A Travellerspoint blog

First night in Puerto Villamil

After disembarking from our 5 hour water adventure it was dark out. We were tired and our tempers were short. We had no idea how we would get to our accommodations. Were there taxis? Where would we eat? We passed a band playing to an audience on what we thought was the main drag (it wasn't), and I thought to myself, if we would have arrived when we were supposed to have we could have been watching this. Oh well, the fact was, we arrived late and there was nothing we could do to change that. We followed some of the people who had been on the boat with with us and all of us started to ask for a taxi which we quickly found. It was someones pick-up truck. Tom and I were put into the back seat (I think because we were the oldest) and at least a half dozen or so other people were crammed in the back of the pick up truck. We told the driver where we were going and we were dropped off at Hostel Loja (and compared to the cost of the taxis on Santa Cruz, this was expensive, but hey, it was still cheap and the guy was doing pretty good business). Tom showed the staff person, Evelyn our booking confirmation and we were taken to our room but it was not the room we had booked. Tom had booked a room with a balcony and a double or king size bed, but we had two twin beds. When we tried to explain this is not what we had booked, it became obvious that our lack of Spanish and the hosts' lack of English was a barrier. Somehow we figured out that Evelyn had been sick for a couple of days and another couple was put into our room by another staff person. By making a handmade calendar on a scrap piece of paper we learned our room would be available in two days. Tired and not too happy about this, we agreed to spend the next two days in this room and by the way, it was awesome to have air conditioning which we had not had while we were in Puerto Lopez (a fan) and Santa Cruz (a fan)!

Next, where would we eat? Luckily as we left the main entrance of the hostel we started talking to a young couple from Ottawa (small world, isn't it) who had been on Isabela for a few days and knew where we could find a place to eat. As we walked together together, they showed us a place where they had ate which was a mom and pop place (aka soda). Through our conversation we learned they both worked in Ottawa for the government and were able to take several months off with pay due to a program by which a percentage of their paycheque is deducted which could be banked and by doing this when they were taking extended time off, they would still have a salary.

Although they did invite us to join them for dinner on the main strip (later on, during our stay we located the main strip which was about a 5 minute walk from our hotel and considerably smaller than the main strip in Santa Cruz) we decided since we were both somewhat grumpy and tired, it would be best to eat by ourselves and then head back to our room and hit the sack.

The meal we had was great, and inexpensive and the hosts very friendly. We ended up going to this place every night for dinner while we were in Isabela.

On a walk to the pier

On a walk to the pier


Ship aground

Ship aground


Isabela's main strip

Isabela's main strip


Around town..

Around town..


The soda

The soda


R & R

R & R

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

4 rescued tortoises and their many, many offspring

It was pretty cool going to the Tortoise Breeding Centre on Isla Isabela. We found that where we were staying was so close to many of the attractions we had wanted to see. Since it was a Sunday we were not able to go to the gift shop as it was closed. However, we were more than thrilled to have this experience! Throughout the breeding centre there were a variety of corrals with tortoises that were various sizes. Most were numbered. One section of the breeding centre house the eggs which were being incubated but we could not see clearly into those corrals. Perhaps if it were not a Sunday we would have been able to see more. Like the breeding centre on Isla Santa Cruz, this centre also had an interpretive centre where we learned more about the tortoises and the time and effort that goes into releasing them back into the wild. This is some of what we learned.

It was not that long ago that it was a common practice to hunt land tortoises. This almost drove them to extinction. The population of the tortoises at this particular breeding centre are from the Sierra Negra Volcano and the Cerro Azul Volcano, The tortoises from Sierra Negra have a flattened table top back and longer limbs and necks than the tortoises from Cerro Azul Volcano because they need to reach the cactus pods which are their primary food source. On the other hand, the tortoises from Cerro Azul have a squashed down shells unlike other tortoises. Their limbs are short because their main food source in the area where they live is lush vegetation which is close to the ground.

One group of tortoises, 4 males and 4 adult females that were rescued have had numerous offspring at the centre. Eighteen tortoises were rescued from a volcanic eruption. All the males are active and after 2 years of being rescued they have sired 200 offspring.

