3D2N Hike on the Quilotoa Traverse – A Comprehensive Travel Guide

*We did the 3D2N Quilotoa Traverse from 14 to 16 November 2017. Because some of you asked, all our photographs were taken using the iPhone 6 Camera – that’s all we travelled with for our backpacking trip around South America (on top of our GoPro for underwater shots)! 

Before we started on the Quilotoa Traverse, we were very wary of how hikers would get lost on the trek, as there are no proper trails or signage. Plus, as the areas are remote, people do not speak English at all. Even after preparing ourselves thoroughly by reading through other travel blogs, we got lost… BIG TIME. So if you are intending to go on the traverse and are afraid of getting lost, our only piece of advice is to enjoy the journey – getting lost is the key to an unforgettable experience on the Quilotoa Traverse! Don’t worry, you will definitely make it back alive (like we did), in one way or another😊

Just kidding (well, partly). At the end of this blog post you will find a step-by-step guide on the routes to take so that you can greatly minimise your chances of getting lost. We hope it will be of use to you – you can thank us later! 😊

Quilotoa Traverse: An introduction

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The Quilotoa Traverse is a mountainous route that links several remote Andean villages in Ecuador’s central highlands.  The traverse can be done from north to south from the village of Sigchos to Quilotoa (which is more common) or from south to north. Along the way, hikers can expect to encounter beautiful sceneries and wild/farm animals.  Routes are generally not well-marked, so novice hikers would do well with hiring a local guide at Latacunga. Also, since few services and facilities are available, hikers should always carry enough water and food for the day, as well as cash to last the entire traverse. Budget accommodation is available at the bigger villages of Sigchos, Isinlivi, Chugchilan and Quilotoa. These accommodations typically provide free wi-fi, breakfast and hot water showers as well.

Our Journey: The Reverse Traverse (South to North)

Unlike the common hiker who would probably choose to do the traverse from Sigchos to Quilotoa and then ending at the highlight – the Quilotoa crater – we chose to do the loop in reverse, in this order:

Quilotoa (including crater) –> Chugchilan –> Isinlivi –> Sigchos

We chose to do the traverse in this direction because we were still aching really badly from our Pasochoa Trek. It also gave us the option of just doing a day trek around Quilotoa if things got real bad and we decided to give up after the first day. LOL. Looking back, that was probably the best choice we made for this trek, because we faced little pressure and were able to enjoy the hike at a more leisurely pace. On hindsight, we also realised that there are so many other benefits of doing the trek backwards! Here are a couple:

  1. You will never miss the highlight of the trek (the Quilotoa Crater) because that’s the first thing you’ll see! 😊
  2. You will focus more on other beautiful sceneries along the trek, instead of being fixated on reaching the end point and missing out on these little treats along the way…
  3. If something bad happens along the way (e.g. you slip and break your leg, or get lost – which is highly likely), you wouldn’t feel so bummed that you had to end your trek early.
  4. When you meet other trekkers who are headed past you in the opposite direction (since they are going on the trek the conventional way), you get assurance that you are on the right track (which is very important on this trek). Plus, you get to ask for directions too!
  5. You don’t have to hike up the slippery and steep sides of the volcano on the last day, and though the traverse would entail uphill and downhill climbs, there is a general decrease in elevation from Quilotoa (3914m) to Sigchos (2800m).
  6. You will definitely get a seat on the bus back to Latacunga from Sigchos, as not many people will be on the bus anyway.

So… have we convinced you yet? 🙂

Getting to Quilotoa

From Machachi, we took a public bus to Latacunga (it cost USD1.50 per pax for a one hour ride). At Latacunga, we spent the night at Hotel Central – fantastic location and service for just USD 20 per night for a room with a private bath. We left our big backpacks there for free and took just what we needed for the trek – the owner of the hotel was very kind to let us use her space even though we would not be returning to stay after the trek! The only downside was that the hot water shower was not working (the water was ultra cold… brrr) and it was quite noisy at night due to the hotel’s central location. No complaints though – at this price, this was a steal!

AddressSanchez de Orellana y Padre SalecedoLatacunga 050150, Ecuador
Verdict:  2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

The next day, we took the 8 am bus to Quilotoa from the central bus station. It took us 2 hours and cost us USD 2 per pax (As a guide, for public bus fares, every hour on the bus equates to about USD 1). The buses from Latacunga to Quilotoa depart once every 2 hours, starting from 6 am. Taking the public bus and doing the traverse on your own saves you a lot of money. We budgeted USD 100 for 2 pax for accommodation, food and transport for the entire traverse, but ended up spending way less than that. 🙂

Anyway, here are the highlights of our 3D2N trek (complete with pictures!!) 🙂

Day One: Quilotoa to Chugchilan

When we arrived at Quilotoa, we walked for 10 minutes and reached the highlight of the trek – the Quilotoa Crater Lake.  The lake was formed after the crater of Volcan Quilotoa collapsed.

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The lake was absolutely breathtaking. It was the first crater lake that I had seen and it was nothing short of spectacular. 

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No filter – taken using an iPhone 6! 
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Candid shot of J 🙂
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So. darn. beautiful!!! ❤ 

We stayed at the lake for about 30 minutes before starting our 6 hour hike to Chugchilan, our rest stop for the night. The trail to Chugchilan is not well marked – you are bound to  get lost at some point along the way. Anyway, we started our trek by making some cute furry friends – a feisty puppy that charged at some alpacas to bark at them, only to whimper and run to us when the alpacas started walking towards it! Lol. 😊

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Why you so cute!? 

We followed the main dirt road and our keen sense of direction – or so we thought – and ended up completely lost. A kind local lady pointed us to the right path, before an elderly man suddenly appeared out of nowhere and offered to take us back to the right route. We climbed back up to the crater lake (it was SUPER tough), and walked for about another 10 minutes before the elderly man came to an abrupt stop, and demanded USD 20 from each of us! We were appalled because we had thought that he was a kind Samaritan who was just helping us find our way! We vehemently refused and he immediately blocked the path, refusing to let us cross. So Y sat down and refused to budge. He finally gave in, but not before scooting off with a good portion of our snack stash 😦

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After what we would consider a bad start to the trek, we started our descent down the steep sides of the Quilotoa Volcano. The paths were formed by loose volcanic sand and there were LOTS of sandflies. The trek was mostly downhill and interspersed with short but steep uphill climbs. Whenever we reached a fork, we would use these guidelines to choose the correct path:

  1. Follow path with footprints.
  2. If no footprints are present, follow more defined track.
  3. If both 1 and 2 are not discernable, descend.

It worked pretty well! We also made it a point to check with every single passer-by we met, that we were headed in the right direction, though there weren’t many passers-by in the first place. Haha.

Another tip is also to keep your eyes peeled for red markers and spray-painted signs to “Chugchilan” or “Hostel Vaquero”, which has done some pretty good advertising on stones and boulders strewn along the paths.

Anyway, here are some lovely snapshots we managed to capture along the way.

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Halfway through the trek, J suddenly yelped and jumped back. Apparently, he saw something brown moving in the bushes and had thought that it was a bear. Lol! Turns out it was just a harmless horse grazing. What a wimp. – ___ –

After about 3 hours, we reached our first village – Guayama Grande.

We then descended to a beautiful valley. J had intended to walk along the valley floor to take a short cut (horror of horrors) but obviously this was not a good idea – if it rains, the water levels will rise very quickly and there will be no way to escape since you are surrounded by steep valley walls! Plus, there is the danger of rock falls! (Till today, I remind him to thank me for saving his life. 🙂 )

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View of the valley before descent

We continued walking and reached La Moya Village, where we saw huge agricultural fields with rotating sprinklers and grazing livestock. We had a fun Super Mario moment trying to evade the sprinklers 😊

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Evading the rotating sprinklers hahaha 
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The beautiful agricultural village of La Moya ❤ 

We also quickly learnt that children in the village are very friendly, and will greet any tourists they see along the way. Often, they would come up to us and ask for chocolate or money. We even had a child asking us for alcohol (What!?!). Sometimes, the children would say, “Photo?” and, in return, ask for money. It is up to you how you wish to respond, but we prefer to be friendly and not oblige.

