Living the Wildlife
Still absolutely awestruck by our epic couple of weeks in Peru, I must admit it we thought it was going to be difficult to top it, so we boarded a flight to Quito, Ecuador with an open mind and few expectations. While the city itself was underwhelming (apart from the gorgeous buildings in Quito’s historical centre, the world’s first UNESCO heritage city), this actually wasn’t the real reason why we were here. It was actually to begin one hell of an adventure to the Galapagos Islands, meeting our guide and rest of the group at the fabulous five-star Hilton Hotel (we’ll take every bit of luxury we can, OK?!) before embarking on the cruise of a lifetime around the islands famous for being the catalyst for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
“CRUISE?!” I hear you ask. “You’re thirty-somethings, not retirees!” are the thoughts probably running through your minds. Well let me tell you something folks – whilst the Resignated Survivors were the youngest guests on the cruise by at least a couple of decades, we had the absolute time of our lives and our fellow passengers (many of whom had children around the same age or older than us) made our experience that much more memorable. Just to clarify, it wasn’t the type of ginormous cruise ship with multiple swimming pools, dining experiences and evening entertainment shows. In fact, we boarded the twenty-berth Monserrat, a beautiful little boat that was to be our home for the next seven nights. Our swimming pool was the turquoise blue Pacific Ocean, our dining experience was three freshly made and delicious meals a day cooked by a couple of incredibly talented on-board chefs, and our evening entertainment consisted of watching beautiful rare birds soaring alongside our boat, spotting white tip sharks circling around for their next meal, and sea lions fruitlessly chasing flying fish in and out of the water. I mentioned Mother Earth in my last post, but she really did deliver again this time. You can’t beat nature (and as a side note, and probably much to many people’s bemusement, I think I am getting into birdwatching).
Each day we woke early (sometimes for a pre-breakfast nature watching trip out on the dinghy), in order to fit in as many activities as we could depending on which island we’d sailed to overnight. We visited so many different islands over the course of the week and each one was unique in what it had to offer. We sailed around rocky volcanic islands to try and catch a glimpse of the infamous Blue-Footed Booby (an actual bird unique to the Galapagos that stands out for its striking blue webbed feet) and even witnessed their mating dance, which we were informed was a very rare occurrence indeed. We hiked over other-worldly volcanic terrain and learnt about the unique and beautiful rock formations of the islands, and admired all the beautiful flora and fauna that had found its way there (there were some really interesting looking cacti that grew across cliff edges, and resembled people looking out into the far beyond). We also visited a ranch that was known for attracting wild tortoises, the idea of which particularly excited me, and I was not disappointed. These things were HUGE (usually the bigger they are, the older they are, so we saw at least two that had passed the century mark!). It was amazing to be around a creature that had been around on this earth for so long, watching it plod slowly along munching on grass and more grass.
As well as hikes, walks and nature watching on land, another big part of our week consisted of throwing on our wetsuits and flippers, and snorkelling around the beautiful and idyllic islands. While some may argue that the snorkelling in the Galapagos isn’t the best (we were informed by a reliable source that it certainly doesn’t beat the Great Barrier Reef), there was a different charm attached to this. Because many of the animals in the Galapagos do not have predators as such, they aren’t as aggressive or dangerous, and so it is possible to swim right up to them without worrying too much about losing a limb. We were delighted to swim with a colony of playful sealions, swim above Galapagos sharks and stingrays and (best of all) spot a shy sea-turtle heading towards the surface, floating amongst scores of colourful fish including Angel fish, Parrot fish, Sargent fish and Trumpet fish (as well as many others, which we couldn’t possibly name).
Please be patient for the following underwater videos to load, trust us, they’re worth it! Try it on Google Chrome for best results.
Put the volume up for the next one!
We also spotted swallowtail gulls nesting, protectively hovering over their eggs (and we even saw a baby chick about to hatch!), and marine iguanas and land iguanas wandering ubiquitously around the islands (a couple of times we thought we may bear witness to a marine iguana fight, as they are very territorial creatures, but unfortunately for us their confrontation never progressed into a full-blown punch up, so to speak). The best thing about this week was that each day on these beautiful islands brought new surprises – whilst we thought we were heading out to see one thing, we’d end up spotting several other amazing creatures in the process.
Coming up is a the Sea Lion series which we believe will melt your heart.
The whole experience overall was absolutely unforgettable, from the wildlife to our boat, the food to our new-found friends, we truly had a once in a lifetime experience and for us that what this trip was meant to be about. We can’t wait to see what the rest of South America has to offer, and to share it with you all (our next report will be coming from none other than Colombia!).
The Resignated Survivors
Highlight of the week: Being entertained by an entire school of dolphins as we cruised between islands after lunch one afternoon. The show was fantastically produced, extremely well executed and well worth another watch (if only one could get hold of some more tickets…). Other highlights included seeing two massive sea turtles “at it” in middle of the sea (no further comment), and witnessing baby sea lions lazing about on a sparkling white sand beach against the backdrop of a beautiful golden sunset. Dreamy.
Other notable things: During our couple of days in Quito, we visited the actual spot where the equator lies. There is a huge monument that supposedly marks this point, but in actual fact it’s just a tourist trap. The real line lies some hundred or so metres away at the Intiñan Solar Museum, where they do interesting experiments like balancing an egg on a nail, and testing which way water drains down a sink depending on which hemisphere you are in. It definitely brought out our inner science nerds!
Lessons Learnt: We definitely learnt a lot about wildlife this week! With Valentines Day coming up this week, we thought it was sweet to know that Swallow-Tailed Gulls mate for life. The male will choose a particularly nice stone and give it to his potential female mate to put in her nest. That seals the deal if she accepts. Not too dissimilar to us mere humans (although, diamonds).