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World ARC 2019-20: The Galapagos visit gets off to a uniquely nature-filled start

by World Cruising Club 24 Feb 08:37 UTC
World ARC 2019-20 © World Cruising

Since the fleet started arriving in from Monday morning, the Galapagos clearance, inspection and quarantine team have been busy visiting all of the boats. A diver has been inspecting the hulls of each yacht, and a team of up to 9 people, assisted by the World ARC's Galapagos Agent Antonio jumped on board the fleet boat by boat, ensuring they have jumped through all the necessary hoops to clear into the country.

In the town of Puerto Baquerizo, you don't have to walk far to stumble across the highlight the Galapagos is so famous for, it's magnificent wildlife. Sealions with their pups play in the water around the anchorage; and lie lazily on the beach, a nearby bench, set of steps, parking space, chair, or even the luxurious safe haven on our fleet's yachts. Darwin's finches, pelicans, egrets, yellow warblers, frigate birds, the fabulous blue-footed booby and red crabs are a brilliant sight to encounter and - luckily for the fleet - so frequent in the area.

Participants have enjoyed cycling, dive and snorkel tours so far, exploring the town of Puerto Baquerizo, and wider island of San Cristobal.

Some of the fleet have filled up their fuel tanks, and have taken the opportunity to get rid of their garbage and recycling bags (in carefully colour coded bags). The Galapagos has recycling infrastructure, unfortunately unlike most of the other Pacific islands the fleet will encounter on their trip.

48 of the fleet came on the Islanders' World ARC island tour yesterday, visiting the El Junco crater, the Galapaguera (tortoise sanctuary) followed by Puerto Chino beach.

First stop - El Junco - a volcanic crater that now homes the only freshwater lake reservoir on the Galapagos Islands. Participants learn from their lovely tour guide Genesis, that the lake was formed tens of thousands of years ago after the last ice age. Locals named it El Junco after a flowering plant that grows in the area, Eleocharis mutate. With a large, green hillside it looks nothing like a volcano, but the lake itself is actually in an ancient crater.

We learn that when the first settlements were established in the Galapagos in the late 19th Century, people brought with them domestic plants and animals - goats, sheep, fruit plants, which became problematic and some even invasive for the island's indigenous fauna. This is particularly interesting for our fleet - who have discovered first hand the tricky nature of bringing a number of food products onto the island, many being banned (including seeds and fruits). They know full well the feeling of holding their breath that a stowaway apple they've forgotten about might still be in a cupboard when the quarantine inspector comes on board.

Frigate birds are plentiful at the crater, the Galapagos Islands being home to 2 of the 5 species worldwide. Frigate birds are best known for the males having a thin red sac on its throat, similar to a turkey. When attracting a mate, the male will inflate this sac, and it has the appearance of a bright red balloon attached to the front of the bird.

Next stop was the 'Galapaguera', or tortoise sanctuary. The Galapagos islands in fact were named by a Spanish Bishop that came across the islands back in 1535, seeing they were covered in impressive giant tortoises - 'galapago' being an old-fashioned Spanish word for 'saddle', meaning the shape of their tortoise shell backs. On Thursday's tour, participants witnessed a show-down between two males competing for a lady's attention, reaching their necks as high as they could, to stamp their claim. They are not shy around humans, and let it be known to the fleet that they have right of way to walk - or take a nap - on the path.

We should mention that also making an appearance on the tour today is the World ARC mascot, Helene the Turtle, who thoroughly enjoyed visiting her land-based relatives.

After a watermelon and empanada snack stop, Punto Chino beach topped off the tour. A beautiful white sand beach, with a wall of rocks along the side offering some good snorkelling was a welcome final stop. With Giorgio from Jan and Maximilian's Nick doing body surfing competitions and an opportunity to cool off from another hot day in the Galapagos - it was the perfect end to the trip. In the distance, Libeccio's Elizabeth saw a shark jump out the water, and whilst snorkelling a sea lion jumped off the rocks and did a flip in the air near some of the swimmers. The Galapagos really is quite an extraordinary place.

The World ARC team has been based at the Miconia Restaurant and Hotel every morning, helping participants with local information for their trip, with any technical yacht issues and planning the next fleet events. Sundowners every evening at the Miconia terrace have been popular, with the fleet discussing their Galapagos adventures, accompanied by a beautiful sunset view and 2 for 1 cocktails.

This weekend, most of the fleet are sailing to Puerto Ayora, on Isla Santa Cruz, and taking the opportunity to visit Isla Isabela, take dive trips kindly organised by Maximilian, or stay on live aboards. The Galapagos has so much to offer, they have only just clipped the iceberg here at their first stop in the archipelago.

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