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Random photo of a dog here – made me miss my dog back at home so much! 

After what seemed like eternity, we finally saw a town at the end of the uphill climb! We had finally reached Chugchilan! *throws confetti in the air* 🙂

We hadn’t made any prior bookings for accommodation, so we decided to give Hostal El Vaquero a try, since their painted signs helped us find our way to Chugchilan anyway. Haha.

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Finally reached our destination for the day!

For USD 20 per pax, we had a bedroom with private bath (and hot water – A MUST after a long day trekking and the cold weather!), dinner and breakfast for the next day. The hostel was very clean and well-kept – and though the wi-fi was not working and the water wasn’t that hot… we didn’t really care! Service was excellent and it was worth every penny.

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Our cosy room for the night

We also loved how manicured and well-kept the gardens were. There were hammocks which would have been perfect for summer, but the weather was just freezing cold so we decided to give that a miss and head for the fireplace at the lounge area instead. ❤

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AddressBarrio Goteras (from the church of Chugchilan, follow up until “Mi Buen Pan” and take the left way for 3-4 min) Chugchilan CE05040, Ecuador
Verdict:  2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

Weather-wise, we were very blessed, as the moment we reached the hostel at about 4 pm, it started to rain and the fog started coming in, greatly reducing visibility. As we turned around to look for the path we had just walked, it was no longer visible (Eek!).

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View of the fog descending from our bedroom window

Day Two: Chugchilan to Isinlivi

Figuring that the worst was over and that we wouldn’t get lost (again), we started our day a little later at about 9am. We had read from other travel blogs that the trek on the 2nd day would be much easier than the 1st, with just about 4 to 6 hours of hiking. Plus, the hostel owner had given us very clear directions and instructions! With all these in place, what were the odds of getting lost again, right? Boy… were we wrong.

The 2nd day turned out to be worse than the first. We got lost THRICE, and ended up taking 8 hours for what would otherwise have been a 5 hour trek. LOL. Needless to say, we were tired and hungry, because I overestimated our navigation skills and decided to be generous by distributing snacks to some cute village children along the way. Greatest mistake of my life.

Anyway, let’s focus on the positive things. Not surprisingly, the scenery was so beautiful… we were rewarded with breathtaking views of interlocking spurs, valleys, rivers, chalk cliffs and lots of animals!

Here are some highlights of our journey:

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In case you are wondering why there are so many photos of J, that’s because he is always ahead of me! So I need to have a good excuse for being slow(er), right… 🙂
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One of the wrong routes we took… this time I was smart. I waited for J to check it out so I wouldn’t have to climb up the steep slope. HAHAHA

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SOOO PRETTY ❤ 

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The experience was enjoyable on the whole, but we also had quite a few harrowing experiences along the way:

  1. As mentioned, we got lost thrice. Each time either of us came to the realisation that we were *probably* lost, our conversation went like this:

    J: I think we are lost.
    Y: I think so too.
    *Awkward pause for 3 seconds.*
    *Look at each other blankly, look at the sky, look at the ground, look around……*

  1. We had to walk very precariously on a log bridge without hand support to cross a fast flowing river. Just reliving this experience makes my heart pound like crazy.
  2. We had to walk through mud flats and earth walls as tall as me (that’s 1.6m).

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    This was just the beginning of a 30 min ascent up mud flats and between earth walls that just grew deeper and deeper
  3. A snake dropped in front of me, looked at me, and slithered away before I could react. LOL why does this sound so funny now!?
  4. And the ultimate life-threatening experience…

WE CAME FACE TO FACE WITH A BULL. A FREAKING HUGE-ASS BULL.

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How on earth did I even manage to capture this photo without being killed???! It is a mystery that baffles me till this very day, and one that never fails to remind me of my utter stupidity.

Anyway, here’s the story. We had finished climbing up a steep slope and walking through disgusting mudflats. Just as I thought the toughest part was over, J, who was in front of me, stopped dead in his tracks.

J: Guess what.

Y: *In an irritated voice ‘cos I was super tired* What.

J: There is a cow in front of me blocking the way. It’s looking at me.

Y: *Instantly perks up and takes out iPhone* Oh wow! *snaps a few photos*

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Say cheese! Can’t believe we did this. Soooo stupid. 

J: What shall I do? Walk past it? (Note: There was no other way – barbed wire on one side, steep valley walls on the other, path was super narrow…)

Y: *Finally finishes snapping some pictures and starts to examine said cow* Hmm… this cow looks angry. It is an angry cow. It is looking at you…

And HERE COMES THE MOST RIDICULOUS CONVERSATION EVER. 

J: *Turns to face the cow* Hola! I come in peace, please let me pass. *Cow continues glaring and starts to SNORT*

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J attempting to talk to the “cow”……. 

Y: *Senses danger* I think we are in a dangerous situation. We need help! *Screams* Senor! Hola! Moo! Moo! (Because my Spanish sucks)

Thankfully, a villager heard us and shouted back in Spanish, but we had absolutely zilch idea what she was trying to say.

Y: *Repeats screams for help at least 70,000 times more*

Finally, the villager walked over, peeped through the barbed wire and bushes and got a shock upon seeing the cow. She beckoned us to step back and used a stick to drive the cow back upslope.

The cow turned… and FLASHED ITS BALLS.

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I’m now cow, y’all! 

HOLY COW, IT WAS A BULL!!!!!!!!!!

We were absolutely shocked beyond words. Thank God our lives were spared. The villager shouted at the bull and it moved an inch upslope every… 3 minutes. Half an hour later, a male villager appeared and saved the day.

Well… the hike thereafter was very easy. On hindsight, this was probably the most memorable part of our hike. Haha.

For the second night, we stayed at Hostal Taita Cristobal, which had wifi, dinner and breakfast, complete with an en-suite bath with hot shower. The lounging area was also very cosy, and we made friends with a French couple. The one-night stay (plus food) cost us USD 15 per pax.

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Arriving at the hostel just as the weather was about to take a turn for the worse… 
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Our super spacious room for the night. Haha
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View from the main dining area… 

AddressIsinliví, General Morales, Isinlivi 050752, Ecuador
Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

Day Three: Isinlivi to Sigchos

On our third and final day of the traverse, we started out early at about 8 am. I had a bad bout of nausea and diarrhea and wanted to pace myself, plus we did not want to miss the afternoon bus to Latacunga. We were told that the route would be pretty easy and take us just about 4 hours, but we were skeptical given the previous day’s experience. Haha.

For this part of the trek, the footpaths and main vehicular path converge at 3 points. Both offer stunning views of the valleys. Since we had too much at stake, we decided to err on the side of caution and follow the vehicular path. Anyway, though it was supposed to be a vehicular path, we only saw about one vehicle every 20 minutes.

The trail was mostly downhill, with 2 steep ascents towards the end point. We took the footpath on the last 1/3 of the trail because we saw a clear sign reading ‘Sigchos’ (like a proper sign, finally!) and many villagers and school children using this route. We double checked with passers-by like a gazillion times to make sure we were on the right track. Haha.

Here are the stunning views of day 3:

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We eventually reached Sigchos after 3.5 hours of trekking. Hurray to not getting lost! 😊

If we were to do day 3 again, we would still take the vehicular path. Here are some compelling reasons:

  1. You will never get lost
  2. Slopes are gentler (though route is slightly longer)
  3. Offers the possibility of hitch-hiking if you really get lost
  4. Lots of villagers along the way to ask directions
  5. No flies, mosquitoes and scratches from thorny shrubs
  6. No horse and cow dung (which are EVERYWHERE on the walking paths)
  7. Roads are elevated, offering stunning views of the valley!

