A Travellerspoint blog

Slice of Paradise

Marvellous Moorea

sunny 32 °C

Happy New Year!

This year we decided to spend Christmas and New Year elsewhere and our chosen destination was Moorea in French Polynesia. New Zealand may be a long way from anywhere else but jump on a plane for 4 or 5 hours and you can find yourself in some pretty spectacular places and French Polynesia definitely falls into that category.

Our flight to Tahiti landed in the afternoon so we spent the first night there. After checking in we headed out to find some local geocaches. One the way to the second one it began to rain heavily so we ducked under the nearest shelter. It soon became apparent that the rain was not going to stop anytime soon so we resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to get wet and headed back in the rain stopping off for dinner at the food market.

We woke up to sunshine the next morning so decided to have another go (successfully) at finding the caches we had given up on before catching the ferry across to Moorea. It was a bumpy ride across the stretch of water between the two islands but we were then in under an hour. After an expensive taxi ride (xpf3500) we arrived at the Hilton and were driven in a golf buggy to our overwater bungalow once we were checked in. Waiting in our room was a bottle of champagne on ice and a box of delicious macaroons.
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That night was the Christmas Eve dinner – an amazing buffet with foods such as steak in black truffle sauce and lobster. After the biggest selection of desserts I have ever seen, we were treated to a cultural show of singing and dancing and then headed down to the beach for a fire show.
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When we arrived back at the room we were greeted with a Christmas card and box of chocolates on the bed.

Christmas day began with a delicious breakfast buffet. The rest of the day was spent sunbathing on the deck or by the pool with a bit of snorkelling thrown in too.
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We enjoyed cocktails in the afternoon and dinner at the Crepe Bar watching the sharks, that visit each evening, swimming below.
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We also had William Shatner (AKA Captain James T Kirk) sitting on a table right by us with his family. We got back to our bungalow just as it began to pour with rain – perfect timing!

Quite a few days were spent in a similar fashion of sleeping, eating, drinking, sunbathing, reading, snorkelling and watching sunsets.
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We did have a few days of being more active. One morning we woke up and decided to hire a car to explore the island. Unfortunately we chose a day that a cruise ship was in and hiring a car was easier said than done! The lady on the activity desk finally tracked down what must have been the last available car on the whole island and we were soon off on our adventure. The island only has one main road that goes around the whole island – approximately 60km. Most of the middle of the island is completely uninhabited and much of it completely untouched by man as it is just too rugged. Our first port of call was to the Belvedere Lookout that gave gorgeous views over both Cooks Bay and Opunoho Bay.
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We also attempted a cache hidden nearby but failed to find it – after reading the log from the only people to have found it, it became clear that the co-ordinates were not quite right so we emailed them to get a hint to help us find it. So it was onto cache number two, this one was by a waterfall. As we drove up the, far from sealed, road it began to rain heavily so we ate lunch in the car and waited for it to ease off. It took a good half an hour to get to the waterfall and entailed crossing the river several times, walking through thick mud and clambering over rocks so in hindsight flip flops were not the best footwear for us to tackle it in! The cache was hidden up a steep bank right by the waterfall and just as I found it a rock slipped under my foot and as a result I got a nasty cut but not serious enough to stop me signing the log and continuing our day’s adventure.
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We enjoyed the scenery as we drove around and having the car meant that we could head out a bit further for dinner that night. We headed to a little restaurant called Te Honu Iti which was very cute. As we ate both sharks and rays swam in the shallow water right next to us.
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The food was on the pricey side but utterly delicious and neither of us left a scrap on our plates.

