Mallorca is filled with the most beautiful Instagram places and photographic opportunities. Just take a look at my Instagram profile and you’ll immediately see that I can continue to take photos FOREVER on this amazing island. From small villages to rocky bays and fancy restaurants…. Mallorca has it all!
This blog post is all about the best places to Instagram in Mallorca. I will show you my favorite shot spots on the island: some are popular places, others are off the beaten track. Up to you to discover them yourself now. And Psssss….. let me know what your Top 10 looks like (in a comment below)!
The good thing about working abroad is that you can spend your days off as a tourist: you can make day trips from where you live to discover the most beautiful and fun places around you.
This week I decided to visit Santanyi. It is a small but authentic and interesting historic place in the South East of Mallorca. A bit further eastwards from the village lies Cala Santanyi, the beach resort town near the ‘cala’ (or the bay). The perfect combination for a day trip, I would say!
Santanyi: Mallorca’s Most Quiet & Charming Town
This time I went with my colleague Annick, who promoted herself for the occasion to my photography assistant 😉 , on a day trip in Mallorca. As she is an early bird, she suggested to leave early. I did not mind, because the earlier you wake up, the more you can enjoy the day.
‘One key to success is to have lunch at the time of day most people have breakfast.’
– Robert Brault
The funny thing was that by the time we arrived at 9.30h to Santanyi, the village was still sleeping. I guess that Mallorca does not have the same mindset as we do. Anyway… Out of a not-so-bad-idea-anyway necessity we decided to go for breakfast first.
In the middle of town, right by the church, we found Sa Botiga, a restaurant and street cafe with a lovely patio in a beautifully decorated Mediterranean styled setting. Of course, I decided to sit down in the patio, where Annick and I had a delicious croissant and fruit bowl. I also had a giant iced coffee. Perfect to wake up!
By the time we finished Santanyi was finally awake! The shops started to open and the villagers started to walk around. We found out that Santanyi is full of beautiful shops selling clothes and other fashion items in a typical Ibiza-bohemian style and also more traditional shops selling artisanal products and handicrafts.
Just behind the corner of the church we found this beautiful patio in the town hall. It was absolutely the most beautiful place in the whole city. Go and look for it yourself! (Tip: it’s somewhere near the church).
You won’t be surprised if I tell you that this village in the South East part of the island is called ‘the golden-stone village‘. Just take a look around and you’ll see why…
The unexpected thing about Santanyí is that it is not only pretty, rural and authentically Mallorcan, it is also home to many art galleries and handicraft shops, of which most of them are owned by foreigners (read: Germans).
One of my favorite discoveries of the day was Galery Beate Angela Pohl . From the outside it looks like a combination of a hippie fashion store and an art gallery but once you enter it is an oasis of tranquility, especially in the zen-themed garden. Make sure to pass it on the way to the bus stop!
Cala Santanyi: the beach
In the afternoon we took a bus to Cala Santanyi, which is the beach side of Santanyi located in a beautiful bay. It only took us like 10 minutes to get there. What an easy ride!
Once in Cala Santanyi, the bus dropped off literally at the beach. Paradise… Check! This is such a pretty bay, unfortunately it is small and therefore easily crowded.
We ran up the hill on the left side of the bay to look for some food and good views. There we found Cafe Drac, a place that makes you believe that things can get better, even if you thought they were already at the top!
You know… There are these little moments in life that I feel so blessed with the life I am leading. A good cocktail, food, sun, an awesome view and an even more awesome colleague who makes you smile. What more do we need in life?!
Enjoy the little things in life for one day they will be the big things
If you make it one day to Cala Santanyi, you have to go to Cafe Drac, and order the White Sangria (with Cava!), Shrimp-Mango Salad, and White Tiramisu (yes, you’ve heard that right: with white chocolate). Hmmm! Make sure you get the best table for that view. ❤
Hidden Gem: Es Pontàs
If you still have some energy left after an amazing lunch, you can walk around. If not, you can lay down at the beach. This place has its attraction for everyone.
Guess what… Julie is always full of energy! I went first down to this idyllic green-door harbor side of the bay for some Instagrammable-pics, and then I hiked up the cliff, realizing it was leading to a dead end. LOL.