Have we convinced you yet? 😊

So… that concludes our experience on the Quilotoa Traverse. The experience was so amazing and allowed us to get up close and personal with a part of the Ecuadorian Andes that is still in its ‘raw’ form, and untouched by tourism!

As promised, here is a step-by-step photo guide if you intend to do this traverse on your own.

 

Step-by-Step Photo Guide for Trek from Quilotoa to Sigchos

Day One: Quilotoa to Chugchilan

  1. From the crater lake viewpoint (mirador), keep walking along the perimeter of the crater in a clockwise direction until you have reached the point directly opposite where you first started (halfway around the crater). You would have had to walk uphill and downhill for about 15 to 20 minutes to get to this point, as the lake is deceptively huge.
  2. Keep walking until you come to this sign that is situated right in front of an upward slope.
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  3. Walk uphill until you see a large sandy path. You would have passed several sandy patches along the way, but to be sure you are at the right one – this appears after the ‘Chugchilan’ sign and there should be a huge slab of rock with horizontal striations on your left.

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  4. Start your descent here, and continue following the track.
  5. When you reach the first fork, take the track on the left. You will continue descending.

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  6. Keep descending while keeping an eye out for red markers and signs that read ‘Chugchilan’ and ‘Hostel Vaquero’. Follow the signs.

  7. Upon reaching Guayama Village, follow the vehicular path and look out for signs. The paths here are clearly marked.

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    Some of the distinct brick houses along of Guayama Village
  8. Continue downhill until you reach the bottom of a valley with a river flowing through.
  9. Cross the river to reach the other side of the valley, and start ascending the hill. Do not walk on the valley floor.

  10. Continue uphill till you reach La Moya village.

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  11. Follow the well-defined track from La Moya Village and look out for more red signs to Chugchilan.
  12. Once you reach the foot of another valley, it is time to ascend. Keep following the road until you see this ‘white house’ and some weird looking scarecrows.

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  13. From here, it is a straightforward 20 minute ascent along the well-defined path until you reach Chugchilan! 😊


Day Two: Chugchilan to Isinlivi

  1. From Hostel El Vaquero, make a right and follow the vehicular road. You will pass by many houses, a market, and other hostels along the way.
  2. The small vehicular road you are on leads to a wider vehicular road that goes towards Sigchos. Walk along this road for about 2 km.

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  3. After the road bends to the left, you will see a white house on your right (Note that in the picture it appears on the left because we actually missed it and were walking back). Right behind this house is a dirt path which descends. You will see the sign ‘Isinlivi’ painted very inconspicuously in yellow, on a lamp post behind the white house. Follow this dirt road.
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    The ultra important white house you are bound to miss unless you consciously keep your eyes peeled for it, on your right

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    Such an inconspicuous sign, right? 
  4. Continue walking on the main path. Ignore all small lanes that branch out from this path. You will pass by white chalk cliffs along the way.
  5. Keep going until you reach a fork in the road. You will see the number 19 painted on a rock. Next to it are two paths – a cobbled path going upwards and another route on the left of the cobbled path, which descends. The upward path leads to a mirador with beautiful views of the valley. It takes only a minute to reach the mirador. After you view the mirador, take the descending path to continue your journey to Isinlivi.

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  6. After some time, you will reach a school. Walk past the school and follow the main path.

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  7. The road eventually leads you to a river. Continue walking along the river bank.
  8. You will pass by a first bridge that looks clean and nice. DO NOT cross it. Keep walking along the river bank.
  9. When you come to the 2nd bridge made of a simple wooden log, cross it. At the end of the bridge, turn left and continue walking on the path along the river bank.

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    Cross this log bridge to get to the other side of the river
  10. The path eventually leads you to an open meadow. If you look closely, there is a faint path that lets you cross the meadow diagonally to the left. Follow it.

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  11. The path leads you uphill and you will be walking on the edge of the slope along a very narrow dirt path that follows the river course.
  12. Keep going until you see a rock on the ground on your right with yellow spray paint. Walk past it. (Note: On this trail to Isinlivi, look out for yellow markers that indicate you are on the right path).

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    The red arrow on the left indicates the direction you should be walking towards
  13. Follow the path till you reach a wooden gate. If the gate is closed, open it and continue walking. Do not take the small path on its right.
  14. Eventually the path leads you to mud flats, which you have to (unfortunately) ascend. From here, the paths get very narrow but it is clear that there is only one way up.
  15. After about 30 to 40 minutes of climbing, the path joins a wide vehicular road. Walk on the road. You will pass by some white chalk cliffs.

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  16. Keep following the main road, looking out for yellow markers on the way.
  17. Eventually, you reach a fork with the main road going uphill, and another going left. Right before this fork is a less conspicuous dirt path on the left that descends into the valley. Take this dirt path. Note that there are no signs or markers here so you have to be careful not to miss it.

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  18. Keep following the path till you reach a white greyish concrete bridge. Cross the bridge.
  19. From here, follow the road all the way uphill and you will reach Isinlivi! 😊


Day Three: Isinlivi to Sigchos

  1. From Hostal Tailo Cristobal, walk straight uphill until you reach the third road on the left, which is a wide vehicular road. Follow this road to the left. You will pass by a church on your right.
  2. You will pass by several road forks along the way, but there will always be a sign that reads and points you to Isinlivi. Head in the opposite direction since you are heading towards Sigchos.
  3. Look out for blue markers along the way to ensure you are on the right track.
  4. Eventually, you will reach a river and a concrete bridge. Cross the bridge.
  5. Continue walking until you see a large grey house on your right. On the left, you will see a sign that says ‘Sigchos’ and pointing towards a smaller footpath that leads away from the vehicular road. Take this path to climb up the hill.

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  6. When you reach the top of the hill, turn right. You will come to many farms and pass by this sign.

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  7. Keep following the path until you see a church and a sign that says ‘Sigchos’, leading to a wide dirt path up the hill. Take this path.
  8. At the top, you will see Sigchos. Yay, you made it! 😊

 

Tips for the Quilotoa Traverse 

  • Always wear a cap and put on sunscreen, even if it looks deceptively cloudy. Remember, you are on the equator and at an elevation of at least 3000 m. We use SPF 90+ when we hike at altitudes above 3000 m.
  • Layer your clothing with a base layer, fleece jacket, puffer jacket and rain/wind jacket. If it gets warm, you can start stripping 😊
  • Cover yourself well. There are fleas, mosquitoes and insects that bite. Not to mention thorny shrubs that cut you.
  • Bring enough food and water. You will need it because you will get lost. As a guide, we carried 2 litres of water per person per day. Always refill at your accommodation before you leave for the day – it is tough to find water and food along the trek. It is that remote.
  • Wear proper hiking shoes and socks as the paths are largely gravel paths and dirt paths, with mud flats and loose sand as well.
  • Bring hiking sticks, especially if you are prone to falls like J is 😊
  • Do not show your valuables at all times. The people (and children) are very sharp.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for directions.
  • Bring warm clothes for the night. Even in the rooms, it can get very cold! (Scarves and beanies are highly recommended!)
  • Start early, as the fog starts to come in at about 3 to 4pm.
  • If you can, bring a Spanish pocket guide with you. It will come in handy as people do not speak English.


Heading back to Latacunga from Sigchos

From Sigchos, the bus to Latacunga leaves from the bus terminal at 230 pm from Mondays to Fridays, and 1230 pm & 230 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The journey takes about 2 hours and a ticket costs USD 2.30.

To get to the bus terminal, walk towards the centre of Sigchos, where you will see an outdoor sheltered sports stadium.

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From there, turn left uphill, until you see a church. Walk past the church in the uphill direction.

