|I spent most of the day travelling to Santa Cruz, one of 13 large islands (there are also over 100 small islands) in the Galapagos. The Galapagos Islands, where Charles Darwin formulated his theory on natural selection, is a Province of Ecuador located 800 kilometers west of the Ecuadorian coast. I took a 3 hour domestic flight, a bus, a ferry, another bus and then a water taxi to our boat. Ian, Graham (Ian's dad) and I were confused the entire day. No one from GAP met us when we arrived at the airport. We did met other people (a couple in their late 30's from Holland and a 60 something Australian man) who were being picked up by a GAP representative, but going to a different boat. We ended up going with them in order to meet up with our group.
Before making our way to our boat we had lunch with the Dutch couple and the Auzzie on their boat. As we were eating, we noticed several people wandering the ship who were about 70 years old and older. We all started laughing and teasing the others that they were on the geriatric boat. Well guess what? After lunch Graham, Ian and I learned that we were on the same boat as the others! Yup, I feel like I'm going on vacation with my grandparents. As it turns out, I may as well have brought my dad with me:)
Considing Ecuador is a developing country, I'm very impressed with how serious the governemnt is about preserving the Galapagos' ecosystem. All our luggage was searched before we left the airport in Quito and upon arrival at the Galapagos. They even physically searched our hand carried luggage as well. Due to their efforts, about 95% of the species of the Galapagos are still here today.
No rest for the wicked! Immediately after lunch we went to the Charles Darwin Research Centre. Basically, the centre describes the history of the islands, inhabited wildlife and the challenges the islands face. They also have a giant turtle breeding program where turtles are bred in captivity and released in the wild when they are 10 years of age and able to fend for themselves. Each island has a different species of turtles. The centre has been successful in breeding all species except those from Pinto Island. Only one turtle, named `Lonesome George', has been found from Pinto. The centre has been endlessly searching for mate, but has been unsuccessful to date. One interesting thing I learned is that turtles don't mate until they are 30!
I then spent the late afternoon strolling through the town of Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the Galapagos with a population of 10,000. On my way back to the pier to meet up with my group, I walked through a demonstration. Taxi drivers had blocked the streets with their vehicles and people were protesting along the harbour. Apparently, five days ago a taxi driver was arrested and thrown in jail when two passengers were seen smoking in the back of his cab. He's still in jail - harsh!
Being in the Galapagos is like walking into the pages of National Geographic. About 80% of the land birds, 97% of the reptiles and land mammals, 30% of the plants and more than 20% of the marine species in Galapagos are found nowhere else on earth. This is such a special place. Where else can you observe animals, who do not fear humans, in their nature habitat? Each island is a little world unto itself with its own distinctive character, terrain, climate, and wildlife.
I'm sharing a room with a 50 something woman from Gibsons, BC. She and nine other passengers have been on the boat for the last few days because they are on a 10 day tour. One of the first things I asked her was whether or not anyone had seen any sharks. Unfortunately, they have! I'm determined to get over my irrational fear of sharks on this trip. I did a lot of research before I left and could not find a single shark attack that has occured in the Galapagos.
All the passengers who arrived today have still not met our tour leader. At this point, it's still not really clear what's going on or if we are really on the right boat!
We have an amazing cook on board. Dinner was phenomenal. I ended the night discussing Australian serial killers with Jim (the 60 something Auzzie) and Graham.