We've made it to the Galapagos!
We left Guayaquil gray and rainy, and arrived in the Galapagos with excitement and sunshine!
First of all, getting to the islands is quite a process. At the airport in Guayaquil we had to purchase tourist transit cards, and get our bags inspected. Once we arrived in Barco, we had to pay another tourist fee, and get our bags inspected again. Then you get on a bus. To a ferry. To another bus. At which point we finally arrived in Santa Cruz town. Our first impression was that we had landed on Mars. The whole area around the airport is barren, red and black with Dr.Seuss-like cacti poking up every so often. But as we drove towards town the island got progressively greener, and we were shocked to see how lush these desert islands can be.
We were so excited, but had limited time, so we checked into our very cute airbnb, and had a quick lunch and then it was off to the Charles Darwin Foundation for our first meeting with researchers here. We met with two of the chief scientists of the Charles Darwin Foundation, Patritcia and Maria, in the beautiful National Park Reserve on Santa Cruz. They were both rushing around, and apologizing for being late, etc, while Natalia and I were just mesmerized by all of the surroundings.
Maria explained that with the new year arriving, their office is very busy submitting end of the year reports, and planning for next year, so we really appreciated them taking the time to meet with us. Natalia and I each presented our research, and the women were really receptive to our ideas and the potential for future collaborations. They also gave us some good tips on other scientists we could reach out to from the Charles Darwin Foundation while we are still in the islands.
After our meeting, we walked around the foundation / national park grounds, and saw our first marine iguanas! terrestrial iguanas! and giant tortoises! We also posed with lots of statues of Charles Darwin, attempted to crawl into a (model) giant tortoise shell, and even saw a marine iguana sneeze!
We left the park in the later afternoon, and walked to town for the first time. The whole town is just restaurants, travel bookings, and souvenir shops, but behind all of it you see the mangroves, the iguanas, the sea lions playing in the street; there is no divide here between where the people and the animals inhabit. Despite the obvious tourist-vibe, we found the town fairly charming, and the whole thing took about 10 minutes to walk around.
In the evening we stopped at a bar and had a drink and caught up on all that happened today, and all we want to accomplish tomorrow.
It is 100% surreal to be here right now, and we are so grateful for the opportunity, and pinching ourselves every second.