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In two blocks (cuadras) you will reach the bus station.

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***

The Quilotoa Traverse is a beautiful trek we strongly encourage you to consider during your stay in Ecuador. It takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and is not commercialised (yet!). So get up, get out and start exploring what nature has to offer! 😊

Thank you for visiting our humble travel blog! Stay tuned for our next update on the rest of our South American trip! 🙂 

*This is a non-sponsored post.

Much love,
cropped-cropped-three-wandering-bears

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Day Ten to Twelve: Free & Easy around San Cristobal Island

*Our Galapagos trip was from 28 November 2017 to 9 December 2017. The first 8 days were spent on board the Samba Cruise, and the subsequent 4 days on land.

< Previous: Day 9

This is the last of our series on the Galapagos Islands! Here, we will highlight places of interest in San Cristobal Island that are worth visiting, as well as the yummy food we tried there,  complete with our own experiences and thoughts (including being bitten by a sea lion). 😊

Places to Dine

San Cristobal Island has a good mix of local eateries, western cafes and restaurants/pubs. We preferred trying out places that locals frequent, and here are those that we really loved. ❤

  • Cabana Mi Grande (Breakfast)

Cabana Mi Grande is a no-frills breakfast place located on the second floor of a building along Av Jose de Villamil, off the main Av Charles Darwin. Look out for this colourful store-front and take the stairs up to the second level.

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It is a small and cosy place with just 5  tables for customers to have their meal. This place is very  popular with the locals and it is difficult to get a seat in the morning, so it is advisable to avoid peak hour – come after 830am to increase your chances of getting a seat. 🙂

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Love the murals on the ceiling! So cute. 

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We’d researched and found that this place was popular with locals for its yummy bolon and empanada. So, we ordered the Bolon Mixto con Huevos Fritos Y Batido (Bolon with fried egg and milkshake) and Bolon con Bistek Y Café (Bolon with beef and coffee).  Bolon is basically a fried ball of potato, plantain, sausage, cheese and lard.

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Bolon Mixto
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Bolon con Bistek

It was REAL tasty and soon became Y’s go-to food for breakfast every morning while in Ecuador. The entire meal cost us just USD10.

Address: José de Villamil, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Ecuador

Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

  • Fresco Café (Breakfast/Tea)

Fresco Café is a nice, cosy café that is located right by Playa de Oro, and offers a stunning view of the sea. We headed here for breakfast on our final morning because we wanted to have breakfast with a view. We were happy to find that it was not crowded, and we loved the laid back atmosphere (complete with hammocks!) ❤

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Perfect location ❤ 
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Good food + good view = Perfect! ❤ 

The breakfast menu was quite limited, though, but there were several off the menu items as well, such as waffles. We recommend checking out the daily specials with the barista.

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We had the Fruit + Nut Sourdough Bread with Butter and Jam, and a glass of Iced Latte each. Though the servings were pretty paltry, the food was seriously good. The latte was rich and creamy, and the sourdough toast was dense and flavourful – it might even have been the best bread we had on this trip. Absolutely loved it!

Address: Avenida Jaime Roldos Aguilera, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Ecuador

Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 

 

  • Lucky’s (Lunch/Dinner)

Lucky’s is another popular local establishment, which is easy to spot because all the locals flock there for their meals! They have a daily set menu at an affordable USD 4, which includes a main course, soup and drinks. It is not written on the menu though so it is a well-kept local secret. Haha.

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The interior of the restaurant – every so often the delicious smell of food wafts through the kitchen window 

We had dinner here on our second night but ordered a la carte – we ordered fish on the grill and ajillo fish (fish with garlic sauce) – both were yummy! It cost us USD 17.50 for two a la carte items.

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Ajillo fish – the sauce was SO GOODDDDD ❤ 
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Grilled fish – simple and tasty! 

AddressAvenida Ignacio De Hernandez, Jose De Villamil. EsquinaPuerto Baquerizo Moreno 200150, Ecuador

Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

 

  • Cris’ Burgers (Lunch/Dinner)

As its name suggests, Cris’ Burgers specialises in… burgers. And fries. We hadn’t expected much at first as we were passers-by who caved into our hunger pangs, but were very satisfied with what we ordered! The burgers were superb and meat patties were well-cooked – they were tender and juicy. The caramelised onions were the bomb. The burgers cost us USD 8 each.

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Address: Teodoro WolfPuerto Baquerizo Moreno 200150, Ecuador

Verdict:  2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

 

  • Bakery Cuencan Taste (To go)

Cuencan Taste is a local bakery where you can buy many varieties of bread, pastries and cakes to go. We were lured by the delicious smell from a mile away as we were walking back to the main street from Playa Man. It is tucked away in a corner and not many people walk past it – in fact it was our noses (and greed) that led us there. 😀

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We tried a few types of bread, and we must say they were seriously good. The bread is cheap too – cost us just USD 0.50 per piece (and sometimes even less!). You can buy some pastries here and then head over to Playa Man for a day at the beach! These breads and pastries are also seriously good as hiking snacks.

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Breads galore! 

 Address: Avenida Alsacio Northia

Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

 

Places of Interest and Things to do

  • Visit Armada del Ecuador’s Museum of Galapagos History

We didn’t originally intend to visit this, but since it was en route to Frigatebird Hill, and it was open (and very empty), we decided to pop by for a while. The museum is small, with information about the history of the islands since colonial times. The exhibits are written in both Spanish and English, making them easy to understand. It took us about 30 minutes to skim through the displays. You can expect to spend about 1 to 2 hours here if you want to view the exhibits in detail. Admission is free.

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  • Observe Sea Lions on Playa de Oro

Right in front of the museum is Playa de Oro, a rocky beach located next to the main pier. The beach is home to a huge colony of sea lions. We often took some time to appreciate the lovely hues of blue (sky and sea!) and watch the sea lions lazing around whenever we passed by. It was also here that we witnessed the territorial behaviour of the adult male sea lions – they would be chasing other intruders away with loud grunts!

 

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Lovely view from Playa de Oro

  • Visit Centro de Interpretacion, Hike Cerro Tijeretas and Snorkel at Punta Carola

From Playa de Oro, it is a 10 minute walk to Centro de Interpretacion, the entrance to the routes leading to Cerro Tijeretas (Frigatebird Hill) and Punta Carola (a beach and popular snorkelling site). Frigatebird Hill is named as such because it is the nesting site for lots of Frigatebirds during the breeding season. We visited the Hill on two separate days. After registering our visit at the centre on the first day, the park ranger explained the various routes to us and advised us against snorkelling as there was a swell and the waters were rough. We stuck to hiking and returned the next day for snorkelling.

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At the start of the route, there was a centre that showed exhibits about the formation of the Galapagos Islands, the life of Charles Darwin and his theories of evolution. It was informative and we spent about an hour here.

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Then, it was a leisurely 25 minute walk up Cerro Tijeretas. We spotted a couple of Frigatebirds in the sky, but not the huge nesting ground we had expected to see (probably because breeding season was not here yet?) We then continued our hike to Punta Carola, passing by Darwin’s statue (which was built in honour of his visit to San Cristobal) and Canon de Guerra (a real war canon on display – but decommissioned of course).

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Darwin’s statue
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Canon de Guerra

Punta Carola was a sandy beach littered with – you guessed it – more sea lions, and would have been a perfect place to snorkel or swim!

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Can you spot the sea lions under the tree? 🙂

However, the sea lions were quite aggressive so we decided to snorkel at another calm, protected inlet located at the base of Frigatebird Hill instead. There were lots of corals, reef fish and occasional sea lions swimming by. We spent about an hour there.

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View of our snorkel spot from the top of Frigatebird Hill
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The inlet where we snorkelled!

In case you are wondering, we rented our wet suits and flippers from a dive shop for USD 5. We brought our own masks for the trip.

