Galapagos (PART 2) – On Board the Fragata + San Cristobal Island

Please read: Galapagos (PART 1) – On Board the Golindrina! for the first 4 days of this trip.

https://leaveapproved.com/2019/05/06/galapagos-part-1-on-board-the-golindrina/

We continued the following 4 days aboard the Fragata following the same tour itinerary below…

WesternItinerary

Day 5
After an early breakfast our fellow Golindrina group members depart by dinghies as we wave them farewell. Not long after, it’s our turn to disembark. The Golindrina dinghy dropped us at the pier in Puerto Ayora (#9 on the map) to visit the Charles Darwin Station. First we were met by our new guide, Jorge, who gave us a quick overview of the town centre and left us to explore. Jorge reunited with us further up the road with the rest of our new Fragata group (11 in total, including us).

At the Charles Darwin Station. we visited the baby tortoises which are being hatched in captivity, raised for 5 years and then released into the wild. This system has greatly increased their survival rate as their main predators are only harmful to eggs or baby tortoises. Charles Darwin Station is also home to Lonesome George, the last tortoise of his species, and we were told Speilberg’s inspiration for E.T. We finished our tour with a quick visit to the information centre.

After playing in the visitor centre, we walked back into town and had a bit more free time before going to the boat. We saw a sea lion that seemed to be waiting for their boat too…

When we arrived on board, we were assigned rooms. Again, we got cabin #7, which is on the main deck. The room was significantly larger with twin beds rather than bunks and more spacious. We unpacked and then it was time to head back to Puerto Ayora where we took a bus to the Highlands (#10 on the map). Our first stop was a underground lava tunnel.

Our main stop was to visit a ranch that had many tortoises and learnt more about these creatures from our guide.

The bus took us back to town and we had enough time to buy an ice cream each. Back on board the Fragata, we received our welcome cocktail, were formally introduced to the crew, had dinner and retired to our cabin as it navigated most of the night back towards Isabela Island.

Day 6
We were woken at 5:30am by the crew and their bell. By 6am, we were in the dinghies heading towards the lava rocks just off the coast of Isabela (#10 on the map). We went for a short walk to see the marine iguanas (not very exciting as we’d seen several earlier in the trip), but a pleasant short walk.

Soon after, we changed into our swimwear and got given our snorkel gear. By 7am, we were back in the dinghies heading towards the rocks again for a snorkel. We saw more sea turtles, sea lions and some baby fish (including a large school of baby puffer fish). Kadin also spotted a stingray…


After our snorkel we had a quick shower and then breakfast. There wasn’t a lot of time before we headed out again. This time we landed at the main jetty and boarded a truck taxi. It took us out of town and dropped us near a lake that’s home to flamingos. However, there was only one lonely flamingo in the lake. It was pretty cool watching it fish.


We then walked back towards the town. On the way we stopped at another tortoise breeding centre (#12 on the map) where we get to see many more baby tortoises that had been hatched in captivity and will eventually be released into the wild. We saw a few adult tortoises mating.


Our walk towards town went via a boardwalk through the mangroves. We saw many different birds and a group of flamingos during the walk.

We ended at the beach where we had 40 minutes before our taxi truck would take us back to the main jetty. Kadin and I checked out the beach for a bit and then spotted a shack selling cold drinks. We purchased a chilled coconut to share, it was massive (possibly holding 1.5-2 litres of coconut water), we couldn’t finish it before our ride arrived.


We took the dinghy back to the Fragata and had lunch. On the way we saw some interesting captains of one of the neighbouring boats in the bay. We also saw many Galapagos Penguins on the rocks with an imposter there too.

Later we went back to Isabela again, this time the taxi truck takes us to another mangrove area (#13 on the map) – there was another option to go to ‘The Wall of Tears’ but it was a 10km return trip and not easily achievable in the time we had to visit. So, our guide took us to several places nearby. Kadin went for a swim between the mangroves. Jorge also showed us another lava tunnel, this one was filled with salt water as it is linked to the ocean. Supposedly, this was a place the early explorers held many tortoises before loading them onto the ships as food.