The task of collecting newly laid eggs and moving them to the incubators must be done meticulously. For example, the corrals are checked for nests and eggs are collected. Each egg is marked with an 'X' at the top which indicates its position in the nest, the nest number and the number of the female who laid the egg. If the eggs are not transported to the incubation centre and are moved incorrectly while be placed in the incubation centre it is highly likely the embryo will die. Seventy percent of the eggs' temperature is at 85.1F which favours the production of females which is important for repopulation efforts. The eggs are monitored for 120 days and once hatched they are placed in a dark box for 30 days which mimics the the 7 to 30 days the new-borns are in their underground nest in the wild where they will have to dig an exit hole. After that point the babies are transferred to the hatchling corrals which are outside where they are monitored. The tortoises usually stay at the breeding centre for 6 years before being released into the wild.

So, it is a long journey for these hatchlings and even at birth they must struggle to survive. Just think, even if we were able to see a new born hatched, it would outlive us and even at 100 years old, they aren't even boomers (yet). For more information on the work being done at the breeding centre check out this link https://www.galapagos.org/newsroom/isabela-tortoise-hatchlings/

SOME GREAT NEWS!....as I was surfing the net looking for some information regarding this posting I came across an article regarding 190 captured juvenile tortoises being reintroduced onto Isla Santa Fe. This occurred on April 17, 2017. Here's the link https://www.galapagos.org/newsroom/santa-fe-2017/

So, after a totally amazing day in Isla Isabela, we head back,...admire the lagoon and its inhabitants once again, grab a brew, discuss all that we have learned and seen...chow down at our favourite restaurant, and hit the sack. We're thinking we should chill a bit more tomorrow, but who knows,,,,,,it sounds good now...but every day is another adventure!

Walking along the pathway to the Breeding centre..

Walking along the pathway to the Breeding centre..


Since the start of our walk to the breeding centre

Since the start of our walk to the breeding centre


Quick picture before we continue on to ...

Quick picture before we continue on to ...


Mangrove Tom

Mangrove Tom


Reminds me of following the yellow brick road

Reminds me of following the yellow brick road


See those 2 small apples....mini granny smiths

See those 2 small apples....mini granny smiths


EAT IT - THEN DIE

EAT IT - THEN DIE


A wading pool for the youngsters

A wading pool for the youngsters


There's several cooling pools at the centre

There's several cooling pools at the centre


Man, it's tough moving around these days

Man, it's tough moving around these days


Sometimes it"s nice just to..

Sometimes it"s nice just to..


Look at them all!

Look at them all!


More educational materials

More educational materials


This slide explains how the newborns feed

This slide explains how the newborns feed


Tortoises have a difficult life

Tortoises have a difficult life


eggs are handled gently

eggs are handled gently


Just think  the babies we see here today,,,

Just think the babies we see here today,,,


A century

A century


Will there be time to save these Tortoises?

Will there be time to save these Tortoises?


More information to share

More information to share


Heading Back to our room means...

Heading Back to our room means...


enjoying the scenery

enjoying the scenery


Mr. Marine Iguana overlooking

Mr. Marine Iguana overlooking


Some of the many inlets that dotted the beach

Some of the many inlets that dotted the beach


Well, after our walk back from the breeding centre

Well, after our walk back from the breeding centre


One of the hotels overlooking

One of the hotels overlooking


The waves can get big

The waves can get big


How can you not like this scenery?

How can you not like this scenery?

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

DAY 3 ISABELA - ACTION PACKED - Part 1

After our breakfast we decided to go back down to the pier to see if there would be an opportunity for me to snorkel and perhaps be joined by some playful sea lions. No luck today as the pier was crowded with tourists and I didn't even go in the water. Afterwards we walked along the beach by the pier and took in the scenery; meaning the sea lions. Before heading back to our neck of the woods, I stopped by a nearby stall and had some fresh coconut and Tom had a beer. After drinking the coconut milk the gentleman scraped out the meat for me. It was both refreshing and filling. So we walked towards the beach that was closer to where we stayed. Tom decided to do some walking around and I parked myself on the beach. The water was refreshing and the sand soft - no rocks in the water. Sometimes when you entered the water the water was so clear you could look and see small schools of fish that hovered around your ankles. I didn't stay long in the water and sat back watching the young kids playing in the waves, while the young lovers stood holding each other tightly as the waves rose up against their closely attached bodies. Oh to be young (or at least that young again!). When Tom had finished his walk he came by and told me had been to a lagoon and had seen marine iguanas, flamingos and other colourful looking birds. I suggested we grab beer and go back to our room where I could change then we could go to the lagoon together. At this point during the day it was just around 1:00 p.m.

