Days 5-10: Landing on San Cristobal Island, instantly SO hot! It’s a bit of a ass-pain (airport) to get into the Galapagos as I suppose it should be since it’s a National Park, Marine Reserve home to so many extra-special animals. Once there, you really only have 2 choices on a modest budget: 1). to stay in one spot in a hotel and take a very fast and bumpy speed boat ride every day to an island for your adventure…OR 2).to stay on some sort of a “big” boat/ship where they sail you during the night to the next destination, saving you the time and back pain of the speed boat ride which are over 2 hours each way. I was afraid of the big boat option due to my propensity to get car/sea sick so easily, but after calculating the options, it made more sense to cruise…so Cruise we did! But first, one night in a harbor-side hotel.
After settling in at our hotel, we decided to go on an adventure to a beach that we could see on the map, but could not find a road to. We bushwhacked a little, much to Cliff’s chagrin, and when we arrived at this beach it was truly awe-inspiring. As the path opened up we can see through a clearing that the beach was covered in marine Iguanas, August’s first choice “animal to see in the Galapagos”. They are draped all over (rocks, sand, your towel if you let them!) & SO close to us and because they have no real land predators. They really do not avoid you, it’s our responsibility to stay a respectful distance. Later, just swimming around there, we missed a good view, but others saw several sea turtles swimming around with us, again, so close. Unfortunately, we only brought goggles..they had mask and snorkel- snap!
The cool thing about these Islands is that the culture has shifted to respect the animal, I mean really shifted, in part I imagine because there is enough money made from it, but the local people have a different kind of respect for the animals here. It’s hard to believe that some species first had to be pushed into extinction; or that only a few hundred years ago the Tortoise went from hundreds of thousands to less than 100. The G-Islands are home to the only remaining Giant Pinta tortoise on earth. These giants can easily live up to 150 years and weigh 595 pounds. The last one was named Lonesome George he was considered the ‘rarest creature’ on earth and died in 2012. He was thought to be~ 90 years old and seemingly unable to reproduce when all the mating attempts had resulted in infertile eggs -until Diego came along. Diego, another male seemed to shift (the mood?) something and the results were wildly successful. At rock bottom there were only 30 left! Apparently >100,000 were killed off by the Pirates in the 16th century while they hid out in the Galapagos and used the tortoises as a source for food. Later whalers did the same. Now, thanks to Diego and Lonesome George and a huge conservation effort, there are over 15,000 but still threatened by invasive feral animals eating there eggs. We are grateful to have witnessed these enormous, gentle giants and to see a real symbiotic relationship with the people on the islands. Spanish sailors who discovered the archipelago in 1535 actually named it after the abundant tortoises; the Spanish word for tortoise is garlápago (says National Geographic.com)