Travel Blog for Fredrik and Gunnhild


Galapagos cruise day 5-8

Day 5:

We started extra early this morning, to finish our walk at Punta Moreno before the sun got too strong. We started with another visit to a mangrove forest and in addition to turtles and birds we saw lots of golden rays and eagle rays. Cool! The 2,5 km walk was entirely on 500 years old lava from an eruption from the Sierra Negra volcano (25 km away). We could also see another volcano from the path. In some areas the lava had collapsed after earthquakes, and in some of these holes there were water and vegetation. In one of them we saw 4 flamingoes and in another one several sharks were swimming around. On the lava itself there were not much animal life except lava lizards, but we saw one of them catching and eating a cricket which was quite cool. Also a Galapagos hawk flew just a couple of meters above our heads.


As soon as we got back to the boat, we got ready to go snorkeling. Again we saw several large sea turtles, and a few tiny sharks (possibly babies). We searched the sea weed for sea horses, but only found fish everywhere. Also a single penguin was swimming around in the area. We were back at the boat at 1030, and since we had no more activities this day, we decided it was beer o’clock. We relaxed on the sun deck watching the spectacular landscape and hundreds of birds diving into the sea to catch fish. We had an early lunch before reaching the rough waters on the south side of Isabela island. After lunch most of the group took a siesta in the room, while a few stayed on the sun deck watching for wildlife in the strong wind and rough sea.


At 1730 we arrived in Puerto Villamil, a small port where most of Isabela’s almost 3000 inhabitants live. It was strange to be this close to civilisation again, but we stayed on the boat the entire evening. The water was really clear, so while waiting for dinner we stayed on the sundeck watching turtles, sea lions and several Galapagos sharks swim by. We even saw 4 male sea turtles mating with one female just a few meters from the boat. Felix, the chef, brought us some popcorn, since it was longer than normal between lunch and dinner. After dinner we showed the edited GoPro videos to the rest of the group, before going down to the swimming platform in the back. We brought torches and could see hundreds of small fish flocking around the light. Even more sharks swam by, and several sea lions were playing around, sometime so close that we could have touched them. Even though we have seen hundreds of them, we’re still fascinated.

Day 6:


We went ashore in Puerto Villamil where a minivan was waiting for us. It took us to a Giant tortoise breeding center, where we arrived just in time for feeding. There are 10 different tortoise spieces on Isabela, but several of them are almost extinct. In the past both pirates and whalers took thousands of tortoises on board their ships. Since they can survive for a long time without water and food, they were a source of fresh meat. Additionally introduced animals like dogs, cats, donkeys and goats destroy nests, kill baby tortoises and eat the same food. Tortoises born in the breeding center are protected there until they are 8 years old, before they are released into the wild again. It was fun to see the newborn tortoises and the different spieces, but the museum was outdated.

We had a short stop at a flamingo lake on our way to Sierra Negra Volcano (the second largest in the world). It was raining when we arrived, and the visibility was very bad. After walking on a muddy path for 40 minutes, we arrived at the viewpoint, where we could only see a few meters. Back in the van we ate our box lunch, and went back to the city, where we had more than 3 hours to do whatever we wanted. Some went swimming or snorkeling, and a couple rented bikes. We walked around the in the city center, did some shopping (we were almost out of sunscreen) and had a couple of beers in a local bar. At the pier there were several marine iguanas, sea lions laying on benches and anywhere in the shadow and we also saw a few eagle rays swimming by.


Back at the boat a few went for a swim and jumping from the dingy, and in the evening we enjoyed another wildlife show behind the boat. Several reef sharks, a sea turtle and three sea lions chasing and catching fish. It’s amazing how fast they can move!

Day 7:


During the night we had sailed to Floreana island and our first landing was at Punta Cormorant. We started at a brown sand beach with green olivine crystals. There were several sea lions on the beach and playing in the water, and even a couple of penguins. Several birds were sitting on a cliff, among them a young and fluffy blue footed boobie. We stopped at a lagoon where several flamingos where walking around, making a lot of noise. They even walked on land so that we could really see their long legs. On the other side there was a beautiful white sand beach with lots of turtle nests, and a sea-lion relaxing in one of them. A few turtles were relaxing in the shallow waters, along with several stingrays looking for food.


After a short stop back at the boat we were ready for the famous Devil’s Crown, the best snorkeling spot in the Galapagos according to lonely planet. It’s 3 small islets surrounded by coral reefs and millions of fish. The currents are quite strong so most of us needed a lift in the dingy (or behind it holding a rope) between the islets. The water was really clear, and there were fish in all sizes and colors wherever you looked. A few sea lions were playing around, and we saw a couple of gigantic stingrays in addition to a smaller eagle ray. The crew could hardly get us out of the water. Spectacular!


