We arrived in Galapagos in Academy Bay, Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz on 17 April having initially headed for Puerto Baquerizo on San Cristobal the latter being a good anchorage. Our destination changed following an email from Matelot saying better to go to Santa Cruz as while the anchorage is very rolly Ayora was where the action was.
Pam & Dawnielle - smart gallery Ayora
They were right about the rolly anchorage! The Galapagos Islands are part of a national park of Ecuador and until a few months ago were serviced by five supply ships - unfortunately only one is now operating so the one modest supermarket in Ayora was well understocked and we were told that some prices have gone up 500% as some products are now flown in. The four missing ships - three have sunk and one is in for a refit/overhaul.
Pat poses with ancient relative
The Galapagos National Park became a World Heritage Site in 1986.
Visiting yachts are only permitted to stop at one of two ports unless a permit obtained a month or more in advance is successfully applied for. Once at the one permitted port you are not able to leave in your own boat unless checking out altogether. The islands are very volcanic with the more northern islands now dormant but with activity still in the southern islands. The highest points on Santa Cruz (called the highlands) were always covered in ominous black cloud every day and threatened rain on Ayora periodically which at least washed the boat down.
Iguana at Darwin Centre
The bay was a hive of water based activity with several small cruise boats for tours of several days, inter-island ferry services, day tour boats and the ubiquitous water taxi's that arrived when called on VHF 14 and for $1.00 a person dropped you on the dock. The inter-island ferry services were something else - at 0730 hrs they would blast off out to sea, 35 foot cruisers, 30 plus life jacket clad people (standing room only) and 3 x 250 HP outboards and the drivers only knew one speed. So yes rolly anchorage because of the wakes but as soon as the SE arrived, blowing straight in, it was almost untenable. Fortunately that happened only on the last day we were there.
Pam with 100 year old tortoise
We did not see any of the famous blue-footed boobies (they are mostly on another island), we did see many tortoise's at both the Charles Darwin Research Station (opened in 1964) and in their natural habitat at the Tortoise Centre in the highlands. Unfortunately the Charles Darwin Research Station buildings were closed for renovations so while we could walk around the park we missed the opportunity for a guided tour and to watch the videos explaining the history and work of the Station.
Tortoise bred at Darwin Centre
The focus in Galapagos is on restoration in the face of negative Impacts of humans and introduced species of both a plant and animal kind. Darwin visited in 1835 and since then the Galapagos have been recognised as a living laboratory for the study of biological evolution. Darwin's book the "Origin of the Species" was published in 1859. Sea lions are plentiful and any boats with a scoop transom face a battle trying to keep them from climbing on board for a sleep. They also find themselves of interest to humans by sitting on the passenger dock or on seats in the town (they are very smelly!). Darwin's finch species (he idenfified 15 different types) abound on t-shirts as do other scenes of Galapagos reptiles, sea mammals, iguana's and birds.
We took a full day snorkling trip that involved a drive to the top of the island and then visits to two snorkling sites, one on the cliff edge of an extinct volcano and the other in a more lagoon type setting. About 70 miles covered on this trip, again a bat out of hell driver but with only 10 of us on board, and an interesting experience sharing the water with sharks swimming by!! Glad they are not attracted to snorklers with excessively fast heart rates!
Pam in lava cave in Highlands
Very interesting, but short as in four days, visit and worthwhile paying the significant fees involved. The officials eventually did put a diver under the boat and again got the big tick. We used Ricardo as our agent but never met him. He was not good at replying to emails but once we arrived his young associate, Marvin, was a delight to deal with. English is not spoken much so again having Dawnielle on board made life a lot easier and no doubt gave her the chance to brush up on her Spanish.
Cheers for now
Pam & Keith