In The Saddle’s Abbie Wood recently embarked on an adventure to Ecuador! In the second of her three-part-blog she tells us about a wonderful adventure to The Galapagos…
The next part of my trip took me to the wonderful Galapagos Islands. Situated 1,000km from the Ecuadorian coast, the Galapagos Islands is home to a plethora of flora and fauna such as land iguana, marine iguana, giant tortoise and many sub-species of mockingbirds and finches. The Galapagos benefits from being at the confluence of three different ocean currents. It is this, along with ongoing volcanic activity and the isolated location of the archipelago that has over time led to the development of unusual plant and animal life.
My first stop is Finch Bay Hotel. The flight from Quito stops at Guayaquil, before continuing on to Baltra. From Baltra airport it is quite an adventurous journey to the hotel, which is all part of the adventure! A short bus ride and then in order to reach the neighbouring island of Santa Cruz I take a ferry across the Itabaca Canal. Then it is a road journey to cover the 26 miles to Puerto Ayora, at the town’s docks you take a water taxi just across the bay and then follow a short walking trail (c. 5 minutes) to reach the hotel. Finch Bay has a wonderful beach front location; in fact it is the only beach front hotel in Puerto Ayora. Nicely laid-out, the majority of rooms are reached by wooden walkways that wind around the central gardens. There is a super pool overlooking the sea and spacious dining and lounge areas.
There are 6 Ocean View rooms just to the left of the main building. This hotel is ideal for both land and sea exploration. There are various programmes on offer, ranging from 3 and 4 nights to 7 nights. Yacht excursions run every day except Sunday and Wednesday and other activities include highland tours, a visit to the Twin Pit Craters and the Darwin Research Station.
Unfortunately there was not enough time for me to join one of the group tours, but I was able to explore the beach and wander along the boardwalk towards the town. A popular walk (c.30 minutes) takes you to the picturesque beach at Tortuga Bay. Here you can often see marine iguanas, Galapagos crabs and many different species of birds. At the end of the beach is a bay which is great for swimming.
The next day it was back to Baltra, but this time to the dock, in order to join a four night cruise on the magnificent Santa Cruz. The ship’s three decks house up to 90 guests, as well as a lounge, bar, dining room and a spacious sun deck, an ideal spot for a sundowner. A safety briefing and drill follows, so that we all know what to do in the event of problems at sea.
After settling in to my cabin (absolutely super with a big picture window), it is time for a delicious buffet lunch in the dining room.
This afternoon’s excursion takes us to a beautiful beach on the northern shore of Santa Cruz Island. As I take in the white organic beach and turquoise waters, I can’t quite believe I’m here, I feel so lucky to be in such breath-taking surroundings and about to embark on another marvellous adventure!
Over the next few days we see, actually not only see, but get close to and really observe so many species including Galápagos sea-lion, fur sea-lion, Galapagos hawk, oyster catcher, vermillion fly catcher, mockingbird, lava lizard, marine iguana, blue footed booby, frigate bird, brown pelican, yellow crowned night heron, Galápagos penguin, swallow-tailed gull, several species of Darwin’s finches, Nazca boobies, red footed boobies, storm petrels and a short-eared owl. From the boat and snorkelling we see vibrant fish and even a few sea turtle and manta rays.
Each day, different activities were on offer but the general pattern was an activity every morning and afternoon usually consisting of a boat trip and a nature walk, followed by a second activity such as deep-sea snorkelling, an excursion on the glass-bottomed boat, swimming and snorkelling from a beach.
More at home in the saddle than in the water I am not particularly fond of very deep water! So I opted to swim and snorkel from the beach, although I know from fellow guests that the deep water snorkelling was also excellent. Building on my snorkelling technique (well lack-of), I went out further each day and the absolute highlight of my time in the Galapagos was snorkelling from Genovesa Island where I was joined in the water by a young sea-lion. I spent nearly an hour in the water observing this young sea-lion as it darted around me, shooting away and then coming back again for a closer look, it was so playful and curious.
Soon though, we were joined by some much larger dark shapes in the water as two mature sea-lions came to join in the fun…what an amazing experience and something that will surely stay with me for ever.
Our last night in the Galapagos is kicked off by sunset cocktails on the deck, followed by a delicious gala dinner, slideshow of pictures from the week and karaoke! Next morning it is time to say goodbye to the crew and guides who have shared this magical place with us.
Look out for the last instalment of Abbie’s Ecuador blog coming soon!