Ecuador Day 4 – The Galapagos Islands

We arrived at breakfast 10 minutes before it was due to start, but they were late starting. This meant we had to eat breakfast quick due to a 7:00 pickup to get to the airport. For once the bus was late leaving even though it had gotten to us on time. Fortunately it only took 10 minutes to get to the airport where a representative from the Galapagos Voyager helped us check-in and gave us a card to fill in for our arrival on the island.

Clearing security was quite quick but they had to scan by my pack twice – probably due to the amount of camera equipment in it. The flight back to Guayaquil was short, but it took an hour to unload most the passengers, refill and take on more passengers.

At around 11:00 Galapagos time we landed on Baltra. The immigration control was fairly quick but it took around 30mins to get through baggage claims. For a few minutes it did worry me as I couldn’t find my bag straight away. We then met up with Byron who was our tour guide for the Galapagos Voyager. The suitcases were loaded onto a truck which went on ahead as we got onto a coach that took us to a channel where we boarded a ferry to cross a channel to Isla Baltra.

Isla Santa Cruz

Upon disembarking we found many different types of crab scurrying along the rocks and a Galapagos Pelican sitting on a roof. We then joined our luggage on a different coach and started our journey across the island.

Our first sighting of a giant tortoise was one sitting in the road. Around this time there was also an incredibly strong downpour more or less timed with our guide talking about rain on the islands. At the time when we found the tortoise we were going through private land not part of the National Park due to or having been settled on before the island became protected.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

At the end of the private dirt track (apparently this used to pass as a road) was a place where you could observe giant tortoises in the wild. Before walking out into the grassland we put on some wellingtons due to the amount of mud along the path. Almost immediately we found a young tortoise, and there was a lot of birds and butterflies about. Just after walking through a very muddy patch we got our closest encounter with a giant tortoise. It didn’t move much but we did see it eating. After looking at it for a few minutes the heavens opened up and started to rain heavily. Instead of heading for shelter we carried on the tour. At this point I had to protect my camera and lens by hunching over due to the annoyance that I did not yet have access to the waterproofs in my suitcase.

We then found another tortoise bathing in a muddy puddle with rain falling all around it. By this time the rain was coming down so hard I couldn’t keep my camera or my big lens dry. Once we reached shelter we took a look at some tortoise shells, and it was a good opportunity to switch to my smaller lens so that the other could be protected. We then changed out of the boots and had a quick look around the souvenir shop.

Gran Poseidon: The Galapagos Voyager

Leaving the giant tortoises behind us we then headed for Puerto Ayora where the Galapagos Voyager was anchored. In small groups we transferred to the yacht by panga whilst our luggage was loaded onto another. On board the ship we were assigned our cabins and moved our luggage into them. At this time we also got to hire a “shortie” wetsuit for $25 – although we had already hired one for diving it was worthwhile for the numerous snorkelling sessions we’d get.

Lunch on the boat consisted of garlic bread and a vegetarian spaghetti bolognese. The group then loaded into two pangas and headed back to shore. As we no longer had any ground transportation our guide flagged down 3 taxis and sent us off in them to the Darwin Research Centre (which is now a breeding centre not associated with Darwin).

Land Iguana (Conolophus subcristatus)

Once we got off the taxi it was still a 1Km walk to our destination. Along the way we kept an eye out for wildlife and came across some marine iguanas bathing in the sun near a jetty. As the walk progressed we also came across yellow warblers, a Galapagos mocking bird, and stood under a poison apple tree which is good for giant tortoises digestive systems. Scurrying around over rocks we could also see numerous lava lizards – of which the females have red faces.

Inside the breeding centre we saw young giant tortoises of various ages, and then some fully grown ones. Sadly Lonesome George was not about so we didn’t get to see him. Moving on to the lizard enclosures we saw land iguanas.

Galápagos tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni)

By 17:30 the tour was done with a free hour before we needed to be back at the dock. To start with we went back to see if we could find Lonely George, but sadly we could not. Instead we started heading back to the waterfront and visited many shops along the way. I managed to find a nice looking t-shirt for $16, and a fridge magnet for $2.

Back on the boat we were briefed for the next day and had an evening meal which actually included vegetables such as carrots. After having shown off some photos I then headed back to my cabin to sleep.

Galapagos Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

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