So off we went. We were heading straight towards the beach area where the bars end. To the immediate right, was a signed pathway that told us we were walking the lagoon trail. We followed the path and at various spots saw a few flamingos together and then at other times there was only one or two together with marine iguanas also swimming about. The flamingos would stand so graceful on their one legs. The sun was such that when I took the pictures of the flamingos we were able to see their reflections in the water. I tried to "Google" when I got back to our room to find out why Flamingos stand on one foot. There was no clear answer. It was suggested that standing on one leg may have something to do to regulate their heating system. We also saw another bird with a much smaller body that was black and white. the legs were long and slim a stunning colour of a reddish pink. We did not know what the of bird it was, but it was very attractive looking bird. As the pathway to the lagoon ended another stone pathway emerged and we decided to see where that went. To our pleasant surprise, this led us to the tortoise breading centre. This day was becoming quite full......each of our adventures offered so much more than we ever expected; so began to understand, that most of adventures would be be at least 1/2 to 3/4 of a day long. But that was no problem. If hot we could grab a beer, or drink water, or I'd go for a swim. We decided to follow the path to to Tortoise Breeding Centre.....and so starts our later afternoon 3rd adventure of the day.

Shucks, I'm shy

Shucks, I'm shy


On my way to snorkel at Concha de Perla...

On my way to snorkel at Concha de Perla...


Walking along the lagoon trail

Walking along the lagoon trail


Villamil Lagoon Trail

Villamil Lagoon Trail


One of the many flamingos at the lagoon

One of the many flamingos at the lagoon


Villamil Lagoon

Villamil Lagoon


Reflections

Reflections


Solitary....

Solitary....


Why?

Why?


More flamingos

More flamingos


and further down the pathway...

and further down the pathway...

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Oh no, a missed opportunity!

So, January 14th marked our first full day on Isla Isabela. Why did we choose to stay on Isla Isabela you ask? Well, there were a couple of reasons. First, for me I had read about a couple of good snorkelling spots, and there was a beach nearby. Tom was interested in biking to the "Wall of Tears" - a wall that was built by convicts for no purpose other than to punish them and finally we both wanted to hike to one of the volcanoes on the island. Needless to say, Tom and I experienced all of the above and many more things on this island...even on our first day!

Isla Isabela (which when looking at a map is shaped like a seahorse) is the largest island of the Galapagos and is the home to 5 active volcanoes. Puerto Villamil is the main town on Isabela and has a population of 900. Compared to Puerto Ayora's population of 12,000, Villamil is small. Tom liked Villamil better than Puerto Ayora because it was more peaceful, I preferred Puerto Ayora because it wasn't so peaceful. Although, I must admit having a beach nearby was nice, but I did miss our nightly marine watching on the pier at Isla Santa Cruz.

To give you a sense of the distance between the islands, when looking at a map of the Galapagos you will see that Isla Fernandina is to the left on a map. Isla Fernandina may look to be nearby, but to get to Fernandina from Isabela is an 8 hour boat ride. So, if you were a person wanting to see something of interest on Fernandina, then the only way you could do so would be by boat; hence why many people do overnight cruises while in the Galapagos.

We woke up refreshed and were happy that we hadn't slept in as we would have missed breakfast which was served from 7:30 - 9:30 a.m. Breakfast was served outside of the hotel in their garden area with individual tables and chairs. For breakfast we had a choice of scrambled or fried eggs, yogurt, fruit, juice, coffee and a variety of breads. Each day's breakfast varied, so, for example one morning we would have cheese and the following day some jams instead of cheese.. The portions were generous and we never had lunch because we were full. Like the other places we stayed at, water was free and believe me, I took advantage of it.

