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Steve and Emma's Travel Tales

An Eight Day Cruise around the Galapagos Islands

ECUADOR | Friday, 19 October 2012 | Views [558]

As you know we didn’t have the best of experiences in Guayaquil’s Funky Monkey so getting up early and heading to the airport wasn’t a chore!  A trip to these unique islands isn’t as straight forward as hopping on a boat and sailing into the great blue yonder.  Oh no!  First of all there are loads of boats to choose from offering all different length of trips and itineraries or you can opt to be based on one of the main islands.  Whichever option you go for you have to expect to part with a wedge of cash.  With this in mind we spent quite some time checking out what each unique island offered in terms of geology, flora and fauna and tried to find the most varied cruise. 

In the end we settled on Golondrina’s 8-day cruise that would take us to islands at the northern and southern most ends of the archipelago.  This meant we wouldn’t be going near the biggest island (Isabela) but to be honest to take in all the Galapagos has to offer you either need a longer trip or two visits.  The Golondrina also offered one of the best deals we could find and we were very happy with the service they provided.  The guides are employed by Galapagos National Park but the captain sticks to his boat and tries to keep the same crew.  Obviously there is some movement between boats with the guides being the most transient. 

Once you’ve paid for your trip the expense doesn’t stop there. First of all you have to get whichever tour operator you book the trip through to secure flights from and to Quito or Guayaquil (we used www.ecuadoroutes.com and were very happy with the service).  Once you’re in the airport you have to pay $10 each just to leave the terminal and on arrival at Baltra airport your wallet will be lightened of $100 a head.  Then you can retrieve your bags that have been checked to ensure no further invasive species cause further havoc in the area.  So now it’s time to meet your boat representative and get going –err, not quite.  Some of the guides will be leaping around waving a sign board or you may experience the more relaxed approach where you have to track down your guide and let him know you’ve arrived.  We were in the latter camp and felt more despondent on hearing that we’d have to wait around for an hour or so for the next flight to land.

Finally we were all gathered and it was time to jump on a bus that took us the short distance to our boat that would be home for the next 7 days.  Following an introductory talk outlining what we would do that afternoon and safety briefing it was time to get settled in our cabins.  We’d expected bunk beds and limited space and our living quarters could either be described as cosy or cramped depending on your height.  There was enough draw space to unpack what we would need while on board and the other big rucksack just had to divide its time between floor and bed.  The bathroom was small but well designed and we soon learned that there were oodles of piping hot water available constantly.  Our boat also had a very comfortable dining room that never felt cramped and with water, tea and coffee on hand day and night.  The upper deck was very spacious so even though we were living in close proximity with strangers for a week it never felt claustrophobic.

Following lunch gently rocking away on the water our guide (Julio) informed us we would be taking a short sail then taking the dinghy for a dry landing on Bachas Beach.  Each day Julio told us whether it would be a wet or dry landing, what type of terrain to expect and the main focus of the day in terms of what the island had to offer.  He also predicted that by the fifth day we would be fed up of seeing sea lions.  Considering I’ve never tired of seeing geckos in my flat over the last 15 years I figured this wouldn’t be true in my case!  Steve and I had a bit of a wish list as to the animals and experiences we hoped to gain over the following week with a couple being a tad ambitious. 

If I listed all the birds and animals we saw every day I’d be in danger of boring you to tears (with the probable exception of my Mum).  The thing is each island boasts its own unique sub-species of land based birds and animals i.e. the iguanas we saw today weren’t the same as those we saw later in the week.  That said; most of the marine birds and animals belong to the same species but not all of them live on every the islands.  Then you also need to bear in mind that many of the creatures we saw are endemic to the Galapagos and have evolved to cope with the distinct conditions each island provides.

Every day snorkelling was offered as an option, either from the beach or from the dinghy and of course Steve couldn’t resist.  Me?  The sea was way too cold and it wasn’t particularly warm out of the water either so I did my best land iguana impression and stayed dry.  That’s not to say I missed out on seeing things as the ocean was so clear that I got to see everything either from the beach or the boat.  Obviously Steve got a better view of the animals by joining them in their domain.

Let’s get into the cruise and see how we faired.

 

Day 1 – Isla Santa Cruz

Feature Creatures – marine iguanas, sea lions, green turtle, Sally Lightfoot crabs, spotted eagle rays, frigate birds, greater flamingos, Galapagos pelican, yellow warbler, black necked stilt.

