Arriving in Galapagos
It's Sunday. Time to go to the Galapagos! An early start at the Hilton Colon Hotel in Guayaquil. Bags are collected from guest rooms and Richard heads off to the airport with all luggage and passports. He can do the check in while guests have a slightly more leisurely breakfast and follow on later. Check in completed and boarding cards ready, guests arrive at Guayaquil airport. A nice easy procedure ... grab your passport and head through security to the gate ... aren't you pleased you booked with Furlongs?!
Our Aerogal flight takes less than 90 minutes to reach San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands. On route we are served a hot breakfast - the second of the day. Excitement builds as we start to descend and then touch down on the Galapagos Islands. It's warm and sunny but with a nice breeze. Galapagos National Park formalities follow. Most visitors have to queue up and pay their $100 per person park fees in cash on arrival but ours have been prepaid and we simply present our transit cards and move on. We "borrow" the Galapagos passport stamp and ensures we're all officially stamped in. Surprisingly we don't get arrested. No need for us to collect our luggage - the next time we'll see it is in our cabins on board ship. We're met by our Naturalist Guides: Juan Carlos, Fernando and Walter, and we join our two buses for the immensely long (4 minute) transfer to the quayside. Here we board our fleet of rigid zodiac boats (called "pangas" in Galapagos) for the short ride to our privately chartered ship, the National Geographic Islander. Our expedition leader, Dr Lynn Fowler is ready to greet us as we embark. Hotel manager, Alexa welcomes us on board and staff help us find our cabins and get settled in.
Luggage follows and we attend a welcome gathering in the lounge. We set sail from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the Ecuadorian province of Galapagos. Lunch is served buffet style after which we may enjoy a siesta or perhaps unpack. Many guests are too excited for either. They're on top deck spotting wildlife already. Frigate birds are the main attraction. There are 20 or more above our ship (literally just above it). Cameras are active! We sail pass "Kicker Rock" towards our first landing at Cerro Brujo, which translates as "Wizard Hill". First we enjoy a shot panga ride along the cliff edge - hoping to see marine iguanas, sea lions and shore birds. We're successful on all counts. Then we land on the pretty beach and our naturalist guides offer an introduction before giving us free time to explore and, if we wish, swim. Fortunately some of us spot the San Cristobal Mocking Bird - one of our main tasks of the landing. This species is ONLY to be seen here, on this island. Nowhere else in the world. Trevor gets a great close up shot of the mocking bird with his camera, apparently without zoom! Naturally we believe him.
Back on board we're invited to a cocktail party hosted by our captain, Pablo Garces. Expedition Leader Lynn, briefs us on tomorrow's activities and formally introduces our naturalist team and video chronicler. An excellent dinner is then served in the restaurant, before guests retire early for bed. It's been a long but wonderful day.