The next morning we had received a helpful hint from the finders of the cache so headed back up to the lookout point to have a second attempt. This time after a bit of bushwhacking and doing my best to avoid any spiders I soon had the cache in hand and we set off to return the hire car. Gerald had a go at stand up paddle boarding in the afternoon as the water was nice and calm. Finding a good place to stand up was tricky as there are patches of reef everywhere that he didn’t want to fall onto if he lost his balance being a novice still.
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We knew there was one more cache on the island that was still unfound despite being hidden for over a year. We also knew that the cache was fairly hard to get to being way up a mountain and the cache owner strongly suggested not to attempt it without a guide. We tried to hire a guide but with it being Christmas and New Year most were not working or already fully booked. One guide thought he knew where we needed to go and gave us clear instructions of how to get there saying that we would be fine on our own. It turned out to be a couple of km away from where we needed to be but after a 7.7km hike along the Three Coconut Pass we had another hot, sweaty but fun adventure.
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The hike gave us more great views of the island but no cache. We had taken a taxi to the start of the trail, when we got back there we decided to hitchhike back to the hotel as we had heard it was a safe way to travel round the island. Within 5 minutes we had been picked up by a couple of locals and were soon back at our bungalow desperate to jump off the deck and into the ocean!
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That night was New Year’s Eve and another buffet night at The Hilton.
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Again there was a huge selection of seafood, oysters, lobster, prawns and this time even caviar (which we tried but didn’t particularly like). There was duck, beef, veal, turkey, cold meats, cheeses, breads, salads, potatoes, rice and much, much more. Once again a huge selection of desserts, even ones with real gold on top!
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During dinner there was a live band playing and then afterwards more cultural dancing and singing, this time on the beach and with audience participation. Gerald got chosen to go up and learn a few moves!
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The night finished with a fire show and then a few fireworks.
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Our final full day on Moorea was spent doing a couple of scuba dives just on the other side of the reef. We were on the boat and heading out for our first dive by 8am. I was a little apprehensive, like I always am before diving, but despite the fact that we knew both our dives were going to be shark encounters as soon as I got in the water I was absolutely fine. I was the first one in and as soon as I looked down I could see sharks below me – very big lemon sharks. We watched them swim around for some time before setting off to explore the surrounding reef. We saw a big turtle, some black tip reef sharks and plenty of fish. The visibility was excellent and the water was a toasty 28, I think it was the first time I have ever been diving and not started to feel chilly by the end.
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We moved locations for the second dive and ended up very near our bungalow. Once again we saw both lemon and black tip sharks, many many different types of fish and corals. We were both happy to get back to dry land afterwards as the open water was a bit choppy and neither Gerald nor I travel well on boats. Gerald got to visit his breakfast again whilst I kept my eyes firmly on the horizon!

Our last day arrived all too soon, I managed a quick dip off the deck before packing and drinking complimentary cocktails by the beach whilst we waited for our transfer back to the ferry.
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We stood on the deck of the ferry and watched Moorea fade into the distance…
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Posted by bumblebum 01:05 Archived in French Polynesia Tagged moorea Comments (0)

Auckland, Rotorua & Bay of Islands

sunny 22 °C

It has been a long time since I last wrote a blog so this is somewhat overdue!

We have been keeping busy with visits to ‘The Arts’ – Cirque Du Soleil Totem, Bill Bailey, Sydney Dance Company and The Beatles Boys to name but a few. We also saw a couple of films at the New Zealand International Film Festival – we absolutely loved Housebound which I guess you would describe as a comedy horror. It is well worth a watch if you get a chance. And of course we have had several visits to our favourite theatre, The Basement