These birds and animals won’t be mentioned again unless there’s a specific story attached but that’s not to say we never saw most of them again.  Each day will only see new additions being added to the list – hope that makes sense!

As you already know Day 1 is really only a half day and our first port of call was Playa Los Bachas; a beautiful white sand beach.  The activities involved walking up and down the beach getting to watch and photograph our first Galapagos creatures.  While Steve took his first dip in the archipelago’s waters I tried to get just the right crab, sea lion, iguana photo; little realising there’d be ample future opportunities.  Obviously we were excited to be seeing these creatures but the thing that struck us the most was how unafraid the birds and animals were of humans.  We’d heard that this was true and also knew that one of the park’s rules was to maintain a gap of 2m between you and the wildlife.  In reality you have to get closer than this as they’re nesting by the path or wandering / swimming towards you for a nosey.  The sea lions in particular couldn’t give a jot for the 2m rule!

That evening we were served cocktails while Julio introduced us to the captain and his crew.  To be honest we learnt their names more successfully than our fellow passengers but then they were the ones making our stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.  Not that they could do much to make that night’s sail any smoother.  We would be travelling all night to one of the furthest flung islands across a vast, empty expanse of ocean.  Bearing in mind the islands themselves are at least 1000kms from a major land mass we were told to expect a rocky ride.  Little did we realise just how choppy the journey would be and spent the night rescuing things that went crashing to the cabin floor!  The next morning saw me putting everything into drawers ready for the return trip.  Other than feeling like I might tumble out of the top bunk occasionally; we seemed to fare better than the rest of the passengers who looked decidedly green the following morning.

Day 2 – Isla Genovesa

Feature Creatures – a single, solitary fur seal, yellow finned mullet, yellow crested night heron, lava gull, swallow tailed gull, whimbrel, ruddy turnstone, Nazca booby, red footed booby, Darwin finches, Galapagos doves, mockingbird, red billed tropicbird, short eared owl, storm petrel plus; Steve snorkelled with sting rays and a Galapagos shark.

As you can see from the list the island boasts a huge variety of birds and this was to be the only port of call where we’d be able to see red footed boobys.  Not only do they have bright red feet but their beaks are a vibrant blue too; an odd yet attractive looking bird.  Of all the birds we encountered the boobys where the most entertaining with their amusing way of looking at you as you passed.  They seemed incredulous that you would want to share land space with them let alone admire and photograph them and their young. 

We were actually visiting the Galapagos at a slightly off-peak period hence the rougher seas but that was counterbalanced with us being there during the mating and breeding season.  Plus it meant fewer boats were sailing and of those that were afloat none were operating at full capacity.  Added to which the boats are allocated set routes and times to visit the islands to ensure limited numbers of people are vying for that perfect photo angle.  As I have said the animals are incredibly tolerant of people but the authorities are aware that this constant flow of human activity could be having a detrimental impact on the wildlife.  Therefore there are only 200 landing sights and you are requested to rigidly stick to the paths.

That said the landing sites have been carefully chosen to ensure you experience as many of the different habitats the islands have to offer as possible.  Today’s 2 landings saw us walking across old lava rocks upon the cliffs, visiting a mangrove lined lagoon and walking down another of those lovely beaches.  Not only did Steve snorkel from the beach but he was the only one brave (foolish?) enough to take the dinghy out onto the choppy water looking for hammerhead sharks.  Really you need to go diving to see these strange shaped fish but he did spy an inquisitive Galapagos shark.  He returned to the boat absolutely freezing hence the importance of mentioning piping hot water earlier.

Day 3 – Isla Bartolome & Isla Santiago

Feature Creatures – Bartolome lava lizard, surgeon fish, Galapagos shark, Galapagos penguin, Galapagos hawk, lava heron, finches, plover, grey heron plus; Steve snorkelled with munching turtles and frolicked with playful sea lions.

The overnight sailing wasn’t quite as long as the previous evening but the first few hours were just as rough.  It didn’t help that we’d had to set sail as soon as dinner had been served so there were more green gills the following morning.  Not us of course!   We tucked into breakfast with the same enthusiasm as we approached every meal.  I have to say the food was always of an exceptional standard with plenty to choose from each time and more than adequate portions available.  Not only that; everything was prepared using fresh ingredients including fresh fruit juice being offered with every meal.  How they managed it with limited space and a less than steady environment is a credit to the staff.

