We’ve spent the last week and a half enjoying the “Enchanted Isles”, or “Islas de Colon”, or more commonly- the Galapagos. As much as I’ve heard and imagined these islands and their non-human inhabitants, the reality is still sinking in. We began with a day tour of San Cristobal, where we’re anchored and where we’ll likely stay anchored until we depart for Polynesia on April 9. As it would cost nearly $2,000 US per day to tour the Galapagos on Discovery we’ve decided to go it with the local boats, which are in abundance.
The tour consisted of a few stops to see tortoises, marine iguanas, a couple amazing vistas, a coffee plantation and some very nice surf breaks, which would be utilized in the days to come. I’m not much of a tour person, but as this one was just our own group, our taxi driver, and we got going before the other hoards, it ended up being a great start. You can’t help but be in a bit of awe at the abundance of animals here, and yet its also sad to think of how much has been lost, as always- to humans. They say over 100,000 tortoises were killed on San Cristobal alone by the first immigrants for their oil and meat; most of the few remaining live now in a protected walled area much like a zoo. These days, tortoises are no match for the various introduced species and domestic animals that dine on their eggs and young.
Apparently March is the wettest month of the year, and as it was apparently particularly wet before we arrived, the first thing that grabbed our attention was how green the islands are. There’s a green quilt of new growth everywhere, which seems in stark contrast the equatorial heat. It’s also mating season, so we hoped to not only view all the “tame” wildlife, but maybe some coupling as well. A comment on the wildlife you’ll see in the following photographs. These are not taken with a telescopic lens. These guys and gals- from the sea turtles, to land tortoises, to the boobies and sharks, pretty much everything just lets you walk right up and have a gander. Sometimes they get too close: I finally got tired of chasing the sea lions off the boat all night and built two planks of defense for our transoms which consist of a long board with a bunch of nails poking through, facing the sea. Don’t worry- they are savvy and smart animals, we haven’t hurt anything but my own foot, which I suppose I deserve. But it has kept the big ones off- the little ones can still balk in the sun on the lowest step.
For a few days we just surfed and enjoyed the laid back town and took little trips to areas close to home. One of these is a local dive spot called Kicker Rock, in hopes of seeing some hammerheads.
Jody, Scott and I each did two dives which I would call decent. The visibility was pretty poor and the water was cold, but we did get a brief viewing of a couple hammerheads and a few other reef sharks to make it interesting. The rest of the group opted to snorkel and saw even more than we did, including a host of sea turtles.
Scott, Tim and Gaby left after an evening of sad goodbyes. It has been an amazing couple weeks that none of us will ever forget. We’ve been joined by one of our owners, Bruce Marks, fresh from a paragliding trip in Nepal, and Marc Peterson, the man responsible for our website. Hannah and Lars continue to wow everyone with their cuisine. The Best Odyssey is becoming as much a culinary cruise as it is a kiteboarding expedition.
Jody and I decided to check out Isabella for an overnight trip before her trip back to the States. A 45 minute flight to a different world. 5 volcanoes, 5 species and 12 sub-species of tortoise (many endangered), penguins, cacti, soaring frigates, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, finches (one of the types of birds which Darwin based his theory of evolution). There is one sleepy town with three thousand people, sand streets and a long, gorgeous sand beach. Very few tourists and clean clear water were enough to keep me rapt. We hiked to see the second largest crater in the world, Sierra Negra, which erupted in 2005, then descended and visited more tortoises, one of which was enjoying what could only be described as a LOUD love making session.
The next morning Jody and I wandered onto a long walkway which led through a tunnel of mangroves and opened on a beautiful clear pool on the edge of the sea. As the sun broke the horizon we slipped into the cool water, reveling in the solitude and quietness. We dried off and realized we in fact did have company; a large group of marine iguanas wrestled for rock space. Yep, they are sometimes this thick:
Jody is now back in the States and will rejoin us in July in Tahiti, some months off. No doubt these logs will be a lot less impressive as we’re losing her photographic talent. Sorry folks, mostly words for awhile.