Guayaquil, we barely knew ya! After a great night’s sleep, we checked out of our hotel and asked them to hail a cab to take us back to the airport for our morning flight to San Cristobal, one of the Galapagos Islands. As we wound through the streets of Guayaquil, it seemed a completely different city from the one we’d driven into the night before. As we arrived at the airport, I noted that it seemed pretty new. The koi pond that forms a moat around the building was a nice touch!
After putting our bags through the “produce scanner” (there are very strict controls on baggage going to the Galapagos to ensure that invasive species are kept out), we headed over to the check-in counter to get our tickets. The LAN airlines attendant gave us a questioning eye as she tried and failed to locate our reservation. It seemed as if she wasn’t quite sure of us. She finally asked if we had a reservation number, which we did, and she was able to find us in the system. For a few minutes, it seemed like we may not be going on vacation after all. Waiting for the flight, we attempted to throw something into the garbage but had a hard time – there was in fact, no garbage in sight, only recycling and compost! Pretty impressive, most places in Ontario don’t even have this kind of waste sorting.
We landed in the Galapagos by 10 AM on San Cristobal, the easternmost island and the oldest island in the archipelago. All the islands are situated on a tectonic plate that is moving towards South America, so the further east the island is, the older it is geologically. We spent the next three days in the port town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, also the political capital of the Galapagos province of Ecuador. As we cleared “Galapagos Customs” and paid our entry fee to the National Park, we were greeted by (shockingly!) absolutely no cabs and a big long empty road. So we did what everyone else seemed to be doing and started walking. A few minutes later, we found ourselves in town and maybe 20 minutes after leaving the airport at most, we’d found our hotel for our stay – Casa de Nelly. As we explored the grounds, we were greeted not by Nelly but by Soledad, who handed us keys and showed us our room on the top floor with great views over the city and harbour. She spoke as little English as I spoke Spanish, but we managed alright!
With no time to waste, we immediately set off to begin exploring the town and the island. After grabbing lunch on the waterfront, we promptly got lost trying to find the road to La Loberia, a beach supposedly renowned for its sea lion population, and wound up back at the airport! We got ourselves figured out eventually with the help of a passing local, and half an hour later, we came face to face with our first wildlife of the trip – and was there ever lots of it! Marine iguanas, crabs, sea turtles, humpback whales, birds galore, lava lizards and of course, sea lions – all on one beach and merely hours after landing!
The first bird we saw – a yellow warbler.
Our first sighting of a Darwin finch – endemic to the Galapagos, these are the birds that helped inspire Darwin to derive his theory of evolution.
As we made our way to the beach, a sign instructed us on how to find marine iguanas. As they move from the mainland to the ocean, their tails leave tracks in the sand. We followed a set of tracks to some rocks and started climbing around before I almost stepped right on the marine iguana in the picture below! They camouflage almost entirely into the rock. This one in particular was easily 4-5 feet long.
By contrast, the little lava lizards, as in the photo below, are everywhere in the Galapagos and no bigger than my finger.
Our first sighting of La Loberia – the beach where sea lions and humans share the sand! All the brown blobs between the people and water are sea lions.
Aren’t they cute!
After exploring the beach for a while, we continued to hike along the coast, seeing many interesting birds including these black-headed gulls which were nesting along the cliff.
As we were hanging out on La Loberia, one of the nature guides that was with another couple suddenly pointed off into the horizon and said she’d seen a humpback whale. Sure enough, there were two of them swimming off the coast – the photo below is the best shot I got.
Needless to say, by the end of our first night, we were exhausted! We stayed at La Loberia as late as we dared, walked back to town as the sun set and grabbed a quick dinner in town before we crashed in anticipation of what we might see and do in the morning.