On Isla Bartolome we took the dinghy to look at the few Galapagos penguins that were hanging around before landing on the island.  To be honest we were disappointed that there were so few penguins around as we’d read it was one of the best places to observe them.  At least we got to see some of them though.  The walk on the island took us along a wooden walkway to a lookout point that afforded stunning views.  We didn’t pass a huge amount of vegetation and what we did see had been imaginatively named grey grass many moons ago by some of the early settlers.  It might not have looked very exciting but the finches and lizards wouldn’t be able to live there without it.  At the top of the lookout we were rewarded with hawks hovering a matter of feet above our heads.

In the afternoon we visited Bahia Sullivan where we walked upon a lava flow with a mind boggling range of shapes, textures and patterns.  It looked like if you were to place your hand upon its surface you’d be able to feel the lava slowly moving beneath a thin crust.  It even looked like it should be warm to the touch but obviously neither of these things were the case or we wouldn’t have been standing there.  Although the volcanic activity had happened too recently for animals and plants to re-establish themselves there it was interesting to see how the islands are still changing and evolving.

Before re-boarding the boat there was time to explore the bay and / or go snorkelling.  Obviously you already know that I stayed dry and Steve got wet!  Luckily he stayed close to the shore so could shout over to look out for a turtle and sure enough there it was feasting on the vegetation clinging to the volcanic rocks.  I got spat at by a marine iguana that was blending into the rocks so well that I almost trod on it. In actual fact I just happened to be next to it when it was time for it to evict some sea water from its system.  Later that afternoon the boat cruised back down to Isla Santa Cruz in preparation for the next day’s activities.

Day 4 – Isla Santa Cruz & Isla Santa Fe

Feature Creatures – land iguanas, yellow
land iguanas, large shark, Galapagos snake, egret, wandering tattler, sandpiper, shearwater, cactus finch

We landed on Plaza Sur where we took a walk among some amazing vegetation in greens, red, oranges and yellows interspersed with low lying shrubs and dotted with tall cacti.  The sea lions loved the shrubs as they seemed to make very comfy beds.  I’ve already mentioned we were visiting at a good time to witness new life and this morning we saw some new-born sea lion pups.  One was so new to the world that it still had its umbilical cord attached and was making its cumbersome way towards mum for milk and protection.  On the opposite side of the island we found the males hanging out and some of them were actually at the end of their life-span.  Apparently once a male has dominated his harem and ensured the next generation he has exhausted his energy and will die within the next few months.  The sharks know this and lurk in the deep, powerful waters lining the cliffs waiting to pounce.  We spied one doing just that but we’re not sure which species it was.

As we walked back round to the more cheerful side of the island we saw lots of very impressive land iguanas.  These docile vegetarians love to eat cacti and the large spikes didn’t appear to bother them in the slightest.  They usually wait for a section of the plant to fall before they tuck in but they like them so fresh that we did see some craning their necks for a tasty morsel.  On returning to the boat lunch was served so we tucked in while the captain sailed us down to Isla Santa Fe.  All of our meals were served on board as another very sensible park rule is that no food is allowed to be taken ashore.

This island wasn’t dissimilar to the one we’d visited that morning but here the cacti have taken on gigantic proportions resulting in even more impressive yellow land iguanas.  Julio had also told us that this was one of the best places to find snakes and sure enough we’d seen a couple by the end of the short walk.  The snakes are supposedly quite numerous and most of the islands have their own sub-species but true to serpentine form they like to disappear before you get a glimpse.  Suffice it to say we were delighted to see two and the second one hung around long enough for everyone to get a good look.

I’m sure you’ll have got the picture by now that sea lions greeted us everywhere we went and this island was no exception.  So why am I mentioning them yet again?  Well this was a sizeable colony stretched out along the beach and it was most entertaining watching and listening to them.  They have such a vast range of sounds that you can’t fail but enjoy being in their company.  As Steve was off trying to make friends with these inquisitive marine mammals I enjoyed observing marine reptiles feeding in the shallows.  Some of these Pacific green turtles would have been waiting for night-fall when they haul themselves ashore to lay their eggs.  We were amazed to find so many resident turtles around the islands.

