Galapagos island hopping

Galapagos is a damn good place to take a holiday.

As soon as we managed to grab three days leave ahead of the Ecuadorian bank holiday, we jumped on a four-day trip with Sharksky, one of the local operators.

We could not have been busier.

First we sailed to Enderby and Champion islands, near Floreana, and saw penguins – just another example of the crazy variety of wildlife on Galapagos.

We jumped into the water for snorkelling there and yes, before you ask, I wore leggings because the phrase ‘first degree burns’ is now seared onto my brain.

Pippa managed to snap a huge turtle and a ray with her underwater camera but annoyingly she also managed to photograph me bobbing in my life jacket.

(I am one of those drippy people who snorkels this way. I know it’s shameful, but the whole keeping afloat issue, well, it’s just unnecessary)

It was great to set foot on Floreana – my first step onto another Galapagos island – but not so great when I was desperate for the toilet.

Several other girls were in the same predicament so we decided to be valiant and went clambering over the rocks to find somewhere discreet.

It was absolutely fine until I looked up and saw a huge marine iguana staring straight at me.

His beady little eyes were watching my every move.

I yelped and almost jumped straight upright, which would have been disasterous.

Despite that mishap, the day on Floreana was fantastic.

We went wandering, as always, to the highlands where we not only found some giant tortoises, but managed to see a fight between two males.

I can’t say it was particularly dignified.

It was essentially a vicious attempt at face biting before the weaker male retracted his neck with a disgruntled hiss.

Oh dear.

We returned to the bay for a huge lunch with one of the families on the island.

It was a blessing because only 120 people live on Floreana and only two homes have the capacity to feed tourists.

Still, it was our next destination – Isabela – that excited me most.

Isabela is by far the largest island in Galapagos and littered with volcanoes.

We were planning to hike one of those volcanoes, Sierra Negra, the following day.

We landed on Isabela that afternoon and went straight to the Wall of Tears.

It was one of those depressing but essential tourist visits – a reminder of our species’ tremendous capacity for cruelty.

The task of building the Wall of Tears – constructed from giant boulders – fell to the prisoners when Isabela was home to a penal colony.

It was a pointless and frequently fatal task, made worse because there was nowhere for the exhausted convicts to flee.

Surviving on Isabela, which is devoid of fresh water, is almost impossible.

As we stood on the top of the wall and watched a beautiful sunset, looking out over the island’s glorious landscape, its history seemed even more tragic.

Despite that, Isabela remains my favourite Galapagos island.

The 10-mile hike on Sierra Negra was incredible.

It was like scampering across a lunar landscape, but with cactuses and brightly coloured lava rocks.

We were all tired afterwards but not enough to skip the trip to the island’s giant tortoise breeding centre, where we all fell in love with the two-week-old baby tortoises.

Isabela, like all of the islands, is stuffed with wildlife.

As we walked and snorkelled that evening we spotted huge turtles, penguins, brightly coloured crabs and dozens and dozens of marine iguanas.

We spent our final few days on Santa Cruz, the most densely populated island.

Now, most of our San Cristobal friends had shaken their heads when we asked if they liked Santa Cruz, even though it’s one of their nearest neighbours.

“It’s too busy, it’s too busy,” they moaned.

“There are people everywhere.”

Not quite.

Santa Cruz appeared only slightly less sleepy than San Cristobal.

There are a few more tourist shops and restaurants but it’s hardly busy.

Lonesome George – the only surviving member of the giant tortoise sub species from Pinta island – is the island’s star tourist attraction.

Typically, he has the same grumpiness and obstinacy I suspect is inherent in every giant tortoise – and the whole time I was visiting him, he only showed me his ass.

I went all the way to Galapagos to see Lonesome George’s bum.

Great.

Thanks George.

With grumpiness like that, I suspect your solitary existence is entirely your own making.

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