Modern civilisation and nature
A trip took me to the breathless islands of Galapagos, where I got a taste of what nature and modern civilisation, living in harmony could look like.
One of the astounding things in the Galapagos is that once you get away from the main Islands and past the swarms of gap year day hikers, you come across a pristine wilderness, a rule forbids there to be more than three boats docking in one place at any time, which makes the atmosphere a whole lot calmer and in most cases makes you feel like the only human around.
In 2005 the the revenue made by the local boats only reached an astounding US $ 120.5 million 49% of this was gathered by the big vessels like the ones in the picture above.
Cachalote was one of the cruse ships out there, compared to other boats which hold up to 100 people on board our sail boat could hold a modest 16 tourists. Traveling in small groups means you gain access to beaches, coves and sanctuaries where bigger groups aren't allowed to go.
Mornings in the Galapagos are fresh, but usually sunny, followed by a cloudy mid-day and finishing off with a sunset coming trough the clouds, this means the temperatures never succeed scorching temperatures, and most days you're left with a amazing sunset.
Even though blue whales can grow up to a 100ft long, they're not easily spotted, in this case a mother and her calf spotted us and the pair of them came charging at the boat, to check what we where up to. Even the crew of the boat where on top deck filming these blue whales, as well as minke whales which where slowly surrounding our boat.
Between Isabela and Isla Fernandina our sonar never went past 45m, however once we passed the narrow channel, and headed for the tip of Isabela, the meters drop right down to around 1000m, this means the water is rich with nutrients, brought up from the debts, which also brings along the masses of wildlife, from whales, hammerhead sharks and then list goes on.
An evening well spent
San Christobal is one of the main towns to go to in the Galapagos, with plenty of harbour cafes and restaurants, it has a much calmer atmosphere than the busy streets of Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz.
On Playa de Oro is where everything seems to be happening in terms of local wildlife, overlooking this beach is a small hotel with a very relaxing beach bar and restaurant, also from here you're only a 5min walk away from the bars, so if you're up for getting loose you don't have to worry about finding a taxi.
These prehistoric looking creatures are in fact peaceful creatures, with only very few objectives in life, but eating seaweed and tanning seems to be their main thing.
During breading season, the male take on this green pigment which comes from algae, according to our guide this colour will become more apparent as the mating season comes in to play.
Living on a diet of fresh seaweed, this means they have to graze underwater, sometimes up to 45min at a depth down to around 10m, although I've been told that some have been seen at 30m.
Prior to swimming with these animals we where warned that some of them get so involved in to eating, that they forget to come up for air and instead stay clinging on to the rock and die. Personally I think algae is defiantly not a food worth dying for, but each to them selves I guess.
The diversity on the Islands of Galapagos is what fueled and confirmed some of Darwins speculations about adaptation and evolution. This is very apparent in many of the local species from the Darwin finch, to Iguanas and right trough to the slow moving turtles.
Unlike the marine iguanas, these guys are a little bigger and feed on anything that crawls, they're also very quick when it comes to hiding from a camera.
Mysterious Sea Turtles
Before my arrival to the Galapagos like so many of us did a pre trip "goals" plan in my head and swimming with sea turtles was one of them, at no point would I ever have thought that I would be swimming with 5 or 6 of these enormous creatures.
Even though they're slow and seem to do not a whole lot other than try and figure you out, whilst looking for some food, you'd think they're quite easy to suss out and sort of understand their propose.
However this is easier said than done as beneath that hard shell is something weirdly antagonizing and mysterious, which makes the sea turtle the remarkable animal that it is.
After a day of taking pictures and walking around in the surrounding sand dunes, we eventually set up camp. The locals made some dough and baked it inside the wooden plate-like object visible at the bottom of the picture. They knead the dough using their fists; this way of kneading brings more air in to the dough, thus resulting in lighter and softer bread.
The sand is first heated using fire and once the dough looks like the face of the moon, a hole is dug in the preheated sand before the freshly made dough is thrown in to the sand, followed by hot coal.
Witnessing this I thought to my self; there’s two things wrong with this, #1 sand and fresh dough, can only end with a very sandy mouth. #2 burning hot coal on dough? I just figured we'll be eating crisps.
During the time it takes the bread to bake everybody comes together to sing and dance.
To my surprise this was some seriously good stuff! The thought of burnt sandy crisps was immediately abolished upon the first mouthful.
Shooting trough the water
Going trough the mangroves on small motorised dinghies we came across all sorts, from sleeping turtles to shark eggs and my personal favorite these spotted eagle rays.
The entire archipelago of Galapagos is very unique, one of the reasons is that on one island there are a few different ecosystems, from the lush jungle looking mountains down to the dried out flatlands, and on from that you get the mangroves who offer a breeding sanctuary for a huge amount of marine animals.
We where in sight of our boat after an early morning tour trough the mangroves when we came across this Grey Herring, majesticly he sat there waiting for his breakfast to float past, with the look on his face, if we fitted in his mouth, he wouldn't of thought twice about tucking in to us.
On a serious note, these animals are so used to humans coming close to them that you can get within reaching distance of any given animal without much of a problem. Having said this the advised distance given by the national park is 2m which sometimes is hard to keep as the animals do tent to charge towards you, just to suss you out.