We had one more short stop in Post Office Bay, only 20 minutes away, where whalers used to leave mail in a barrel for other boats to pick up if they were headed in the right direction. The barrel is now used by tourists, and we picked up a card to be delivered in Asker, only a kilometer from where Fredrik lives. A bit higher up the ruins of a Norwegian fish canning factory is found. It was very successful for a short time until the dry period when there was no food or water available for the workers.


After lunch we started our 4 hour journey to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island. Shortly after we were joined by a group of large dolphins swimming and jumping around the boat. We also saw several albatrosses flying close to the boat. We arrived in Puerto Ayora at 4 pm, walked through the main street before sitting down at one of our favourite bars for a couple of drinks with a few of the other passengers. Back at the boat the crew had prepared for a farewell dinner. They were all dressed up, the table was decorated with vegetables formed as Galapagos animals, the owners of the boat were visiting and Wilma served farewell cocktails. We had another amazing dinner, shared contact information, took some group photos and ate way too much cake. After packing our bags we rounded off the evening with a couple of beers on the sun deck while discussing the highlights of the trip.

Day 8:


We got up at 6 am to watch the bird life while sailing around the island Daphne Mayor. Finally everyone got pictures of blue footed boobies, and lots of Nazca boobies were also sitting on the cliffs. We went to the airport at 8 am where we said goodbye to everyone, and left for Guayaquil at 10 am.


In summary, the cruise was above and beyond all our expectations. Even though we had read about the large number of animals and how close you could get to them, we were amazed every single day. We learned so much about them, from the guide of course, but also by watching them from the boat and on land. We were never hungry during the cruise. Chef Felix made 3 meals per day, often 2 or 3 courses. We had a new egg dish for breakfast every day, and whenever we got back from landings/snorkeling we were served a juice or a hot drink (also different every day) and some sort of snack (from pizza to Yucca bread with honey). The entire crews were amazing, attending our every need, but at the same time laughing and having fun. And the passengers worked really well together, looking after each other, sharing stories and knowledge, laughing a lot and having the time of our lives!


Galapagos cruise day 3-4

Day 3:


Our first landing was in Tagus Cove on Isabela Island, where the landing area was covered in old graffiti (name and year) from before it was declared a national park. We walked past Darwin Lake, a beautiful but dead brackish lake. We walked up to a viewpoint, but there was not much to see on the way. The island was very dry, and we mainly saw small birds, a few lizards and some grasshoppers. On the way back to the boat we sailed along the shore, and saw several golden rays, two sea turtles mating a meter from the boat, a sea-lion and several large birds. The penguins that lives there was nowhere to be found though. A bit later we snorkelled in the same area, and we could definitly feel the cold stream the penguins like. The visibility was not very good, but we still saw a couple of sea turtles and quite a bit of fish.


In the afternoon we went ashore at Punta Espindza on Fernandina Island. We were welcomed by a lot of jumping fish and a Galapagos hawk. This place was above all expectations. We knew there was a colony of marine iguanas, but didn’t expect thousands of them. They were literary everywhere, often in large groups very close to and often on top of each other. You really needed to watch your step here. In between all the iguanas, there were also a few sea lions, some lizards, sea turtles, birds (Galapagos dove, Oyster catcher etc) and another whale skeleton. We spent a lot of time watching three young sea lions play around in the sand and shallow waters, rolling in the sand and doing acrobatics in the water. On the way back we saw two more hawks, and the first one had bitten the head off a baby iguana and was flying around holding it in his claws. Probably the best site visited so far!


In the evening there was a lot of activity around the boat, but it was difficult to see anything in the dark. Several people found flashlights, which seemed to attract even more sea life. Since the flashlights worked best close to the water, we ended the evening hanging out of our cabin windows watching huge turtles, squids, fish and even a sea-lion catching and eating a sea snake. Really fun!


Day 4:


After an early breakfast we went to Urbina bay at Isabela Island, and finally we found lots of penguins. They were swimming around the boat and a few were standing on land drying in the wind. We went for a walk and passed a young tortoise laying in the middle of the path. It had 14 “rings” on it’s carapace (shell), which means it was 14 years old. We also saw a carapace of a dead tortoise about the same size in addition to several large land iguanas, lots of birds as always and another tortoise eating poisonous (not to them) apples from a tree.

We were quite eager to get back to the beach to snorkle, hoping the penguins were still there. Luckily they were, and they were swimming all around us when we got in the water. We were really surprised by how fast they were moving in the water. One of the videos we recorded looks like fast forward. Crazy! We also saw a gigantic sea turtle. Gunnhild was swimming above it, and was clearly the shortest one of the two. Out in the deeper parts of the bay we found more sea turtles, and a very curious sea-lion also came to check us out (or just to show off it’s swimming skills). On the way back to shore we saw two large lobsters and even more penguins. What a great experience!


