Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Galapagos: Falling in love with San Cristobal

I think we were all overwhelmed with anticipation as we headed to the Galapagos islands on the morning of July 30th! This is somewhere I have always wanted to go and I knew that Addie would especially love it there. The plane ride went well and before we knew it we were walking off the airplane on the island of San Cristobal ready to start our adventure.
We dropped off our things at the hotel and were taken right to the beach where there were sea lions swimming and laying around everywhere. It was unbelievable and the kids loved it! The sea lions like to ride in on the waves so they learned to try and stay out of their way after a couple close but funny encounters. We told the guide we had with us (he was just filling in until after lunch when we would meet our real guide for the rest of our time here) that we wanted to snorkel a bit and he suggested walking over to another area. We did not bring water shoes with us on the trip, and whenever we are able to make it back here (because I really, really want to go back and spend more time!!!) that is something I will be sure we have. The rocks were slippery and sharp and Mike ended up slipping right at the beginning of the day and cut his hand badly on the lava rocks. I could tell by his reaction that he was really hurt and I was certain he had broken his wrist. We made our way up to the road again and he was completely drained of color, looking like he would pass out at any moment. There was a nice truck driver who had some clean water and bandage and helped and then we headed back to the hotel where they were able to fix it up a bit more and give Mike some pain medication. Luckily it was not broken and continued to improve each day! It was definitely a close call to be a dream vacation ruiner!
We really loved our hotel on the island, Eco Hotel Arena Blanca. The rooms were large and clean and all the meals were included which was convenient (especially here where there weren't a lot of restaurants.) Mike and I really liked the food and the kids tolerated it (although there were a few things they did really like).
We had lunch and then the kids enjoyed a little time in the pool before we met our guide, Asucena. I LOVED Asucena! She was with us for the rest of our time in San Cristobal and was amazing. Her English wasn't always the best but we would figure it out and she knew EVERYTHING about the plants and animals on the island. She was wonderful with the kids and spent a lot of extra time snorkeling with Addie when the rest of us were too cold. But, back to our day :-), Asucena picked us up and we headed to the Interpretation Center.
(side note: I only had my phone with me this whole day so all these pictures aren't the best quality but I was definitely thankful I had upgraded my phone before the trip because for phone pictures and videos they are much improved!)
We learned a little history of the islands and then started walking on trails to see the plant and wildlife. We saw so many lava lizards, Darwin finches, yellow warblers, and frigate birds. Asucena would make a kissing sound on her hand and all the finches and warblers would come to her! It was amazing! We were able to get unbelievably close to all the animals - they didn't seem to have the natural fear of humans that animals back home do. Addie and Preston were dying to catch the lava lizards because it would have been so much easier than catching lizards at home.
The walk went up to a high view point that looked over a little cove and where the trees were full of frigates hanging out. When they would glide around in the air they really looked like small pterodactyls! From there we headed back down to the cove to go snorkeling. I get pretty nervous about snorkeling. I am not the strongest swimmer and being in the water with a mask and snorkel on gives me a claustrophobic feeling. With Mike's hand newly injured though he couldn't go and I really wanted Ella, who gets nervous about it despite the fact that she is such a good swimmer because of the fish, to try it so I worked up my courage and in we all went. The water was COLD. We knew it would be as we headed out for the trip, but it was still a shock to get in at first. We all did a good little loop and went into a little cave and Preston and Ella and I were done at that point and headed back, but Addie girl was in heaven so Asucena stayed in with her and took her all over the cove. Addie had the biggest smile on her face as she got out of the water. I think being free in the water and so close to all the magnificent sea life is truly her happy place.
We warmed up by sitting on the warm rock path in the sun and then started walking more to see the rest of area. We made it up to another look out point with a big statue of Darwin, down to some old remnants of when the US Army used the islands during WWII (which I don't remember ever learning about in school by the way) and then to another beach full of sea lions and iguanas. The sun was setting and it was beautiful! The kids were picking up little treasures along the way and found a skeleton of a sea turtle. They were fighting over who got to keep which bones when Asucena told us we could not remove them from the island. They were pretty bummed :-). I wished I had my camera at this point because it really was magical with all the animals, the pretty blue water and the sun setting so perfectly on it all. What a day! Even with Mike's scary injury at the beginning, the rest of it was so amazing that we were all in love with the islands already!
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they take it very seriously to prevent contaminating the islands and sprayed all the overhead bins for insects as we got close to landing
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Galapagos cotton plant, the darwin finches use it for their nests
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frigate with it's scissor like tail
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lava lizard
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right before the slip. Mike was trying to hurry and get in to help Preston.
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Preston loved the soup appetizer with our lunch and ate two bowls of it! Ella was loving the rice until we found it was seafood rice haha!
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Ready for adventure round two with Asucena!
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these two LOVED all the lizards!
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I got better pictures of the birds with my real camera the next day...it was hard to get the phone to focus on them.
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I don't remember what this plant was that she had us smell :-(
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where we snorkeled shortly after
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I LOVE this picture! So glad Mike caught her happy face :-)
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such little baby dinosaurs!
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Asucena teaching Preston again to not run and startle the animals ;-)
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