SV Accomplice Blog week 18 20/2/20 to 26/2/20
Sat 7 Mar 2020 23:45
The Galapagos is part of Ecuador and is made up of many Islands and rocks, all of volcanic origin. The inhabited islands being the three largest San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela. We will be visiting these 3, but not taking Accomplice to Isabela, this would be a journey by ferry. We will also be visiting the small island of Espanola and other sites by organised tours.
Everywhere on the islands is very regulated and most places can only be explored with a paid guide and arranged through one of the many tour operators. I guess it does protect and help to preserve the islands but it does mean that you are forever handing over large amounts of dollars and feels more like a protection racket. Mind you what people can pay for thrills at a theme park at Disney and the like, it probably isn’t so bad for the memories it gives you.
We would be spending roughly a week in San Cristobal and a week in Santa Cruz. On San Cristobal we had booked 2 tours and a further 1 was included in our rally fees.
The journey from Accomplice to the shore is always by a water taxi, making the journey in the dinghy is not permitted, and costing $1 per person each way. The procedure being calling them up on the VHF radio, waiting for them to arrive and then taking a leap of faith on to them! Boatlife is not often easy.
We did the journey ashore many times, each time exploring a little bit further. Luckily there were some lovely beaches and coves a short walking distance from the port. These we walk to for free and enjoyed swimming and snorkelling. It was on one of these occasions that we found ourselves snorkelling in company with a sea lion that wanted to just play and be inquisitive around us. It would swim around us, beneath us, we dived under and joined it, it was an amazing experience interacting with a wild creature. As mentioned before the creatures on the islands do not fear people. At the same time as swimming amongst sea lions we also spotted giant turtles going about their business nibbling at rocks ignoring us weird looking creatures with multi coloured goggles and fins and flabby bellies hovering above them!
The beautifully coloured fish still amaze you with their beauty but are resigned to be the sideshow in the presence of sea lions and turtles......and maybe sharks.
We had a freebee taster of San Cristobal with a trip into the highlands, vegetation covered crater slopes, and a walk up to a cater, now lake. Nice but not inspiring, we did see however the red throated frigate birds.
Another organised tour took us on a fast day boat trip across to a small uninhabited island called Espanola. We were landed by dinghy and our guide walked us across the island explaining on the way the ecology of it. We encountered en route sea lions, marine iguanas, the Galapagos hawk, nasca and blue footed boobies plus the many lava lizards scurrying under foot. It was a lovely spot and revealed rugged cliffs where the animals made their home. The marine iguanas were slightly different on this island in that it was their mating season. And because of that the male iguanas had turned beautiful shades of red and blue, their norm being matt black. We also came across brightly coloured crabs sunning themselves on the rocks. As your eyes wondered over the island the abundance of wildlife was evidenced everywhere, quite astonishing. You end up taking it all for granted but you know it will not be repeated in any other place.
A snorkelling tour was taken on another day to Kicker Rock, a renowned sea life site. Again the remnant of volcanic activity, a lonely tower of rock with sheer drops into the sea. We were accompanied by a guide and taken to the rock, about a 1 km offshore further around the island, by a fast day boat. Equipped with snorkelling gear we jumped into the sea and keeping to the edge of the rock started to explore what lived under the water. Keeping a wary lookout as we knew we could encounter sharks.
Out of the slightly cloudy water appeared before us a squadron of majestic eagle rays, and as you looked harder and deeper silhouettes of sharks appeared. Then as we swam further on hammerhead sharks appeared nearer the surface and within a few feet of us all. Janet mentioned later that she had tried to get my attention as a hammerhead had come up close behind me. Glad I hadn’t been aware!
The other sharks seen were the Galapagos shark and black tipped sharks. The guide had said that they were not aggressive but these are wild animals. There were also sea lions and turtles but the hammerheads stole the show.
San Cristobal had been very chilled and I think the lasting memory will be the sea lions, cheekily sleeping on benches and in chairs, anywhere to have a quiet snooze. Anything that didn’t have some deterrent would have at least 1 sea lion lounging on it. This included the boats at anchor and those that didn’t block off the sterns of their boats with fenders would discover them laid out all over their boat. The stern of Accomplice is difficult for a sea lion to mount and sleep on however it didn’t stop them trying. In the night we would hear them swimming around the boat and then launch themselves out of the water and try to get onto the sugar scoop transom, fall off and rattle the swim ladder on the way!
Our scheduled time on San Cristobal was up and it was time to leave for our next destination, the island of Santa Cruz, about 8 hours away. We weighed anchor bid farewell and set course for Santa Cruz.
We first had to do the house keeping, stock up on fresh produce and diesel. There were several places ashore where we could buy local produce, all little shops with a limit selection not quite like Morrison’s! The diesel had to be ordered and was collected in Jerry cans and then poured into the tanks. We were able to top up but ideally it would have been handy to keep a reserve of fuel in our Jerry cans. It wasn’t as easy as going to the local petrol station....it all had to be preordered and Jerry cans handed over and we had to book a slot. Here you need a licence to buy fuel and the petrol station is the local airport!
The trip over to Santa Cruz was a windless but beautifully sunny one. We weighed anchor and bid farewell to lovely San Cristobal. We motored out of the harbour and set a direct course.
We arrived in the anchorage after a long day motoring, the anchorage was open to the south and given a slight southerly swell was going to be rocky. Anchor set and checked we called a water taxi and got ashore.
We had had mixed reports of Puerto Ayora, the anchorage on Santa Cruz. It is the largest populated area in the Galapagos and is a hubbub of activity with its focus on tourists. As you land ashore from one of the many water taxis, earning their living moving people to and fro the yachts, tour boats, ferries and small cruise ships anchored in the harbour, you are greeted with a gaudy glitter sign, welcome to Galápagos. Not quite what we expected. Nonetheless for that it did have its own charm just not what you expected of these fabled islands.
The first day was spent checking out provisioning stores for the next long passage to French Polynesia and tracking down decent WiFi spots. We failed on both counts really and I see that we would need to dig deeper.
Andrew, Janet and Matthew
Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galápagos