Right after eating we decided to go and investigate the island. We started down the main road, which we learned took us directly to the pier which was where we landed the previous night. Ahead of us while we were walking were the group of kids who had been on the boat ride with us the night before. They were wearing their swim attire and had snorkelling gear...which I did not have (and later I regretted that I was not wearing my swimsuit....you will find out why). Recognizing each other, one young woman from the group who spoke some English told us that when we were being transported to the pier on the smaller boat they had told the crew members that they felt it was unfair that we had to pay for the boat ride to Isabela and that the passengers shouldn't be charged the $2.00 transport fee (versus $1.00 rate for the daytime) because it wasn't our fault that the boat arrived late. They were told that the best thing to do was to launch a complaint with the owners of the boat. The crew members told the kids that complaining to the crew members wouldn't have any impact. The young woman who spoke English told us that a friend of hers recommended that when we book our boat back to Santa Cruz we should book with a company who had a boat called "Elizabeth". We were told that this company and the boat was reliable. Thanking them for their information, we continued our walk.

It took us about 20 minutes to walk to the pier, and that's because I like to walk slower than Tom and take in the scenery (in my opinion). Most of the road was paved except when we got closer to the pier. We passed an old boat on the side of the road, and never did find out how or why the boat was placed there. We also passed several tour agencies and a few hostels but other than that, there wasn't much else. The landscape was dry and the greenery was minimal. As we continued our walk, we passed a huge archway with the welcome sign. As we approached the pier we saw off to the side a boardwalk and a sign mentioning not to feed the animals. Hmmm.. we knew then that the chance for us seeing some wildlife was pretty good. Since he group of kids had gone along this boardwalk, we decided to do the same. Following the boardwalk we manoeuvred around a couple of sea lions. Each side of the boardwalk consisted of thick mangroves which made viewing beyond their borders impossible, but that did not stop us from hearing the barking of the sea lions who were being camouflaged by the mangroves.

At the end of the boardwalk was a pier and several people, including the group of travellers we had spoken to earlier gearing up to go into the water. A young woman and her friends were already in the water close to the dock and I couldn't believe it, swimming and frolicking in the water were two sea lions. Clearly they were enjoying the squeals of delight and a bit of fear from us humans. One woman in the water screamed a couple of times, but luckily she was not alone and was with a friend. Later on when I snorkelled at this pier I appreciated the fact that these animals are big, and weighing up to 500 pounds, they could choose to become aggressive, even unintentionally and we as humans would be at a huge disadvantage. Imagine being under water and unexpectedly having a sea lion's face only a few feet away from you; probably a feeling of excitement and being scared. Of course, I was not wearing my bathing suit, otherwise I would have been in the water in a flash. In spite of me coming to this snorkelling spot the following two day, there were no sea lions to frolic with. We later learned that this small bay was called Concha de Perla.

After leaving the pier we went to the nearby beach and walked along the shoreline. "Wow! what's that in the distance?" "No, it couldn't be, yes it is, wait a minute there's more.".sea lions in the fishing boat. What a a magical adventure we are on! To be experiencing this; really, how can we even begin to explain what we were seeing, what were feeling, what we were learning. All we can do at best, is share our pictures and tell you a bit about our adventure in Ecuador.

So, our first full day on Isabela comes to a close. We end the night by going to our new found restaurant for dinner and a brew and discussing what should we do the next day....and enjoy the luxury of an air conditioner. once we enter our room andonce again we do not watch TV.

Welcome

Welcome


What's the story behind this?

What's the story behind this?


Beach at Puerto Villamil

Beach at Puerto Villamil


Pier

Pier


Picture taken from on of the piers

Picture taken from on of the piers


Landscape

Landscape


Captain Sea Lion

Captain Sea Lion


Last call ....any more passengers

Last call ....any more passengers


For the tourists you say?

For the tourists you say?


Seriously, how cute is this

Seriously, how cute is this


And when the benches are full

And when the benches are full


Keeping cool

Keeping cool

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Adios Santa Cruz, Hello Isla Isabela

In order to get to Isla Isabela we had to take a 2 hour boat ride. The cost was $30 each for one way. We just went to one of the tour agencies and bought a ticket couple of days beforehand. The boats left early in the morning 7:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. We opted for the 2:00 p.m. boat ride. So on Friday January 13th, 2017 (okay, that should have been an omen) we said farewell to Santa Cruz. Tom and I wandered around the main strip and then I decided to have an ice coffee and relax. Tom walked around for a bit and then met me about a half hour later. Together we walked by the fish market and saw the gathering of pelicans, sea lions and a heron. What was different about this trip to the fish market was that a sea lion was next to the woman who was filleting the fish barking for food and every now and then she dropped some of the innards which the sea lion gobbled up. Also, when the innards were being thrown to the other animals, it was the heron who told the others in his own way, "back off, this is my domain" and surprisingly the sea lions and pelicans did back off. I found this surprising because the heron is slender with legs that looked pretty wobbly compared to the sea lions that could weigh up to 500 lbs. The hierarchy of the animal kingdom is so interesting!

