Jun 292012

We returned back to Quito from Napo Wildlife Centre early on Friday afternoon and met up with the other nine guests who were joining us for the Galapagos cruise. That afternoon we caught up with laundry and sleep! In the evening we all headed to La Ronda in Quito; a lively street that is closed to traffic and full of music, entertainment and a great variety of restaurants.

The food market in Otavalo

When booking a tour to the Galapagos Islands I strongly recommend having a spare day in Quito or Guayaquil the day before your cruise. If you are delayed and miss the departure of your cruise, then it may be several days before you can join your group.

On Saturday’s there is a colourful market in Otavalo, a town about two hours drive North of Quito. I hired Tierra de Fuego to take us to by coach and again Felix was our excellent guide.

 

For the first time, we went for a walk through the food market before heading to the more famous artisan’s market. As always, it was a wonderfully colourful experience and a great opportunity to shop for gifts at very attractive prices.

Instead of using my Nikon D3x, I used my new Panasonic GX1. Due to the camera’s great image quality and small size it is an excellent camera for travel photography. Read more about the GX1 in my blog post here.

Group photo in Cotacachi

After lunch we drove to Cotacachi, a town famous for it’s leather goods. It’s a great place to buy wallets, handbags, belts etc. At one point I thought we would be leaving with a beautiful leather saddle for Teresa’s horse but it was not to be.

We drove back to Quito in the rain and got ourselves ready for the early departure to Galapagos the next day.

 

Getting 19 people checked in for our Galapagos flight is always challenging. In addition to the usual challenges of air travel we also had to get our bags pre-screened for Galapagos and also ensure that each bag was tagged correctly so that it would end up in the correct cabin and on the right boat.

Sunset behind Kicker Rock, Galapagos

 

Jim was a great help and looked after the pre-screening whilst I handled the check-in. It didn’t seem long before we cleared security, boarded the plane and we were on our way.

 

The Galapagos archipelago is 1,000km West off the coast of Ecuador. If you are departing Quito, then it is highly probable that your flight will stop at Guayaquil before continuing to either Baltra or San Cristobal airports. At Guayaquil our naturalist Orlando Romero boarded. Orlando has been the senior naturalist on my previous two Galapagos photography tours, he is very understanding of the needs of photographers and is always willing to discuss the daily programme with me so that we can optimize it for photography. Orlando retired shortly after our 2010 photography tour, so I was very grateful that he had agreed to join us again.

 

Our second naturalist was Ivan Lopez. Ivan was with us in 2008 and is a very entertaining naturalist who lives in San Cristobal and runs a dive shop when he’s not working as a naturalist.

 

It wasn’t long before we left the harbour and started the cruise. Our first stop was the beach at Playa Ochoa. This was an opportunity to snorkel and relax before we set off to watch the sunset at Kicker Rock.

A beautiful, tranquil beach at Cerro Brujo, San Cristobal

 

The next day was also spent at San Cristobal. Our first stop was the beautiful beach at Cerro Brujo. We saw sea lions, Sally Lightfoot crabs, a few marine iguanas and watched pelicans fishing. We had a relaxing walk down a perfect white beach, listening to the waves softly splashing on the shore. I could have sat there for hours!

 

 

We returned to the Flamingo and after lunch we sailed North East to Punta Pitt. This year we were on a new itinerary and Punta Pitt was a replacement for Genovesa. The latter is a popular spot for birds, particularly red footed boobies and Magnificent Frigates. Before we went onshore we went snorkelling with sea lions. It was a blast and I’ve never snorkelled with so many sea lions at once.

Curious sea lion and friends at Punta Pitt

In the afternoon we went for a “panga” (Zodiac) ride to an islet to see all three types of boobies (red footed, blue footed and Nazca) and Frigate birds we then went for a walk at Punta Pitt. Although we saw the birds, the panga ride and the subsequent walk at Punta Pitt are absolutely no match to a visit at Genovesa. If you are looking for a cruise to Galapagos then I strongly recommend finding one that visits both Genovesa and Espanola, which I will describe in my next blog post.

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