Part 1: A dream come true
It’s time! That's the first thing I think when I wake up early in the morning at the Hotel del Parque, a beautiful hotel in Guayaquil, Ecuador. When I get out of my room I immediately feel that I have ended up in a tropical climate. The past few days I have mainly travelled through the Andes and yesterday I arrived in Guayaquil for the start of a new adventure. A dream for years that is finally coming true; this week I will visit the Galapagos Islands!
A warm welcome
After breakfast we are brought to the airport of Guayaquil. Here we meet a friendly employee of Ecoventura, the shipping company with whom I will explore the Galapagos archipelago in the coming days. As soon as we leave Guayaquil we fly over the Pacific Ocean and I realize that we are going to an archipelago that is far away from everything, very special. During the flight we get to see a nice short movie in which regels van de Galapagos are explained.
We are welcomed by our guides Yvonne and Gustavo. Together we travel in a small van with the group to the port of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Here I already see the first traces of animal life. We are welcomed by seals and bright orange crabs crawl between the rocks.
The MV Origin
Once we arrive at the ship we are welcomed by the General Manager of our cruise, Jennifer, also known as Jenny. While our suitcases are being brought to our rooms we get a short explanation about the ship and how everything works. After this we are assigned to our cabins. The MV Origin consists of 10 spacious cabins (approx. 13.5 m2), all located on the same deck. The cabins have a double bed or two single beds and a large window that gives a good view over the sea.
It is my first time to stay on a ship for a longer period of time. The ship is not large and therefore less stable at sea. My balance organ has to get used to this. Fortunately, in the evening I will notice that I am already more used to it and a little later I won't be bothered by it at all.
The first introduction to the Archipelago
After lunch we are immediately taken along for our first introduction to one of the many special islands in this archipelago. We have a so-called 'dry landing' on Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The terms 'dry and wet landing' are often used here. This indicates whether we arrive dry or wet on the island we are going to visit. From Puerto Baquerizo Moreno we are taken by bus to the freshwater lagoon of El Junco.
El Junco is a crater of an extinct volcano. With an area of 60.000 m2 the content of this lagoon can reach as much as 360.000 m3 of water. The lagoon is only filled by rainwater. This allows the water level to drop between 1 and 3 meters during the dry period. In times of heavy rainfall, the crater can in fact overflow.
To reach the lagoon we have to climb a little bit on a narrow path. Once at the top of the lagoon we feel the wind through our hair. It's a bit foggy so we can't fully enjoy the view, but still it feels very special to be here. Our guides know the area well and tell us more about the birds that come here, like the Galápagostiran. Besides knowing the area well, they are also very involved and therefore tell us more about some of the problems the area has to deal with. An example is the introduction of new plant species by the arrival of all tourists. Unconsciously, for example, seeds and pollen are brought to the islands by the arrival of humans, which causes new plants to grow. However, these plants are difficult to control and can unfortunately disrupt the ecosystem.
In addition, they tell us the difference between the concepts of indigenous and endemic. We will use these words a lot in the coming days. Indigenous means that something occurs naturally in a certain area, i.e. without human influence. This is possible for both fauna and flora. Endemic means that a certain life form only occurs naturally in a certain area. For example, a certain bird species can be indigenous to the Galapagos Islands and endemic to a specific island.
A successful first day
After a visit to the lagoon we return to our ship. After a hot shower we are expected in the lounge area of the MV Origin for the instructions for the next day. We are told what the program will look like and through the screen we already get a little preview.
After the instructions it is time for a welcome dinner with the captain of the ship. At the moment the MV Origin is the only cruise connected to Relais & Chateaux, so we are not lacking anything on a culinary level. While we enjoy an excellent dinner and a lot of fun in the evening, we sail further northeast to Punta Pitt for our adventure of tomorrow!
Day 2: A visit to Punta Pitt and Cerro Brujo
It takes some getting used to sleeping on a ship, but fortunately most people (including me) slept well. After the extensive breakfast buffet we are allowed to fit and prepare our snorkelling equipment for the next few days. After this it is time for our first 'wet landing'. We sail with the panga's towards the beach of Punta Pitt. We climb out of the panga and walk through the sea to the beach. Here we have to wipe our sand feet and put our shoes back on for a walk to the top.
Curious San-Cristóbal mockingbird and the Sally lightfoot crab
We walk on a beach that looks almost pearly white, but nothing could be further from the truth. Our nature guide Gustavo grabs a bit of the sand on his palm and soon we see that it's greenish, this is because of the mineral olivine. We look around us and admire the deserted beach. Soon the San Cristóbal mockingbird comes curiously towards us, an endemic bird species of the island of San Cristóbal. The rules regarding the 2 metres distance we have to keep from animals are hard to follow here. The small birds just come towards us and almost look us in the eyes. The guides ask us to stay calm, pay attention to how we walk and especially to enjoy how the little birds are coming towards us. I myself thought I didn't like birds very much, of course I always thought it was special to see toucans, macaws, flamingos and so on, but now that I can get so close to this little bird, I find this very special to experience.
Via a path we walk towards the top of the island, between the rocks we sometimes see a lizard. There is not much shade, so the sun's rays are burning on my head. Luckily there is a fine sea breeze. We reach a nice view point, from where we see our cruise. Along the way we see no less than three different kinds of gannets (the blue-foot / gannet, the red-footed gannet and the Nazca gannet) and two kinds of frigate birds. Because of the drought on the island many bushes seem 'dead'. In fact, these shrubs lose their leaves and turn grey during the dry season to keep themselves alive. However, here and there we also see plants with a beautiful red colour, almost reminiscent of coral and yellow leaves.
After we looked around we return to the stand where we encounter brightly coloured Sally Lightfoot crabs (Grapsus grapsus). We are brought back to the ship where we can pick up our snorkelling equipment and snorkel in the waters of the Galapagos for the first time. Before we dive into the water we see a lava gull, which reminds a bit of a pigeon. Once in the water I come close to a curious seal and I see several fish, like the Holacanthus passer and a large colony of doctor fish. Before we return aboard our ship we take another walk along the beach. A seal takes a nap on a rock and as soon as we pass by he waves his flipper, as if he wants to say hello to us. A beautiful scene.
Seals on Cerro Brujo
While I take a hot shower in my own cabin, the crew is already busy preparing lunch. While lunch is being served, we sail on to Cerro Brujo. After our siesta we get back into the panga and sail through a large opening in the rocks. This place is also called the cathedral. Again we spot some birds, including pelicans. It seems almost impossible to sail through the rocks, but our captain steers us deftly through it. Then with a wet landing we reach the white coral sand beach of Cerro Brujo. Again we are the only guests on this deserted beach. We come across dozens of seals taking a quiet nap on the beach or puppies looking for milk from their mothers. After enjoying the beach and its friendly residents we return to the ship with panga.
Would you like to visit the Galapagos Islands yourself and are you curious about the possibilities? Then take a look at the travel itineraries that we have put together for inspiration. You can book these trips directly, but we are also happy to create a personal programme based on your wishes and ideas.
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