We departed Saturday afternoon from Cuenca, taking a bus from Cuenca to the coastal city of Guayaquil. Guayaquil although known as the most dangerous, humid, (of Latin America) and most populated city of Ecuador. I found Guayquil to be beautiful. Immediately upon arriving I was reminded of my fondness of large cities and more cosmopolitan environments. I found Guayquil to be refreshing and positively different from the architecture, people, and social dynamic of Cuenca. I am looking forward to next weekend, as we will be spending time there upon our return to the mainland. We woke up early Sunday morning for our 9:00 AM departure for the Islands. The Galapagos Islands are located 900 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the flight was an hour an a half, however, we gained an hour because the Islands are located in the Central Standard Time Zone. There are over 20 islands that make up the Galapagos but only two that are inhabited by humans. The islands of Santa Cruz (14,000 people), the island on which we are currently staying and Isabel, the largest island, holds about 1,000 residents. Upon arriving yesterday morning we took a short bus ride to the dock on to which we loaded on our boat. We took an hour and a half boat ride to the islands of North and South Plazas where we were greeted by a large group (about 50) sea lions! Sea lions are gorgeous creatures, really quite cute, and extremely curious creatures. We also got a peek at red sea crabs, and pelicans. We took a small hike around both islands, both are relatively small, and returned to the boat. We then anchored out farther from these islands and snorkeled! It was then we got to spend more time with these sea lions, more intimately. Sea lions are incredibly playful and do not object approaching you.I cannot even describe how surprsing yet thrilling it was to be swimming and suddenly looking to your left and seeing a sea lion charging playfully towards you! During this snorkeling experience we also had the chance to see beautiful, colorful fish. After our snorkeling time we hopped back in the boat, sun bathed on the roof and took a two hour to Santa Cruz where we stayed last night. This morning, we got up and headed to the Darwin Center which was created as a conservation project in 1998. It was here that we learned a lot about conservation projects led my various groups of scientists and learned more about threats to the Galapagos. For example, the greatest threat to the Islands´ecosystem is outside species of plants and animals being introduced such as livestock, domesticated animals, and rodents, also plant life such as blackberries and guava are dangerous for certain native animals to ingest. Also at the Darwin Center we had the pleasure of meeting Lonesome George. Lonesome George is a 94-year-old pinta tortoise who is the very last living being of its species. George absolutely massive at 300 pounds and absolutely beautiful. We also were allowed to enter the Center for Galapagitos, the center for infant endangered animals that are being bred and supervised in order to preserve its species.
The last part of our tour of the Darwin Center came when we came very up close and personal with various other species of turtles. The saddle back turtles mate only once a year and we had the bizarre privilege of observing this event! Additionally, we were also allowed to enter a part of their living space and litteraly come within inches of them. These tortoises are just huge but absolutely majestic, it was so fascinating to witness them move, eat, and interact...
Anyway, as you can see I already have a lot to share, I will do my best to keep you updated as the week progresses.
I am already sunburned despite applying several coats of sunscreen. This afternoon we are taking a boat to the island of Isabel, the largest island in the Galapagos where we will be staying at least for tomorrow evening.