The annual kite festival was on again at Orakei Marae so we headed there to see all the amazing kites. Our favourite this year was Toothless the dragon, he was huge and was designed so that he appeared to be flapping his wings and really flying!
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We had a long weekend in Rotorua which was lovely although we didn’t get to do all the activities we originally planned to do as I had had an emergency trip to hospital just a couple of weeks beforehand to have my perforated appendix removed. Instead of
zip-lining through the forest and luging down the hillside we had to go on gentle strolls as I was still in quite a lot of discomfort if I did anything too physical.
One morning was spent exploring the Waiotapu Thermal area which was great. I will let the photos speak for themselves!
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We also walked one of the tracks through the Redwood Forest, some of the trees were huge – not anywhere as big as they can get but still very impressive.
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The second day was spent driving around the enormous Lake Rotorua to collect all the geocaches placed there. It kept us busy and took a big chunk of the day as the lake covers 79.8km2!
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Gerald ran the Auckland Marathon in November – his first one. I went along to cheer him on at the half way mark. He was doing great for the first half and then his reoccurring knee injury decided to make an appearance hampering his performance in the second half. He completed it in just over 5 hours but had wanted to do it under 4 and a half so he is determined to get injury free and give it another go next year!
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Another annual visit of ours was to Art in the Dark. Unfortunately the event was only on for 4 nights and the first three were very wet so the final night was heaving! It was still worth a wander round Western Park though. This year we headed there with friends and began our night with a delicious dinner in a café on Ponsonby Rd.
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Next up was another weekend away – this time to the Bay of Islands. The BOI is my favourite place in the whole of NZ. It is just so beautiful with its stunning coastlines of sandy beaches and turquoise waters. We took advantage of a GrabOne deal and stayed 2 nights in a gorgeous B&B in Opua called The Sanctuary. The views from the deck were gorgeous as we sat there eating our breakfast in the sunshine.
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On our first day we headed to Rainbow Falls which was a pretty little spot and worth a visit. Next up was Kerikeri for the Saturday market which was a great place to buy hand crafted gifts, fresh fruit and veggies, hear live music and eat some delicious foods. After that we headed to the Waitangi treaty grounds. We wandered around the grounds and then got to see their cultural show inside the Marae. They sang, danced with poi and did a haka for us – all very impressive and entertaining. We had fish and chips for dinner in Paihia and watched the world go by. Just as we were heading home it started to rain which created a beautiful rainbow over the ocean.
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The next day we got the ferry over to Russell. We had a lovely time exploring the area and collecting lots of caches along the way – the best one was placed on a chair with an interesting history behind it. It was built, from the power poles that held the old transformer, by the son of a school teacher at Russell School and placed outside the house she lived in for 64 years.
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On our trip away we found our 1000th cache, each cache seemed to take us to another stunning view or amazing beach. We even saw a stingray swimming in the shallows!
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We decided to go the long way home following the coastline – we picked up a young German hitchhiker along the way as he was in the middle of nowhere on a road that is not exactly busy trying to get to a DOC campsite in the forest. We took him a good part of the way there but didn’t fancy the unsealed, windy roads of the forest so continued with our original plan of following the coastline. The owners of the B&B had told us about The Gallery & Café in Helena Bay Hill so we decided to stop off there on the way home, there were so many beautiful works of art in there – some of them had hefty price tags to go with them but it was definitely worth stopping off at.
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Before too long the weekend was over and we were back home.

Posted by bumblebum 22:02 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

A bit of this, a bit of that....

overcast 16 °C

It’s the school holidays, which means I actually have time to update the blog.

Since the last time I wrote we have been keeping busy….the new school term started with an ERO (Education Review Office) inspection. It was not a fun experience and I am glad it will be 3 years before it comes around again!

We had a weekend visit to Melbourne and managed to catch up with Kirsten, Sarah & Steve and Sarah, James and the kids. It was all a bit of a whirlwind trip and mostly consisted of eating and drinking in establishments all over the city whilst catching up on everybody’s news. Of course we also did some caching which took us around the sights of Melbourne City centre.
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On the subject of caching, we haven’t done huge amounts recently however we did manage to be the FTF (First to Find) with three caches last month. A few got released very close to home so we had a few mad dashes out of the house over the course of a week. Other caching adventures have had Gerald climbing 8m up a tree to sign the log book and a lovely day was spent with The Hills looking for caches all over Shakespear Regional Park – a beautiful place.
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The comedy festival hit Auckland. We started off by watching a live recording of 7 days – a hilarious way to spend an evening.
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It was New Zealand V the International Team. One of the other team was the Brit, James Acaster. He was so funny that we ended up buying tickets for his show the following week and he did not disappoint. We also got tickets to see the Brat Pack – a group of NZ comedians that have been working the comedy circuit for about 15 years. It was a very funny evening slightly marred by the fact one of them had clearly drunk far too much. He lost track of where his joke was going and then proceeded to drunkenly collapse on the floor. When he came on stage to do his second stint he had not improved, an audience member started to heckle him and he totally lost it. He started ranting and swearing and it was a relief when he was ushered off the stage as it was starting to feel uncomfortable watching him make such an idiot of himself!

We had a great night out at the Arctic Monkeys gig and had an equally great night watching the Beatle Boys. It was funny being one of the youngest people in the crowd – we were surrounded by silver haired people! It was 50 years to the day since the Beatles had done their one and only gig in NZ. Several people in the audience with us had been at the original concert. The Beatle Boys were fantastic and everybody was up dancing and singing along to the songs we all know so well.