I walked all the way back and had to take the stairs, like normal people would do. For some reason, I thought I could walk around the bay to go to this special cliff…
Es Pontàs, is like a big natural rock rising from the ocean. It has the shape of a bridge, or an arch, depending on your angle. It takes about 10 minutes walking from the bay of Cala Santanyi to get there, and it is an oasis of peacefulness. Here is where you can sit down and literally meditate.
Be thankful for what you have. Be fearless for what you want.
At Es Pontas I met other Flemish people (from the Dutch speaking side of Belgium, where I am from). It was a couple on their honeymoon. The woman was sitting there filming her husband. He was swimming to the rock and climbed all the way to the top through a very difficult (and dangerous) parcours.
It’s called “DEEP WATER SOLOING“. I’ve learnt something new today. Apparently, this is a trend amongst the more adventurous amongst us. The Es Pontas rock is one of the more challenging climbs for those bouldering it. So, don’t try this just like this!
Enough adventure for today… For me, watching Es Pontas was satisfactory enough… and my friend and colleague, Annick, she got enough adrenaline pumped into her veins by taking me this optical illusion shot near the cliff. Haha, wish I recorded her voice when she said: “don’t go closer to the cliff, come back!”.
Okay, I am a good girl and sometimes I listen. We walked back to the beach where we had a last coffee before heading back to Palma de Mallorca. Read below how to get to Santanyi by public transportation.
More day trips in Mallorca coming soon!
Santanyi: How to get there
From Palma de Mallorca, it is very easy to get to Santanyi, even without a car! It takes about 1 hour with bus 501 (Palma – Cala d’Or). At the time of writing there was a bus leaving at 8.25 AM from Plaza de Espana (from where most buses leave in Palma) to Santanyi with arrival 9.25 AM. A bus later is also possible: 10.30 with arrival 11.30. 6.65 euro one way.
From Santanyi to Cala Santanyi you can take bus 503. It is like a fancy tourist bus. You will like it, and it is only 1,50 euro one way. I recommend to take it at 13.05 – 13.15. It is the perfect time to arrive for lunch in the bay. You can take the bus back at 17.20 and then you are back at 17.30 in Santanyi.
There you have a direct connection to Palma de Mallorca at 17.35 with arrival 19.00. Unless you want to stay longer at the beach: there are also buses at 19h00, 20h05, and even 21.40h. Check actual bus times at www.tib.org.
If you prefer to go by car, it’s 50 minutes and 50 kilometers from Palma.
Santanyi: When to visit
There is a market in Santanyi on Wednesdaysand Saturdays from 8.00h until 13.00h. I haven’t been on the market day, but it is supposed to be very nice. Unless you like it quiet, then you can go another day, and have the city for yourself. 😉
When are you visiting Santanyi? Feel free to comment below.
Disclaimer: This blog post has been created in collaboration with Sa Botiga (Santanyi) and Cafe Drac (Cala Santanyi). Special thanks go to them! ❤
The second weekend in Mauritius was absolutely one of the greatest ever! Not only did I experience an amazing boat trip, I also snorkeled with wild dolphins in the open sea, barbecued on a small island called Île aux Benitiers and enjoyed a lot of sunshine with the coolest anthropology students! Just NOT too good to be true, because it was real and yes, every once in a while in life a dream comes true…
Happy are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the price to make them come true? Yes, of course! I did pay to get access to this piece of paradise, but this boat trip actually only costed +/- 35 USD so not to bad at all for a heavenly experience! If you ever visit Mauritius, don’t forget to check out this amazing area called Le Morne (where you find the biggest cliffs), Île aux Benitiers (and its blue waters surrounding it), and the wild dolphins of course! But let me talk to you about my trip first to make you feel excited for it as well!
Speed boats near Le Morne
Rule number 1: if you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up. And sometimes that means early! Especially when you want to see wild dolphins. Apparently they hang around the coast early in the morning, so our boat trip had to start at 8AM, and so we took a bus ride from Pointe aux Piments to La Gaulette, 55 km further on the west coast, so good for an hour and a half driving.
