Sailing around Galapagos

Written by Nadine Zangerle on . Posted in Ecuador

The flight was without incidents and after arrival someone immediately tried to sell us an 8 day trip with 6 dives for US $900. When we asked which islands we are going we figured out that we would stay overnight only on Santa Cruz.

This was definitely something we didn´t want to do. Diving was on the list but we also wanted to see the land tortoises, iguanas, penguins, sea lions, blue-footed boobies and what else was on the list of Darwins islands.

When we arrived in Puerto Ayora we found a tour operator who gave us several options for cruises. Back and forth we discussed and checked out different possibilities. We remembered one traveler telling us about the Encantanda and not only the schedule but also this sailing boat was quite appalling.

Finally we booked a 6 days – 5 nights cruise around Isla Isabella, starting from Isla Santa Cruz. In Puerto Ayora we found a guesthouse just next to the agency. We bumped into Nicolas from Australia, who also wanted to book a cruise and in the evening we have booked the same tour.

We had some troubles paying our cruise due to cash payment. My credit card was already maxed out and with Michael’s credit card we could only get a limit of US $600 a day. Luckily we found another bank where we could get another US $200 a day. Still US $2100 is quite some money and we were happy that we had two and a half days to withdraw the cash. 

Before we left for our cruise we explored the Darwin Center with its land tortoises breeding farm. Those tortoises are massive and it was interesting to read about the islands and its flora and fauna. Afterwards we walked to the Tortuga Bay and in spite of the amount of sunscreen and SPF 30 we got a heavy sunburn. 

But believe it or not at the beach, just a meter away from shore, a baby hammerhead shark was swimming around our feet. It was unbelievable. We were so excited that we watched it for over an hour before we focused our attention back to the hunting pelican, the beautiful heron and all those marina iguanas, sunning at the beach.

Than it was time to pack everything and get ready for the cruise. The three of us where so excited that we didn’t sleep a lot. Galapagos, we are here – we can’t believe it!

Day 1:

With the bus we drove up to the airport where we met our guide and our other 7 travel companions. Than we headed to our yacht, a red sailing boat with the beautiful name “Encantada”. Michael and I got the only double bed since we were the only married couple.

Nancy from Colorado was on the cruise with her daughter Elly. Angela from Switzerland had been traveling with them since a couple of days. Tandia and Susanne were from Slovenia and Slovakia and the only other couple – Simone and Daniel – came also from Switzerland. Nicolas from Australia and us from Germany that was our team for the next days.

Our crew consisted of our Captain Almir, Second Captain Aurelio, Mechanic Geoffrey, Chef Cook Heia, Bar Man Felix and our Guide Rodrigo. Let’s ship around the islands, but not without supply. We had to wait for food and supplies so we started around 1pm and on our way out we saw some sharks and rays. This was already a great start.

We landed at 4pm on Dragon Hill, Santa Cruz Island, to see the big, colorful land iguanas. And big they were. Walking around the Palo Santo Trees, swirling Darwin finches, we were even so lucky to find a massive green turtle which just laid eggs. This had been always a dream of mine and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was just too good to be true!

Back on board we enjoyed the fantastic dinner – I have to say, the food was just delicious – and played some cards afterwards. Michael felt a bit sick, hopefully there is no serious flu coming – and went to bed early. Let’s see what the next day might bring!

Day 2:

After an early breakfast we headed out for Tintoreros Island to see thousands of marine iguanas, penguins, A.A. Lava Rocks and more turtles. Here we found even mating turtles – already from the boat in the morning we observed some mating activities – but this was rare. 8 male turtles surrounded the mating couple, waiting in line. It was just incredible to watch and we couldn’t wait to get into the water for some snorkeling.

Back on board we changed into our swim suits and were ready to go for snorkeling. Michael was wearing two wetsuit and still started to shiver quiet early. We were lucky again and saw sea lions, green turtles and in the end 8 eagle rays just passing by.

After lunch we landed on Isabela Island to see more land tortoises and flamingos. We bought some medicine for Michael and after a nice coconut ice-cream we jumped back in our Panga (dingee) to enjoy another fantastic dinner. What will the morrow bring?

Day 3:

After breakfast we did a dry landing at the Punta Moreno on the Isabela Island to see flightless cormorants and Pahoehoe Lava Rocks. We walked over the surreal landscape of Lava, which reminded us of Hawaii Big Island. Here and there were cacti and some little ponds with reed and trees. In those ponds we even found two pink flamingos.