As the time approached for us to leave, we packed up our luggage and off we went rolling our luggage down the roadway and onto the pier where we waited our turn for our luggage to be inspected. When checking my luggage, I had packed in the outer pocket my water socks, which I had not worn yet. The last time I had worn them was in Costa Rica the year before. The officer at the inspection point asked me to dump the sand out, which I did. To get to our boat we had to take a smaller boat (they call them pangas- at a cost of $1 each) and from there we boarded a bigger boat. On board with us were several nuns, one who hiked her habit up and climbed up to the second level of the boat with her camera. There were a group of young adults, an older couple (around our age) and a couple of families. There were approximately 25 people onboard with us not including the staff of 3. Needless to say, we didn't hear any English being spoken.

I never thought much about the fact that before we left the guy who was tending to the three motors was yelling up to one of the crew members on the upper deck (remember this was Friday the 13th). I just thought they were doing their final check of the motors. Since the boat ride was around 2 hours long we expected to arrive on Isla Isabela around 4:30 p.m. (we left Santa Cruz closer to 2:30 p.m.) in the afternoon, plenty of time to get to our room and relax a bit. WRONG!

At 4:00 p.m. the engines stopped. We were supposed to be about half an hour from Isabela. So, one of the crew comes down to the engine and there is yelling back and forth but no luck, the engines were not starting. Out comes the cell phone and the crew member goes back up to the upper deck. Now we don't understand anything that has been said. At no time did the crew say anything to the passengers. The nuns and a couple of other people started singing songs from the Titanic (oh yeah, that was so reassuring)! I'm listening to my iPod, Tom is stressing, and all I can say to him is that nobody seems to be in panic mode...but that is all I can say, and at that point I really wasn't worried. So later another attempt is made to get the engines going with the result being that one engine started up. Although one of the engines was functioning, I soon realized with the waves it was like going forward one step and then back 2. It was hard to believe that we were only about a half hour away from our destination yet we had not moved very far at all over the last couple of hours.

The clouds started to roll in,and there was a bit of rain and the sun was starting to set. What would happen once it became dark out? Then all of a sudden another engine kicks in and we were finally going...the speed had definitely picked up. Don't ask me how that happened because when it did happen no one was tending to the engines. As the sun starts to set into the sea, we see a coastline, a few boats. Thank goodness, even if the engines were to conk out, there were other boats nearby.

When we got closer to the shoreline, we were put onto a smaller boat and taken to shore. This had to be done a couple of times because the smaller boat was also carrying all the luggage. We arrived on shore at 7:00 p.m. Our 2 hour boat ride had turned into a 5 hour ordeal. In addition, when we got onto the smaller boat that would take us to the pier we were each charged $2.00 (usually it costs a $1.00) but because it was after hours the price was doubled. The young adults in our group spoke to the crew of the smaller boat, it was like a mild argument. We later learned that the passengers were telling the crew of the smaller boat that it was not our fault we arrived late. The crew told us we would have to complain to the owner of the boat. I know $2.00 is not a lot, but we were tired, and patience was short. Every one looked tired. We landed in the dark, not knowing our bearings. Our next step would be to get a ride to our accommodations. Stay tuned.

Dock of the fish market

Dock of the fish market


Pelican at the fish market

Pelican at the fish market


Styrofoam coolers

Styrofoam coolers


LUGGAGE INSPECTION before leaving Santa Cruz

LUGGAGE INSPECTION before leaving Santa Cruz


Fish for two, please

Fish for two, please


View of Santa Cruz

View of Santa Cruz


Santa Cruz from a distance

Santa Cruz from a distance


Adios Santa Cruz

Adios Santa Cruz


Beautiful Skyline

Beautiful Skyline


Approaching Isabela

Approaching Isabela


Yes,

Yes,


Thank goodness

Thank goodness


ISABELA SUNSET

ISABELA SUNSET


Slowly Sinking

Slowly Sinking


The sky, the water

The sky, the water


Welcome to Isla Isabela

Welcome to Isla Isabela

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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