  • Snorkel at La Loberia Beach, Punta Carola or Playa Mann

Other popular snorkelling spots in San Cristobal include La Loberia Beach and Playa Mann. When we were at La Loberia Beach, the waves were picking up as the swell was coming in so we decided to snorkel at Playa Mann instead.

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La Loberia and its sea lions

When we reached Playa Mann, conditions were perfect. The sun was out, waters were clear, and sea lions were frolicking around playfully. Plus, there weren’t many people in sight! Sounds like the perfect setting for snorkelling, right?

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… Or so we thought. As soon as J entered the water, he got bitten by a juvenile sea lion.

He came out of the water limping and bleeding at the ankle. It was crazy.

Fearing rabies or seal finger or any other disease for that matter, we headed straight to hospital to get him checked. Thankfully, the bite turned out to be superficial. It also turns out that many locals and tourists have been bitten by sea lions before. The doctor on duty casually asked, “Playa Mann?” to which we replied “Si (yes)”, and he shook his head and sighed.  We also learnt that the sea lions in the Galapagos are rabies-free, which was a huge relief for us.

J exclaimed rather wryly, “Sea lions are no longer my favourite animal.” LOL 😊

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Awaiting treatment. HAHAHA

And that brings us to a very important point…

Medical Facilities at San Cristobal

There are local pharmacies around San Cristobal, but if you want to get checked by a doctor, it is best to head to the local hospital, Hospital Oskar Jandl.

The facilities are new, and queues are very short (there was no queue at all when we went). The best part? Treatment and medication is completely free of charge (this is the case in all public hospitals in Ecuador!) even for tourists. Just be sure to bring your passport along with you.

A taxi ride to the hospital from the main street takes about 10 minutes, and costs about USD2. It helps if you can speak Spanish, but no worries if you can’t – you can communicate with the doctor via Google Translate. The doctors and nurses were very helpful – we were impressed.

AddressCalle Jaime Roldós y Juan Pablo II
Contact: +593 5 2520 332, +593 5 2520 935, + 593 5 2521 210


 

And that concluded our 12 day trip to the Galapagos Islands. We left with wonderful memories to last us a lifetime… and J brought back something extra from the trip – two scars from the bite of a juvenile sea lion. 😀

Thank you for visiting our humble travel blog! Stay tuned for our next update on the rest of our South American trip! 🙂 

< Previous: Day 9

*This is a non-sponsored post.

Much love,
cropped-cropped-three-wandering-bears

Day Nine: Free & Easy around Santa Cruz Island and San Cristobal Island

*Our Galapagos trip was from 28 November 2017 to 9 December 2017. The first 8 days were spent on board the Samba Cruise, and the subsequent 4 days on land.

< Previous: Day 8

Next: Day 10 to 12 >

Breakfast at Cafeteria Proinsular

After checking out of our hostel, we made our way to Cafeteria Proinsular, a café located along the pier and overlooking the jetty. It was situated on the second storey of a building, right above the supermarket. We spent quite a while looking for it as it was relatively obscure given that there wasn’t any visible banner or signage.

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Cosy interior with sea-themed murals.
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We were one of the first few customers as it was still pretty early 🙂

The view of the jetty from the café was spectacular! It felt wonderful to just look out of the window and admire the scenery… (Psst… outdoor seating is available too but it was drizzling so we decided to be indoors instead)

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So dreamy ❤

We shared a Tortuga Bay Breakfast (a Pancake Set) and a Combo (Ham and Cheese Sandwich Set).

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Tortuga Bay Breakfast Set!
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Combo with Iced Mocacino

The pancakes were moist and fluffy, and the sandwiches were well toasted. The only gripe we had was that the servings were pretty small for the price, (though we had gotten used to prices being much more expensive in the Galapagos Islands). This meal cost us USD 12.50.

AddressCharles Darwin y Ninfas, Muelle principalPuerto Ayora 200350, Ecuador
Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

Santa Cruz Fish Market

After breakfast, we took a stroll along the coast and stopped by the Santa Cruz Fish Market. The market is located along the fisherman’s jetty and is very modestly sized, complete with basic facilities like taps and sinks. It’s quite interesting to watch the locals shop for their seafood here. 🙂

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We also managed to catch a glimpse of the Resident Sea Lion in action – he was patiently awaiting fish scraps being tossed to him by the fishmongers. That explains his size! Haha. There were also some pelicans waiting by the side. Since the Sea Lion was territorial, they could only wait till he had eaten his fill…

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Behaves more like a dog than a sea lion -.-

Check out how ‘obedient’ this sea lion was, patiently waiting to be handed some scraps in the video below… LOL 😀


Ferry Ride to San Cristobal Island: An Unexpected Adventure

At 130pm, we boarded the ferry to San Cristobal Island, situated on the eastern-most end of the Galapagos Archipelago, and a 2 hour boat ride away from Santa Cruz Island. Ferry tickets cost USD 30 per pax from any travel agency, and ferries leave the Santa Cruz Ferry Terminal for San Cristobal at 7am and 2pm daily. Our advice is to get your tickets the day before.

So… how was the ferry ride?

Well, all we can say is that the ride itself was an adventure of its own. We had literally signed ourselves up for a 2 hour rollercoaster ride. The ferry, which was basically a small 20-seater diving boat, went full speed, crashing head on with the oncoming waves. Each time it landed (which is about 30 times per minute, or once every two seconds), we heard loud crashing sounds from the impact of the waves with the bottom of the boat. You know that gut-sinking feeling you get when the rollercoaster drops? We experienced that every 2 seconds, for 2 full hours. 2 gut-wrenching hours that felt like eternity. After the first ‘crash’, everybody hastened to fasten their seat belts, which were actually of little use. In fact, if any pregnant lady were on the boat, we bet a million dollars she would have suffered a miscarriage within 5 minutes, or gone into premature labour there and then. We kid you not. So, if you have a weak heart or other health problems, do not take the ferry. Consider other options like taking a domestic flight. If you are taking the ferry, do not have lunch before the ride and do remember to bring along your sea sickness pills. By the end of the ride, our bums were sore, red, and battered.

The Long-awaited Arrival at San Cristobal Island (Finally!)

Finally, after two gruelling hours on the ferry, we arrived at San Cristobal Island! We could not help but notice that the buildings looked much newer and more modern than  those on Santa Cruz Island.

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Walked around a bit to explore en route to our accommodation!

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Getting in the mood for Christmas!

 

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Colourful modern buildings…
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Modern hotels we could not afford :p

One thing that we simply could not miss (like, in our face) was that there were hordes of sea lions EVERYWHERE. Compared to the rest of the islands, San Cristobal is in a league of its own in this aspect. The Sea Lions were lying in the parks, under the trees… basically they were like the stray dogs of the island.

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Sea Lion taking an afternoon nap in the middle of a man-made park

We strolled down Ave Charles Darwin, passing by two beaches – Playa de Oro and Playa de Los Marinos – and they were also full of sea lions.

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Entire beach practically littered with juvenile sea lions…

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… Just doing their thing.

Check out this video of the sea lions lounging on the beach:

In fact, the colonies were so big that males ended up fighting with each other over territories. We witnessed that so many times – it was pretty amusing.

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Playa de Oro, where we witnessed a territorial male sea lion chasing other male sea lions away
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This entire beach (and boardwalk) – MINE. No trespassing allowed.

Adult male sea lions are pretty aggressive, especially when it is nearing breeding season, so we were careful not to get too close to them.

Dinner at Giuseppe’s Restaurant

Following our hostel manager’s suggestion, we had dinner at Giuseppe’s Restaurant, an Italian joint located just by the sea.

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It’s dinner time! 🙂

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It was a tad pricey but the food was (sinfully) seriously good. We had a burger each, and Y ordered an Iced Mocacino. That set us back USD 21.50.