For the snorkeling trip I put on two short wetsuits (for tiny people they have only shorties and embraced myself against the cold water. Damn, it was cold but the wildlife let us forget the freezing temperature. We were just magnified and couldn’t believe our eyes. Underwater we saw penguins, Pacific green turtles, Port Jackson sharks, a group of eagle rays, sea lions and a very territorial cormorant.

While we were observing a turtle, this cormorant suddenly appeared out of nowhere and started attacking Nancy’s fins. When I started laughing it came towards me and I had to push it away several times. It definitely liked the women and went for Angela before it followed Nancy again. We had a laugh and it really didn’t want to let go of us.

Afterwards we did a Panga Ride in the Elizabeth Bay and observed the blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants and penguins while hunting, had so many turtles relaxing on the surface and watched the pelicans gliding over the water. We couldn’t ask for more and wondered what else we might see.

For the night we stayed at Tagus Cove to start early and maybe see some whales. Since the clouds were finally gone we had a brilliant night sky with plenty of shooting stars. I’m pretty sure, everyone had the same wish – seeing whales!

Day 4:

The next day I woke up before 6 am and got up. I wanted to be ready in case of whale spotting. And as we drove out of the Cove we saw some blow holes splashing water out. As promised our guide woke up the other ones but we saw only backs and some more splashing before they dove deep down. Still, we saw them!

Arriving at Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island we walked around hundreds of thousands of marine iguanas. When you looked at a big rock suddenly the whole thing became a structure of hundreds of those animals. It was really bizarre. Sea lions were playing in the bay and a big whale skeleton was laying around the bay.

When we went for snorkeling we stopped counting the turtles, they were everywhere. So when we spotted this playful sea lion everyone was just fascinated. It took an interest in us and seemed to show off with its turns and spins. Whenever you duck dived it was following you and went in circles. It was fantastic to see and we forgot about the 23 degree water temperature. When the penguin flew by we were almost blue and ready to get back on board.

After lunch we drove to Punta Vicente Roca on Isabela Island for some more adventure. Our sailing boat stopped close to a cave and we got ready for the Panga ride. In our rubber boat we explored the cave and were excited about the great visibility.

Still cold from the first snorkel-trip we couldn’t wait for this one. And it was just beautiful. At the wall was so much wildlife that we forgot about the temperature. Two of us spotted even a massive Mola Mola and those turtles laying in the shallow water in a bay were hard to miss. At least 60 green turtles were chilling next to each other. Haven’t seen something like this before.

Back on board we left for Santiago Island. When we crossed the equator our Captain called us to take a video on the zero and we counted down.

Day 5:

After breakfast we did a wet landing on the black beach of Santiago Island. Here we watched the sea lions and finally found some fur seals. The marine iguanas were everywhere and showed us some impressive fights or spitted out salt water through their noses.

Here we did some more snorkeling and observed next to sea lions, big schools of surgeon fish also an eagle ray which cruised slowly below me. Our appetite was as always very big and in the afternoon we did some more land and water exploring, this time on the red sand beach of Rabida Island. Tiered and happy we went to bed early knowing that this fantastic trip would find an end early morning.

Day 6:

After a quick trip around Daphne islands to see the masked boobies we finally had to say goodbye to our Encantada Team and couldn’t still believe what we had experienced the last days.

In Santa Cruz we found a very nice hostel and booked in with 4 others from our Cruise. Since Galapagos offers extraordinary diving we didn’t want to miss out on this part and booked some diving with Macarone Dive Center. More about our diving experience in the next report. So stay tuned!

Accommodation 1: Lirio del Mar, Av. Bolívar Naveda, Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

Price: US $ 15 p.p., double room, own bathroom, wifi, kitchen

Comment: Clean rooms and close to the Waterfront.

Accommodation 2: Vista al Mar, Av. Baltra, Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

Price: US $ 15 p.p., double room, own bathroom, wifi, free water refill

Comment: nice little garden, very friendly staff and perfectly situated close to the waterfront
                    and supermarket.

Operator: Encantada Sailingboat,

Price: $ 1050 p.p. last minute – 6 days, 5 nights, all included, cabin for two with own bathroom (wetsuits and snorkel gear for free     
            from the Agency)

Comment: Following the footsteps of Darwin and Wolf we saw so much wildlife of Galapagos
                    while snorkeling and exploring on land.
Just fantastic and not to be missed out.