava tube, which used to have gas inside it, and a fissure which forms as the molten hot lava starts to cool.

There are some plants that start to grow on the lava. The first one that tends to appear is a Mollugo plant which is very hardy and can survive the tough conditions, including no rain for the past 5 months.

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We also saw one single solitary cactus plant – the only one to be seen as far as the eye could see. It even had red spiny fruits and flowers, so was obviously doing well.

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We came across a chocolate cake and an oven!

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The lava here is around 120 years old but before the last lava flow plants and trees grew here. The photo below shows the imprint of some roots of a tree that were burnt by the flowing magma.

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The lava formations depend on the speed and direction of the wind. If the wind speed is slower the lava forms something that looks like intestines.

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I really didn’t expect a lava walk to be so interesting as the landscape looks so barren to start with.

A lot of the lava is shiny on top and this is because at the time it is so hot but obviously the top is in contact with cooler air and so cools quicker forming a shiny surface whilst it is still hot underneath. The lava also forms stripes which are due to the chemical reactions that occur due to minerals in the rock.

Salt used to be mined and transported from Santiago until 1959 when it became a national park.

We also saw a lava lizard as we walked around. The majority of the lava lizards eat insects but the lizards here have adapted to survive on plants and flowers.

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There are only 4 active volcanoes in the Galapagos islands currently. Three of these are on Isabella island with Sierra Negro erupting around 14 months ago and the other one is on Fernandina.

As we left Santiago you got a great view of Bartolome island and the pinnacle which we visited earlier on the trip.

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On the way back the journey was a little bit rough but nowhere near as bad as the trip back from Bartolome. We relaxed on the outer deck for a bit before heading into the captains bridge area.

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We saw some manta rays jumping out of the water in the distance and also a huge group of jellyfish.

As we came into the dock area the sun was starting to set over the water.

Once back in Puerto Ayora we got changed and went out to the Midori sushi restaurant and tried one of their speciality salads (Kani salad). It doesn’t look that appetising but tasted delicious.

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And after a couple of glasses of wine it was time for bed.