Our last full day (May 31st) on the Legend, after visiting Espanola, we skipped the afternoon excursion to the interpretive center on San Cristobal. We figured we had already seen the Darwin Center at Puerto Ayora and the interpretive center didn´t sound like it had anything new to offer. So, that afternoon we just relaxed in our room until our final briefing and subsequently our final dinner aboard the Legend. Our fellow booby, Cathy, took this photo of us and the sunset shortly before the last briefing.
The next morning, after an uneventful zodiac ride through the mangrove forest of Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz, we disembarked the Legend for the final time and arrived at the dock on Baltra Island where we found this fellow waiting for the bus to the airport…
After the bus to the airport we said goodbye to the rest of our group. From here our guide escorted Michele and i the whole way back to Puerto Ayora back on Santa Cruz Island since it was his destination as well. Here is a photo of Academy Bay in Puerto Ayora, the town we would be staying in.
When we set up our Galapagos trip, we arranged it such that we would have 4 extra days in Puerto Ayora after finishing the cruise on the Legend. Three of these were to be spent diving and the last would be spent resting before flying out the following day. A diver shouldn´t fly within 18 hours of diving and we wanted to play it safe with about 42 hours. Upon arriving at Hotel Lirio de Mar, in Puerto Ayora, we found they didn´t save the reservation Mike had made 10 days earlier but they had one room left. The room seemed fine (cold water showers and only a few small roaches) so we moved in…
Concerning our diving… we (Mike in particular) had read a lot about diving in the Galapagos and it turns out all of the good sites (those at which a person might see lots of large marine creatures) require a diver to be advanced level. We only had 14 dives prior to arriving in the Galapagos and this would not normally be considered an advanced level. However we do officially hold P.A.D.I.´s title of Advanced Open Water divers and we have been diving in a variety of conditions. The dive instructor at Galapagos SubAqua, named Inti, told us our first dives would be at N. Seymore during which time she would “check us out” to verify we were ready for something like Gordon Rocks (which has strong current and is for advanced divers only).
So our first day of diving was June 2nd. We arrived at the dive center at 7:30 and after taking a taxi and the dive boat, arrived at the first dive site at around 9:30. The second dive was at a location, near N. Seymore, known as North Canal. Here we saw dozens of garden eels arranged in a matrix pattern on the sandy bottom. They are quite a site protruding from their holes in the sea floor at what appears to be regularly spaced intervals. We also saw a large male sea lion swimming around and a couple of medium-sized (1-1.5m) white-tip sharks resting on the bottom under a rock ledge.
The next day Mike rented a digital camcorder with an underwater housing in order to get some exciting footage of marine life. The day´s dive sites were Daphne Minor and the North Canal (yesterday´s site). It turns out the dive shop (and camcorder) owner, Fernando, had not used his camcorder in about 1.5 years and wasn´t aware that the battery didn´t work very well. The battery actually ran down in just about 15 minutes of use. Fortunately, Fernando didn´t charge us for the rental when we told him about the battery. Mike does believe he got some good footage but unfortunately we haven´t been able to verify this. Its a long story actually but Fernando´s camera was dead and Mike´s camera uses an incompatible video system (PAL) so we haven´t viewed the video yet. Hopefully this can be ironed out when we re-enter the U.S.
Our third day of diving was at Gordon Rocks. We were a bit apprehensive about how strong the current was going to be here but after being 25 m underwater for a few minutes we got the hang of it. This was truly and incredible site! Within seconds of arriving at our maximum depth, we saw schools of barracuda so thick we could hardly see through them, large hammerhead sharks swimming close by us, schools of eagle rays and several white-tipped sharks. It really was surreal! Our dive guide was carrying an underwater bell to get our attention and we must have heard it once every 30 seconds.
Unfortunately but predictably, we don´t have any photos of the underwater world. However, Michele did take this photo of Gordon Rocks from the boat…
On, Monday June 5, our last full day in the Galapagos, we walked over to Bahia Tortuga (turtle bay) which was about 3km from our hotel. The first 500m were through the town of Puerto Ayora but then we reached a guardpost of sorts where we signed in. From there, it was about 2.5 km along a stonepaved walkway to the first beach and then another 10-15 minutes to the beach with waters calm enough for swimming and/or snorkelling. During our walk to the first beach we counted 63 lava lizards! (On the way back we counted 57.) We felt we had spent enough time in the ocean during the previous three days of diving so, our independent excursion would be on land only. Mainly, Mike wanted to get his last close-up looks at the marine iguanas without being rushed along by an official park guide. We saw many marine iguanas a few boobies and a heron. Here is Michele´s photo of a marine iguana and a heron backed by mangroves…
After our 3-hour excursion to Bahia Tortuga, we got ourselves some lunch and went about putting together some Galapagos blogs. This is the last of those.
One June 6, after taking a taxi to the bus station in Puerto Ayora, a bus to the canal betwee Santa Cruz and Baltra, a ferry across the canal and a bus to the airport, we boarded our 1.5 hour flight back to Guayaquil, Ecuador. This was some flight because about 50 of the passengers were children between the ages of 9 and 12. They were the most unruly bunch of airplane passengers we had ever seen. They would occasionally run up and down the aisle — literally.
Finally, in the mid-afternoon, we checked into our totally sub-par hotel/hostel in the Sauces suburb of Guayaquil.
Tags: Category #29: Ecuador