There seemed to be a lot more splashing than normal as I awoke this morning. The boat wasn’t rough, but the sound of slapping waves seemed more prevalent than usual. I whipped back the curtains and was greeted with a pod of close to what we think were 200 dolphins dancing alongside the ship. Dipping, diving, splashing and playing, they were stunning and so gracefully elegant.
Not a moment later when they were out of site, did a flamboyance of flamingos flap overhead in spectacular formation. So vivid in the morning light, it was like someone grabbed a pink highlighter and splashed it across the sky.
It was time to head ashore to Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island – rich in human history with mystery and intrigue. Although nowhere near as populated with wildlife as Espanola, this unique island, greeted us with a green sand beach alive with sea lions, lava herons, yellow crowned night herons and blue footed boobies perched precariously on the cliff faces. As we putted our way closer to the lapping shoreline we witnessed sea turtles mating in the clear waters. How they stayed afloat with all that weight, I do not know.
We followed a flat trail to a brackish lagoon, home of the Bahama Ducks, Common Stilts, Galapagos Fly Catcher, Yellow Warblers and in the distance on the far shoreline, were the Greater Flamingos. Quite possibly the same ones that had flown overhead earlier. These flamingos are the pinkest in the world and obtain their vibrant colour from feasting on the shrimp which eat the algae in the lagoon. The flamingos cannot simply eat the algae directly as they do not have the ability to digest it, so by eating the shrimp they get both their nutrients of the algae and their stunning colour.
We wound our way along the twisting path past many fauna species such as the black, red and white mangroves, the aromatic incense tree and Scalesia.
The trails led us to a beach with powder soft sand and at the rear of the beach, were dozens of sea turtle nests. Open burrows tunnelled into the sand. In the waters before us, there were at least 30-40 giant sea turtles mating, swimming or slowly making their way towards the shore to reach their nests. Small rays flapped on the sandy shore in the shallow waters, but our focus was on the majestic sea turtles.
We were patient but of course did not have all the time in the world to wait. Slowly but surely, one sea turtle made its way to the edge of the lapping waters. Then another, and then another. To a passer-by, they would have simply looked like large boulders in the shallow water because they moved so damn slow.
We sat. We watched. We waited. Then one made the move. Dragging her heavy body one slow step at a time, she unhurriedly made her way from the waters towards the dry sand. Unfortunately we could not stay to see the whole spectacle as it would have taken hours, but it was amazing to see such a large turtle pulling her bulky weight up the sinking sand, the waves bashing against her shiny shell, urging her back into deeper waters.
As we made our way back to our pangas, a teenage sea lion chased me up the beach and nipped at my ankle, missing me by only centimetres.
From here, we made our way to Champion, a shallow sunken crater colonized by a brilliant array of colourful fish and coral. The visibility here was amazing. 20-30m at least and the colours were spectacular. Large schools of yellow tailed surgeons flitted by, oversized parrot fish, beautiful king angels, puffer fish and other colourful varieties of marine life presented themselves on show for us.
On the way back to the ship, we witnessed five Galapagos Penguins frolicking in the waters. Such cuties. One jumped onto the side of one of the pangas, while another one pecked at the rope. Curious, playful little creatures.Following lunch, we took a panga ride through some absolutely stunning scenery near Baroness Point. Turquoise waters, black chunky lava flowing into the sea, green cacti, sea lions, contrasting Sally Lightfoot crabs, marine iguanas, blue footed boobies, Galapagos penguins, at least 20 sea turtles bobbing up and down in the water, not to mention the white tip reef sharks who all made themselves present for perfect photo opportunities. This area, as we cruised around for an hour or so and some people kayaked, so far to me has been the most stunning area we have visited. Pure paradise. The water, like Bombay Sapphire.
From here we went to Post Office Bay, not the most scenic of places, but one of the most famous sites in the Galapagos where a post barrel was erected and put into use in the late 18th century by English whaling vessels.
We all left a post card here and collected other post cards left by other travellers which are to be hand delivered. We have collected two which we will be delivering this week.
We also swam from the beach further around the point in a choppy bay. Not the clearest of waters compared to the azure waters we had just explored. It was actually like swimming through miso soup. Murky, brown and not inviting, but the great thing was, we were swimming alongside giant sea turtles. One of them was an absolute monster. His head, probably bigger than ours!
It was difficult to track them through the miso soup, but we managed and snapped a few half descent pictures.
Back on board the ship and at sunset, the perfect cliché occurred. I mentioned that this morning we were awoken by hundreds of dolphins, well our day ended with thousands of them. Baby dolphins in training by their parents. I have never seen anything like it. They surrounded the ship and it was dolphins as far as the eye could see. The orange sun was setting on the horizon and the dolphins kept following our ship and dancing – leading the way for us. The captain would toot the horn and in response, the dolphins would all leap out of the water.
Crooked Compass travelled with Ecoventura on board MY Eric.
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This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.