Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Part 2: Cruising Aboard a Catamaran

Our third day in the Galapagos, Nadine and I finally embarked on our aforementioned 7-day/7-night cruise around the Galapagos Islands!  You may want to prep yourself for a ton of awesome photos of beaches, snorkeling, wildlife, and more Fun Facts than you could ever hope for. Also, given that I do not have an underwater camera, you (sadly) don't get to see even 50% of our trip, which was CRAZY AMAZING SNORKELING WITH TONS OF ANIMALS.  Anyhow.

Catamaran Cruise Deets:
We signed up for a cruise on a catamaran called "Solitario Jorge," or Lonesome George, which had a 16-person capacity and was our home base for the next week. 

Oh hello, and welcome to my boat. Here, let me take you on a tour.

Our beautiful boat home, Solitario Jorge

On our first day aboard the Solitario Jorge, our guide went through a briefing of a boat, including all its horn sounds. Certain horns/bells can indicate anything from mealtimes, to serious emergencies. However, given the limited number of sounds, many of them share multiple meanings. So sometimes you'd hear a bell and be like "Either it's breakfast......orrrrrr someone's fallen overboard."

Our hangout spot/dining area deck.

The front of the boat, which was mainly used for sunning

The back of the boat - also used for sunning, watching sunsets, and jumping off into the water

Not a complaint (I would never), but I will comment that the cabins, however, were a weensy bit tight.

Nadine and I somehow got put into a matrimonial room, and here she is Vanna White-ing up our tiny bed. There was maybe a foot of space between the bed and the door.

Embarrassing, but this was our lovely (not at all cluttered) storage area next to the bed (if only those life jackets didn't take up so much space....)

And our bathroom! Complete with wonky toilet seat. The whole room became a shower when you took one, and the drain was slow - so water would fill the room and the trash bucket would float around as the boat moved, so you had to dance around and avoid it while finishing your shower - like a sort of very unique video game. The dream is alive, people.
However, THIS was the view from our room every morning

As a quick backstory on the name of our boat, Lonesome George was a super-famous giant tortoise - he was the only one of his own species that was ever discovered. EVER. Efforts to have him mate with females from other tortoise species proved unsuccessful, and during his entire life, countless fruitless searches were made for another of his kind. He passed away fairly recently at almost 100 years old. SAD AND ALONE. I think. I may be humanizing his feelings, which is what Cesar Milan says people do with their dogs.  Anyhow, another one of his kind has never been found. Hence the name "Lonesome George." Lonesome George was basically The Last Unicorn of his species (do you guys know that movie?). 

Anyhow, despite our boat's lonely namesake, it was an awesome time with an awesome group of people from all around the world (16 of us represented ~10 countries. Like a U.N. boat!).  We visited six separate islands, and basically spent our 7 days snorkeling twice a day, taking wildlife walks, sunning on the deck, laughing with new friends, swimming in the most crystal-clear aqua water you've ever seen in your life, and watching the world's most incredible sunsets and night skies over the ocean. I could seriously make an entire blog post of just of the sunsets we saw, or describing the pitch-black skies that were littered with so many stars that they looked like sand sprinkled across the sky.

Snorkeling in the most beautiful-colored water you'll ever see.
A nature walk with our guide, William/Leo (nicknames don't seem to correspond with full names here, fun fact).

Sunsets from the back deck. I could bottle up this feeling (lapping ocean waves, orange rays of sun shooting across unlimited expanse of water, wind in your hair) and be happy forever.

Cliffnotes of Day 1:
  • Our cruise started off by sailing around the coast of Santa Cruz to an area called Playa las Bachas.
Solitario Jorge pulling into Bachas

This beach is called Bachas because it's a bastardized version of "barcas" ("boats"), and this is where the U.S. used to have their docks and military base for training back in the day.

Beach #1! Nadine and I vowed to take a photo together on every beach we visit on the cruise.

Some kind of majestic bird soaring overhead. Everything here is called a "Galapagos so-and-so" (i.e. Galapagos sea turtle, Galapagos feathered gull, etc.), because all the animals are so unique to this location. I initially made a stupid joke that they should call all the gulls "Galapa-gulls" because it's cute and trendy and efficient, but now I'm thinking about this more and realizing I may be brilliant.

