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Marion wrote: I am a sea lover. Seems to be an interesting cruise. david martin Abrahams would love to travel on it.


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The Galapagos 'Islands of Fire'
A place where evolution can be observed In-Situ



With reluctance, we left the dolphins, and headed over to the island to scuba dive. We swam along an underwater cliff with an entourage of sea lions and hundreds of Pacific creole fish, until we reached a point where 2 currents collided. Here is saw a scalloped hammerhead shark, eagle ray, green turtle and no less than 5 white- tip reef sharks. The funniest thing was that the sea lions were playing tag with the reef sharks. The sea lions were diving down and chasing, then nipping the shark’s tail. Whenever there was a nip, the shark would flick it’s tail.

The fish life in the Galapagos is fascinating and many of the fish look like overgrown African cichlids (popular freshwater aquarium fishes). Remarkable fish were Pacific creole fish ~ looks like a fusilier, Mexican hogfish ~ hump- headed with long streaming fins, guinea fowl puffer ~ yellow puffer fish, and Galapagos garden eels ~ named ‘Anguila Jardin de Galapagos’ in Spanish.

The marine iguanas on Espanola Island, called Christmas Iguanas, are brightly coloured with spashes of pink and green. Each island has something different to offer. At Genovesa Island we anchored in Darwin Bay, an ancient caldera. Here we climbed a bluff named the ‘tower’, to see sea birds nesting in the salt bush. There were red-footed boobies, red-billed tropic birds, swallow tail gulls, storm petrels and magnificent frigatebirds sporting bright red inflatable throat pouches.

Later we cooled off with a snorkel and went shark spotting. We’ll the Galapagos Shark’s spotted us and circled a metre away. While none of us was really scared?, I did hear a few nervous shrieks, and husbands were thrust in front of the placid shark by anxious wives. All good fun! There were lots of lovely fish such as giant damsel fish, razor surgeonfish, morish idol, bump-head parrotfish, Cortez rainbow wrasse, but the sharks were the absolute highlight!

A beach landing at Genovesa Island delighted us with sea lion cubs suckling on the beach, and red-footed boobies with fluffy white chicks.

At  Santiago Island, we landed on a black sand beach with sea lions, great for swimming. On land, after a hike past old salt mine relics, we came across an area of grottoes i.e.deep pools with fur seal lions playing. This species was close to extinction not long ago. Along the beach, we watched marine iguanas, American oystercatchers and lava lizards.

On  Bartolome Island we took the summit trail past splatter cones to a spectacular lookout, with views of Sullivan Bay. At Isabela’ we climbed to a crater lake, then onto a cone with superb views of lava fields. Exploring Tagus Cove by panga, we saw blue-footed boobies, sea lions, Galapagos hawk, pelicans and Galapagos penguins. Tagus Cove, adorned somewhat controversially, in graffiti, dating back to the 1800’s, abounds with marine life. 

At Cerro Dragon, we saw endemic land iguanas, once part of ‘Darwin Station’s breeding program. Growing to 0.9 metres and 11 kilograms, they eat the fleshy leaves of the opuntia cactus, scraping off the sharp spines before swallowing. Wild dogs killed close to 600 land iguanas on  Santa Cruz Island. With 60 iguanas left, Darwin Station and Park Service rescued the survivors and took them to the breeding station. Once the feral dogs were removed, the iguanas were returned. Caribbean flamingos can be spotted on Cerro Dragon’s salt water lagoon.

Off  San Cristobal  Island we cruised the majestic Kicker Rock, named ‘Leon Dormido’ There were green turtles everywhere, sea lions lolling near shore and red-billed tropic birds in the sky.

At  Santa Cruz, near the bustling tourist town of Puerto Ayora, we toured the Charles Darwin Research Station and the  Galapagos National Park headquarters. Here we met ‘Lonesome George’. George was found in 1971 by wardens from the Galapagos National Park, hunting feral goats on  Pinta Island. The last reported sighting of giant tortoises on Pinta was in 1906.

Scientists took ‘Lonesome George’ to the captive breeding program at the Charles Darwin Research Station. The search for a mate began, but has’nt been found to date. George was once moved to Isabela’s Wolf Volcano, together with two females. He was in high spirits and some ‘coupling’ took place, but neither female produced young. Edward Louis, a geneticist at the Henry Doorley Zoo in Nebraska, scans and analyses tortoise DNA from all over the globe in search of a match for George.

During the 1500 to 1800’s ~ sailors, seafarers and colonists had killed 150,000 to 200,000 giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands.

In the Santa Cruz highlands we visited large pit craters, named ‘Los Gemelos’, lava tubes, and watched giant tortoises feeding on a ranch. The giant tortoises love eating the fallen figs. This ranch is home to vermillion flycatchers, large-billed flycatchers, and Darwin finches.

On Espanola Island we watched Christmas iguanas, sea lions and blue-footed boobies, living in harmony, near an active ocean blowhole.

The unique wildlife which has evolved on the  Galapagos Islands, together with it’s fascinating history, makes it one of the globe’s truely wild places! It’s surely, one of life’s greatest experiences.

More Information

About The Fleet: The Letty is one of 3 identical signature motor yachts; the M/Y Eric, Flamingo and Letty, which travel together through the Galapagos Islands. They are 83ft long by 24 ft wide, cruising at 10 knots. Double balanced keels give maximum stability and they are ecologically equipped for noise reduction and fuel efficiency. They cater for 20 guests, with 10 crew including two naturalist guides. Each motor yacht carries highly sophisticated navigational equipment.
 
How To Get There: If travelling from the USA, fly to Quito in Ecuador, then to the Galapagos Islands. TACA Airlines flies to Ecuador, via Costa Rica. Make sure to check in 3 hours early for your connecting flights to Quito.
 
How To Book:
Galapagos Network
www.ecoventura.com
info@galapagosnetwork.com
(305) 262 6264
 
Health & Safety; Malaria is not a problem in the Galapagos Islands, if cruising, but if you’re venturing onto the Amazon rainforest, Ecuador, take anti-malarials. While staying in Quito, always take a taxi back to your motel, at night. Currency is in US Dollars. There are excellent hotels to stay in Quito, such as the Mercure Hotel.

About Tony Karacsonyi
Tony Karacsonyi is a professional marine photographer who has been recognised globally for his exciting images. Marine photography has taken Tony to some of the world’s great places such as Papua New Guinea’s: Siassi, Trobriand and D’Entrecasteaux Islands,Tonga, Great Barrier Reef, Sabah, Ningaloo Reefs and Australia’s Coral Sea. In 1998, he was awarded with the prestigious Australian Geographic “Photographer of the Year“, for photography on giant cuttlefish and won several international awards, including a ‘runner up’ position in the “Wildlife Photographer of The Year” award in London, during 1996, 1997, 1998.

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