Day 5 – Isla San Cristobal

Feature Creatures – ghost crabs, noddy, blue footed booby plus; Steve snorkelled with over 40 sharks

From the reduced animal and bird list this may look like a boring day but I can assure you that simply doesn’t happen in Galapagos.  Just because there’s not very much new stuff on there doesn’t mean we didn’t see anything – oh no!  There were fantastic rock formations and caves to enjoy from the dinghy with sea birds zipping about.  Watching pelicans fish is fun but observing boobys diving into the ocean from a great height is something special.  They form themselves into such an aerodynamic arrow shape that they hardly make a splash as they enter the water. 

On land we saw the same birds but those blue footed paddles that serve them so well in the water are a hindrance on terra firma.  They go from gracefully to cumbersome and the incredulous, daft expression on their face adds to their comedic value.  They really do seem amazed that you are anywhere near them but they’ve chosen to build their nests next too and even right in the middle of the path.  Many of them were incubating eggs or looking after chicks so we had to pass carefully and slowly and at times make a slight detour.

Once we’d observed these feathered friends it was time to visit the beach which proved to be one of the most stunning beaches you could ever wish to see.  The stark, reflective white sand contrasting with the blues of the ocean and sky, set off with black volcanic rocks was fabulous.  Once again Steve went off to do his best sea lion impression; he was obviously improving as before he had even got his flippers on a young pup mistook him for kin and started following him down the beach!  I set off to explore the sandy paradise wondering whether by the end of the day I’d be relegated to second on the list of Steve’s affections!

I tried to photograph the ghost crabs but unlike the photogenic Sally Lightfoot crabs they don’t sit still for more than two seconds and blend into their background so much more.  In the rock pools there were lots of little fish darting about and I found the widest range of algae and seaweed I’d seen so far.  This in turn attracts iguanas and once again I stood watching them, turtles and of course the sea lion antics.  Steve reappeared to declare that he’d made some new friends; you guessed it, a couple of young sea lions were playing with him in the waves.  If there is such a thing as re-incarnation I feel Steve will be coming back as a sea lion!

The boat then moved away from shore a short distance to a spectacular rock formation we’d been able to see all day, namely, Kicker Rock.  En route we spotted a turtle that on closer inspection turned out to be a mating couple.  You have to feel sorry for the female who not only has to carry the weight of the male but has to swim for them both too. At the rocks it was time for the snorkelers to get in the dinghy and plunge into the deep, cold ocean.  They actually went between two huge rocks stacks where below them they could see at least 40 sharks cruising around.  Obviously everyone came back safe and sound but there are occasional reports of shark attacks as anywhere in the world.  Luckily these were the docile yet inquisitive Galapagos sharks we’d seen earlier in the trip.

That afternoon we set foot on a tiny island called Isla Lobos where we got to observe marine iguanas in big numbers for the first time.  We’d arrived in time to see them returning to land where they have to warm up following their aquatic forages.  Not only do they find themselves somewhere comfortable to catch the sun’s rays but they like to huddle together too.  This is usually to everyone’s benefit but there are times when the bigger ones seem a bit cross with smaller ones clambering over them.

On returning to the boat we were informed we’d be setting sail immediately as the crew needed to go into town for extra provisions.  The timing of this addition to the itinerary had nothing to do with Ecuador playing a World Cup qualifying game while we were there; did it?  A mini-mart had set up some tables and chairs so we joined the locals watching the match while drinking a significantly cheaper beer than those available on the boat.  Ecuador secured a good away point so the guide and crew returned to their vessel feeling very happy.

Day 6 – Isla Espanola

Feature Creatures – red marine iguanas, Espanola lava lizard, waved albatross, willet, hood mocking bird

This turned out to be a cracking little island in the far south of the archipelago where we visited Punta Suarez in the morning and Bahia Gardener that afternoon where relaxing, pottering and snorkelling were all on offer.  First Punta Suarez, where as we were coming ashore the marine iguanas were making their way down to the sea.  There were literally hundreds of them and I dubbed this day the march of the iguanas.  They were so intent on breakfasting on algae that if you stood still they walked within inches of your feet.  I’m sure they were aware of our presence but so long as you didn’t upset their routine they were happy for you to break that 2m gap rule.

