(Part of a series of articles by Fi trawling the archives for photos taken on the tiny compact camera way back when).
I was tired from travel but had also learned to not get too excited about the hyped up experiences you can ‘enjoy’ while travelling – thankfully Galapagos far exceeded my expectations.
In my personal opinion, if given the choice of Machu Picchu or Galapagos, the islands would win hands down. That’s not wanting to take anything away from the architectural delight of Machu but it’s not going anywhere. The Galapagos islands are a set of volcanoes that are constantly changing and due to tectonic plate movements could eventually disappear into the ocean. Tourism is also sadly changing the islands, so morally you could question visiting but as the majority of islands can only be visited with a guide, the best advice is to make sure you choose a reputable company that won’t let its guests trample off the paths, over nests or too close to the animals.
Similar advice would got to diving, choose a reputable company. Sadly we did not, and went on to experience the worst dive of my life. We chose a boat that would take us to Plaza and then on to Gordon Rocks, an extinct volcanic crater with pinnacles often referred to as the washing machine due to its strong currents and surge, the main draw is that it brings in the hammerheads and we were excited at the prospect. From start to finish it was a catalogue of errors, no safety checks, no guidance, the group was split each time and during the Gordon Rock dive the currents were so strong that we were signalled to pull ourselves along the rocky crater edge by hand..I cringe at the memory of Paul holding me by my arm as my legs were being pulled towards the surface and the rocks I was holding onto with my other hand were breaking and washing away behind me..one of the girls regulators wasn’t working so we had no idea how much air she had left and the dive ended with us being whipped up by the current. Not enjoyable, not safe and no sharks ( I know you can’t book that aspect but you do pay for safe guidance!) We shared the trip with a couple of experienced dive instructors who were visiting the islands who were equally horrified by the standard of dive. Do your homework boys and girls, we later found that far too many unscrupulous dive shops exist in the Galapagos!
We did however get lucky with our choice of boat for the 5 day catamaran tour around some of the islands. With a group of 10/12 passengers we were lucky that everyone got on fabulously throughout, this was no doubt oiled by all of the astounding sights that we were to share, and of course the boozey evenings!
Before heading out on the catamaran trip we took a ferry across from Santa Cruz to Isabela, the large seahorse shaped island formed by the joining of 6 or 7 volcanos. Staying a few nights gave us the chance to visit Sierra Negra with a hike to its giant caldera and see lava tubes and colourful craters and also fit in las tintoreras an island absolutely covered with sea lions and marine iguanas, so many oblivious and chilled iguanas that you try to step across a path of maybe 50/60 grouped together and non of them move! Reef sharks and sea turles bask in the surrounding marine pools and we even saw penguins 🙂 With a second stroke of bad luck, our underwater camera died here just after swimming with sea lions, One SLR left and many more islands to visit!