  • We went on our first snorkeling excursion (first of 200, it turns out) - which started off with a bang because we saw TONS of black-tipped reef sharks everywhere! Seriously, it got to the point where I was like "okaaaaay there's yet another shark, snooze" (kind of kidding). 

Courtesy of Google, this is a black-tipped reef shark. The ones we saw were maybe a teensy bit smaller, but STILL.

  • I also saw a beautiful, HUGE marine turtle - I was all by myself, and it was amazing. Add to the list a dash of some eagle rays and tropical Nemo-like fish, and it was pretty successful.

A huge group of eagle rays swimming through!  

Sunset, Night #1.

Being romantic and watching the sunset together, of course


  • Nighttime was especially cool, because our boat was cruising and there were some lights that shone into the water - and you could see sharks and pelicans and sea lions following the boat at night. Anytime someone spotted one, they'd shout and point and all of us would crowd the edge and watch the giant shadowy shark shape glide by. IT WAS SO COOL. 

Cliffnotes of Day 2:
  • We continued cruising around Santa Cruz - our morning wildlife walk was to an area called Cerro Dragon, and involved a walk to see the islands' special land iguanas. Land iguanas are incredibly territorial btw, and both land/marine iguanas will spit as a warning sign to predators.

That is Cerro Dragon in the background. 

These creepy things are the marine iguanas, which are currently shedding their layers of skin and look a little horror-movie to me. El Niño this year has led to less green algae, which marine iguanas eat. Sometimes they get so hungry that they eat brown algae instead, which poisons them, and then they die. Just to force one last fun fact on you, only 10% of baby iguanas survive to adulthood.

But hey! This is a special land iguana specific to this island. I like how he is sitting like a bulldog.

He's kind of a big deal. I ALSO LIKE HOW HIS TAIL LEAVES A TRAIL.

Group shot of our U.N. boat!
Front row (L to R): Andrés (Argentina), Ayelen (Argentina), Roos (Netherlands), me, Camila (Denmark), Valerie (Switzerland)
Back row: 2 Italian ladies (I'm the worst), Lucia (Italy), Vendela (Sweden), Nadine (Swestie), Filip (Sweden), Richard (UK), Joel (Sweden), Josh (Australia), and Ruben (Netherlands).  

This is a terrible photo, but these crabs have bright blue stomachs!
One time, my parents bought live crabs home for dinner and my sister and I tried to rescue them and put them in the bathtub full of water and they kept throwing up and we didn't know why (it's the lack of salt water, in case you're wondering). You're welcome for that fascinating anecdote.

  • In the afternoon, we sailed to a super super tiny island called Pinzón (it's <1km in land size) to go snorkeling. WHERE WE SAW GIANT WHITE TIPPED REEF SHARKS. These look just like the photo above, except their fins are tipped with white instead of black. And they were huuuuuuuge. We were snorkeling in these mangroves, and somebody was like, "Shark!" and I stuck my head underwater and it was super murky....and then BAM THERE WAS A SHARK'S FACE RIGHT THERE. It was crazy cool.  My ultimate trust in authority tells me that tour companies wouldn't let people snorkel with sharks if they were man-eating dangerous ones (someday this thought process of mine will be proven wrong, and I am not looking forward to that day), so I wasn't freaked out, though some of the people were. I was just in total awe.   
  • There were also amazing marine sea turtles everywhere!  EVERYWHERE. I HEART TURTLES. The way they swim, the way they all look like Crush from Finding Nemo, the amazing way their front flipper-things flap - it's all amazing to me.

At this point, you may notice that I've just started blatantly ripping photos off Google images to make up for my lack of an underwater camera. But isn't it also magical when what you see in real life looks exactly like a photo from Google??