We also got to see Shadowland on it’s brief tour to NZ.. It was a mind blowing show of amazing dance/gym choreography telling a dreamlike story. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute but the highlight was definitely the encore which they obviously tailor make for each city they perform in. If you get the chance to see it I highly recommend you go!

The other weekend I unexpectedly ended up going to the All Blacks V England game as my friend, Clare, from work had been let down at the last minute and didn’t want to go alone. It was a good game and we had fun despite the fact it kept raining on and off. Clare is returning to England in a couple of weeks after a year out here, she was hoping for an England win but it wasn’t to be…..
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So that is a brief update of what has been going on in our lives over the last 10 weeks.

Posted by bumblebum 21:22 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Great Barrier Island

sunny 22 °C

We just got back from a short stay on Great Barrier Island. As we only had three days we decided to take the 30 minute flight rather than the 4 ½ hour ferry to get to the island. Our plane was tiny, with just 8 passengers on board! Just 48 hours before we flew, there had been the tail end of a cyclone and all flights had been cancelled due to 140km winds and torrential rain. Fortunately for us Saturday morning was a beautiful, sunny, calm day. We enjoyed the views as we flew over Brown’s Island, Rangitoto and Waiheke.
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Before we knew it we were back on land, we jumped into our hire car and headed a couple of kms down the road to Mount St Paul Estate – our accommodation for the next 2 nights. We were warmly welcomed by the owners, Chris and Teara, and shown to our room with stunning views over the ocean.
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We dumped our bags and hit the road, keen to explore as much of the island as possible. We headed to Tryphena, had a spot of breakfast and then drove to a few look out points in the area.
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With nice full stomachs we decided to head to the north of the island to do a bit of caching. We headed as far north as you can possibly drive to find a cache located at the mass grave site of the shipwreck SS Wairarapa. The beach that we walked along to reach the site was beautiful and very empty! GBI only has a population of 850 which translates to about 3 people per square km. It is very easy to find a bit of peace and quiet on the island.
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Everywhere we drove I kept making Gerald pull over so I could take photos, every turn produced another stunning view!
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Our next stop was for an ice cream at Port Fitzroy Harbour – another very pretty spot.
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Feeling a bit tired after our early morning start we decided to head back. Teara prepared our 3 course meal as we relaxed and watched the sunset.
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Dinner was lamb skewers for entrée, wild boar ragu for our main and then panna cotta for dessert. Delicious!

The next morning, after a full English breakfast, we headed north again, this time to climb to the summit of the island’s tallest peak, Mt Hobson at 2,037 ft above sea level. We set off and followed the track through rainforest and across the ridge of the aptly named Windy Canyon.
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The final ascent to the summit was by a steep wooden staircase built over the nesting grounds of the Black Petrel. We read somewhere that there were well over 1000 steps to reach the summit. We were greeted at the top of the Mount with some amazing views over the island and signed the logbook of another one of the 8 geocaches hidden on the island.
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We had some lunch in Claris and we were going to explore Whangaparapara when the rain arrived so we decided to go back to our accommodation.
Teara spoilt us again at dinner that night with wild boar and apple spring rolls, chicken and bacon risotto and the most divine chocolate brownie I have ever had the pleasure of eating!

Our final day on GBI came around quickly, we got up fairly early and drove to Whangaparapara. We did a short walk to Kauri Falls, a pretty little spot.
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We found a cache nearby the jetty and then we drove to Okupu to Blind Bay.
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The windy road to Blind Bay provided us with lots of stunning views so once again the camera came out!
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We had a quick stop in a reserve to climb an 800 year old pohutukawa tree to find the last cache that we knew was hidden on the island.
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That left just enough time for a nice stroll along Medlands Beach before heading to the airport for our flight home. Another beautiful day for a flight home and we flew pretty much straight over our house!
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As I have been writing this I realised that I have not written a blog for about 3 months! The 11 week school term was a hectic one and I was very ready for the holidays. As usual weekends have been busy – we have had several theatre visits, saw Bruno Mars at Vector Arena, took part in the Mad Max themed Cannonball Run (a great day driving around Auckland trying to complete all the missions!). We went to Elvis in the Gardens with the Hills and then met up with them again recently to see Billy Connolly live. One blissful day was spent at a couples spa retreat and a memorable Saturday afternoon was spent taking part in the Sky Tower’s Skywalk, a great experience.
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That’s a super brief run down!