As we walked across the island there were loads of very brightly coloured lava lizards sunning themselves and scuttling about.  Neither of these reptiles was the focus of the day as we’d come to look at waved albatross; one of the world’s largest marine bird.  They are magnificent birds but as with the bulk of our flying friends the young are decidedly ugly.  It was great to watch the adults confirming their relationship through a courtship dance whenever one of the pair returned.  They are so large that they have to launch themselves from a cliff face to get airborne.  We didn’t actually see this in action but we saw a few lining up on the runway and a couple of others gliding on the thermals.  The jagged rocks and large waves leads to the water being forced up gaps in the cliff face forming impressive blow-holes.

While we were perched on the top of this cliff face we could see marine iguanas battling against the strong currents trying to reach land.  The task looked impossible but with their powerful tails and sharp claws they successfully made it back on land to dry out and warm up.  Even though we’d seen marine iguanas on the other islands this was a true highlight for a number of reasons.  It was the first time we’d seen these wonderful, particularly colourful lizards in action; marching down to the shore, swimming, eating the algae and returning to land.  Not only did we get to see them so active but it was the largest concentration of iguanas that we’d witnessed too and all within intimate proximity.

Another creature that was happy to dispense with the 2m rule was the mocking birds and those on Espanola were particularly cheeky.  I was wandering down the beach looking for snakes or anything else that wanted to show itself when I noticed something was digging a hole in the sand.  On closer inspection it turned out to be one of the lava lizards so I observed for a while and went to take a photo.  Unbeknownst to me a couple of mocking birds had been watching me and as soon as I got out the camera they were there in front of the lens!  I did get the photo I wanted but only after I’d photographed these cheeky little birds first.  Not content at that, as I moved away to continue walking down the beach, they decided to hitch a ride on my shoulder and bag while two of their friends hopped along behind me.  It’s true when they say that in the Galapagos you don’t have to go looking for the wildlife as it will come and find you!

Day 7 – Isla Florena & Isla Santa Cruz

Feature Creatures – sting rays, mangrove finch

The feature creature list is becoming worryingly short but as I said earlier that’s not to say we only saw one animal and one bird the entire day.  We’d sailed for 5 hours to reach this island so it must have been worth the effort surely!  We landed on Punta Cormorant where unfortunately no cormorants are to be found any longer.  In actual fact there is a distinct lack of wildlife on the island due to early inhabitants and visiting ships decimating it of its wildlife.  There were once giant land tortoises by the hundred trundling around but alas they are one of the species (along with Lonesome George) that are now extinct.  A tortoise can go for months and months without needing to eat so they were collected by the score and stowed away on boats to be feasted upon at a later date.

It wasn’t only the hunting and collection of animals that led to their downfall on this and other islands; invasive species have also wreaked havoc.  Goats, for example, are thought to have been single-handedly responsible for the extinction of at least 5 plant species which in turn has led to the demise / decline of the animals that relied upon them.  The Government and other protective bodies spend a lot of time and effort each year trying to eradicate the most damaging of the introduced pests but it’s a long, slow process.  I read that it took them over 100 years to finally rid one island of rats but of course it then takes longer still to nurse native species back from the brink of extinction.  There are some excellent projects in operation with success stories to report with the Darwin Research Station being a prime example.

More on that later and in the meantime you may be wondering why we were taken to this island.  I feel it was an excellent way to highlight the damage humans have caused the environment without it being a lecture.  We’d spent the previous 6 days tripping over wildlife and I’m sure this would leave many people feeling complacent and that all is well in this unique area of the world.  A visit to this island shows that the Galapagos has changed irrevocably since it was discovered and only human intervention will help to maintain the islands as they are.  Luckily ecotourism brings in so much money that the authorities can go one step better and are trying to remove what shouldn’t be there thus hopefully removing the fear of yet more extinctions. 

As I have already said the island isn’t totally devoid of wildlife with birds obviously finding it easier to move amongst the islands than other animals.  You will have noticed that I have listed various finches throughout the days and of course they all make up the group known as Darwin’s finches.  Did you know that Mr Darwin only actually spent 5 weeks in the Galapagos and that the islands barely get a mention in his famed tome?  That said I witnessed first-hand how each finch has a unique plant and habitat preference.  Plus, I can only assume that those finches hopping around the airport are an example of evolution in progress.  I’m sure in Darwin’s day they weren’t pecking the remains of people’s meals directly from plates left on tables or hopping next to your elbow to check you haven’t dropped any crumbs.