After walking around this area, we went back to the main jetty by taxi and had over an hour there before going back to the boat. We enjoyed an ice cream from the shop and had a swim with the sea lions. Later that night after dinner, Jorge put on Attenborough films about the Galapagos… it’s pretty cool when you realise you’ve seen most of the animals and places in real life. Attenborough was even standing next to the lava tunnel that we’d visited that afternoon.

Day 7
We awoke the next morning just off Rabida Island (#15 on the map). After breakfast, we hopped into the dinghies with our snorkelling gear and landed on the beach. First, we went for a walk around the island.

After admiring the different landscape of red sand beaches, we changed into our swimwear and got into the dinghy. We went around the point and snorkelled our way back to the beach. The current was pretty strong going around the point. Jorge pointed out a stone fish resting on the rock -it was unbelievably camouflaged! When we got to the red sand and rocks of Rabida we tried looking for seahorses. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any.

We returned to the Fragata for another 2-hour navigation to Dragon Hill, Santa Cruz Island (#16 on the map). We had lunch on board before taking the dinghy to shore. We went for another hike. This time it was quite muddy and it rained a bit. We saw a heap more land iguanas and insects. After our walk we went snorkelling straight off the beach. The visibility wasn’t very good, but the water was really warm, so I ended up enjoying a swim instead.

Back on board, we had another navigation to a spot not far from Balta Island and the airport, this was where we stayed for the night. The crew provided us with cocktails, as it was our final night aboard. It was nice to enjoy an evening of sleep without the motors going.

Day 8 Our last day of our cruise…
We woke at 5:30am and got ourselves organised for an early morning dinghy ride around Black Turtle Cove (#17 on the map). This is a special place where many marine animals and their babies go in seek of a sheltered and shallow water. The water was super calm, and we enjoyed watching the sunrise as we set off. In the cove we saw many turtles, sharks and rays in the clear water. There were also many small fish bubbling on the surface (being chased by the sharks), which we saw pelicans scooping up by the beakful. The cove was full of life. A highlight was finally seeing the Galapagos hammerhead shark! Even though it was just a baby.

Back on board we had breakfast and then finished packing as the boat navigated into the harbour at Balta. We were bused back to the airport and awaited our luggage. As we were staying on in the Galapagos, we took the bus along with our guide and 3 others. We then went by small ferry across the straight to Santa Cruz Island. We ended up catching a minivan with our guide and the remainder of the group for $5 each. The bus dropped us off in Puerto Ayora where we were on our own for the rest of our Galapagos adventure…

5 More Days on Land
We travelled to San Cristobal by speed boat. It was a long 2-hour ride inside the cabin, the bow slamming against the waves as we went. At the jetty, we quickly discovered this island was home to many sea lions.

We were met by our airbnb hosts at the jetty, they drove us to our accommodation. Our room was clean and tidy, but unfortunately the ‘kitchen’ that was going to save us eating out for the 5 days lacked a stove top, kettle or toaster. It did have a microwave which meant we could manage a few things. Feeling exhausted from travel we decided to eat out that night. The town seemed pretty run-down but we found a cheap local eatery, and both ended up with massive meals for $6 each. There seemed to be a lack of supermarkets (although it was Easter weekend) and the little convenient stores were quite expensive when it came to buying things to cook ourselves, so we decided we’d eat out for most meals.

SushiBar

The second day we started slowly. We wandered around the town and found an incredible sushi bar that had very refreshing mojitos and fresh and tasty sushi rolls. After lunch, we walked around the town a bit more. The town had plenty of statues and topiary shrubs. But the buildings were quite run-down and there weren’t many people around, including tourists.

The next day we walked to the beaches in the north. It was a scenic walk and there were lots of beautiful spots to go snorkelling. Unfortunately, we didn’t have snorkels, but we enjoyed our takeaway bakery lunch, looking down into the clear water, spotting the tropical fish. There were some pelicans nesting on one of the banks too.

We attempted to book a day trip to Espanola Island (in the south) to see the albatrosses, but it turned out that it was completely booked out for all of April. Instead, for the next two days, we just relaxed without steady wifi… Kadin and I managed to finish a few books between us. We also got on top of all our washing (done by hand in the sink) and completed a series on Netflix that we had downloaded. Feeling refreshed, we boarded our flight in San Cristobal back to Quito. Next stop… Cuba!

Have fun at work!
Gemma

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