November 18, 2007– Arrival in the Islands!

Tortoises are everywhere

TLeila reporting from Galapagoshis is Leila Silveira reporting from Galapagos. I arrived in Quito, Ecuador, late last night after flying all the way from Nepal. This morning our group was packed up and having breakfast at 5 am, finally all together and ready for our upcoming adventures.

We left for the Quito airport and 7 am flight on a Boeing 737 called the Iguana. After a brief stop to pick up more passengers in Guayaquil, a city on the coast of Ecuador, we flew 600 miles west across the open waters of the Pacific to Baltra, one of the smaller islands in the Galapagos. A U.S. military base operated during World War Two on Baltra, and we could see some remnants of the buildings from that time.

Puerto Ayrora, our destination for the day, is the largest city (16,000 population) in the Galapagos and on the southern coast of Santa Cruz Island. We took a short shuttle boat ride from Baltra Island to Santa Cruz Island, then continued 45 kilometers across the island toward Puerto Ayrora. As we rode the small shuttle bus, our naturalist-guide Julianne gave us a great introduction to the archipelago. The road climbed over the highlands in the center of the island, and we experienced a dramatic change in the weather. At the airport it had been hot, windy, and cloudless, and the landscape arid. As we went over the top of the highlands at 1,800 feet above sea level, the weather became extremely humid, foggy, and cool.

Ann and Martin relaxing on their first day in GalapagosThe big excitement during the drive was spotting our first giant tortoises. It became a game to be the one to spot a tortoise in the dense vegetation alongside the road. Several times people mistook big rocks for tortoises, but finally everybody had seen at least one and then we seemed to be seeing them everywhere.

Finally we made it to Puerto Ayrora where another short boat ride took us to our hotel, The Finch Bay, an award-winning luxury hotel proud of its ecological commitment. It has its own desalinization plant as well as its own garbage and recycling program.

We settled in and finally had time to relax. We can see wildlife everywhere we turn. Carlos and Richard decided to skip lunch and enjoy time at  poolside. The rest of us had a good meal and then Barbara, Patrick, Carlos, and Richard met with a dive master to organize their diving plans for tomorrow.

Now we are settling into our rooms and trying out the hammocks on the decks. Ann was the first one to just lie down and relax, but she won’t be the last.

It has been a very busy day of travel and seeing new sights and getting to know one another. We are already having a great time, and are looking ahead to lots more to report tomorrow.

Barbara, Richard and Carlos talking about their diving plans

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