Rule number 2: if you want to spot wild dolphins, you better take a speed boat in stead of a catamaran, as it is much easier to spot the dolphins as they move fast, and you can follow them better. But… You have to be patient and lucky anyway, because nothing guarantees you that you will actually see them as they are wild dolphins, and Mauritius is not SeaWorld! 😉
It is indeed a very unique experience to spot these magnificent marine mammals in their natural habitat in Mauritius, especially in this wonderful scenery with great landscapes! And I must admit, I was very excited about this trip, but also a little bit stressed at the beginning, as I really hoped to see the dolphins, but it took about 3 times to jump in the water and snorkel while looking for them, before actually seeing one. But the fourth time our boat stopped and the captain shouted: “JUMP!” I saw not one dolphin passing by just underneath me, but at least twenty! I could not believe my eyes (my snorkels)… This marine underwater world was too remarkable and coming face to face with this wild dolphins was absolutely striking.
Of course it was difficult to focus both on photographing as on jumping in the water to swim with them, so I do not have good images of it. I did find a Youtube video about people who had a very similar experience during such a boat trip in the same area in Mauritius, and I must say that this video explains better than any of my stories how it felt to swim with those dolphins. Just watch it, and imagine you were there, because I wish you would have been… ❤
Oh my god… I still get goosebumps everytime I think about this unbelievable dolphin experience… But mostly because of a little crazy spiritual superstitious experience of myself… Well, a few years ago I had a dream. I was standing on a cliff near the sea, and I jumped a lot of meters down into the water. Of course, that would mean suicide in the real world, but in my dream I survived. Moreover, as soon as I was under water, my human body was gone, and my soul transformed its physical appearance in a dolphin. I started swimming very fast, I had never felt so free before in my entire life… Suddenly, I was swimming together with many other beautiful dolphins who looked just as happy as me, and I could feel how my whole body was full of energy, and how powerful my tale was while I was reaching a high level of speed in the ocean.
There came no end to the unlimited capacity of water, and so on. This dream was by far the greatest dream in my life, because it felt so real and natural, but at the same time it supposed to be very surreal, right? Well, the feeling that overwhelmed while I jumped off the boat and while I was swimming with those wild dolphins in Mauritius, was somehow familiar, as if I was coming home to dream I was dreaming years ago already. As if I had been here, doing this before already. Almost as if I was one of them, and my human body was trying to become one again, but my long capacity, and the limitations of my human legs brought me back to reality fast. In this life, I am not a dolphin! I am Julie! #expectation #reality
Me, surrounded by blue water near the Crystal Rock
After snorkeling and swimming some more near the spectacular reefs of Mauritius, having some unforgettable views over Le Morne Mountain, and visiting the Chrystal Rock, it was noon fast, and time to head of to Île aux Benitiers, where a BBQ and wonderful meals were prepared by our boat staff ‘à la minute’ while we were enjoying some relaxation time: tanning on the beach, having a fresh coconut with rum, buying some souvenirs, and walking around the endless beach of this small island…
The beach at Île aux Benitiers & magnificent view on the Le Morne Mountain
Making friends with a Local Beach Hat Vendor
After spending more than 2 hours chilling and eating at the islet, we went for another few snorkel stops in a magnificent lagoon with shallow water. Did I mention already that Mauritius is almost entirely encircled by a coral reef? Well, then I don’t have to explain you why it is a superb snorkelling destination with many top spots to swim around! With a water temperature between 21 and 28°C, this island is a paradise for snorkellers and divers! And the waters around Le Morne offer some excellent visibility. However, I must admit that I was too tipsy from all those coconut-rums to focus on recognizing all the various species of fish, but hanging around the boat was a lot of fun!
One of the Anthropology students found a Sea Urchin!