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Beef patty, bacon, mushrooms, caramelized onions, lettuce, and ALL. THAT. CHEESE… ❤ ❤ ❤

AddressAv. Charles Darwin, Diagonal al barco de souvenirs200150, Ecuador
Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

Our Accommodation: Casa de Laura (Highly recommended!)

Our home for 3 nights on San Cristobal was Hostal Casa de Laura, which cost us USD 37 per night for a double room with en suite bath and hot shower. We loved the place for its convenient location, hot shower, hospitality (lots of advice on what to do and very friendly owner!) and amenities (hammocks, WIFI, air-conditioning etc). Not to mention, the place was impeccably clean and affordable!

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The main lounge area / Reception area

AddressCallejon 2, Avenida Armada Nacional, Av. Armada Nacional y 2DO callejonEcuador

Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690


 

That sums up our 9th day at the islands! We were getting a little land sick (we could feel waves beneath our feet as though we were still on sea haha) and that was quite an interesting experience. Is this how sailors feel when they return ashore? 😀

Thank you for visiting our humble travel blog! Stay tuned for our next update on our 10th day in the Galapagos Islands, including J’s ordeal of being BITTEN by a sea lion – coming your way soon! 😊

< Previous: Day 8

Next: Day 10 to 12 >

*This is a non-sponsored post.

Much love,
cropped-cropped-three-wandering-bears

Day Eight: Santa Cruz Island

*Our Galapagos trip was from 28 November 2017 to 9 December 2017. The first 8 days were spent on board the Samba Cruise, and the subsequent 4 days on land.

< Previous: Day 7

Next: Day 9 >

We woke up early and had our last meal on board the ship, before bidding farewell to our lovely crew. They were absolutely wonderful, and had made our entire cruise experience a pleasant one! We were especially touched by their sincerity and warm hospitality.

The crew members that we interacted with the most were Oswaldo, our Captain, who taught us a fair bit of Spanish and chatted with us whenever he saw us on the deck, as well as Arnie and Oswaldo (II), our panga drivers, who played a huge role in keeping my frazzled nerves calm for deep sea snorkelling. During my first few snorkelling attempts, Arnie and Oswaldo would make sure that the panga was always near me and they were watching out for me just in case I needed any assistance (the rest of our group were established snorkellers and divers haha). Their presence was so comforting. They were very encouraging and spontaneous, and not to mention fun! 🙂

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With our Captain, Oswaldo!
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With our panga drivers, Arnie (bottom right) and Oswaldo (top right) 🙂

Puerto Ayora and the El Chato Giant Tortoise Reserve

After disembarking from the Samba for the final time, we arrived at Puerto Ayora, a town on Santa Cruz Island, where we were once again greeted by a lounging wild Galapagos Sea Lion.

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Sea Lions of Puerto Ayora seem to be much darker coloured than the ones we saw during our cruise. And not to mention, much more well-fed too.  😀

We then took a bus to the El Chato Giant Tortoise Reserve, where Luis first gave us a brief explanation of the giant tortoise’s anatomy, with the help of some real-life preserved skeletons. Each island in the Galapagos is home to a different species of tortoises, so the ones we saw on Santa Cruz were different from the ones we saw at Floreana Island.

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Entrance to El Chato Tortoise Reserve
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Luis explaining the anatomy of the Giant Tortoises using these exoskeletons on display
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Close up view: Seems like a pretty nice home to me 🙂

We roamed about the reserve and spotted a couple of them, but what particularly caught my attention was a giant 150-year old tortoise!

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Old but shy 🙂

We were wondering why the number of tortoises we managed to spot was quite low… until we came to a pond in the distance. We instantly understood why. LOL the entire park’s population of tortoises was probably taking a dip in the cool waters there.

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Pond full of Santa Cruz tortoises 🙂

Is that what they do every single day for a century? Gosh… :O

The Santa Cruz tortoises were really cute, but I still preferred the ones I saw at Floreana island 😊

After spending some time with the tortoises, we visited some very cool underground lava tubes and saw a sinkhole caused by a collapsed crater.

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Giant sinkhole caused by collapsed crater


Visiting the Scalesia Forest

Our last stop as a group was the Scalesia Forest, which is endemic to the Galapagos. There are 15 native species altogether, but most of them are threatened by introduced plant invaders like the black berry.

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Scalesia Forest and the Giant Sinkhole

Exploring the Santa Cruz Galapagos National Park and the Darwin Research Centre

After bidding our group members goodbye (they left for the airport while we were spending a few more days in the Galapagos at our leisure), we visited the Santa Cruz  Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Foundation to learn more about the Galapagos giant tortoises.

Getting there was pretty easy… we used GPS and followed road signs. We absolutely loved the fact that road signs were written in both Spanish and English. It was extremely navigable by foot. Comfortable covered shoes are recommended!

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Road signs like these were aplenty, making it easy for us to walk to the park itself
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Entrance to the  National Park
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Sun was scorching  – be sure to bring enough water, a cap, and put on sunscreen!
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One of the paths led us to this insanely beautiful coastline!

There were lots of tortoise species being bred in captivity in the Park, and the preserved ‘Lonesome George’ was on display too! For those who are unaware, Lonesome George was actually the last tortoise of his kind – the Pinta Tortoise – and he died in 2012. The species is now extinct. We are only allowed to view Lonesome George with a trained Park Guide under strictly controlled conditions.

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Juveniles bred in captivity 🙂
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This is just the statue of Lonesome George… pictures are prohibited for the actual exhibit!
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Found the shape of this shell very interesting but there wasn’t any discernable signage around for me to be able to find out its type

Check out a video we took of a tortoise bred in captivity:

Of course, besides tortoises, there are other animals to see, such as iguanas, insects, finches etc. Lots of cacti species too!

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Was so afraid that one of these would suddenly collapse on me

We also took the time to visit the exhibitions in the Park to learn more about conservation efforts in the Galapagos, and we must say that they were very extensive and informative (not to mention impressive!). I have to admit that I lingered a little longer than planned because of the air-conditioning as well. 😀

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Candid shot of the hubs ❤
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Galapagos Giant Tortoise species!

Random Snapshots of Puerto Ayora

We spent a good 3.5 – 4 hours at the Reserve and had a couple of hours left before dinner, so we decided to roam about Puerto Ayora. Here are some pictures we took of the charming town.

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Random houses facing the sea ❤
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The local wet market and its resident Sea Lion
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Resident Pelican stationed just in front of the local wet market
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❤ ❤ ❤
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The entire island was dotted with colourful murals and statues such as these ❤
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Plus very artistically decorated store fronts ❤

Seafood Feast at Los Kioskos

We ended the day with a seafood feast at Los Kioskos, a local food street comprising many kiosks selling fresh lobsters and fish at an affordable price. The road is converted into a dining street from about 5pm onwards daily, and fishermen bring their catch to grill them and serve them to you fresh, complete with sides.

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Before the crowd came
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Catch of the day

Most kiosks sell similar things, so we chose one that looked clean and less cluttered. J ordered fresh lobster and I ordered fish. 🙂

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Our fooooodddd
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So happy, can’t wait!!!! 😀
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The mister with his refreshing cerveza

After waiting for about 15 to 20 minutes, our food finally arrived. The fish was so fresh and tasted so yummy. The lobster too! Portions were huge.

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Freshly grilled fish with a tangy orange sauce
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Freshly grilled lobster with garlic and cream sauce. YUMMM

Address: Calle 23 De Octubre y ChimborazoPuerto Ayora 200350, Ecuador
Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

The meal left us feeling SO FULL, we just had to take a stroll around the neighbourhood for our food to digest. We made our way to the jetty – it was very pretty at night as it was decorated with colourful lights! The lights also made it easy to spot reef sharks swimming in the clear water.

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Couldn’t resist this picture – such an apt resting place haha

***

We love this place so much, we could almost live here.

