Galapagos Islands Cruise Day 1: Tortoises!

Preamble and Disclaimer:  This is the first of eight posts that I composed while Chris and I sailed the Galapagos Islands on a luxury catamaran yacht. At the end of each day, I wrote about that day’s excursions and highlights.  I have not listed every single bird or animal we saw but have tried to be as accurate as possible with the descriptions I do provide.  I’m sure each of the other eleven passengers on board have their own story to tell; this is my perspective of our voyage.  I invite any fellow passengers who read this blog to share their thoughts about our trip – and offer any additions, corrections or just plain commentary they may wish to make.  Of course, photography credit goes for the most part to Chris, although I did manage to take the odd decent pic that may make it into the blog.  Underwater photos were taken by one of the passengers, Dafne (thank you for sharing).   Hope you enjoy our voyage!

The route we followed was the primary reason we picked this cruise in addition to the fact that it still had seats available at the last minute, and we got a reasonable price for the trip. The map below illustrates our voyage and can be used with the text to track where we are each day.

We sailed on the Anahi, also known as Journey 1.  Click here for the specs of the catamaran if you’d like to know more about our sailing vessel. Note that we have no affiliation with this website – I have provided this link merely to provide info about the ship.

Our cruise officially began when a private dinghy picked us up from the port in Puerto Ayora and whisked us to our yacht anchored in the bay.  As the first passengers to arrive, we had time to unpack and settle into our lovely and surprisingly spacious room (with king size bed I might add) and explore our new “home”.

Within a half hour our fellow voyagers boarded and introductions were made:  Rick and Babs and their friends Tim and Barbara from Washington State, USA; Laura an 18-year old from Germany; Stephanie a 28-year old from France; and Olof, Christiana and their 4-year old son Wim (short for William and pronounced “Vim”) from Germany.

After our first meal on board, served buffet style, we were taxied back to shore for a dry landing in Puerto Ayora.  This became a daily routine.  Back on land, we boarded an awaiting bus and headed to the highlands where we saw huge turtoises at the Rancho Primicias, a private farm where wild tortoises roam free.  The guy who bought this piece of land in the 60′s had no idea at that time when tourism was non-existent that he was sitting on a future goldmine.  Now, there is an agreement between the ranch owner and the National Park to permit tourists to visit the farm (for a fee of course).  There were dozens of tortoises scattered throughout the farm; everywhere you looked, there was one or more.  It was possible to get very close to these remarkable creatures, although they let you know if you were too close by ducking their heads back into their shells with a warning grunt.  Nobody knows how old these creatures are but they are known to live up to 200 years.

Next we made a brief stop at a lava tube tunnel that was formed millions of years ago; as lava flowed, the outer part of the stream got cold and hardened, but the liquid magma within continued flowing. When the flow ceased, empty tubes were left behind. I was surprised at how large this natural tunnel was. Chris remarked that it reminded him of a mine.

Throughout the afternoon, our guide Enrique shared his wealth of knowledge with us about everything from the history of the Galapagos Islands to the flora and animal species that live here.  Tim and Rick, the Americans, seemed very knowledgeable about birds and were constantly trying to identify the birds they saw.

We had about a half hour to spend on our own in the town which for some of the other passengers would be the only time spent in Puerto Ayora so this was their time to pick up souvenirs.  Our private dinghies were waiting for us right on cue when it was time to go back to the yacht where we had a few moments to relax before a complimentary cocktail and an introduction of the crew members.  There are eight crew members, one guide and eleven passengers on board.

Dinner was served promptly at 7:00 and then to our surprise all the guests retired to their rooms. Most had travelled from the mainland today and so understandably were quite tired.  We lounged around in the sitting area enjoying the comfortable leather couches and within an hour we headed to bed too.  We were still anchored in port and would be leaving at midnight.  Sure enough, the engines roared to life on schedule, waking us both up.  We peered out our window into a cloudless, starry night and were enticed to go to the top deck to star gaze from the comfortable lounge chairs.  The brilliant stars of the Southern Hemisphere formed constellations unknown to us.

First impressions of our first day:  pinch me, this must be a dream!  I have never been on a boat this size before and have virtually no boating experience whatsoever – I don’t think large cruise ships count.  I can now understand the lure of the open seas – it is a wonderful experience to be gently rocked to sleep by the motion of the boat and equally exciting to wake up in a new location each morning.  And this yacht is spectacular.  Is this a dream?

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