Well, and to all good things comes an end at a certain point, and so it did to this amazing excursion. In the late afternoon our boat returned to La Gaulette, where we spent the last hour at the beach before heading home for sunset. What can I say? This day was absolutely perfect! There was no where else in this world I wished to be, with no one else to have as companion, and even though I did not have everything, I felt the richest person on earth. Because yes, I can’t emphasize it enough: look at all this beauty… And confirm it: travel is the only thing that you can buy that makes you richer! ❤ And most importantly… Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true! So live simply, dream big, be grateful, give love, laugh lots… And I am sure that good things will come your way. So yes, some might say that karma is a bitch, but only if you are too! So be good, and good things will come your way…
Oh my God, I am already more than 2 weeks here now and I realized that I don’t manage to write properly about every day, because there is happening so much all the time! I am only in my room for a few hours of sleep each night and the days are very very busy! But in a good way, of course! What am I doing….? Following classes, doing fieldtrips, researching for my project, visiting beaches, doing some sightseeing and having the time of my life with the best host family ever, and an even greater group of students and professors!
The Summer School group in front of the National Museum of History
There is literally not very much to complain about, and if there was one thing that could be better, then that would be… Having more TIME! So I guess that time flies when you’re having fun, and unfortunately there are only 24 hours each day, so let’s just give you a brief overview of some of the past few days so you get an idea of what exactly makes it so much FUN being here!
On the road in Mauritius…
The second week started with a second field trip. The theme of this excursion was “Cultural Heritage of Mauritius”. We started the day with a journey from Pointe aux Piments (north west) to Mahébourg (south east), where the sea looked a bit less turqoise blue and the coastline was a bit more rough. We met our guide for the day near the peer. Geoffrey Summers and his wife, Francoise Summers, were living on the island for several years. The Brittish couple knew the island very well, and with archeology as Geoffrey’s specialisation, he knew a lot of things to talk to us about. We got to know a more historical part of the island that we had not heard of before. Interesting!
After a windy walk on the peer in Grand Port and a quick visit to the restants of some tanks used during World War II, we continued to Fort Frederik Hendrik. It’s a museum which is named after a Dutch guy who had his office here during the 17th century colonisation period by The Netherlands… The historical site became a museum in 1999 and tries to represent both the Dutch and French colonial settlements in Mauritius.
Did you know that the Dutch were the first inhabitants to settle on the island and colonised Mauritius from 1638 – 1710 ? Later it were the French ( 1710 – 1810 ) who colonised the island, and after that came the British rule ( 1810–1968 ), followed by the independence of Mauritius in 1968.
Students at the peer in Grand Port
After a brief guided visit to the museum, it was time for lunch in the beautiful tropical garden of Fort Frederik Hendrik, surrounded by ruins. The leftovers from the walls of these ruins learned archeologists that French ruins were standing on top of a Dutch fort, so in this regard it is an important place for those who want to get to know Mauritius very well. And I guess that was the aim of this visit, even though I must admit that this historical tour was a bit boring for me.
Maybe more interesting was the Tour des Hollandais, which was founded very funny by me (Flemish) and another Dutch student. This tour is about an old watch tower, used as a vantage point to observe the bay for any incoming ships, and protect Mauritius from invaders and so on. From this point they could prevent potential attacks from the French and later on from the British.
Dutch Girls gone Wild…?!
In the afternoon we continued our excursion to Mahébourg, where we visited the National Museum of History. Here we got to know even more facts about the colonial history of Mauritius. But the most magnificent part of this element of the trip, was the beautiful French colonial mansion in which the museum was located. It was built around 1770 and inaugurated in 1998 as a museum by the one and only Prince Maurits of Orange-Nassau, exactly 400 years after the first Dutch landing in Mauritius.
But an even more interesting novelty was the story about the Dodo bird in Mauritius… which explains why this animal is so popular, even though you cannot see it anywere on the island…
The dodo (Raphus Cucullatus) is an extinct flightless bird that was endemic to Mauritius
The dodo was extinct by the time the Dutch abandoned Mauritius due to extensive hunting
The dodo’s appearance in life is evidenced only by drawings, paintings, and written accounts from the 17th century
The dodo achieved widespread recognition from its role in the story of Alice in Wonderland
The dodo has since become a fixture in popular culture, often as a symbol of extinction and obsolescence
The famous but extincted Dodo bird…
Okay enough history for today! What else did we do? We also walked to a river where women washed their clothes on stones, saw a place in the lush forest where people practice Black Magic, and visited a grassroots NGO where women do basket weaving… The last stop of the day was in a restaurant, to have some well deserved food after a busy day of educational travel before heading back to our home town!