Thank you for visiting our humble travel blog! Stay tuned for our next update on our 9th day in the Galapagos Islands – coming your way soon! 😊

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Next: Day 9 >

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Much love,
cropped-cropped-three-wandering-bears

Day Seven: Floreana Island

*Our Galapagos trip was from 28 November 2017 to 9 December 2017. The first 8 days were spent on board the Samba Cruise, and the subsequent 4 days on land.

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We woke up really tired – we didn’t manage to rest well the previous night with the Samba rocking incessantly as we sailed from Isabela to Floreana Island, the southern part of the Galapagos Islands. Although we had gotten accustomed to life on the ship, we had to down a couple of pills to manage our seasickness. Before we arrived, our guide, Luis, was sharing bizarre stories about the island with us – apparently, as the first populated island in the Galapagos, the island itself has been associated with mysterious disappearances of some of its inhabitants since the 1930s (think love triangle, murder, tragedy etc). You can read more about it here.

Hiking to Asilo de La Paz

The day began with a 3 hour hike to Asilo de La Paz, a hill that is 450m high and located on Floreana Island. The area used to be considered the most important island in the Southern Hemisphere for whalers as it contained fresh spring water. It was also of historical significance as it was the earliest inhabited island in the Galapagos. Today, it is home to about 100 people.

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Arrival at Floreana Island

To get to the hike spot, we took a panga to the island of Floreana. When we arrived, we were once again greeted by Sea Lions lazing around, and a rather peculiar looking Marine Iguana that was brightly decked in red, green and black. The iguanas here looked different from the ones we had seen at Isabela – they were bigger and much more brightly coloured!

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Mother and pup snoozing – watch a video below!
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The brightly coloured marine iguanas of Floreana

There was also a Pelican that landed right before us, and a Cactus Finch feeding on the prickly pear cactus.

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How’s it going, Mr. Pelican? 🙂
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The Cactus Finch in action

We took an open-air bus up to the start of the trail, passing by a cloud forest on the way. As we ascended, it was drizzling and cooling, and there was a slight and comfortable breeze.

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Cloud Forest at Asilo de La Paz

We then arrived at the park that housed the famous Giant Tortoises. There were LOTS of them everywhere – in different sizes and species!

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The hill of Giant Tortoises 😀

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Half of the time, the tortoises were pretending to hide in the bushes or flashing their cute butts at us. I wonder if they knew that their camouflage wasn’t all that successful? 😀

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Butt flash 1
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#CamouflageFAIL

As our hike continued, we arrived at “The Labyrinth”, which was really a collection of huge rocks that had been eroded and modified by early inhabitants for the purposes of herding cattle.

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Next to it was the Pirate’s Cave, which was really a shelter for the early whalers who arrived at the island to hunt for tortoises for food and to gather spring water.

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Our awesome naturalist guide, Luis 🙂

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Snorkeling at Devil’s Crown

After our hike, the Samba took us to the Devil’s Crown, which was located at the northern tip of Floreana island. With its black, sharp and jagged rock outcrops, it was easy to understand why this place was named as such.

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View of the Devil’s Crown from the panga
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Our last chance to snorkel!
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The excited husband who left the Go-Pro in my hands (as usual) to multitask snorkelling and taking pictures underwater while he happily snorkeled off in glee with his free hands *so much hate*

The waters were clear and rich with lots of reef fish, but there was a really strong current that caused me to struggle quite a bit before I got the hang of flowing along with it. It was quite an unnerving experience, though fun! We spotted some rays, sea turtles and sea lions, and also the Galapagos Shark and Whitetip Reef Shark.

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Strong currents, hard to take decent pics but these are the better ones we had

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Docking at Santa Cruz Island

We enjoyed a decent hour of snorkelling before heading back to the Samba. The rest of the day was spent at leisure on the deck of the boat, as it navigated through strong waves to get us to our final destination for the trip – Santa Cruz Island. We docked amidst other cruises at Santa Cruz Harbour for the last night, as we watched the sun set on our final night on the Samba. ☹

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Approaching Santa Cruz harbour to dock for the night

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Sunset over the Santa Cruz Harbour ❤

We couldn’t believe that our cruise was coming to an end. It was bordering on heartbreaking. 😦

As if to cheer me up, I was greeted by a group of Concentric Pufferfish swimming in the clear blue waters as I peered over the side of the Samba.

Galapagos Islands, you are truly breathtaking. 😊

***

Thank you for visiting our humble travel blog! Stay tuned for our next update on our 8th day in the Galapagos Islands – coming your way soon! 😊

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Much love,
cropped-cropped-three-wandering-bears

Day Six: Isabela Island and Canal Bolivar

*Our Galapagos trip was from 28 November 2017 to 9 December 2017. The first 8 days were spent on board the Samba Cruise, and the subsequent 4 days on land.

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We spent the entire day exploring the remaining parts of Isabela Island, the largest of all Galapagos Islands (its land area is larger than all the rest of the other islands combined!).

Exploring Mangroves at Elizabeth Bay

The morning started with a panga ride to the mangroves at Elizabeth Bay. There was a full moon the night before, which meant that we would be experiencing the lowest tides, so it would be perfect for us to spot more wildlife! Yay! 🙂

Our first impression of Elizabeth Bay was that it had such pristine and clear waters. We could literally see the sea floor from our panga! The mangroves looked healthy; they were lush and abundant.

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First glimpse of the mangroves at Elizabeth Bay 🙂

Our first encounter with wildlife at the mangroves was a group of Galapagos Penguins comprising 3 adults and 7 juveniles. They were foraging for food. These penguins are the only species of penguins to live in mangroves.

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Almost immediately after, we saw a school of Golden Rays coming towards us. They surfaced occasionally and we caught glimpses of their white under bellies. They were so graceful and beautiful. ❤

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As we entered the mangroves, we were greeted by Galapagos Green Turtles on numerous occasions. They were in the mangroves to feed and get cleaned of parasites and barnacles. The clear waters also allowed us to see lots of reef fish and corals.

We managed to spot Galapagos Brown Pelicans for the first time; they were stooped on tree branches and waiting to dive into the waters for their next kill. We saw a Lava Heron whose legs had turned red, indicating that it was ready to breed.

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The brown pelican with its distinctive beak
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The lava heron with its attractive bright red legs!

There were several groups of Flightless Cormorants perched atop wet rocks and drying their wings too.

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Flightless cormorant taking a rest 🙂

Just as we thought that things were starting to get a little quiet, a Sea Lion whizzed past us and playfully did a little dance underwater, flashing its underbelly for all to see. Such a charmer!

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Just another lazy day! 🙂

 

 

Sailing Canal Bolivar: Sightings of the Bryde’s Whale and Witnessing a Great Feeding Frenzy

We returned to the Samba after a good 2 hours on the panga, and continued sailing into Canal Bolivar, towards the southern tip of Isabela. Canal Bolivar is the richest strait in the Galapagos, and it certainly lived up to its name. We spotted the Bryde’s Whale, which emerged from the surface of the water about 8 times before disappearing underneath, and lots of big fish like Tuna coming to the surface for food.

Just then, a whole swarm of Blue-Footed Boobies appeared, and started plunging into the water like torpedoes! It didn’t take us long to realise that we were witnessing first-hand a feeding frenzy – one of nature’s most spectacular events – right here in the heart of the ocean. The boobies were soon joined by Frigatebirds, which attempted to snatch their freshly caught meals from their beaks. About 10 minutes later, the dolphins arrived to join in the feeding frenzy! The entire event lasted about 40 minutes. It was spectacular and we felt like we had walked straight into a Nat Geo documentary.

