Saturday, January 4, 2014

Baltra and Santa Cruz's Bachas Beach

So here we go, 8 days in the Galapagos awaited us.  The flight was buzzing with excitement and we couldn't wait to hit the ground, soak in the sun and see what was in store.  Day 1 was going to be a light day with a morning filled of travel logistics like finding the boat, but it gave a good intro to the islands.

Baltra was where we embarked, one of 2 airports in the Galapagos.  Officially not in the National Park, it served as a military base during WWII and today still serves as an Ecuadorian base.  Outside of the airport and shuttle buses to the ports not much happens on the island.

Meeting our naturalist guide, Efrain, we were shuttled to the boat where we soon set sail to North Seymour Island.  We had a customary boat briefing, unpacked in our cozy cabin and readied for our first scheduled island visit.

Our boat wasn't full which made for an intimate group that week - a Dutch retired couple, a young Aussie couple literally in route to moving to London and a New Yorker our age who just quit her stressful investment banking job for something more practical (and was making use of valuable time between jobs).

The Fragata yacht itself, was a lovely boat that Steph had spent much time investigating to ensure we had a great experience.  We chose a mid-priced boat range which paid off with our great group of boat companions (as opposed to the cheaper sister boat that had almost the same itinerary as us and was packed full of gap years - no offense, but we were looking for R&R on this trip).

We had a great corner cabin with two large windows and after speaking to the boat crew, they arranged the twin beds "matrimonial" style by pushing them together for us.  A small bathroom complete with shower, sink and toilet completed our en suite cabin.  Apparently we forgot to take pictures but many are readily available online if you're interested.  We finished unpacking and explored the boat we'd call home for the next week.  

Before we knew it, the bell was ringing which signaled we needed to get to the back of the boat.  The dingy was leaving.  An afternoon wet landing at Bachas Beach was our first stop.  It was a gorgeous white sand beach contrasted with black lava rock formations that were dotted with striking red Sally LightFoot crabs.  Efrain started the first of many casual walking tours of the islands.  Just off the beach were 2 lagoons to look for flamingos before seeing the turtle nesting grounds along the beach.

We were able to see a couple flamingos feeding in the lagoon and we royally kicked ourselves for underestimating this first stop and only taking our waterproof point and shoot.  The larger birds were also stalking the turtle nests looking for an easy meal.  It was hard not to want to protect the turtles but that's nature.

We also spotted our first marine iguana as he appeared out of the water then quickly ran for cover to the lagoons up over the turtle nests.

After the walking tour, Efrain walked us back to our beach landing site and held out his upturned hand to the ocean - want to snorkel?   Why not!  We explored the reefs off this quaint island then headed back to the boat just in time for a gorgeous sunset.  What a great introduction to the Galapagos!

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