Tales from the Galápagos Islands
Surf and cliffs on Isla Espanola
The rugged coast of Isla Espanola gave us our first good look at colonies of blue-footed boobies.  The heavy surf on the rocks shot up through some spectacular blow holes as well.
April 3 -- Most of the islands we visited in the Galápagos were uninhabited, but yesterday evening we sailed into the harbour at Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz and it was culture shock.

The harbour was full, fishing boats, a few freighters, and a number of other Galápagos tour boats somewhat familiar to us through our research with the travel agencies.  It was colourful, noisy and hot.  It was another world, one that we all realized we had left behind for the past four days.

We all went ashore after dinner, of course, cruised the main drag, visited a few shops and ended up having beer and popcorn together at a Cuban bar.  Good music, cold beer, a fine ol' time together.

This morning we headed off to the Charles Darwin Research Station to visit the tortoises.  There is only one species of the giant Galápagos tortoise, for which the islands are named.  Before the whalers and sealers came along in the 18th and 19th centuries, there were 14 sub-species and large numbers of them.  Alas, tortoises have had probably the most difficult time on the Galápagos.  Several sub-species have been hunted to extinction on some of the islands and the overall population has dwindled to about 15,000.  Many of the threatened groups have been brought to the Research Station to save them from a similar fate.

The Station operates an extensive hatchery and repatriation program which has seen over 2000 of the little guys sent back to their home islands once they reach the age of four.  A tortoise's life is long, but difficult.

We also said goodbye this morning to six of our shipmates.  Markus, Uta, Verena, Marijke, Samuel and Helena all had to fly out to return to (dare I say it) their jobs waiting back in Switzerland and Sweden.  It was sad to see them go, but six new folks showed up at various points later throughout the day.


 
Heading out from the Guantanamera on another Galapagos excursion
Off we go in our little panga, the landing boat, for another island excursion.  That's Arturo at the back, the Guantanamera's second captain.  He landed us safely and got us back to the boat through all kinds of rough and choppy seas.
Red-footed boobie on Isla Genovesa
The red-footed boobies of Isla Genovesa were a bit of a surprise.  Their feet were a nice bright red, but they all had blue beaks!
Mixed boobie on Isla Genovesa
Karin, one of our new shipmates from Switzerland, checks out a mixed boobie, one of the cross breeds on Isla Genovesa.  Not really a true breed in itself, nobody thought to call it a "gray-footed boobie".
Volcanic rock on Isla Bartolome
The volcanic rock of Isla Bartolome was permeated by thousands of air bubbles, making it a whole lot lighter than one might expect, as demonstrated here by Michelle and Jorge, our guide.

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