The Much-Anticipated Galápagos

It was indeed a much-anticipated trip but the nightmare came on my first day on the boat – my period came so I couldn’t go snorkelling. But, I had an idea. I remembered when I was in Fiji, I faced the same problem. How did I solve it? Not tampons. I got on a smaller boat and put my head under the water to have a peek of the underwater world. So, I decided to do the same this time. (That’s the problem of being a female. Male travellers don’t have it. They don’t know how lucky they are on this aspect. But I am happy to be a female. 😊)

Fortunately, even though I stayed in the cheapest type of room (supposedly, shared room) on the cruise ship, I didn’t have a roommate. The last-minute deal, the single occupancy, the friendly staff and tourists on the boat, the professional tour guide…, the entire thing made me feel that I was really blessed. As for the period? If there was a solution, there wasn’t a problem at all. On every page of my journal, I prayed and thanked God for all these.  

Even more fortunate for me, on our first day, we had activities on land. We visited Darwin’s Centre. I was too tired to write down anything in my journal but I remember Lonesome George was dead when we were there. Sad but all living things die. Nature is able to regenerate itself but what’s dead is dead. The newly grown plants can never replace the previous ones.

We were greeted by numerous land iguanas before we entered into Darwin’s Centre. I was so afraid that I would step on them.
It looked like a king.
Tortoise at Darwin’s Centre
One of the ladies from our group commented, ‘gosh, they are so gross.’ The other tourists from our group and I looked at her. We didn’t know what to say in response to that.
Another one
A red crab

My first night on the boat was fine. It was a bit rocky and I woke up once or twice but I quickly went back to sleep.

We visited Chinese Hat Island on our second day. As the name suggested, the shape of the island looked like a Chinese Hat. I think it looked more like a Vietnamese hat. Anyway, whatever looks Asian, it’s Chinese. Many sea lions basked in the sun on the island. They cried as if they had a lot of gas in their stomachs. It sounded terrible. But the cubs were very cute. We also saw two penguins. The tour guide said it was actually very hard to see penguins here so we were very lucky.

The two penguins
Let’s have a look at your face. 😊
Another shot of your face 😊
What is that?
Look at the water! Pristine!
Hi there! There were so many iguanas. There could be even more now now that there aren’t many tourists because of the pandemic.
A sea lion and a bird
Galápagos hawk? According to the tour guide, the Galápagos hawks were very hard to spot.

This place reminds me of the seals in Kaikoura in New Zealand but those were very territorial. They barked at me when I walked close to them. But here in Galápagos, humans are just another species for them. They just went on with their lives without paying much attention to us.

The cub was curious about the red crab. They were also curious about us humans too.
Our group
The tour guide showed us the shell of a red crab.
Look at all these tourists. 😄
We were all taking photos of these two little creatures.
The mother (I guess) was showing its affection to its baby.
Is that how they say hi to each other?
Transformer! It was so colourful! It must be a male. In the animal kingdom, the males have to be beautiful to attract females. Humans are animals too. How come it’s the other way round?
The water was so clear!
Frigate bird
Frigate bird
While we sailed to Black Turtle Cove, we saw a school of dolphins. That was a highlight of our day.
They were following us and they swam very fast!  Some of them flew in the air and quickly dived back into the ocean. Too fast! I couldn’t catch that moment with my camera.
Look at its webs. It looked like it was wearing a pair of blue shoes.
We were on a small boat in Black Turtle Cove. Look at the size of this turtle! We saw some flying fish too. It jumped out of and back into the water so quickly that I couldn’t take a photo of it. I could only see it and memorize that moment. It surprised all of us on the boat.
It’s really hard to take photos of the birds. They moved all the time and I was on a rocky boat. The sun was setting. Anyway, this is a bit blur but it’s good enough.

I went to the top deck to see the stars at night. True. Those ones that I saw in Mongolia were so much brighter. The Milky Way, the dust and the stars were so much brighter than here. I didn’t see any shooting stars here. But the stars were bright enough.

Leaving Chinese Hat

The next day, we went to Dragon Hill to see flamingos, frigate birds, land iguanas, ghost crabs, etc. Interestingly, we didn’t see any land iguanas which should be quite common there. Instead, we saw flamingos which were not that easy to see, according to the tour guide. The tour guide also explained to us why flamingos were pink – because of the food they ate in salt lakes. It was as simple as that. You are what you eat. It applies to flamingos too. So, whenever you see a flamingo eating at a lake, you know you can’t drink that water because it’ll be too salty for you.

Red crabs
Two flamingos
Beautiful feathers
Yeah! I can see your face!
A dead iguana
Wait, was there another one there? It looked like there were two dead iguanas – one on top of another.
A ghost crab?
Don’t hide.

This trip on the boat was very relaxing. It was time for me to learn to relax. Live a life. Not to worry about anything.

I took a ‘dinghy ride’ with another lady who didn’t go snorkelling. I told her I wanted to write a book. She asked me what it’d be about. I answered, ‘the title will be “Eat and Play”.’ She laughed. That’s what life should be, isn’t it? I am still like a kid. Where does money come from? Hm… I guess if you don’t mind fishing for food or growing your own food, it should be easy to solve that problem. At the end of the day, we need food more than money. Money is only a medium of exchange. If I have the source, I don’t need money. I have always wanted to be a farmer, a self-sufficient one.

There was no internet on the boat.

Life without the Internet was good. I could really enjoy and live the moment.

The next morning, we went to South Plaza before breakfast.