In the afternoon we did some more whale watching while sailing to Elizabeth bay (Isabela island). Still no whales, but plenty of turtles. After lunch we took a dingy ride into the mangrove forest. Some of the mangroves are actually like big trees, close to 10 meters high. Never seen anything like it! There were penguins, turtles, fish and sea lions swimming around, and large pelicans and other birds sitting in the mangroves. In this area the sea lions actually sleep in trees, on large branches in the mangrove forest. Lots of penguins and cormorants were relaxing on a tiny islet we passed on our way back. In the evening we gathered on the sun deck to see the beautiful sunset.


Galapagos cruise day 1-2

20141204-1It was finally time for the “real” Galapagos, the uninhabited islands and the areas that can only be reached by boat. We met the rest of our group (12 in total) at the airport, and travelled by bus to the harbour, where our home for the next week were anchored. Angelito I has 8 passenger cabins, a crew of 8, a social/dinner/bar area on the second deck and a large sun deck on top. Our cabin was quite large with several cabinets and a surprisingly big bathroom. We were very lucky with our group, and quickly became friends. Dave and Jan, Alex and Catherine were from England, Rosemary and Tony from Australia, Max from Germany, Ann from France (but living in Australia) and Ashley (US) and Yuri (Spain) both lived in Ecuador.

The Galapagos are an isolated group of volcanic islands about 1000 km from the Ecuador mainland on and close to the equator. The earliest islands visible today were formed 4 to 5 million years ago by underwater volcanoes erupting. Until the discovery of the islands in 1535, the flora and fauna evolved in isolation, producing unique species not found anywhere else in the world. Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1835, and his observations here are a big part of his theory of evolution.

Day 1:

Blue Footed BoobiesBlue footed Boobies

We had one landing the first day on Playa Las Bachas, located in the north of Santa Cruz island. We were welcomed ashore by blue-footed boobies and pelicans, and on the walk along the beach we saw several marine iguanas, a couple of flamingos, frigatebirds, hundreds of crabs, yellow warbler and several other birds. Most of the passengers went for a swim before heading back to the boat. We anchored for the night outside the island Baltra, and had a great evening on the sundeck getting to know the rest of the group, while around 20 large frigatebirds were circling over the boat.

Red Crab20141207-1-5

Day 2:

Sea Lion20141208-1-7

Before lunch we visited Mosquera Islet, where there was a large sea-lion colony, and several of them were circling the boat when we arrived. We saw hundreds of sea lions here, one was only about a week old and several were still nursed by their mothers. I think we all could have watched the young ones play in the water and on the beach all day. So cute! A large whale skeleton was laying on the beach (parts gathered by the guides) and there were plenty of birds and lizards.

Lava Lizard20141208-1-6

Back on the boat we got our wet suites and snorkelling equipment while watching sharks swim around the boat. We were snorkelling along the shore of North Seymore, and finally remembered to bring our GoPro. That was smart because we saw 3 white-tipped sharks, sea lions, a fur seal and plenty of fish. Amazing! We had some time before the next landing, and spent most of it on the sun deck watching for wildlife. This time several frigatebirds were hitch-hiking on top of antennas and ropes to the next island while we were watching sea turtles around the boat.

In the afternoon we went to Dragon Hill, where we saw several marine iguanas at the beach, and stilts and other birds in a lagoon on the way to a viewpoint. The sand here was very red, and it looked like we all had sun burned feet, but luckily the “sunburn” washed off easily. We walked through a cactus forest and saw a few large land iguanas partly hidden, but on the way back one of them was nice enough to cross the path right in front of us, and even take a break so that we could all take a few photos of it.


We stopped for dinner outside Rabida Island, and spent the evening on deck whale watching (without seeing any whales), talking, laughing, watching a beautiful moon rise and sharing some Norwegian aquavite in the dark. What an amazing day! We fell asleep to the sound of the engine, since we had 12 hours of sailing to do before breakfast. We crossed the equator twice during the night.


Puerto Ayora

PanchoThe 3,5 hour flight from Quito via Guaiaquil to Galapagos took a bit longer than planned, and with the delayed departure we arrived in Galapagos around 1 pm, 1,5 hours late. The airport was quite efficient, except for the very manual baggage system. In addition dogs were checking every suitcase for biological contents, so it took some time. Outside our pre booked taxi driver, Pancho, was waiting. He secured us good seats on the bus to the canal, carried both our suitcases onto the first and fastest boat and into his taxi that was parked on the other side (all taxis are white pickup trucks). In total it took about 1 hour from the airport to Puerto Ayora where we were staying. The trip was a good introduction to Galapagos, with sea lions at the canal, a few large turtles along the road and the outskirts of town, and several totally different landscapes/micro climates on the trip across the island of Santa Cruz. Pancho provided a lot of information and took us on a short sightseeing in the city to show us what we needed to know.

