The Galapagos Islands

Pearl of Persia
Andrew Lock
Sun 24 Mar 2013 06:32
Just for the records, the comment about the hairdryer in the last blog is
completely untrue. My hair(as the photographs show) does not go near a
hairdryer unless the boat is plugged into shore power in a marina!
The Galapagos Islands were a mixture of disappointment and pleasure.
Everything was such an effort and the authorities made sure to make life as
difficult and complicated as possible. Boats such as us arriving are only
allowed to anchor in restricted areas, and we had to let them know prior to
arrival which islands we would like to visit. There are actually only 3
where you are permitted to go to in your own yacht, so we decided on the
main island of Santa Cruz with the plan of visiting some of the other
islands on day tours. A combination of technical problems on the boat and
also arriving late because of issues in Panama meant that we were unable to
do that, however what we did see was amazing.
The wildlife on shore was quite extraordinary. Sea Lions, pelicans and
iguanas all roam around the dockside and in hotel sea fronts unfazed by
humans. You only need to glance into the water and you are rewarded with
turtles, and rays swimming around. We even had Puffer fish blocking our
generator filters. The fish market floor was dominated by hungry sea lions
and pelicans all fighting for the off cuts of fish. (I'm sure health and
safety would have had a field day) Once you got used to stepping over a sea
lion to come down some stairs, or shooing it off the sun lounger, you take
it all for another ordinary day. Within 24 hours of anchoring, I woke up to
find a sleepy Sea Lion on the back of our boat. He looked at me
incredulously as I produced my camera for a Kodak moment. He posed very
well, and once I had taken some photos I encouraged it to slip back into the
ocean as the smell is not very pleasant.
The Charles Darwin Centre which was so highly regarded in the travel books
was a real disappointment. Run down and poorly kept there was virtually
nothing to see. No exhibition centre with information and no walk in adult
tortoise enclosure where you could see giant tortoises. There were the pens
where small baby tortoises were hatched and kept, before they are
repatriated into the wild when they are about 4 years old. Everything else
was chaotic and run down. Broken down buildings and no information at all.
What was worth seeing was the Tortoise sanctuary which is privately owned.
Here we saw some giant tortoises slowly making their way through
undergrowth. There was also the lava tubes which are underground tunnels
more than a kilometre long formed by the solidifying of the outside skin of
a molten lava flow. You can actually go down and walk the length of the
The highlight for both of us were the 4 dives which we did over a two day
period. The abundance of wildlife under water was breath taking. Andrew
has probably SCUBA dived more than 3500 times, and admitted that he had
never seen such a show of big fish. At one stage it was like sitting at
home watching a wildlife undersea programme. There was numerous types of
sharks from white tipped, to Galapagos sharks, to Barracuda, but the most
awesome where the group of 6 Hammerhead sharks that came within touching
distance. These are big strong powerful sharks that you wouldn't want to get
on the wrong side of. The turtles who were so tame that as they swam past,
you could almost hold on to them. Schools of ray swimming gracefully in
formation, and hundreds of colourful fish. We also managed to swim and
snorkel in a bay with lots of sea lions who were very playful and
inquisitive. They would swim right up to you and circle you then just as
you tried to touch them they would swerve away and do it all again.
There is no fuel dock on any of the islands, so to refuel we had to have
barrels of diesel in 20 gallon drums brought to the boat side and pumped in
like that. The process itself is not too painful, but the paper work to get
the diesel was a nightmare. Having a 3000 mile trip in front of us meant
that we had to have full tanks, as we would need the fuel for the generator,
and also to motor for part of the way to get us through the doldrums where
there is no wind to sail with.
On the day we left we visited the fresh fruit and veg market at 7am to stock
up with fresh food stuff. Bringing all of that back on to the baot and
cleaning it, then packing it away we pulled anchor and made our way out of
the bay and headed for the Marquesas Islands. Depending on the winds this
should take us about 20-25 days. We will keep you updated.