Francoise Summers guiding us through the Basket Weaving NGO project
That evening I was very tired, and so were my roommates, from all this traveling around. We had dinner at Nanny’s place, and worked on our computers for a couple of hours before heading back to bed for a good night of sleep.
The schedule of Tuesday mentioned “Cognition and Culture” in the morning and “Religion and Cognition” in the afternoon. These classes were given by both Dimitris and his co-instructors, and were something totally different from what I had heard about Anthropology before. It was interesting, but also very difficult material to relate to in my opinion, so I guess I will better not bother you with the details about this either.
Another day of classes at the Temple
But don’t think now that this was all very boring, no, not at all! Because just when you think it is getting boring, it is time for a lunch break again, or another few hours between the break at the beach! And this is how we roll: time flies when you’re having fun, so you better make the best out of every day you get here! And so did I do: bought food for lunch at a local ‘Patisserie’ and went straight to the beach to chill out a few hours between Cognition, Culture and Religious classes today…
Another piece of daily wisdom and insight: if you want to be and stay happy, be flexible and always open to changes! Don’t fix your plans, because…. The weather can change, just to give an example! I was actually planning a second visit to Triolet during lunch break, but the weather was so extremely nice that I decided to run home for that bikini, and run back to the beach. Best decision ever! Everyone happy! 🙂
Me and a colleague-student at Pointe aux Piments beach
Or to rephrase this in a more anthropological way…
Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods… 😉
Enjoying our daily lunch break…
In the evening my roommates and I were taken to a local restaurant in Trou aux Biches by our host brother. He invited us to try some of the local food in that place, which was quite a surprise. Some of the dishes were very nice, but others I didn’t like very much. But it was good to try everything, and to be hanging around with a local family member in a not so touristy-spot.
Wednesday was another day of classes. So you see, I am actually very busy studying here! In the morning Dimitris (yes, we call the professors by their first names here) talked about Cognitive Anthropology, one of his specialisations. It is all about addressing the ways in which people conceive of and think about events and objects in the world, while providing a link between human thought processes and the physical and ideational aspects of culture. And yes, I know that this sounds Chinese to you, so that is why I will not go into details again…
After spending lunch break in a local restaurant in the village and a powernap on the beach, together with some other students, it was time for another lecture given by Martin Lang. He gave us an inspiring introduction to Cognition and Quantitative methods, such as surveys, questionnaires, etc. and he also talked about Cultural Consensus.
Martin Lang talking about Cultural Consensus
I also went to the village to recharge my phone, which is another notable story! Did you notice that I am always online while being in Mauritius? Well, if you reload every week for 100 rupees (+/- 2,5 euros) then you can get a package with Free Internet & Unlimited Facebook for a week here. So my 3G is on most of the time and whether I am in the forest or at the beach, I am always connected… Whether that is such a good thing for an internet addict like me, I am not sure… Because you know what they say: there is no WiFi in the forest, but there is a better “connection”… 😉
That evening I spent most of my time writing a Research Proposal for the project I am going to do here. My subject is now definitive, and I will explore the intertwined relationship between cross-cultural romantic affairs and sex tourism on Mauritius. The fundamental purpose of this study is to explore the question: “What is the difference between sex tourism and romance tourism, and how is it perceived by people who have intercultural relationships in Mauritius?” The objective of this research will be to increase our understanding of this social reality by developing explanations of the phenomena by critically evaluating the interrelation between sex tourism and romantic cross-cultural relationships in Mauritius. So now you finally now what I am doing my fieldwork about!
Trying out a Sari in the local village’s shop
But oh yes! Before I forget to mention… Apart from working on this, I also went with my host father and host sister to the village to buy a Sari! Sari…What?!
