Sunday, May 19, 2013

Galapagos Islands, Day 4 & 5

On the fourth day we visited the island of Floreana, historically one of the more inhabited islands in the Galapagos.

We first landed at Punta Cormorant, where we saw some flamingos in a brackish lagoon:


Nearby was a beach with sea turtle nests. Unfortunately all we could see were giant depressions in the sand and some trails left by the turtles as they entered and exited the sea:


After lunch, we went snorkelling around Champion and Devil's Crown. The most exciting part was that we swam with sea lions! They were super fast, playful, and not afraid of us at all. In fact, I was a little afraid of them since our guide had told us sometimes the babies would nip people's hands, not knowing that they could hurt us, so I kept my hands up on my back when they were nearby:


There were also sea turtles, but I didn't get as close as in this photo (this is from one of the other passengers on our boat):


Our last excursion of the day was to Post Office Bay. The name of the bay comes from the fact that there is a barrel that dates from 1793, that whalers used to use exchange letters. Nowadays it's used by tourists to send postcards, which are left without postage and are expected to be hand delivered by other tourists. We put some of our own postcards in the barrel and managed to find one addressed to Google HQ which I did end up delivering by hand when we got back.

Most of our group went snorkelling off the beach, but D and I, along with two others, decided to stay on land and explored a small lava tunnel nearby.

That night D and I, along with four other guests, were chosen to dine with our Captain, Peter. He was engaging, funny, and told us some crazy stories about his days in the Ecuadorian Navy and subsequently the Coast Guard. Apparently they used to encounter Colombian pirates, and one time he actually helped rescue another ship's captain and crew, who had been tied up and hijacked.

The next day we landed on the biggest island in the Galapagos, Santa Cruz. We first went to the Charles Darwin Research Station to see tortoises in captivity, including more baby tortoises:


Afterwards we took a bus up to the highlands, where we saw two giant sinkholes (nicknamed "The Twins") and a giant lava tube:


Finally, the highlight of the day was spotting giant tortoises in the wild! We spotted probably ten or more giant tortoises of varying sizes, the largest of which our guides estimated at over six hundred pounds. One walked right down a path towards our group and then calmly proceeded to saunter past us amid all the cameras:



That afternoon we were given a few hours to shop in the town of Puerto Ayora, where we picked up some souvenirs for our friends and family. That night most of us stayed on board, but a few ventured back to shore to check out the local nightlife. They must have had a good time, because they were late for breakfast the next morning.

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