Posted by bumblebum 16:52 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Gallivanting around the Galapagos

A truly magical experience.

sunny 26 °C

A 3.50am start is never fun but it is made a little easier when it’s because you are about to do an eight day tour of the Galapagos Islands!

We got our flight from Quito to Baltra. Our tour guide met us at the airport and led us to the jetty where we had to wait for a dingy to take us to our boat ‘Daphne’ – home for the next 8 nights.
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Our Galapagos experience began almost immediately, as we waited to board the dingy we saw a land iguana, a marine iguana, sea lions, pelicans, sally lightfoot crabs and frigate birds.
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Lunch was served not long after we arrived on the boat as we headed towards the location for our first guided walk and snorkel.
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Almost immediately our guide, Omar, was pointing out the blue footed boobies and an abundance of Sally Lightfoot crabs just sitting around enjoying the sunshine.
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We stood and watched pelicans diving into the water, surfacing with their catch and then swallowing it.
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Marine iguanas were warming themselves on the rocks in every direction and the best bit about it all was that they didn’t care at all that we were only feet away from them!
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We went snorkelling off Bachas Beach and saw an eagle ray and lots of huge brightly coloured parrot fish as well as many other fish in various shapes, sizes and colours.
After our early start and action packed afternoon we all headed off to bed after dinner despite the fact it was only 8.30pm!

Day 2 on the boat. We went to North Seymour for our first activity of the day – a guided walk. As soon as we came ashore we saw blue footed boobies and this had us all reaching for our cameras and clicking away at the birds with the amazing bright blue feet. It was really interesting seeing a pair of them as it made the difference between the male and female very clear. The female’s feet are a pale turquoise whereas the male’s feet in comparison are quite a dark blue.
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Apparently the female is always attracted to the male with the darkest feet. As we continued our walk around island we saw the masses of frigate birds nesting in the low trees in every direction. Many of the males had their red chests inflated in the hope of attracting a female to the nest they had built. It was incredible to see how many frigates there were, males, females, juveniles and tiny little chicks.
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We watched chicks begging their parents for food and then sticking their heads down their parent’s throat to retrieve the regurgitated food!
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As well as birds we also saw many land iguanas up close and personal, lots of other smaller lizards and sea lions including a tiny, inquisitive cub.
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The second activity of the day was a snorkel – we were in the water for less than an hour but still managed to see a white tip reef shark, sting ray, trigger fish, parrot fish and sea lions swimming gracefully along.
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After lunch we moved onto Bartolome Island. The entire way there frigates followed us, landing on the boat just feet away from our heads, they were mesmerising to watch as they glided above our heads doing some kind of aerial choreography.
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At one point a couple of dolphins followed in our wake leaping out of the water every few seconds and the highlight for me (although it was a little too far away and too quick to photograph) was seeing manta rays leaping out of the water, twirling and somersaulting over and over again.
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Once we finally arrived at Bartolome we climbed the 365 steps that lead up to the summit of the island. Along the way Omar explained the geology to us, there was lots of evidence of the volcanic activity that created the island, scoria, lava bombs, ash, lava tubes……
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The view from the top was very impressive and we stood and watched the sunset behind the neighbouring island.
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Whilst we were waiting for dinner we occupied ourselves by watching a shark continually circling our boat! Once again the whole tour group were exhausted and as soon as dinner was over we all headed off to our cabins and went straight to sleep! We were not sure that a day like this could ever be beaten!

Day 3 – Having sailed through most of the night we awoke to the view of Santiago island and as soon as breakfast was over we got into the dingy for our first guided walk of the day at Egas Port. Egas Port is a black sand beach teeming with sea lions and fur sea lions, marine iguanas, sally lightfoot crabs, turtle nests, a whole variety of birds and some interesting lava structures.
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We spent quite a long time walking around the track and learning about the animals and how the features such as the lava bridge had formed. After the long hike in the burning sun we were all quite keen to get into the water for some more snorkelling. We went in off the beach but the visibility was not that great so I decided to get out after a while and take some more photos of the extremely cute sea lions cubs swimming in rock pools and dozing in the sun. Gerald persevered and did manage to see another shark and a ray of some sort!
The afternoon activities involved us sailing round to another part of the island – Espumilla Bay. We had a short guided walk on a beach well known for its’ turtle nests.
As we approached in the dingy we could see a large turtle on the beach and it wasn’t long before we could spot more heads surfacing just beyond the shoreline.
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After the guided walk we went back on board and headed off in the dingy to do some more snorkelling. The visibility was still not great but we did see lots of fish and a sea lion gracefully swam around us. We also snorkelled into a cave once we were in we turned around to be greeted with the sun shining onto the turquoise water and hundreds of little fish silhouetted against it. Activities were all over by 3pm as we had a long journey ahead to the next island and the journey also involved us crossing the equator. We were all invited up to the bridge to watch the GPS count down to 000. Unfortunately it often counted down in 2’s and typically we never got to see it show 000 latitude!!!!

