On Sunday morning we flew to San Cristobal, one of the islands in the Galapagos to join our 7 day cruise of the islands. Back in the spring, Steve and I went round and round on which boat (there are many) and which itinerary to take. There were so too many variables! Price, size of boat, where it stopped (some boats won’t see penguins, for example) and availability. We knew this time of year was some of the rougher seas, but after spending a fair bit googling it didn’t seem that bad. It seemed like almost everyone was fine after 24 hours and really 99% find after 2 days. We selected a medium size vessel (the very large ones were like 80% more money!) and a route that had penguins.
We arrived on a relatively uneventful flight. The spraying of our bags with who-knows-what disinfectant and a video about protecting the islands were the only exceptions to a normal 2 hour flight. We landed and went through multiple layers of “welcome” -including showing proof we’d paid the national park fee and an inspection of much of our luggage.
We found or friendly guide (naturalist guide technically!) and our shipmates for next week: two couples of middle age and a single woman whose friend had to cancel (all from US). Two more were due to join us on Tuesday as they missed connections in the US. The boat holds about 20 passengers. We took it as “off season” that it wasn’t more full.
We started with a very short bus ride to the harbor where we encountered our first wildlife: sea lions and crabs (kind of felt like CA 😉 . A short “panga” (aka zodiac) ride to the boat brought us to our new home base. Despite being docked, the motion of boat was immediately apparent to me inside, though outside I was ok.
After a quick lunch that kids and I barely ate, we headed back to shore and to a tortoise breeding area and sanctuary. Jack was the actual star of the trip as his eagle eyes found nearly all the tortoises before the guide, Antonio. The guide was incredibly knowledgeable and always had about 4 layers of more facts about anything he mentioned if prodded. No doubt a top notch guide.
We learned how to tell how old one was by their shells (if no lines within squares they were over 100!). They grow almost their entire life and don’t have much of an “elderly” time. The site’s breeding area allowed us to see the tortoises at almost all ages!
After a about an hour we headed back to the boat. I took some Dramamine and gave some to the kids along with our seasickness bracelets. Despite this I was sick twice, basically if I tried to do anything indoors I was terribly nauseated, so stayed outside.
We had a briefing on rules and a safety drill. Our guide was serious but entertaining about the first and competent and reassuring during the second.
Dinner was after a siesta and briefing about our next day. The kids were exhausted and “off” and barely awake by dinner at 7:30-8.
Anotonio gave me “their” seasickness meds that last 24 hours and were promised to work. Well, to his credit they were miraculous for me. We headed to bed as the ship took off for all-night trip to Isla Genovesa. I thought it would be smoother underway, boy was I wrong. Kids slept ok, but I only got a few hours between panicked hours of being awake and bracing against walls so I wouldn’t fall out of bed. I wasn’t queasy despite severe motion. Steve, normally the iron stomach, hadn’t taken meds and was sick, though he ultimately got some rest.
The boat reached harbor at about 5 and I got a couple of hours of rest in relative calm. What a relief. The view, upon dawn, was incredible though.
Nate, Steve and I ate a bit of breakfast. Jack passed as he was queasy and stayed outside. We did bring him a bit up there. Next we had a panga ride to the shore where we gave Jack one of the ship’s magic meds. At this point I thought all would be ok. The meds worked ok for me and we’d been through the longest (by not much it turned out) overnight voyage. The island was incredible. You can’t really “get” how the animals aren’t scared of people until you are there. You could get insanely close to the birds without any reaction from them. National park rules are 3 meters which we abided by. We got to see tons of birds, and honestly had to be careful not to step on them in places. Most common were frigate birds, nazca boobies and red footed boobies. We were lucky to see a special owl endemic to the island from a far too (they are hard to spot so rarely seen).
Then we went back to the boat and got outfitted in snorkels gear and wet suits to head back to the edge of the cliffs. The water was cold, but we quickly adjusted. We saw beautiful huge tropical fish, were approached by sea lions and some saw sea turtles.
Back to the boat for lunch which Jack also couldn’t eat. Nate ate a bit, and Steve and I ate plenty. We had a many hour rest on the top deck where Jack finally seemed better (ate a bunch of snacks) but Nate basically slept (possibly due to Dramamine).
A late afternoon walk on the beach was next. We were able to see lava gulls (rare) and tons more of the mornings’ birds plus sea lions. A swim was on offer but only Nate attempted it (cold!).
Back to the boat again and we were all exhausted. We had another long break before our briefing for next day at 7:15 (then dinner). Of note the late-comers would be put on board at 7am, from a dock near the airport. Kids were green zombies and Nate ate a bit. Jack didn’t make it to the table and went to bed. At this point we were still anchored. Nate went to bed and they were both out dead asleep quickly.
Steve and and I chatted a bit and both took the magic meds. We’d learned in briefing that the going would be WORSE tonight as we’d be going against the current. I was worried.
As soon as we lay down and were underway we were both beyond shocked, we were on a roller coaster that also shook side to side. If I could have stood up I’d have gotten video. I couldn’t possibly relax enough to sleep as we were being tossed about. Soon Jack was calling from the bathroom, then Nate, then Jack etc. Steve slept not a wink, me a couple of hours eventually (maybe 1-3?). Jack and Nate eventually fell asleep.
When the boat got to harbor at about 5am I woke up and told Steve that we need to get off. No sleep and no food would mean a terrible day, and no energy to go to land but no rest on the boat. He agreed.
I got up to find a crew member and discovered the lounge TVs had fallen from their mounts and one was broken. More evidence of a rough night! I found one of the crew and told him we wanted off. Steve and I started packing and then we woke kids that were both relieved to be getting off but sad they’d miss some excursions.
Just before wake up I went to find our guide to confirm arrangements off. The waiter found the guide who was visibly disappointed as it “almost never happens” that people get off. The captain was found and calls to shore were made. After a LOT of back and forth and signing that we were voluntarily leaving they brought us to shore. What a relief!