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The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience

Posted by Flo et Romain on November 5 2015, 02:04am

Categories: #Ecuador, #Galapagos

For 12 days, we went to the Galapagos. What to say ? It was magical, amazing, unforgettable ... In short it was UNIQUE!

The Galapagos are an archipelago of volcanic islands lost in the Pacific Ocean, 1000 km away from the coast of Ecuador. The oldest volcanoes (visible above water) are more than 5 million years old while some islands are "only" 700,000 years and are still growing. The archipelago consists of 18 main islands (of which only 5 are occupied), 3 islands "minor" and 107 rocky islets. But one day the Galapagos may disappear: they are on the Nazca tectonic plate which is sinking ok 5 centimeters each year under the South American continent ...

On this archipelago there is an incredible wildlife and some species have special characteristics found only on certain islands. By observing the different species of birds and reptiles, Darwin based his theory of evolution on the principle of natural selection.

How islands that were never connected to the mainland can have as many animal species? The birds would be carried by the winds; the reptiles would have arrived "by accident" on branches carried by ocean currents. (Reptiles are animals that can stay longer in the sun without water ...).

The first citation of the islands dates of 1535. After that date (and stories about the many animals who occupied the islands), the Galapagos have seen pirates, English settlers, whalers ... In a short time a lot of animals were killed: whales for their blubber, fur seals for their fur, turtles for their meat .... And it was so until 1957 when the Galapagos Islands were declared a national park and included in the UNESCO heritage. Today 97% of the territory is protected for our delight !!!

During our 12 days, we visited three islands, did 4 days of diving, ... in short, we spent more than we would have liked but we enjoyed a lot !!! Arriving at Santa Cruz, we first went to the Charles Darwin Research Station (the exhibition halls are closed unfortunately) and we made our first meetings with land iguanas, marine iguanas (yes, yes, they can swim!), giant tortoises and red crabs! But to observe free giant tortoises it is even better ... So the next day we went inland and discovered dozens of giant tortoises in the middle of the forest. Some, frightened by our sudden movements, took in the head in their shells by emitting a noise near a blowing !!! Others, undaunted, continued to graze quietly. This trip also allowed us to cross a giant lava tunnel ... We had the impression that this was a human construction, not a natural formation ...

To finish off the day, before attacking our two days of diving, we went swimming in Las Grietas: a "natural pool" stuck between two cliffs ... A beautiful place!

Charles Darwin StationCharles Darwin Station
Charles Darwin StationCharles Darwin Station
Charles Darwin StationCharles Darwin Station
Charles Darwin StationCharles Darwin StationCharles Darwin Station

Charles Darwin Station

released giant tortoises
released giant tortoisesreleased giant tortoises
released giant tortoisesreleased giant tortoises
released giant tortoisesreleased giant tortoises

released giant tortoises

Lava tunnel

Lava tunnel

Las Grietas

Las Grietas

And now up to diving ... It's expensive (expect at least $ 160 per person for 2 dives with meals included), but it's worth ... We could observe white tip sharks, a plethora of turtles, a Manta rays, moray eels ... And then "the best" of the show: we had the chance to swim in the middle of a school of thousands of salemas. Once in the middle, the fishes closed the circle and we ended up "stuck" with all these fishes, without seeing what was happening on the other side of this living wall ... An amazing moment! And what we expected above all: the hammerhead sharks !!! We saw twenty, youth and adults, below us .... Wow this is awesome ... Especially when you add a school of barracudas in the scenery !!!! These two days of diving completely fascinated us! All this wildlife gathered in one place ... And then the show out of the water was not bad too: fishing party for hundreds of blue footed boobies, frigates and pelicans...

White tip sharks
White tip sharksWhite tip sharks

White tip sharks

School of black stripes salemas
School of black stripes salemasSchool of black stripes salemas
School of black stripes salemas

School of black stripes salemas

Turtles, rays, moray eel, barracudas...
Turtles, rays, moray eel, barracudas...Turtles, rays, moray eel, barracudas...
Turtles, rays, moray eel, barracudas...Turtles, rays, moray eel, barracudas...Turtles, rays, moray eel, barracudas...
Turtles, rays, moray eel, barracudas...Turtles, rays, moray eel, barracudas...

Turtles, rays, moray eel, barracudas...

Hammerheads sharksHammerheads sharks
Hammerheads sharksHammerheads sharks
Hammerheads sharksHammerheads sharks
Hammerheads sharksHammerheads sharks

Hammerheads sharks

The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience

When we arrived in Santa Isabela (after 2:30 sporty boat ride ...), we went swimming with the sea lions ... and this is an experience that we won’t forget ... I did not believe the stories that say "the sea lions come to play with swimmers" ... and yet it is indeed true! Young seals are so curious and playfull, they approach a few centimeters of our mask before making an acrobatic turn around and come back to the load. This is an incredible moment when we seem to be part of the marine world ... Sea lions turn around, make frills, disappear, come back ... A real show (and free this one !!!)! We also had the chance to swim with the penguins of the Galapagos. They are less playfull (I must say that they were in full hunting party ...) but still allow themselves to approach.

The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience

We then went (fee required) to "Los Tuneles". The "tunnels" were formed during volcanic eruptions, which are either tunnels through which lava escaped or they are holes formed by trapped gas bubbles in lava. Today this leaves a very impressive scenery on the water ... and this area is also home to many animals. We could observe a colony of penguins (Unfortunately, with the El Nino phenomenon that brings warm currents every 3-5 years, 70% of the population of penguins has been decimated since 1983), the blue-footed boobies (In Spanish they are nicknamed the idiots bird, because when the first humans arrived on the island, the birds approached, made themselves killed and others were approaching again instead of running away ...), Nazca boobbies and many Underwater life:

With only our snorkel we could observe white tip sharks sleeping in a tunnel, dozens of turtles not shy at all, "school" of golden rays, a big lobster (we would have eat it...), two sea horses and of course full of colorful fish !!! Even without bottle diving you can see lots of animals!

The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience

We ended our stay in Galapagos on San Cristobal Island. The first thing we observe, they were dozens or even hundreds of sea lions resting on the beach, on park benches, or just in the boats ... And no question of disturbing the grumpy old males! Then it was time for another diving experience and the show was at the rendezvous: lots of turtles, white tip sharks, black tip, Galapagos (and a hammerhead but as the visibility was not good we had only glimpses), schools of fish ... Yes, the seabed are really incredible ... And during an outing to the most eastern point of the Galapagos, we also could see red-footed boobies. Unlike the blue-footed boobies, they build their nests in trees and not on the ground and they can dive deeper to catch fish. Once again, the birds can be approached very easily ...

The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience
The Galapagos: A UNIQUE experienceThe Galapagos: A UNIQUE experience

In short, you'll understand, that our stay in Galapagos dazzled us; we saw a lot of animals and could get very close ... but we hope that this paradise will always remain as it is, because many events threaten this fragile ecosystem: first climate change (such as El Nino), the presence of the man who (voluntarily or not) bother some natural habitats, consumes certain resources, etc. ... and the presence of animals imported by early settlers such as dogs, cats, mice , pigs, cows, goats and horses, endanger the survival of some species .. Pigs destroy the nests of tortoises, iguanas, and eat their food ... The national park is trying to control (even decrease) the number of these animals but it is a long fight ...

In any case it is sure, we will come back ... and next time we will do a cruise to the northern islands (Wolf and Darwin) ... and with some good luck we will swim with whales, whale sharks and even killer whales ... Stay tuned !!!!

Now we only have four days in Ecuador and then we will fly to Panama. Goodbye South America, Central America hello !!!

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