WildlifeWe stayed at the Galapagos cottages, the former location of Tip Top Diving. The first night we were the only guests and had the pool and the backyard all to ourselves. The cottage itself had two floors including a kitchen, a livingroom, two bathrooms, a bedroom and a balcony with a table, chairs and a hammock. Luxury! It is located a few minutes walk from the main street on the quiet road to Tortuga Bay.

Puerto Ayora is not a very good looking city, but it has a laid-back charm. Opening hours etc was a bit confusing, and our conclusion was that they were open when it suited them. Most stores sold a little bit of everything. Beer, chocolate and Panama hats was a normal combination. Also the pizzeria served fresh lobster, and the fish restaurant offered hamburgers and taco.

Fish MarkedYou could expect to see wild animals anywhere in the city, mainly iguanas on the sidewalk, smaller lizards on fences and walls, sea lions on piers and rocks, and pelicans and other birds all along the shore. The most fascinating spot was probably the fish market, where boats delivered live lobsters and fresh fish all day. The fish was prepared on site, and several sea lions, pelicans and other birds were begging for leftovers.

Our main reason for staying in Puerta Ayora was to get our PADI Open Water certification. We had completed the theory before we arrived using eLearning, and had booked the training with Tip Top Diving. Our instructor, Jorge, met us at our place and we walked to their new facility. After some paperwork and a theory quiz we found the equipment we needed, had a short briefing and assembled our own scuba kits. We spent about two hours in the pool going through all the tasks needed. Since we had some experience from previous introduction dives, we mastered the skills quickly, even though a lot of them were new to us. Jorge were very pleased and we had a great time.

DivingOn the second day we were ready to practice our skills in open water. We drove to the dock, and took a small boat to Punta Estrada, our training site for the day. We had two dives to 11 meters, in total about 70 minutes. In addition we practised some skills in the surface. We saw a 1,5 metre white tipped reef shark, lots of barracuda and other fish and had a sea lion circling around us. The visibility wasn’t great, but all in all two amazing dives. We really felt that the training in the pool and the fine tuning of the weights/trim had a huge impact. We felt very much in control, moved very easily and used very little air compared to previous dives. On the way back to shore we saw Angelito I (our boat for the Galapagos cruise), and loads of sea lions.

HooveringOn the 3rd and final day of our training, we took the same boat to Caamaño Islet, where we had two dives to 18 meters. This day Jorge mainly observed, and we handled all the equipment ourselves. He still gave us some advice on small things to improve though. We also had some final skills to practice, like navigation and emergency ascent. We were diving with a big group of sea lions, saw a stingray and hundreds of colorful fish. Jorge was more than satisfied and we were officially certified divers! We celebrated with a glass of Norwegian aquavit. ☺

We had the afternoons off after scuba training, and also one extra day before starting our cruise. We spent some of this time relaxing in the back yard, had some excursions and walked around most of the city centre. We tasted local chocolate, ice cream and coffe, bought sun hats and other things we needed for the cruise, watched a dance parade in the main street, kids enjoying the city “train” and sea lion families sleeping at the pier. One afternoon we walked by a burning house. Half the city was there, and the hospital across the street had gurney ready on the sidewalk. People were moving shelves and anything of value from the closest stores into the the street while waiting for the fire trucks. Everyone were helping with the hoses and the fire were put out without anyone being hurt as far as we could see.

Tortuga BayWe had a short visit at the Charles Darwin Research Station. It had a couple of museums, several tortoise enclosures and lots of local vegetation. Other sights are more interesting. We also walked the 3 km trail to Tortuga bay, where there’s a long sandy beach with strong currents (not suited for swimming, but popular among surfers) and a shorter, more protected beach for swimming. There were lots of marine iguanas, crabs and large sea birds and we also saw a few sea lions. The beach was full of tracks from hatching turtles, but the bay is closed in the night when they come ashore. The trail was very nice, but longer than expected.

TortoiseOne afternoon we booked Pancho for a trip to the highlands, where we visited Los Gemelos, which looked like volcano craters, but are actually sinkholes. Our next stop was the lava tubes, tunnels formed  by the solidifying of the outside of the lava flow. We walked from one end to the other, more than a kilometer. In some parts they were huge and in other parts we had to crawl. Very cool experience! At El Chato Tortoise Reserve, wild giant tortoises were wandering around, most of them in the area available to tourists, but we also saw several of them in other areas, and even had to stop for one crossing the road. Beautiful animals that it was really nice to see up close like this. Before going back we had a beer at the ranch, and Fredrik bought some Galapagos coffee to bring back to Norway.