Our last full day on the Galapagos was absolutely incredible. The weather started out grey and cloudy with rough waters and meek mist, however the air was still hot and we remained optimistic as we drove to our boat for the day. Our first activity today was scuba diving, and despite the weather and not very appealing water temperatures, we all kitted up into wetsuits and jumped off the little dingy boat into the freezing water and started snorkelling. Immediately we saw a seal, playing at the edge of the water. It was trying to cool down by floating in the water, with it’s flipper in the air to catch some wind, as it’s flippers act like radiators. It being the Galapagos meant we could get so close to the seal, we actually swam right up to it and it didn’t even move away or notice us as we watched from the water. We then decided to leave the seal in peace and carried on snorkelling, amazed at the hundreds of fish beneath us, schools of snappers, and parrot fish and huge shining blue fish. Soon we came across more seals, jumping in the water and swimming around us. We carried on all along the rock line, until we’d seen millions of fish and the temperature of the water was reaching us through our wetsuits, and then we clambered aboard the dingy and motored back to our big boat.
On board there were showers with fresh warm water, so we rinsed off, got dry and dressed and drove forty five minutes to South Island for our second excursion. The waves were so rough as we sailed to this island with water splashing all over be place, so while we stayed dried under cover indoors, Henry lay out in his swimming trunks on the sun beds that we’re getting absolutely soaked, while sea water sprayed all over him. He actually even fell asleep there until one huge wave completely covered him and he swiftly woke up and came indoors, dropping wet and freezing cold.
When we arrived at South Island, the sun had decided to come out and was shining brilliantly. As we climbed off the dingy onto the dock, there was a seal right in front of us, almost blocking the path, and soon we realised there were loads underneath us too. We walked onto the island and as we were walking down the rocky path, there was a sudden realisation that there were no birds. We questioned this fact but soon we discovered why. As we walked to the edge of the island, that was raised high off the sea level, we felt seriously strong winds hit us, these are winds off the sea that are lifted up by the sheer and steep edge of the island, but never reach the island as the cliff edge just takes them upwards. As we looked down over the edge we saw thousands, if not millions of birds, swooping through the wind current, being lifted high up into the air by the strong blows, or just floating on top. They were swooping in and out of the cliffs as their nests are in holes in the cliffs and it was absolutely incredible to watch. Moreover if you literally took two, even one and a half steps back from the cliff edge, the wind was no longer there and you felt the beating heat of the sun, then step forward again and the winds hit you, tee shirts blow up and hats fly off.
As we moved further down the island, we found huge lone sea lions that had used their strong upper bodies and flippers, to climb all the way up the steep cliff edge to then lie on the edge of the island and have the strong wind hit then, so that they could cool down. There was one that we saw that was absolutely humongous, the largest sea lion I’ve ever seen that was lying so close to us. He sat up and watched us for a while, showing off his huge body, before deciding to slide all the way across the rocks in front of us. He then found a path to slide down or climb down with his flippers, all the way down the steep cliffs before finding an entrance into the sea and diving in.
As we walked back to the dock we saw so many baby sea lions, playing in the rocks, we even saw one feeding from it’s mother. We also, sadly, saw a lot of skeletons and dead sea lions, as it is drought season and the sea lion pubs wait days and days for their mums to bring back food and in this time a lot of the end up starving to death.
We arrived back at the boat with a delicious lunch waiting for us, as we sailed all the way back to our main island in the beautiful sunshine, then got the bus back to the hotel.
After delicious dinner and some rushed packing, we turned in for an early night.
The next morning the hotel staff took our luggage to the airport while we boarded the bus for our last morning’s tour. We arrived at the Charles Darwin research centre and saw how they breed and monitor the baby giant tortoises, until they are 5 years old and ready to be released into the wild. There were hundreds of them and they were absolutely tiny, it was so sweet. We then went to the area that Lonesome George was kept and learnt all about the different attempts to get him to breed with other tortoises similar to him, as he was the last one of his species, but all attempts failed – Lonesome George just wasn’t interested! So they thought… Until one of the female tortoises had babies, however tortoises can hold sperm for up to 16 years so these might not have been George’s babies, however they were born prematurely and all unfortunately died. Scientists are just waiting and holding their breaths now for another 14 years (as George died two years ago) to see if the females will eventually give birth.
Then we arrived at the airport, where we were all checked in with our luggage all ready on board. We got our boarding passes, got on the plan, had a long four hour turbulence filled flight, then landed in Quito – where we were met by our guide and driven to our hacienda, Hacienda Cusin.