A sari is a South Asian female garment, associated with grace and is widely regarded as a symbol of Hindu culture
It consists of a drape that is typically wrapped around the waist with one end draped over the shoulder
A sari is one of the most common outfits used by the women of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, …
Saris differ from each other on the basis of design, fabric, drapes and colors
The length of a sari can vary from 4 to 9 meters
And moreover, that Wednesday evening we (my American host sisters and I) cooked dinner for our host family, after them cooking us dinners so often. We decided to make Mexican food, even though that is not very American or Belgium, because first of all the ingredients were more or less available here in the supermarkets, and second of all… A funny story! Our host family eats “Faratas” all the time, a local flat bread of which you have to use to eat the rest of your dish by wripping of pieces of this piece of bread. But I used to eat it all the time as a Burrito/tortilla, so that is why we decided to learn the locals eat Tortillas stuffed up as burritos. A funny cross-cultural experience in which we exchanged our culinary behaviour and habits! 😛
Me and my American host sisters cooking Dinner for our Mauritian host family
Unfortunately I must admit that it was more fun for us than for our host family, who was not used to eat Guacomole with cheese and salad in a wrapped up – look a like – Farata flat bread… I am not sure if they really enjoyed this ‘different’ food as they are quite conservative. Also, our Hindu family is vegetarian so they do not eat meat, chicken, fish, eggs, … Therefore we used Tofu – look a like – chicken, which they did appreciate of course.
The evening ended with showing the Saris we had bought to our grandmother and family, and that was a lot of fun! And I worked until the late hours designing some research methods and tools for my research project…
Voilà…. This was another update of my busy days in Mauritius! I hope you liked reading it as much as I liked experiencing it, and I will keep you posted soon with more!
After one week of Mauritian discovery and cultural adventure, it is cristal clear: Mauritius is an amazing and colorful island with a rich cultural diversity and some kind of uniqueness that I have never seen before in any other place. An added value are the pristine beaches and the daily amazing sunsets, the taste of paradise tastes sweet. But what makes it all even greater is what I call the state of colorblindness in a world of abundant colors.
Mauritians have many different ancestors, religions, eat different food, have different skin colors, … But everyone seems to live happily together, and for a Westerner such peaceful multicultural society is almost a utopy, facing the daily media in Europe and elsewhere. But being here gives me faith and inner peace. Let me tell you why in this blog post…
With the Anthropology students at the Botanic Garden
Thank God it was Friday! The last day of classes before the weekend! No, seriously!? It did absolutely not feel as if we had been in class for a week already, definetely because of the fieldtrip on Thursday. Today we were introduced to interviewing techniques and methodology in the morning session. After having had some theory in the temple, we went outside in pairs of two to practice our interviewing skills by recording eachothers conversations.
After doing this, we went back in the temple to listen to our records, and discuss the results. It was interesting to analyze some of the interviews, and notice how we could improve certain skills to avoid bias, but on the other hand I got a bit bored of it as well, as I already had a course in my university in Belgium on Qualitative Research Methods, in which I studied these methods into detail.
During lunch we went to Deepah, the friendly girl with her streetfood tent on the coast, and grabbed some lunch there together with some students. It always a nice place to hang out, before heading to the beach. But today the weather was not too great, so we did not really have a beach day.
In the afternoon we watched a documentary, which is called “Secrets of the Tribe”, a movie about the field of anthropology which goes under the magnifying glass in a fiery investigation of the seminal research on Yanomami Indians. In the 1960s and ’70s, a steady stream of anthropologists filed into the Amazon Basin to observe this “virgin” society untouched by modern life. Thirty years later, the events surrounding this infiltration have become a scandalous tale of academic ethics and infighting. And especially/exactly that is what we discussed after watching it.
After class I met one of my first informants in the village and had a first informal interview with someone. My project is officially starting to get some shape! Quite exciting! Another hour later I had a meeting with my professor and one of the instructors to talk about the topic that I have chosen for my paper. The paper is the final assesment for this course, and will be handed in a few weeks after this course finishes, so basically I have to do my data collection and fieldwork now (read: interviewing etc.), and then write the ethnographic / scientific results about this research out once I am back at home. This is then evaluated in stead of having an exam.
But after those two meetings it was finally time for the weekend to begin! We had set up a plan to go out in Grande Baie, one of the most popular touristic areas in the surrounding area here! We had dinner in a quite fancy restaurant (La Pagode) for the first time with some of the students, which we really enjoyed! The prices were not even too bad or expensive comparing to Europe. And the Coconut Rum Punch tasted good!