Watch the dramatic scene unfold in the video below! 🙂

 

Afternoon Hike at Punta Moreno: the Hot Spot

In the afternoon, we went for a hike at Punta Moreno, which was located at the northern coast of Isabela Island. It is an area formed entirely of hardened lava from the eruption of volcanoes nearby. We felt like we were walking on the moon! There were lava tubes everywhere, and our guide told us that we were exactly where the hotspot responsible for the formation of the Galapagos was located! Cool. Check out the awesome Pahoehoe lava picture we managed to take. #cuegeonerd

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We then continued walking until we saw two oases and the first signs of life on this barrenscape –  Galapagos White Cheeked Pintail Ducks and a solitary Galapagos Flamingo. At the second oasis, we saw two sea lions frolicking in the water. When they noticed us, the came over to check us out!

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Giant oasis in the middle of nowhere

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On the way out, we saw another group of Galapagos Penguins and Marine Iguanas.

The day continued with us sailing and spotting random animals like the Waved Albatross.

***

Our 6th day ended with us pouring through books on the Samba to learn more about what we had encountered in the day. We also had some good conversations with our fellow travellers, that comprised geologists, marine biologists and conservationists. We learnt so much from them. 🙂

Thank you for visiting our humble travel blog! Stay tuned for our next update on our 7th day in the Galapagos Islands – coming your way soon! 😊

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Next: Day 7 >

*This is a non-sponsored post.

Much love,
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Day Five: Fernandina Island & Isabela Island

*Our Galapagos trip was from 28 November 2017 to 9 December 2017. The first 8 days were spent on board the Samba Cruise, and the subsequent 4 days on land.

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Next: Day 6 >

Hike to Punta Espinoza, Home of the Marine Iguanas

The day started very early at 615am – we were (pleasantly) warned by our naturalist the night before that this was going to be an ultra packed day. It started with a day hike to Punta Espinoza of Fernandina Island, which is home to the largest concentration of Marine Iguanas in the world. It is also the only island in the world with no introduced species until a few years ago when wasps were introduced. The good news is that these introduced wasps have been dwindling in numbers as they aren’t doing so well on this harsh landscape. Anyway, because of the resident wasps, we were advised not to wear bright-coloured clothing.

According to our naturalist, Luis, this island was voted as one of the top three most beautiful islands of the Galapagos by visitors. We were very excited and couldn’t wait to visit it!

Here’s a sneak peek of the island when we first arrived in our panga:

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Punta Espinoza, Fernandina Island, Galapagos Islands

We arrived at the island when it was low tide, and witnessed an amazing sight of marine iguanas leisurely grazing on exposed seaweed, before we began our 3 hour hike. We started off by walking along the coastline, which was completely inundated by these resident marine iguanas literally stacked on top of each other. We had to be careful not to step on them!

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The entire island was littered with the iguanas and they blended in so well with the landscape, we had to be on a constant lookout just in case we accidentally stepped on one!

Truth be told, the marine iguanas aren’t exactly good or even remotely pleasant looking. In fact to be honest we considered them to be quite hideous looking. Check out these not-so-flattering portraits below:

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They do look kind of menacing, right? However, they are actually very gentle herbivores who graze mostly on seaweed and algae! Remember how we were taught never to judge a book by its cover… Another interesting fact about these marine iguanas is that they have remarkable abilities to expel salt from their system by spitting them through their nostrils, thus they are sometimes referred to as ‘salt-spitting iguanas’. They are considered vulnerable to extinction and are protected animals of the Galapagos Islands.  Here’s a short clip of these interesting creatures, complete with close-up shots at the end:

We also saw a cool scene of a Lava Lizard perched on top of an iguana, which it was attracted to because of the flies buzzing around the iguana. The iguana, in turn, provides some form of protection for its smaller counterpart. Symbiotic relationship in action, yes? 🙂

As the bay area was a nursing place for the Galapagos Sea Lions, it was filled with mums and pups rolling about in the sand. Too precious!

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Scenes like this were aplenty. Aww ❤

In the shallow and sheltered waters of the bay, sea lion pups were frolicking playfully. It was such a lovely sight! 🙂

We caught glimpses of a dozen or so sea turtles in the waters as well. In fact, the waters were so crystal clear that we could see fishes like Blennies and Damselfish (so-called gardeners of the waters, responsible for trimming weeds).

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The clarity of the water is just insane.

We also spotted a Pencil Urchin hiding under the rocks, presumably for safety from predators.

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Hi there, Mr Urchin! 🙂

Near the waters, we found the Radiant Star, a type of sea star that is endemic to the Galapagos Islands.

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In the small pools of water on the volcanic rocks, there were lots of Sea Anemones and Barnacles, which looked like they belonged to another world altogether. They were surrounded by the Sally Lightfoot Crabs, which were busily scurrying everywhere.

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Life everywhere!

Just then, a Galapagos Hawk swooped down and the marine iguanas started scurrying away in absolute fear! Turns out that baby iguanas are yummy fodder for the hawk.

In terms of plants, we saw the extremely adorable Lava Cacti, which is also endemic to Fernandina.

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Lava Cacti – my favourite cactus so far! 😀

Snorkeling with Galapagos Penguins around Fernandina

Immediately after the hike, we changed into our snorkelling gear to snorkel around Fernandina. We were snorkelling in some really nutrient-rich and cold water with the marine iguanas when out of nowhere, we spotted Galapagos Penguins swimming in our midst!

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The penguins are the most northerly penguins in the world and nest entirely in the Tropics. They are also one of the world’s smallest species of penguins. The cute penguins were swimming around us and playfully nibbling off one of our fellow traveller’s foot (attracted to his dive shoes). Two of the penguins were even displaying a courtship ritual. We enjoyed their company for a good 30 minutes or so, before they left. It was an absolutely unforgettable experience. ❤

Hike to Urbina Bay: Giant Tortoises and Land Iguanas

After lunch, we embarked on an afternoon hike to Urbina Bay, which was located back at Isabela Island.

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Urbina Bay, Isabela Island

The first thing we noticed upon reaching the Island was that there were lots of Darwin’s Finches and Wasps. We saw more Poison Apple Trees, which I thought were really pretty, but was careful not to touch. There were Cotton Plants in bloom around the bay area as well.

The highlight of the trek was seeing the Galapagos Giant Tortoise. In fact, the Galapagos Islands are named after these magnificent creatures (‘Galapago’ means tortoise in archaic Spanish). They are most commonly found on this part of Isabela Island and on Santa Cruz Island.

We first spotted a female looking for a nesting area. She was very shy and cautious in our presence. I absolutely adored her stubby legs. She was estimated to be about 40 to 60 years old.

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Galapagos Giant Tortoise looking for a nesting site!

 

Then we spotted more of these tortoises hiding amongst the tall grasses! They started appearing, one by one…

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Love those cute stubby legs! ❤
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Getting some shade from the scorching sun ~

Check out the adorable movement of the tortoise in the videos below!

 

Are you in love yet? ❤

The other land reptile we saw was the Galapagos Land Iguana, which looked larger than its marine counterpart. Some were sand coloured whilst others were a brighter orange. They were taking shade under the shrubs. We managed to see their nests, which were  really simple holes dug in the ground.

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The Galapagos Land Iguana. A little more good looking than its marine counterpart, don’t you think? Haha.

When we returned to the beach and awaited the arrival of our panga, I spotted a very cute hermit crab scurrying about the sand. Here’s a short clip of it, just for fun:


Sunset on the Pacific Ocean

The day ended all too soon, with us watching the sun set on the horizon while sailing across the Pacific Ocean on the Samba.

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The very satisfied husband ❤
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Sunset on the horizon of the Pacific Ocean

The same question lingered on our minds at the end of each day: How much more could the Galapagos surprise us? We couldn’t wait to see what the next day had in store for us. 🙂

Thank you for visiting our humble travel blog! Stay tuned for our next update – coming your way soon! 😊

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Next: Day 6 >

*This is a non-sponsored post.

Much love,
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