Cliffnotes of Day 3:
  • We sailed from Santa Cruz Island to Santiago Island - the 3rd largest island at 50 square kilometers.  The first inhabitants of Santiago Island were pirates, which sounds like a good thing because pirates are awesome, but they weren't because they introduced non-endemic animals like rats and goats and things, which totally destroy the delicate ecosystem of the Galapagos.  The government started eradication of non-endemic animals in the 80's.  (I'm trying to casually tuck some of my fun facts into my bullet points, in case you noticed, because I have so many of them).

Another cool thing, the black sand beach of Santiago!  I realize that this is another super-nerd moment with my hat, but I refuse to take it off because my face needs no more sun, thank you very much.

Crabs! Crabs everywhere!

Some kind of stork-y, gull-y (GALAPA-GULL) bird

We watched this juvenile sea lion roll around in the sand for so long. Honestly, I don't know why they're called sea lions instead of sea dogs, because they are basically giant sausage-shaped puppies. This one was making sand angels, flipping around, nuzzling everything and basically putting on a big show for us. CUTEST.

And there was another sea lion taking a picturesque swim in a little lagoon. Galapagos sea lions were originally from the same line as California sea lions and were thought to have swam down to the islands forever ago - but now have developed into their own species that are now considered endemic to the islands. They are smaller than Cali sea lions, and they sometimes play ball using marine iguanas as the ball (BEST VISUAL EVER. I swear I did not make this up, either). 

  • A morning snorkel followed our morning nature walk, where the highlight was watching a sea lion swimming next to us with a fish in its mouth (!!!!!!) (at this point, we are no longer max impressed with turtles or sharks anymore).

BEACH #2.  Post-snorkels on the black sand beach of Isla Santiago.

  • In the afternoon, we sailed to a new location off of Santiago, where we took a mini-boat ride and snorkeled directly from the boat into a cave and around crazy rock formations.

Taking our mini-boat into an ominous cave, where we later snorkeled as well.

This rock formation looks like a woman praying. There was another rock formation that is supposed to look like a giant elephant drinking water, but my photo of it looks so un-elephant-like that I thought it was useless to include.

Sunset, Night #3: SO MUCH FIRE

  • And that wraps up 3 days on our magical Galapagos cruise!  The latter half of the cruise to be finished in the next blog post (There are SO many more amazing things to come).  (On a side note, what is a good alternative to use for the word "amazing"?? I am convinced that there isn't one).

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • The Galapagos Islands were discovered in 1535. 
  • There are 22 species of birds on the islands. The most famous ones include the blue-footed booby (you can appropriately purchase aprons that say "I love boobies" in town), pelicans (which like to dive-bomb aggressively into the water), and Darwin's finches. 
  • Darwin's finches all look fairly similar from island to island, but are incredibly different in terms of their diets (and consequently, their beak shapes). There's even one called a vampire finch that drinks other birds' blood.
  • Apparently there are a lack of insects on the islands (LIES, because WHAT has been biting me everywhere?) - so native plants are usually white or yellow, which are the two kinds of flowers that the local bees pollinate.
  • Marine iguanas' favorite activity is the bask in the sun. Me too, iguanas. But only if I have a sunhat.


  1. Oh. My. Gawd. The Last Unicorn was my favorite movie ever growing up as a kid. Ok, I know that movie is probably the LEAST memorable thing about this blog post, but I had to share. #reasonswhywe'rebesties OK, going back to reading the rest now, will probably comment more. XOOOOO

    ps. Ugh to the lonesome george store!! I want to find his mate!

  2. Questions/Comments:

    1) DON'T THE SHARKS EAT YOU/BITE?!?! Were you not terrified?! I'm so confused as to why the tour guides said not to be scared. Are Galapagos sharks so magical that they have marshmellow teeth? I don't fully understand.

    2) But something I do understand, is the onset of Galapagulls. It's genius.

    3) The sunsets, oh my gawd. I want to see 50 pictures of every sunset, thorughout the entire magic hour.

    4) I love the iguanas <3 <3 they're so cute!!

    1. Hahaha I didn't question why the sharks don't bite - if he said so though, it must be true!?? Though he did randomly choose other times to tell us to be cautious of them....so unclear what makes them dangerous at some moments vs. others.

      Sunset shots are all for you! Love you!