Ex­plor­ing Par­adise

Sit­u­ated in the Pa­cific Ocean, the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands boast wildlife and land­scapes found nowhere else on Earth

More of Our Canada - - Con­tents - by Deb­bie Wright, Ni­a­gara Falls, Ont.

When my daugh­ter Kaitlin called to ask if I wanted to travel to the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands, I thought what a won­der­ful way to cel­e­brate my re­tire­ment. We ar­rived in Quito, the cap­i­tal of Ecuador, on May 8, where we had time for a quick nap as we were leav­ing at 3:30 a.m. to fly to the is­land of Bal­tra. Greeted by our guide, who stayed with us for the whole tour, we took a ferry to the is­land of Santa Cruz, where we headed to board our char­ter boat, the Eden Yacht. We were trav­el­ling with a group of 14 other trav­ellers from all over the world. Right upon ar­rival, we im­me­di­ately saw a spot­ted ray in the wa­ter, as well as a brown pel­i­can and a blue-footed booby.

Af­ter in­tro­duc­tions and lunch, our first tour was back on shore at the El Chato Na­ture Re­serve, where we were walk­ing among the Gala­pa­gos gi­ant tor­toises. Th­ese gen­tle giants were munch­ing on man­gos as we walked about. We also trav­elled un­der­ground in a lava tun­nel where it was much cooler than the 25°C above ground. This tun­nel was

very in­ter­est­ing as it had a lava tube in­side it. Back on the boat for din­ner, the fol­low­ing day’s itin­er­ary was dis­cussed and we set sail for Flore­ana Is­land.

The next morn­ing, we were off to Post Of­fice Bay by 8 a.m. for a hike. In the dinghy, we passed sea lions bask­ing on the beach and blue-footed boo­bies div­ing for small fish. We hiked over lava rocks to an­other lava tun­nel. I didn’t go in as there were nar­row parts to crawl through to get to an un­der­ground pool, which Kaitlin en­joyed. While wait­ing, I spot­ted many Gala­pa­gos finches, fly­catch­ers, mock­ing­birds and lava Lizards. Never a dull mo­ment here!

We headed back to the beach where we snorkelled with Pa­cific green sea tur­tles and sea lions. It’s un­be­liev­able to be float­ing in the wa­ter with th­ese mag­nif­i­cent crea­tures! A young yel­lowcrowned night heron peeked out at us from the lava rocks as he came closer for a bet­ter look. Later in the af­ter­noon, we also snorkelled off the dinghy around the Devil’s Crown. We were care­fully try­ing to keep our dis­tance, but some­times the play­ful crea­tures came very close to us.

Later, we hiked to Cor­morant Point’s Flour Beach, made of pul­ver­ized coral, where the tur­tles come to lay their eggs and frigate­birds keep a close eye for any that hatch. There were many Sally light­foot crabs crawl­ing about the beau­ti­ful beach. We could see the spot­ted rays and green sea tur­tles swim­ming through the waves. It was amaz­ing, but we weren’t done yet! On the hike back, I saw a beau­ti­ful lava heron and then a la­goon of pink Gala­pa­gos flamin­gos feast­ing on shrimp.

At din­ner that evening, we were called to come and see some sharks—our ship was sur­rounded by hun­dreds of Gala­pa­gos sharks hunt­ing fly­ing fish. Some fish would sail out of the wa­ter and right onto the back of the ship to get away. It was like we were

in an episode of An­i­mal Planet, amaz­ing!

We sailed to Es­panola dur­ing the night, mak­ing sleep­ing dif­fi­cult as the boat en­gines were very loud. But early the next morn­ing we were headed out to ex­plore some more. We started with a hike to the cliffs of Suarez Point. Hik­ing over lava rocks, we saw marine igua­nas ev­ery­where and had to be care­ful not to step on any. Some were in their beau­ti­ful blue breed­ing colours while oth­ers were dig­ging holes for eggs. We hiked to the top of the cliffs where we saw hun­dreds of beau­ti­ful waved al­ba­tross, some sit­ting on eggs, some fly­ing and oth­ers wob­bling awk­wardly to the cliff’s edge where they jump off—wow!

Back on board for lunch, we sailed to Gard­ner Bay and had some beach time. There were so many sea lions there. While walk­ing the beach I found a small whale bone bleached white by the sun. We swam to cool off and were joined by more play­ful sea lions—what a day!

Our last morn­ing in the Gala­pa­gos be­gan with an early morn­ing snorkel around the fa­mous land­mark, Kicker Rock. What an amaz­ing place! As the sun was ris­ing we slipped into the wa­ter and swam through the chan­nel. Kaitlin said I wasn’t even in the wa­ter for five min­utes when a ham­mer­head shark swam below me and I didn’t even see it! I did see the school of silky sharks, how­ever, as well as more spot­ted rays, jelly fish, sea lions and many other fish. It was the most un­be­liev­able swim ever!

Back on board for break­fast, we sailed to Santa Cruz and made a quick stop at the Gala­pa­gos na­ture park’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion cen­tre for a his­tory tour be­fore head­ing off to the air­port. What an in­cred­i­ble trip! Although I could cross the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands off my bucket list—i think I may have to go back! ■

Clock­wise from far left: Suarez Point on the pris­tine Es­pañola Is­land; a marine iguana; a blue-footed booby; a Sally light­foot crab.

Clock­wise from top left: Deb­bie (left) and Kaitlin en­joy­ing their ad­ven­ture; Kicker Rock at 6 a.m.; a Pa­cific green sea tur­tle; sea lions.

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