Adventure / Galapagos Islands / South America / Travel with children

Gorgeous Galapagos – Days 4 and 5

Day four:

Floreana Island.   First thing in the morning at 7.30am, we were in the dingies and heading to the brown-green beach of Floreana. The beach was just as it is called, brown gluggy sand with mangrove trees edging it… nothing special to look at.  The resident sea loins didn’t mind the colour of the sand, and in fact, they were quite territorial there, growling at people if they got too close as they were passing.  Quite funny really!

We walked to the other side of the tiny island to the green beach where there is green lava crystals in the sand called olivine.  Olivine has been used to make jewellery and it is a semi precious stone, quite beautiful.  There are little specks of green olivine all through the sand.

As we arrived onto the olivine beach, a turtle nesting area, there was a teeny tiny baby turtle just hatched and making its way towards the ocean.  How CUTE!  We all stood in awe, then started cheering the little fella on – come on little turtle, you can do it! Up above was a nasty frigate bird circling – it had spotted baby turtle. Uh-ooo.  Not good – they eat baby turtles for breakfast, in fact, those nasty flying critters eat everything and steal food off each other and other animals! 

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Our guide Washington gave the mean Italian woman we have nicknamed “DT” (Demon Tourist) instructions to pick up the baby and put in her pocket.  We would release the baby into the ocean once we were back on the boat, so as to save it from the nasty overhead frigate bird.

There were more sea iguanas on the beach, everywhere in fact, and loads of sea loins.  We walked around the a swampy lagoon which is a nesting area for flamingos.  It was hard to spot the nests, the cone like mounds of dirt.  There weren’t any flamingos in sight, oh well.

Back to the boat for part two of the Galapagos documentary, a siesta, lunch, then sailing to the next stop.  We released the baby turtle into the ocean – and as it was swimming away, a nasty frigate bird swooped down and ate him up. Mew!  The poor little fella didn’t have a hope… we tried to save him, but his fate was to be breakfast…

The next stop was still Floreana, around the other side to Post Office Bay.  This bay very famous as it has several post boxes there that the old sailors used to leave letters to loved ones – the next sailors to come past would take out all letters address to their next destination and deliver them.  So we all sent ourselves post cards – mine is addressed to Dianne Zorbaletto – and let’s just see if it ever makes it home…

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The sun was out so we sat on the beach enjoying some warm weather while all the crew from our boat Yolita II and other cruisers crews played a soccer game.  We all felt a little bit dumped – like we were only spending two hours at that ordinary beach so the guys could all play soccer.  The swimming was bad because there were sharp rocks, the snorkelling had next to no visibility so that was no good, and I got stung by a wasp on my left index finger. Meeeeeeew!  It really REALLY hurt.  I almost cried – agonising. 

Back to the boat for some dinner and then we were heading into town – yay!  A town!! 

Santa Cruz has a population of 14,000 and it really only has one street and that street has an all important internet cafe and loads of tourist shops selling the usual tourist tack – t-shirts, souvenirs, and the like. 

After checking emails and getting a facebook fix, we headed to The Rock restaurant where we met up with Etay and Hilan, the Israeli couple who just left the boat (only did four day cruise) and are staying on in Santa Cruz for a few days before heading back to Quito.

It was fun!  We had our Germans Susan and Tim, the Israelis, and Team England joined us too.  Team England is the name we have given to the English family Matthew, Beryl and their three children – Alex (17), Tom (16) and Pippa (almost 12).  Matthew is an English diplomat and they have lived all over the world – the most recent being Indonesia. 

This is the night that I had my first ever South American cocktail, a piscoe sour, and it was delicious! It tasted a bit like a sour worm lollie – and I like those!  Yum!  Even Hubs had a cocktail, a banana colada that she said was delicious.

Back on the boat, Hubs and I looked at the stars for a few minutes then hit the hay.

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Day five:

Today we were going to see giant tortoises, firstly at the Charles Darwin Centre on Santa Cruz, and then in the wild.  No snorkelling today (secret yay! sooo cold!)

[MUM in case I forget to tell you – you might want to bring a rashie with you to wear under your wetsuit to keep you a bit warmer when snorkelling]

The Charles Darwin Centre was quite interesting.  It has a tortoise breeding program, trying to increase the number of tortoises in the Galapagos.  Tortoises were eaten by man for many years when the islands were first discovered, in the 1500s or so.  The breeding program releases the tortoises back into the wild once the tortoises are old enough to survive on their own, about four years of age.

We saw Lonesome George, the last tortoise of his breed in survival and he is about 200 years old.  They have tried to get him to mate with females of other tortoise species, but no luck.  And now he’s just not interested in mating at all. 

Did you know that female tortoises mate with up to 20 different males during mating season and can “do it” for three days straight without a break? 

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We saw loads of tortoises at the Charles Darwin Centre from 200 year olds to three month old.  We also watched a short doco on what the Charles Darwin Centre is doing from a conservation perspective for the Galapagos Islands.   It was very inspiring and moved Hubs and I to donate a small amount.

We walked into Santa Cruz town and shopped for souvenirs before being brought back on the boat for lunch.  After lunch, a delicious lunch of fresh fish – not tuna but I forget the name of it  – it was so good I asked Pedro the Chef for another piece – we went back to the island and caught a bus to an organic coffee farm.

Marina, the lovely old Ecuardorian lady who owns the farm, showed us around, including showing us the biggest tree on Santa Cruz island.  We saw coffee beans in their red berry raw state, dried coffee beans, and finally roasted coffee beans. We tried the coffee beans and they were yummy to munch on!  Drinking the coffee was nice too – very smooth, but no made the Italian way, so a bit watery.  But still nice.

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The fun Italian couple on board, Sandro and Marianna (Brocco) bought some coffee and exchanged details for Sandro to potentially ship some coffee to his cafe outside of Roma. 

Next the bus took us to a small lagoon near some farm land that had heaps of tortoises grazing around it. When the weather is dry, like the season we are in now, the tortoises have to go up the mountain to the green lush areas for food as there is no food around the coast.   WOW, seeing this big ancient animals in their natural habitat was fantastic!  A couple of them were scared and would ‘pull their heads in’ when we got too close, but heaps of them were quite unafraid of us and kept about their business while we watched on.  It was awesome to see.

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After our adventures with the tortoises, we went to the lava tunnel, a naturally formed tunned about 800 metres long made from, you guessed it, lava.   It was like walking through a huge long cave.  At times we had to crouch down because the opening was not tall enough for us to walk under.  It was very cool.  At the other end we emerged to lush greenness all around us and a lone cafe. 

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Our guide Washington had a beer and chatting to some of his mates there, leaving us to just kind of hang around.  Team England asked each of us if we wanted to go back and spend more time with the tortoises.  Everyone thought that was a good idea, better than hanging around watching Washington drink with his mates.  Washington didn’t like that idea very much, it threw all his plans (whatever they were) into disarray.  Oh well, too bad!  We were paying good money for this trip and consensus was to go back to the tortoises as the first 20 minutes we had there didn’t quite seem long enough.  We are never going to see tortoises in the wild like this again (unless we come back to Galapagos).  There was a bit of hoo-haahing around and Washington was talking loudly into his mobile phone but eventually, we got our own way.  Good on you Team England and especially Alex who demonstrated assertiveness and initiated the change of itinerary.  It was worth it.

Back to Santa Cruz town for half an hour to buys the last souvenirs then back to the boat for dinner followed by dominoes.

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