Blog 18. Galapagos. 00.44.92S 90.18.46W

David Batten
Tue 1 Mar 2016 21:10
Tuesday, 1/03/16.  We have now been in the Galapagos for 2 weeks, enjoying the daily company of sea lions, pelicans, boobies, storm petrels and finches.  The sea lions are everywhere on the water front at Puerto Baquerizo Morina, on the benches, on the steps, on the terraces and on any boat they can get on, including most of the catamarans on the rally, who had to adopt all sorts of strategies for keeping them off the boat.  After a great stay in Wreck Bay, San Cristobal where we enjoyed lots of socialising and a day’s tour including a trip to a fabulous beach on the north eastern point of the Island and a snorkel tour of the famous Kicker Rock, in turbulent and murky water, where some saw a ray and a shark and the rest of us only saw turtles and huge fish.  We also visited the Tortoise Breeding Centre, seeing baby tortoises which need protection from the imported cats, rats, dogs and other introduced, predatory species to all ages of tortoise from teenagers to those over a century old.  We then saw Blue Footed Boobies on rocks off a beach, just a few compared with what we saw later, then walked to the volcano crater with it’s fresh water, the only fresh water on the Island, in which the frigate birds dive.  Then a very murky snorkel on what would be a lovely beach but for the on shore wind and swell.  We caught up with other crews and arranged for Tom and Derve from Into The Blue to move onto Alcedo and join the Skipper while the rest of us went on a pre-booked 5 night cruise around the Islands on the Aida Maria.  We watched Alcedo motor away from San Cristobal in the late afternoon with her new crew, heading for Isabela, with very mixed feelings.  It was quite unsettling not to be with her, but we had an early morning ferry to catch to meet the Aida Maria in Santa Cruz the following morning, Tuesday 23 Feb.
The 6 days on Aida Maria were truly wonderful.  No shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing up or laundry, a charming crew to look after us and a great guide called Rueben, who spoke excellent English, had a great sense of humour and who was clearly passionate about the Islands and their wildlife.  We met up with Alcedo and most of the other WARC boats in Puerto Villamil during our visit to Isabela, which is quite beautiful and largely unspoilt, with a great anchorage , lovely beaches and healthy population of sea iguanas.  The Skipper was clearly enjoying his time in the company of two very charming, easy going youngsters and away from the “Old ball and chain”.  We had three more stops on Isabela, one in Fernandina and one on both Isla Santiago and Isla Rabida, finishing up with a brief visit to Seymour Norte and ending up at Baltra.  We have seen the Frigate Birds courting, a Swallow Tailed Gull with her chick, watched hundreds of Blue Footed Boobies and Shearwaters fishing, tried to photograph the Galapagos Storm Petrels as they danced on the water and the turtles as they came up for air.  We have photographed fabulously pink flamingos, the White-Cheeked Pintail Ducks, the Lava Gulls and Lava Herons, the Yellow Warblers, the Galapagos Fly Catcher, the Galapagos Hawk and various finches, which we have completely failed to be able to distinguish from each other unless they were something more unusual like the Vegetarian or Woodpecker Finch. Then there were the fur seals, marine iguanas and land iguanas and, of course, the tortoises.  We have snorkelled with turtles and the delightful Galapagos Penguins, the wonderful Flightless Cormorants, the white tipped sharks and the rays.   The other guests on the boat were great company and the food was excellent.  What more could you ask for except for a sighting of the Vermillion Fly Catcher or the Mangrove Finch, now both on the endangered list.
The Skipper meanwhile had motored the boat to Santa Cruise and had managed to fill up with fuel, no mean feat here and he and the new crew had made sure she was clean and tidy for our return.  We met him at the northern end of Santa Cruz and enjoyed one more tour to see Petrel nests in the Media Luna, another species of tortoise and more finches, before settling down to the next Skipper’s briefing and the arrival information for Hiva Oa, some 3000 miles to the west of us.  So now we have visited the supermarket and, at some ridiculously and unnecessarily early hour, the market, the fruit and vegetables have been washed in Miltons by Jane and the Ship’s Boy, the laundry is done and we have one more meeting to discuss communication between the boats on the long crossing, one last shop for mementoes and one last dinner ashore before we leave tomorrow for the Marquesas.