Giant turtles, flamingos and speed boats

Bag inspection at San Cristobal
Bag inspection at San Cristobal

We had an extremely early start this morning as we were supposed to be catching a ferry to Floreana island at 7am and, of course, we first had to have breakfast at the same restaurant as the day before.

Once down on the jetty, we had to wait our turn for the boat, a system that is apparently controlled by the Navy, although it is still unclear as to how it all works. We also had to have our bags checked for fruit, seeds etc. This occurs each time you arrive or leave an island. However, it appears to be a bit of a farce as it is a very perfunctory search.

Arriving at Floreana
Arriving at Floreana
The bay at Floreana
The bay at Floreana

When we finally got under way, it was 7.30am and as we made our way out of the harbour, we were stopped by the Navy in a zodiac, who checked that we were all wearing life jackets (which, of course, we weren’t) and then the boat’s documents. One paper was missing so we had to return to the pier for the captain to obtain it. We finally got underway, having been stopped and checked once again by the Navy, at 8.20am, so could easily have had another hour’s sleep.

Epitome of the Galapagos - sea lions and marine iguanas
Epitome of the Galapagos – sea lions and marine iguanas
Giant turtle
Giant turtle

The trip to Floreana took 2 1/2 hours, during which time I dozed, having taken a sea sickness tablet that seemed to be masquerading as a sleeping pill. On the way, we saw flying fish, which managed to ‘fly’ very impressively many metres above the surface of the water, yellow fin tuna, leaping up to chase the seagulls and several lonesome turtles paddling along.

On arrival, we all piled into trucks/utes and were taken up to the Highlands, where it was raining, to see the Giant Turtle Conservation park, which fed and nurtured approximately 50 turtles, all of which were in the 30 – 80 year old category. We also had a walk around the park and examined some caves that had been used by pirates and by early German settlers on Floreana.

Feeding time for the giant turtles
Feeding time for the giant turtles
Former pirates' cave on Floreana
Former pirates’ cave on Floreana
Face in the rock
Face in the rock

Lunch was in a local restaurant (probably the only local restaurant, given that there are only 150 inhabitants on the island) and I had some excellent yellow fin tuna, which was more like meat than fish. We were supposed to be going snorkelling at the beach afterwards but the sea was too rough so we were taken in a water taxi back to our ferry and set off for Isabela island, which is about 2 hours ride away. Our driver appeared to be in a hurry and we raced over to Isabela, passing a pod of dolphins so fast that we could barely see them, which was very disappointing.

Once there, we offloaded ourselves and luggage and then took a chiva to see the pink flamingos in a lagoon near town. Apparently, their pink colour is caused by the prawns they eat, a little fact that I did not know (amongst many others!). There are about 600 pairs of flamingos on Isabela.

Pink flamingos on Isabela
Pink flamingos on Isabella
Pink flamingo stretching its wings
Pink flamingo stretching its wings

At the hotel, which is brand new, our luggage had preceded us. In theory, we were going to have time for a swim at the beach but, in practice, this did not happen as it was already 6pm and it had been decreed that dinner was at 7pm. The day seems to have been very tiring and busy but, in fact, we have done very little.

We all met for dinner, joining with the Germans and Americans doing the same tour but in a different group, after which Laura and I had trouble finding the hotel again, having not returned with the rest of the group. Nobody we asked knew of it but we eventually found someone, who telephoned someone else to find out where it was and we were able to return. However, it was starting to get a bit worrisome and a lesson to me to take more notice of landmarks. (Our guide was unconcerned when we told her and her total lack of interest is beginning to spoil the trip.)