Ecuador
Canal del Norte

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  • Day98

    The big booby finale

    August 12, 2015 in Ecuador ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    We were up at 5:40am for our last excursion. Many of us non-twitchers considered not bothering as it was a dinghy ride to see some birds but in the end everyone except George and Koyla made it - they missed out big time!!

    As the sun was rising we went to Black Turtle Cove on northern Santa Cruz amongst the red mangroves. We saw a few pelicans and blue footed boobies and then a tree covered in hundreds of white dots which turned out to be boobies.

    We hovered in the shallows and saw a big marble stingray, turtles and white tip reef sharks swimming back and forth. This was awesome enough but then we heard a commotion and all the birds in the tree had woken up and it was breakfast time! Hundreds of blue footed boobies swarmed as one and then divebombed into the water for sardines / anchovies. Then flew up and did it again...and again, repeatedly. Seeing that many birds flying just above us and then splashing into the water one after another was one of the most amazing things I've seen! We followed for at least 20 minutes and they were still going strong when we left. Tamara said it wasn't a common occurrence so we felt very lucky.

    The boat moved briefly to Baltra, we had breakfast and left the boat at 8:20am. We were taken to the airport, said our goodbyes to those leaving and got the free bus to the narrow boat crossing and got the $1 boat to Santa Cruz. Maya negotiated a taxi to take us plus Emma and Sabine on a highlands tour on the way to town for $10 each. Only 4 are allowed in a taxi so Maya had to get out at the checkpoints and walk across. We stopped first at Los Gemelos to see 2 huge sink hole craters on either side of the road which were full of trees in a wet, mossy forest.

    We then went to El Charo Reserve ($3; free banana!) and wandered around seeing giant tortoises (Galapagos means tortoise in Spanish) in their natural habitat. We were given wellies and definitely needed them for the muddy trails. One tortoise seemed scared and hissed as we walked past but the rest couldn't care less. We saw 2 that reared their heads and then bumped their shells together really loudly in a possible territory dispute. Anna and I climbed in old, giant shells, which are really heavy - no wonder they move so slow!!

    We then walked through a 400m lava tunnel, formed as the edges cool but the hot lava inside flows through, leaving them empty. There are loads of these throughout the island. It was mostly lit and we had to scramble over rocks and under a narrow gap at one point.

    We were then driven the rest of the 42km to Puerto Ayora and checked in to Emma's hostel: Los Amigos ($25; shared bathroom - some deranged man knocked the door down and walked in on Anna naked putting her off shared bathrooms!!). Maya and Sabine took the boat to Isabella.

    We chilled for an hour then went to Galapagos Deli for huge ice creams for $3.25 each. Then we went back to get Emma, booked our boat tickets for the next day and wandered to the Darwin Research Centre to see giant tortoises of all sizes as it's a breeding centre - sex depends on temperature that egg is incubated at!

    We had a thorough search for a cheap restaurant which wasn't just seafood. We finally found one but turns out they had no vegetables for anything I tried to order so I ended up with pasta (Tamara had told us getting supplies is a real struggle here for businesses). We were all shattered and had an early night.

    Notes on cruise:

    Itineraries are set for each boat with exact landing time allocations for each island. For the first couple of days we didn't see any other boats which was amazing. We saw other boats for the second half of the cruise but they managed it so we never walked to the same areas together so it was always just our group. There are clear trails on the island and you can't wander off. You are supposed to keep 2m from the animals but in reality they often approach you - they are completely unfazed by humans as they have no predators.

    We couldn't have asked for a nicer group to share our tour with. We had feared yuppies or kids but instead got an enthusiastic, friendly and considerate bunch who we had a great time with. Ages ranged from early twenties to sixties but the majority were our age.

    Rumours that the Galapagos will be closed to visitors in the near future are apparently untrue. On the contrary, the current president doesn't care about the impact of tourism but rather wants to exploit it. He has done great things on the mainland in improving roads, education and free healthcare however this has led to a lot of debt which he hopes to eradicate through tourism. He has recently approved plans for large-scale hotels to be built in the Galapagos which the locals are trying hard to fight.

    Another problem they face is litter coming over from the mainland in the sea as Ecuadorians (and South Americans in general from what we've seen) aren't environmentally aware.

    Favourite quotes from Tamara: I can't save you from a dominant sea lion. Sally Lightfoot crabs pronounced as cellulite craps.

    Total cost for cruise including flights = $3,632.
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Canal del Norte