Thursday, 9 June 2016

Galapagos Islands

 When deciding to go to Ecuador, I had to decide whether to go to the Galapagos Islands or not. And since I don't know if I will ever come that close again, it was clear I had to go. Even if it was pretty expensive. But I really wanted to see the sea lions (still no idea what's the difference to seals), the penguins, the turtles and all the other animals that might cross my way.

And it was even better than I imagined. I would have never hoped for finding sharks so close, I could actually take a selfie with them standing one meter besides them in the water. I do have to confess, when one of the sharks suddenly started swimming around me I almost panicked, but I read it's absolutely secure being next to the sharks because the sea is so rich of food for the sharks, they have no reason to attack humans.

I quickly found out that Isla Isabela is way more beautiful than Santa Cruz, the island I was staying first because it was close to the airport (that was located on another small island). While probably the biggest city of the islands is located on Santa Cruz, there are very few opportunities to discover the nature on your own. Not so in Isabela. While just walking along, I found a turtle. penguins, sea lions, blue footed boobies, pelicans, iguanas, lizards, flamingos and lots of crabs.

In the following picture you can only see the red crabs because they are such a contrast to the black vulcano stones. But there are also black crabs that relax there and can only be seen when they are moving. And then there are some beige/brown crabs living in the sand.

There are some animals I never wanted to get so close to, like the tarantula I already wrote about, and the crabs. I never knew because I never got that close but crabs really freak me out. If I had to choose between spiders and crabs, I wouldn't know what to choose. And so when I found this really quite small bight near the beach where a penguin and some pelicans where looking for food, while a blue-footed boobie was sitting on the rock and some sea lions were playing together, I really had to work up the courage to walk out to the water on the stones populated by many many crabs.

I thought a video shows better what was happening in that bight. Keep your eyes open for movements. And no, fortunately there's no crab attack at the end. I actually got to this point by bike - which was quite hard because parts of the trail go over the beach. And I can inform you that biking on sand is nearly impossible.

What really surprised me on my first trip from the harbour was that when going to the boat and looking out onto the water, you will probably find some animal swimming around in the very clear water. Might be a shark, or a turtle, or just some small fishes. But they have this great system that keeps the harbour clean and attractive for those animals: There are only quite small boats, for no more than 20 people, and if there are more people needing a ferry, they just take more boats. But those boats don't enter the harbour. They anchor a little bit outside, and an even smaller "aquataxi" picks up the passengers to take them to the port.

What kind of disappointed me were the iguanas. There were so many of them, in different stages of life, and they were almost everywhere near the water, which was because they were the only water iguanas I think on earth, if I remember right. But I never ever saw one of them in the water. Unlike the sea lions, that you could encounter on the beach, in the water while snorkeling (they like to accompany you while diving), on some rocks near the water, on a bench, everywhere around the water.

And, because the islands are actually vulcano islands, I also climbed the nearest vulcano on Isla Isabela. I had bad luck because it was foggy and we couldn't enjoy a panoramic view over all the island, but still we got some insights into the crater. We were told that there was once a forest next to the crater, until the vulcano erupted the last time. So now, there are kind of round holes in the stone where a tree used to be but obviously burned up caused by the heat but nevertheless stopped the lava.

And because I enjoyed my time so much, I managed to get an extra day. Which was actually not planned. But, like I mentioned, the airport is on another island, so you need to go by bus to the ferry terminal, take the ferry to the airport-island and there take the bus to the airport. I did remember that from the arrival at the island. But somehow, the time needed to go there seemed to have slipped from my mind. I thought it took like half an hour, but when I had a flight to catch, it suddenly took me more than two hours to go there. Needless to say, I didn't make it in time. I probably looked really desperate, because they offered me to change my ticket to the next day. Without any fee or anything. So I suddenly had one day more. The only annoying thing was that I had to do all the trip backwards now because the airport-island has nowhere to stay for a night. But, for some reason, when I left for the airport two hours earlier the next day, I suddenly needed less than one hour and was the first passenger on the whole airport, earlier than the staff. So now I can say: miss my flight - check. And hope it will never happen again.