Despite the rough journey to Isabella overnight we did manage to sleep very well (maybe the sea bands and sea sickness tablets did what they are supposed to do!).
The first activity today was a guided walk at Tagus Cove. We climbed many steps and then followed the rocky trail to the caldera lake at the top. The day was a little overcast so the lake was not looking as turquoise as we knew it would have been if the sun was shining but it was still a lovely view.
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Along the way we saw many Darwin finches and little lizards but the island was nowhere near as populated with animals as some of the others we had visited. Once the trail was complete we had a dingy ride along the coastline. This is when we got to spot penguins for the first time! We also got to see flightless cormorants and marine iguanas with their babies!!!
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Next up was another snorkelling session. We saw more turtles, thousands of huge starfish carpeting the seabed, bright green sea urchins and best of all, penguins swimming around us! Unfortunately they swim so fast we didn’t manage to get any photos of them. The visibility was better than the day before but the water seemed a bit chillier (maybe because the sun wasn’t shining?).
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After lunch we headed to Fernandina Island, the youngest of all the islands at 700,000 years old. Stepping onto this island was like going back in time as it is nearly completely covered in marine iguanas. They are everywhere you look! The rule in the Galapagos National Park is that you should never get closer than 2m to any creature and that you should always stay on the track. It is completely impossible to stick to the rules on this island as the iguanas laze around in the sun anywhere and everywhere! They are really well camouflaged so you really have to watch where you step as you go along.
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As well as the marine iguanas there were flightless cormorants, blue footed boobies, plenty of crabs and sea lions. We watched some sea lions frolic in a huge rock pool, they were leaping out of the water and putting on a great performance for us.
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As we headed back we saw the skeleton of a Brydes whale that had got stranded about ten year ago. Many of the bones had disintegrated but the main spine was still there.
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Just as we were about to get back into the dingy the cutest and tiniest sea lion cub that we had seen so far popped out of the water to say hello. Its’ mum soon called him and he flopped back into the water and swam off but not before I got a few photos!
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The last activity of the day was another snorkel. As soon as we got in a cormorant swam right beneath me. He was so streamlined and sleek and before you could even point a camera he was gone! The vis got worse soon after that as the tide was coming in so I decided to get out and enjoy the sun on the boat. Gerald carried on for a while and saw more turtles, there were loads in the area. Another great day in the Galapagos!

Day 5 on the boat had a lazier morning, we had a dingy ride around Elizabeth Bay on Isabela. On the way to the bay we watched blue footed boobies diving into the water to catch sardines.
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There were so many of them and the fish were flinging themselves around in an attempt to get away meaning that we kept seeing them flip out of the water. For a large portion of the journey we cut the engine and the guide paddled us around. It was amazing how very quiet it was and we suddenly all felt compelled to whisper if we wanted to share something! Elizabeth Bay is very shallow and also sheltered by a huge number of mangroves. It has become a kind of safe nursery as the water is too shallow for birds such as boobies to dive into. As the water is shallow you could clearly see to the bottom and that meant you could also see all the tiny fish living in there. The water was also full of turtles, apparently they go there because the calm water makes it much easier to mate.
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Almost every mangrove tree had a resident pelican sitting and preening itself or sleeping precariously perched in the branches.
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As well as all the fish we saw a little sting ray gliding along the bottom. The cutest thing we saw was a group of sixteen penguins who had clearly eaten their fill and were now just paddling along in their little cluster right beside our dingy. It was so nice to see them like this as usually you blink and you have missed them they are so fast!
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I decided to give the day’s snorkel a miss as it began to rain and was really quite cloudy. I suspected that the visibility would not be that great. Apparently I was wrong! The visibility was not too bad but everyone agreed it was the coldest it had been. All the usual suspects were seen and this time Gerald did actually manage to capture a sealion, penguin and cormorant in the same bit of video.
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In the afternoon we took a trip to see a flamingo pool in Moreno Point, an area that was still showing evidence of fairly recent eruptions. On the way there we did see an eagle ray and a whole group of mustard rays swimming in formation.
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The weather was fairly awful from the moment we stepped on shore so we were soon soaking wet and the cameras went away. When we spotted a lone flamingo we quickly took a shot (not very good!) before packing it safely away again!
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The crossing that night was the roughest yet and quite a few people were in bed by 7.30pm in the hope of sleeping through it.

