Our Galapagos tour
15 April 2012 | 00 57.9'S:90 57.8'W, Pto Villamil
The Galapagos Islands, a very enchanting place. Spanning the equator, it is not a developed tropical resort destination, though there are a few small hotels and beaches. There are few palm trees, as the geologically speaking young islands have little soil and patchy vegetation, between large areas of solidified black lava. Tourists come here to visit the park and see the wildlife, and it seems that most do that on a tour boat. It is certainly the best way to see the area. Day tours are available from the 3 towns, but the most interesting sites are many hours sailing time away from town and therefore best accessible with a live-on tour boat. There are many to choose from.
Through our very helpful local agent, Antonio Moreano, we arranged a private yacht tour of a portion of the park. It was a bit expensive, but a truly special and memorable experience to be able to do this while onboard Hekla. The vast majority of the islands shorelines are national park, so to see everything would take weeks or months. We had a 5-day tour, visiting 10 sites on Santa Cruz and Isabela Islands, circumnavigating both. With our live-on guide Franklin, we swam with sea lions and sea turtles too numerous to count, walked through sea lion nurseries where the curious young ones would try to put a nose print on our cameras and I was charged by a barking alpha-male, walked with 600 pound land tortoises and 4 foot long brilliant yellow land iguanas, swam with sharks, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, penguins, and blue-footed boobies. Those birds with their brilliant blue feet, so far unexplained by evolutionary scientists, provide subject matter for the very p opular tourist T-shirt "I love boobies." We learned how in the absence of predators, theses animals evolved to a form similar to but more adapted to the local conditions that their relatives on the continents, thus sparking Charles Darwin's scientific mind to create his "theory of evolution." We walked on recently solidified black lava flows, with other-worldly plastic rock formations: corrugated, cracked, folded, bubbled and stretched. At 2:40 AM on Easter Sunday, April 8, the entire American crew crossed the equator by boat for the first time ever, and only Nick and I were awake to toss back a shot of rum while we spilled another over the side as an offering to Neptune, a proper maritime tradition. Later that day, at 7:30 we recrossed the equator from north to south, and stopped the boat while all jumped into the crystal clear deep blue ocean water for a celebratory swim.
Two days ago we saw Nick, Kati, and Zach onto a shuttle boat at 6am, which began for them a 40 hour journey home, delayed by a cancelled flight from Quito to Atlanta and requiring an unexpected hotel stay. It is much quieter on board now, and we miss them dearly. We spent a day cleaning up Coke splatters and cookie crumbs, hauling beer bottles to recycling, doing laundry, and finally stashing our off-season, warm clothing we needed a few weeks ago but will not need now for some time. We plan to spend another week here in the quiet Puerto Villamil anchorage, doing a few tours, but generally catching up on boat maintenance, writing, photo work, and energizing for the upcoming passages. We are on a bit of a mission to get home, though it involves another 2000 ocean miles, broken up with stops at the Costa Rican island Cocos, the Panama canal transit, the Columbian island of Providencia near the Nicaraguan bulge, the Nicaraguan island of Roatan, and finally our long-term stor age destination of Rio Dulce, Guatemala.
All the best, Jeff and Zia.