Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Galápagos, Part 2: Swimming with sharks, etc.

The last part of my Galápagos trip was on Isabela Island, the largest island in the Galápagos with five active volcanoes. (It's the island on the map that looks sort of like a seahorse.)

I flew to Isabela from San Cristobal on this 8-seater plane:

I was directly behind the pilot.

(By the way, I WALKED to the aiport in 15 minutes in San Cristobal and WALKED from the airport to the town of Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island in ~25 minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever walked to or from an airport in my life.)

I stayed in the town of Puerto Villamil, which is tiny and relaxed, with a dirt road as the main road. Using Puerto Villamil as a base, I went on three excursions, one hike around Sierra Negra Volcano and two snorkeling + animal-viewing trips. 

The Sierra Negra Volcano was active in 2005! This volcano doesn’t spew lava like Mt. St. Helens, rather it sort of just gurgles lava when it’s active. When it was active in 2005, people could still hike around the crater and observe it. This is a picture of our guide Daniel (originally from Quito) in front of the enormous crater with a diameter of ~10 miles (the 2nd largest in the world).

On my snorkeling excursions I swam with sharks, sea lions, sea turtles, seahorses and more!

I swam with this shark! The sea lions were my favorite. They swam in circles around me and one looked at me directly in the eyes as if s/he wanted to play. (Sadly, no pictures of this.)

I saw many more animals endemic or unique to the islands, including the blue footed booby, the Galápagos penguin, and the famous giant tortoises. Also rare animals like flamingos.

Above is a nest with two baby blue footed boobies, which don't yet have blue feet (they get them after puberty... that is, if they survive through puberty; usually only one of the two babies survives to adulthood). Here's a short video I took of a booby "in action"!

After my time on Isabela Island, I took a speedboat back to the island where I started my trip - Santa Cruz - and spent about 24 hours visiting its beaches, lava tunnels, huge inland craters and the Charles Darwin Research Station before flying back to mainland Ecuador. 

In total, I spent time on three different islands: San Cristóbal, Isabela and Santa Cruz, and flew in and out of a fourth island Baltra. Even though I really enjoyed my time on the farm with the family in San Cristóbal, Isabela was my favorite island. I loved the wildlife, the gorgeous views, the volcanoes and the tour guides, who managed to be champions of the islands while at the same time being laid back and friendly (all the guides were Ecuadoreans). 

I am now back in Quito. Quito is a great city and there's a lot to explore here in mainland Ecuador, but I'm having a little bit of post-Galápagos depression. It's hard to say goodbye to such a unique place.


slmcanal said...

I love the blue footed booby. Is that a picture of an adult one on your last blog? You'll probably be bored in any city from now on. I bet that place would make anyone love nature.

Unknown said...

Looks like a wonderful place. You got to swim with the tortoises too. They are magnificent creatures.

Christine Gardner said...

Pretty cool. I'm pretty sure that plane ride would prevent me from traveling so adventurously. You're very brave.

Julia M. said...

@slmcanal Yes, the blue-footed booby made an appearance in the previous blog :-)

@"unknown" :P Yes, it was so cool to see the sea tortoises under water! The guide had an underwater camera so we got photos!

@christine I thought about you on that flight. There's always valium...

A said...

@chris..or wine or get out of canton I fly on these planes..not that scary.

Sea turtle vs tortoise (land animal), no?

Where is the next stop? I have an extra bedroom and papers you can grade!

Julia M. said...

You're probably right about tortoise vs. turtle. I wasn't sure. @Chris Does Carol know??

Sure, I'll come visit -- A's for all of your students!! (Or F's... then your office hours would be PACKED!)

Blogging about Quito again now... I'm already in a new town: Otavalo.