The next day was a 6.30am start as we had a busy morning on Isabela…first up we did a short guided walk to see Las Tintoreras a place well known for the white tip reef sharks to rest and bask in the sun but as it was low tide they had not yet entered so we didn’t see any. We did see a very cute little sea lion cub that came rushing over to greet us and was not much more than a foot away from us posing nicely for his photo to be taken!
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After that we headed straight to the bus to get to the start of the Sierra Negra Volcano trail. It took us about an hour to climb to the crater rim but the cloud was so low we saw nothing but whiteness!!!
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On the way back to ‘Daphne’ we had to wait on a little pier and all we could see were sea lions lazing on the back off boats. They seem to find every available space to doze in the sun, even park benches.
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Our afternoon activity was a bus ride into town to go to the Arnaldo Tupiza giant tortoise breeding centre, we got to see tortoises of all different ages from a very cute 15 days old to 100+ years. We learnt all about the breeding program – a very long term project as tortoises do not become sexually active until aged 25 or more and then the babies have to stay at the centre until they are old and big enough to be safe from predators. This means they do not get released until they are at least 8 years old.
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We continued from there to a short wetlands walk where we found a geocache hidden but not much in the way of wildlife!
After that it was a bit of relaxing time on the beach eating an ice cream before returning to the boat.

Our last full day on the boat seemed to come around so quickly. The morning started with a guided walk up Dragon’s Hill on Santa Cruz. The main reason for this walk was to see land iguanas and their nesting ground. We saw several as we did our loop around part of the island and one of them kindly chose to sit right on our trail so we got to take some nice photos.
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We also got to see a few more flamingos and this time the sun was shining.
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After the walk it was back on board as we were moving to another location on Santa Cruz for the afternoon so we all piled on the top deck to enjoy the sunshine and views.
Our afternoon stop was at Punta Carrion – a shallow, protected cove. Typically the sun went in as we approached but it still didn’t spoil our final snorkel. There was plenty going on below the water, we saw white tip sharks, trumpet fish, trigger fish, parrotfish, starfish, marble rays and a sting ray, tuna and much more!
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Our very last activity for the Galapagos was an early morning visit to the Charles Darwin Research Centre to see the other breeds of giant tortoise that live in the Galapagos. We got to see the saddleback tortoise that has evolved a long neck and legs so that it can reach the tall cactus plants.
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The research centre is also the place where Lonesome George used to live, the last tortoise of his kind. Despite the centres quest to find him a mate, searching zoos all over the world and even looking at DNA to find tortoises with similar DNA to George their quest was unsuccessful. Sadly Lonesome George died almost 2 years ago so now his species is extinct. As soon as our visit was over we began the long journey back to Quito.

Our trip to the Galapagos Islands was an amazing experience and despite our fears about staying on a boat for eight days (both Gerald and I are not great travellers and get sea sick!) we are so glad we chose the boat option and not the hotel/day trip option. Being on a boat means you get to go so much further and see islands not possible if you are only doing day trips. It also means you get a lot more time on the islands because most travel is done overnight so as soon as breakfast is over you can begin your next adventure on a new island. Despite a few rough crossings, with the use of sea bands round our wrists and a couple of tablets after dinner before setting sail, neither of us became ill or even queasy. We travelled with a lovely group of people – we had a good mix of family, friends, couples and ages ranging from early 20’s to 60’s. It made for some interesting dinner conversations. Gerald and I have been lucky enough to have had several ‘holiday of a lifetime’s but this has been truly magical.

Posted by bumblebum 14:56 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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