20th-22nd June 2018
As we got onto the boat we were handed two things; a life jacket and sickbag. It was an indication of what was to come, for it was a rather rocky journey. The sea was rough and the people at the back of the boat kept getting splashed, but mostly they just laughed about it.
At one point a man went to use the toilet, and they had to slow the vessel down. Perhaps it was just sheer luck, but it was at that exact moment we ran into a school of dolphins and everyone got up to watch as clusters of them broke from the surface and did flips, almost as if it was their way of saying ‘hello’.
It was ironic because I have, in the past, gone out on boat expeditions with the specific intension of seeing dolphins and been unsuccessful, and here it suddenly happened by accident.
As the boat pulled into Isabela Island, we were greeted by a group of sea lions who swam around us, coming up for air a mere few feet away. I got off, found a place to stay, and then wandered around the town for a bit. I was offered a last minute deal for a tour to a place called ‘Los Túneles’ so, only a few minutes later, I was back on another boat.
On this journey we encountered even more creatures. This time; manta rays. And the boatmen slowed the vessel down each time we passed one so we could watch their dark fins creeping over the surface of the water. On a couple of occasions they swam face up and I could see the outline of their white bellies.
Los Tunels is a series of strange rock formations by the coast of the island and, as one of the many protected zones of the Galapagos, it can only be reached by sea. As well as being an interesting landscape in itself, it is also home to an abundance of wildlife. The first stand-out species we spotted were a group of Galapagos penguins.
And we were also taken on a walk, where we came across some blue-footed boobies. We got to watch the male make his mating display to the female. A video of which can be seen here.
Later on, we also came across a blue-footed booby with a recently hatched chick.
And then we were taken snorkelling, where we spotted sea horses, turtles, sharks, rays, and lots of tropical fish.
Getting back onto the boat later that afternoon, I realised this was probably going to be one of the highlights of my time on the Galapagos.
The following day, I went to explore more of the island by myself, and I saw lots of species of birds. The first were a group of flamingos in the lagoons just outside of the village.
And I believe this is a young egret.
I do not know what this bird is, so if anyone can tell me please let me know.
A Lava heron.
Towards the end of the trail I reached the Wall of Tears, a historic monument to abuse of power. It was constructed in 1946 by prisoners who were forced to build it under cruel conditions for no reason but the amusement of the men in charge, as it never served any function. The Ecuadorian Government felt it wrong to wipe out this shameful moment of their history, so they have kept it to serve as a reminder.
On my final morning on Isabela Island, I went (for the second time) to Concha de Perla, a small bay near the port which is known for its snorkelling. Lots of tropical fish and the odd turtle can be found there, but on this second visit something special happened. A family of sea lions were there, and the father and child both got into the water and swam with me for a while. They were very playful and kept swimming right up close to my face and then twisting away to dive down to the ocean floor. I copied their movements as best as I could (by dunking downwards and spinning around in circles as I swam back up to the surface), and I also followed the young one for a while as he darted between schools of fish and caught the odd one in his mouth. I eventually lost them though because I spotted a huge sting ray sleeping in the shallows.
As the boat sailed away from Isabela, later that afternoon, sea lions were swimming around us, blue-footed boobies were circling the air above, and pelicans were diving into the water to catch fish. It was almost like music, and it was quite the send off.
For more photos from the Galapagos, click here.
To read Part 1 of my time in the Galapagos, click here.