Poor man´s Galapagos

If you have the money for it, one of the places you are not to miss in Ecuador is Galapagos. Every one we’ve met that had been there said it was like being in another world. The word nature comes with its fullest meaning in the island. All the animals you’re able to see and enjoy, apparently there’s no place you look at that you don’t get amazed. But well, we were not part of those who have the money to go there. 500$ to flight there, almost 100$ fee just to enter the island, plus amazingly high prices of anything in there were simply much too much for us.

But we still wanted to get a dose of the amazing biodiversity Ecuador has to offer. So plan B came into action. There’s another island, Isla de la Plata, that it’s known as the poor man’s Galapagos. And why is that? Well, a day tour to the island costs 30$. Pretty much more affordable. Yes, there are no sea lions in here, and if you stick your head under water with a pair of googles you won’t see sharks and billions of colorful fishes, but still it has a lot to offer.

We arrived to Puerto Lopez, the city from which the boat leaves, at the end of October, which is also the end of the whale season.

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We were still hoping to see some on the way to the island, but the tour guide told us that at this time of the year he didn’t promise any whale or dolphins. It was funny cause it was us who spotted the whales from the boat. I saw a big splash quite far away, and then Kasia saw another one too. We both started yelling WHALES!!! The boat took a turn and started going towards these majestic creatures. One really feels small contemplating them. It was a male, a female and their “little” baby.

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Seeing their heads get out of the water and then taking many seconds till all their body had completed the arch they where making to get under it again was so incredible, but the top of the top was to see them jump. These massive animals getting almost their whole bodies out of the water, floating for a second in the air, as if they where so light they could start flying, and then this crazy splash that followed, we were really lucky.

As the tour guide said, after seeing the whales, and catching that nice pic of them, the tour already paid off. And damn right he was, we were feeling great. First time ever we got to see a whale and a whale jump and a baby whale. Hat-trick. But that was just the beginning of the trip.

When arriving to the island, we went to see sea turtles. Many many turtles indeed. My image of turtles might be influenced by the image of the easy going, friendly looking turtles from the movies like finding Nemo, but the real ones look so mean.

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And when they opened their mouth you could see that their lower “lip” was like a saw. I don’t know if all turtles look like that or we just cached a bunch of mean turtles, the bullies within the turtle world, but they didn’t look friendly at all (“That’s so not true, they are the coolest animals in the world!” – Kasia). Look how mean they look!dsc_1075-2 dsc_1078-2

Anyway it was pretty cool to see them so close, and realizing how big they can be. After the mean turtles, we were dropped off at the beach to start a walk around the island. The main attraction on the island are the blue boobies, this nice funny looking birds with blue legs.

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We were offered a couple of tours. One longer than the other. As the guide said there was a bigger number of blue boobies on the short one, and that it went through the cliffs, we took that one.

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These birds where bigger than I thought, and their feet makes them look really funny. But their feet didn’t look blue all their life. Actually they look really different when they are babies. This much different:

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Exactly, they are cotton balls with tiny little feet moving around the place. Pretty creepy I must say, but very curious. When born, besides being covered in cotton, their feet are not blue. It starts getting that color when they grow. The more intense the color is, the older they are.

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During the trip I couldn’t stop noticing pieces of pipes spread around the path. I asked the guide and he told us that those were to kill the mice in the island. But here comes the trick, as the birds would then eat the dead mice, they couldn’t use any chemicals to deal with them, as to do so, later the birds would also swallow the same poison when having mice for dinner. So they came up with the idea to dehydrate the mice by giving them an organic product that basically made them not to be hungry or thirsty. That plus a 30+ temperature did the deed. The mice would just die organically, the tour guide really loved this word. He told us it was like a product for human called Herbal Life, all organic.

In the island, each blue booby mother would have her hatchlings under her and they all sat inside a little circle she made. The guide told us that the white powder the circle was made of were excrement. With that in mind, you look around and start realizing that the whole island is covered in white powder, so there’s shit everywhere. But no worries, it doesn’t smell. And remember, it’s all organic.

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The views from the cliffs are really nice and the chance to see these birds every meter of the way makes it a very pleasant walk. Although when we had to pass close to them they would start shaking their heads and really creeping you out, the guide said they wouldn´t do anything, that it´s just that they get stressed. The guide said sometimes you could spot sharks in the water from the cliff, but that wasn’t one of those times.

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After that we went to the last attraction of the tour: snorkeling.

As I said, this is not Galapagos, but Kasia got to swim with a turtle for a while, and you get to see some nice fish. The water is fresh and it feels really great to cool down from the heat.

Highly recommended for all of you that can’t afford to go to Galapagos but also for those who can!

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