Tuesday, December 27, 2011

so long & thanks for all the fish...

After 3 amazing weeks it's sadly time to say goodbye to the Galapagos islands and move on. Today we flew back to Quito and by the end of the week we will be submerged in Canadian winter.
So long and thanks for everything...Galapagos!
Our last few days on Santa Cruz were mostly spent visiting Tortuga (turtle) bay, which is a lovely beach about 45 minutes walk through an endemic cactus forest. After lugging all our gear out to the beach we always tried to spend as much time at the beach, which made for some interesting complications with the killer noon sun.
Tortuga beach, always worth the walk.

Shade shack to beat the blaze.
The only species of cactus that grows a trunk like a tree.

Enjoying our last moments before moving to the next island (yes it was sunny).
Our last week was spent on San Cristobal island, which hosts the capital city and capital of world class surf of all the islands. Before arriving we had already been told that a big swell was heading towards the island due to arrive a few days before Xmas.
The view over Puerto Baquerizo Moreno bay.

Downtown during siesta time.
Our base Casa Blanca, mellowing in chilled tunes
from the bar downstairs.
Loco lobos.
The first session of the week was a Canona, scoring a couple of small waves shared with the turtles and the sea lions. Although the view from our hotel suggested that some swell had already arrived, it clearly hadn't yet.

After surfing beach breaks for 2 weeks it was a pleasure
 to score some waves on a reef. The sea lions agreed.
But by Wednesday the first signs of swell were starting to light up Tongo reef, a long left point break further outside the bay. Luckily there were not too many tourist surfers on the island, so the atmosphere in the water was super chilled with a bunch of friendly locals (and the Brazilians). After a long day in the water and sun we dragged ourself to the hotel to try recover for whatever the next day would offer.

Like all spots in Galapagos Tongo is no exception: its also about a 45min walk to get there.

Sure enough on Thursday the swell had arrived and Tongo was cranking. But things were not to go as expected. After only a couple of waves I broke a fin on my board, bringing an epic session to a grinding halt. Back to the hotel and out with the solar resin. 
But in the end things worked out for the best: the swell picked up more on Friday and the whole town ended up surfing Canona, while I surfed Tongo alone for almost 3hrs.

Tongo doing what it does best: long walls right in front of the rocks! 

On Friday the ocean was alive. Massive walls of water rolled down the point, making it look surprisingly like J-bay in reverse. 

By the time Xmas finally arrived the swell had dropped and everyone was totally surfed out and very happy to have a break. We spent a great evening sharing drinks and stories with some of the surfers that we had met during the week.
Island-stlye Xmas.
Our last big adventure was another snorkeling trip taking us out to a rock island in the middle of the sea. Once again Galapagos did not disappoint. We snorkeled with a group of very playful sea lions at Isla Lobos before heading out to Kicker rock. The moment we jumped off the boat in the channel at Kicker rock, we realized that we were surrounded by a school of Galapagos sharks in the pristine water that seemed to go on for ever. We also couldn't get over the colours of  the corals growing on the rocks, which we hadn't seen yet. 

Swimming around filled with euphoria we eventually stumbled across 2 more eagle rays. Although we had seen several during the holiday, this was the most spectacular sighting as the water was so clear and we could study these seemingly alien but beautiful creatures only a meter away. 
The male sea lion has up to 40 breading partners. Thats not him looking chirpy in the front, he is further back in the photo fast a sleep.

Puerto Chino and La Loberia beaches also offer great snorkeling and animal life.

When Punta Carola isn't cranking its still worth checking out the sea lions playing on the beach, especially in December when all the new borns are around. 

Our last show: male iguanas death match reminding us that nature isn't always that fluffy.
On that note, we leave Galapagos very much hoping to come back here again some day.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Arriving back in Puerto Ayora after a week on Isabela seemed like coming back to a huge city (not the case!). But that is what made Isabela so special: its remoteness, quietness and completely chilled out vibe. It's the largest island, but largely uninhabited with a single village, Puerto Villamil with a main road of beach sand.
...as experienced from our hotel balcony. 
Looking back on Puerto Villamil.
Main street Isabela and its pumping night life.
Every day we seemed to have new animal encounters ranging from watching turtles mate, snorkeling with eagle manta rays or watching white tip sharks basking. These photos barely touch the tip of the iceberg of some of these encounters.

Los Tuneles was formed by molten lava which cooled at different temperatures as it flowed into the sea, creating a lagoon maze of snorkeling paradise. The lagoon is only accessible by boat and is about 1 hour away from the village. After cruising the tunnels, we needed up moving to a smaller bay for our snorkeling. All previous turtle experiences where nullified as we snorkeled with, past, around dozens of huge turtles sometimes only an arms length away. The cherry was a school of manta rays swimming past just before we got back on the boat.
As our boat glided into the lagoon we were greeted by a friendly sea lion.
Just another endemic species, the blue footed boobies.

Typical examples of the lava tunnels throughout the lagoon.

A few minutes outside the dock at Puerto Villamil are a set of small rock islands called Los Tintoreras named (named after the white tipped sharks). This adventure was made up of another snorkel session and a guided walk around the rock viewing breeding grounds of the iguanas and sea lions. Although we were too early for the iguana season we did have the chance to find a 1 day old baby sea lion.
Shark spotting iguanas.

A nervous bird, a nervous crab, a bunch of basking white tip sharks, a male marine iguana, baby sea lions and many other marine iguanas made the trip spectacular.

The white and green lichen only grows on the south faces of the lava rocks.
So after chilling out on Isabela for a whole week of snorkeling and surfing we were somewhat reluctant to move on. Every day there our adventures where washed to dreams with a cold beer and an incredible seafood dinner. Much to our bemusement on several evenings we watched the cook leave the restaurant to buy ingredients after we had placed our order. The people here seem so friendly that they will never say no and everything is possible, even if it means delaying a whole outing by 30mins while they defrost some chicken to make a sanduche (which was actually ordered the previous evening).

But the feeding highlight was certainly the seafood volcano: a mountain of something like risotto surrounded by calamari, octopus, shrimp soaked in a wild mushroom cream sauce!

Walking out of town an endless beach stretches out.... after a long walk in the sun (take water) you eventually get to a good surf spot and a funky beach shack.

Some of the crazy vegetation on the incredible flamingo trail, which wasn't that incredible and only had 1 flamingo.
Seasons greetings füre dritte advent!!!