As we stepped onto the beach a juvenile sea lion came to greet us and it appeared that he desperately wanted someone to join him in the water for a play.  He was splashing around, leaping about and grunting at us imploringly; surely the most playful of all these endearing creatures we’d seen.  The real highlight of the visit to this island was splodging through the shallows only inches away from a huge shoal of sting rays.  We were warned not to touch them in case you startled them into flicking their tails with those famous stings at the end.  Not one of them was big enough to inflict any real damage but of course it’s up to us to respect their space within their home.  Mind you there’s not a lot you can do when one swims right over your foot and brushes your ankle other than to stand still and wait for it to move on.  It was incredible seeing so many so close to the shore and in fact some of them were quite sizeable too.

Before returning to Isla Santa Cruz for the third time the boat stopped off at Corona del Diablo for those who liked getting cold and wet to plunge in.  Basically it’s a ring of rock and the snorkelers swam around the equivalent of what on land would be known as a crater lake.  Steve said it was the only time he’d seen coral during the trip and that in turn led to a greater abundance of fish and a wider variety of colours to enjoy.  Once back on board he relished the abundant, constant supply of hot water; both to wash and make a brew with.

Once again lunch was served as we’d bobbed along and by now we were all developing excellent sea legs.  We spent the rest of the time on the upstairs deck hoping to spot a dolphin even though it wasn’t the correct season.  This was our final cruise through open waters so our last chance to get lucky – we weren’t!

Once back at Isla Santa Cruz we disembarked and walked to the Darwin Research Station to learn more about the on-going conservation projects.  It’s a shame that these were the only tortoises we saw but it was interesting to learn how they have rescued at least one sub-species of giant tortoise from certain extinction.  Lonesome George may have been the last of his line but the introduction of Diego in the early 1970’s makes for much happier reading.  Apparently he was given back to the islands by San Diego zoo when they realised the plight of the tortoises.  Old Diego didn’t need asking twice to chat up his new lady friends and several hundred of his off-spring have been returned to their natural home.  It’s gets better; the rangers keep a close eye on their protégés and have reported back that the reintroduced tortoises are now reproducing naturally in the wild.  Obviously it has taken decades of dedication to achieve this but it gives great hope for the remaining tortoise species.  Not to mention other inhabitants of the islands with captive breeding programmes for the land iguanas being the most noticeable.

The trip to the research centre didn’t take up all our allotted time on land so we had a wander around town.  We chose a place to sit and have a drink where we could watch the comings and goings of the small shoreline fish market.  We weren’t the only ones interested as not surprisingly it attracted gulls and pelicans.  We’d just made a joke about there not being any sea lions around when one waddled down the street – I kid you not.  In fact there were sea lions all along the harbour, on the steps, perched on buoys and stretched out on boats anchored in the bay.  This was our final full day so had we got fed up of them?  Not a chance!

Day 8 – Seymour Norte

Feature Creatures – land iguana, great and magnificent frigate birds

Sadly we rose to realise that this was to be our last day in the Galapagos Islands but before being dropped off at the airport there was one last landing to fit in.  We’d seen frigate birds throughout the week and in fact there were times when some of them hitched a ride in the rigging.  We’d even seen a few down on the ground but this morning would see us walking through quite a big colony where we could observe the males displaying their prowess.  Usually with birds you would talk about the males dressed in their best and brightest feathers but not so with frigate birds.  The males have a layer of skin under their beaks which they inflate.  They need to tip their heads back in order to show off this huge scarlet sack to its full potential; a most impressive sight it makes too.  You and I may find it somewhat comical but judging from the number of juvenile frigate birds clamouring to be fed female frigates find it irresistible. 

A fascinating, yet entertaining end to a fascinating yet entertaining group of islands.  I hope my humble words have done the place justice as it thoroughly deserves all the praise it gets.  Yes it’s a very expensive experience but one I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending you do as it really is unique.  I feel places are described as such way too readily; is one colonial town, ancient ruin, mountain range really so different from another to deserve the label.  In some cases very possibly / probably but these islands are uniqueness personified.  Growing up with a biologist mum, Galapagos, evolution, Darwin and origin of the species are words that I can’t remember not knowing.  It’s somewhere that I longed to visit from a very early age but never in my wildest dreams thought I would.  I feel exceedingly privileged to have done so and can’t even begin to describe how much I enjoyed the experience.  Would I go again?  Try stopping me but next time I take Mum too.

 

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