We had a close encounter with the sea lions, land iguanas and a hybrid iguana! The hybrid iguana looked different from the others. It was black and yellow. Hybrid iguanas means they are a mixture of marine and land iguanas. It was a very special kind, according to the tour guide because land iguanas wouldn’t go to the sea area. Marine iguanas would go to the land to mate with land female iguanas but that wasn’t common.

This is what I meant by ‘close encounter’. They really didn’t care about us. That’s also what I meant by co-existence.
Hello, bird.
Hello, sea lion. Feeling itchy somewhere?
What a colourful piece of land!
The mother was milking the baby.
There you are! The hybrid iguana! It looked like it was wearing some Hollywood movie costume.
Well done! Yes, look at my camera!

We left the island and headed to Santa Fe Island, the last island of my trip. Some of us would stay for a few more days. Actually, a couple arrived before I went onboard and they said the weather hadn’t been good at all until we came. I felt so thankful.

Before we landed on Santa Fe Island, we had another snorkelling trip. I had a dinghy ride and dipped my head into the water. The water was so salty that it hurt my lips. Those who went snorkelling said they didn’t need any life jackets at all because the water was so buoyant. So, you can imagine how salty the water was.

The water was so clear!

Under the water, I saw a giant sea lion swimming right in front of me under our boat. It was so immense that it gave me a fright. The staff on the boat said, ‘don’t be scared’. Within that split second under the water, I saw it swimming towards me with its curious look. It was asking me, ‘hm… what are you? I have never seen this kind of creature before.’ Of course not, a head stretching out of the side of a dinghy boat, I’d find it strange too. Clearly, it wasn’t scared of me. There was also no sign of antagonism. It was huge and yet it was very agile in the water. I was looking at it face to face! It was really exciting and unforgettable. That was a very cute moment. The staff saw how excited I was, so he rode the boat to an area where we could see turtles (I was with another lady who didn’t want to go snorkelling). I saw so many of them resting on the seabed. The staff asked me if I could see the turtles. I held up my thumbs with my head still in the water. He then asked me if I wanted to see sharks. My eyes popped out! He said, ‘don’t worry. It’s safe.’ Ok! He then rode the boat to the sharks area. The water was quite shallow. I saw a few of them but I didn’t dare to put my head into the water. (Imagine I snorkelled in the sea. I am sure the sharks could smell my blood). Other than sharks, some eagle rays floated on the water too. That was such an amazing experience!

A turtle took a breath. Hi turtle! Did you see Nemo? How old are you?

When I went back to the cruise, the others who went snorkelling told me what they saw but when I told them I saw a few sharks, they were surprised because they couldn’t see any. They couldn’t believe that the person on a dinghy ride could see so much more than they did. Thanks to the staff who were familiar with the area.

When we landed on Santa Fe Island, we could see again sea lions. They were everywhere. They were so close to us. The tour guide had already warned us not to touch any of the animals we saw there because once we touched them (especially the cubs), their parents would not recognize their smell and they’d become orphans. So none of us touched anything. But the sea lions approached us instead. They were so cute (unlike those ones in Kaikoura in New Zealand). One of them walked towards me as I stood there and then it started to sniff me. It wasn’t tall enough to reach my right knee so it sniffed my right leg around my knee area. It did it twice! It was so funny. After finishing its sniffing business, it walked away.

This must be a land iguana.
I can see myself in your eye!

We walked around the island and saw some iguanas, land and marine ones. Along the beach, I saw a sea lion sleeping so I walked close to it. It was woken up by my footsteps. As I approached it, it sniffed my right shoe. 😊  It was so cute. I walked close to it again. It sniffed my shoe again. I could see its whiskers touching my shoe. 😊

I couldn’t believe it was the end of the trip. I actually didn’t want it to end. Was it really four days? Time flew. On the other hand, I was glad because the boat rocked sometimes and made me feel sick.

On our last day in Galápagos, the tour guide took us to the Interpretation Centre on San Cristobal Island to learn more about the history of the place. While I was reading the information, I heard another tourist saying that their group didn’t see any penguins and that maybe no one had seen them. I wanted to tell her, ‘we saw two!’ It happened that she was sitting right next to me on the plane back to Quito! Did I take the chance to tell her that? No, I didn’t. I didn’t want to disappoint her. But I heard her talking to the guy sitting at the aisle seat who was a volunteer at Galápagos, ‘the sea animals must be very stressed when they see humans.’ That was a funny comment. I had never thought of that. From what I experienced, I think they were curious about us and treated us like another land or sea creature. I couldn’t sense that they were stressed.

As the plane left San Cristobal Island, I saw a vast area with trees! It was such a big island with so many protected areas and sea animals. 

A sleeping sea lion on San Cristobal Island
Thank you too!

By that time, I had acquired a few more Spanish words. Encouraged by a couple on the cruise, I bought a Spanish dictionary at a shopping mall in New Town in Quito. The couple also gave me a few tips on how to read Spanish. Basically, for some words, the spellings are similar to English. That’s why, as I travelled for a longer time in South America, I started hearing the term ‘Spanglish’ as some people just make up Spanish words based on English.

Anyway, that was a good start for my Spanish. I still looked forward to my lessons in Arequipa.

14 – 18 November, 2012

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5 thoughts on “The Much-Anticipated Galápagos

      1. Yeah, you were lucky to have seen it. It died only a few months before I visited South America. But recent studies say Lonesome George may not be really lonesome at all. A female tortoise which was partially related to Lonesome George was found in Galápagos in 2020. Let’s see if more details will be released.

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