Enjoying dinner with Servia, Denmark, USA & Belgium
And around 10PM the Banana Beach Club opened, so our party night started! This beach bar is a well known place for its tropical natural setting and friendly atmosphere. There is a good mix of locals and tourists, so basically “the place to be” in this coastal town for live music and just chilling out. Nextdoor there a few other clubs like Zanzibar, Insomnia, OMG and Enfants Terribles, so there is plenty of party vibes to enjoy a late night out!
Apart from the enjoyable experience and many tropical cocktails I had, I also met some interesting informants here for my research project so basically Banana had it all for me!!! Great night, great drinks, and great people. What more do you need?! A few hours of sleep before another beautiful day I guess…
Enjoying tropical vibes at Banana Beach Club
Saturday morning I met again with some of the students for a trip to the SSR Botanic Garden of Mauritius, located in the village of Pamplemousses. Therefore we had to take 2 public buses, one from Pointe aux Piments to Triolet, and one from Triolet to Pamplemousses. The buses here are so cheap, the total ride costed like +/- 50 rupees which is about 1.25 euros.
The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanic Garden (SSRBG) covers an area of about 37.5 hectares (which is impressive, and not just another botanic garden as you might have seen before). There are many many many attractions to find in terms of flora, but also fauna. The garden dates back from the French period: the domain was set up in 1736 by a French governor, Mahé de Labourdonnais.
A few years later, in 1767, the French Intendant Pierre Poivre (the creator of this garden) introduced new vegetables, fruits, flowers and spices from all over the world to the domain and that is why tourists like us can still visit the oldest botanic garden in the southern hemisphere. No wonder that this is one of the main attractions on the island, and Mauritians are proud of it!
One of the highlights of this park are the aquatic plants, which we could see through a walk in the garden. The most photographed flowers were probably the giant water lily (Victoria Amazonica), the sacred Indian lotus (Nelumbo Nucifera) and the different Nymphaea. But unfortunately it is “winter” in Mauritius now, and so there were not many flowers to be photographed.
By the way: Mauritius has only 2 seasons, a wet and a dry season. July is the dry season, but also the local winter with lower temperatures but less humidity and less rain, so actually a great time to visit the island!
Every year the garden welcomes around 250.000 visitors, while there is an estimated amount of 1.000.000 tourists visiting the island on a yearly basis. That means that 1 out of 4 tourists visits this place, not to bad at all, I guess! (I got these numbers from a brochure, so I am not sure if they are so reliable, but anyway…) . We also rented a freelance guide who showed us around in this place, which we were not regretting at all! How else can you recognize beautiful plants and birds?
I was especially surprised and very happy to see something like a ‘Bambi’ (Disney deer… you know…). But there were also several aquatic animals like turtles, fish and eels. The most remarkable animal however was the Pteropus Niger, a type of bat which is apparently the only endemic mammal that Mauritius has, and we could just spot them hanging on the tree tops during day time.
After a few hours of smelling, breathing and walking trough this wonderful piece of nature, we became hungry and moreover it started to rain. I guess we were lucky however to see this beautiful place in a few hours of time. We had lunch in a tourist place called “Café Viennese Waltz”, which was very lovely. They had some French crèpes and Austrian Sachertorte (chocolate cake) and delicious coffee, which we obviously enjoyed a lot while hiding from the rain!
When it finally stopped raining, we headed back to the bus stop, but the bus did not want to come at all. We waited more than an hour to take a bus back from Pamplemousses to Triolet, but while we were waiting something beautiful happened. We met a Créole woman with her little daughter, and she was simply amazing! I could have adopted her! Enthousiastically as I am, I started to photograph her, and so did my friends. And before I realized it, her mother and I exchanged numbers and Facebook accounts to send the pictures to each other and so on. I got half of her life story and the whole history that goes along with it, and yes, in the mean time I am a friend richer in life. She even invited me to her sun’s communion in September, but unfortunately I am not here anymore by then.
But what I mean with this story is just how amazing it is, how open people are here, how much more they talk with each other while waiting for the bus in the street, how much more social contact there is between people, and how cultural borders don’t seem to matter. I found that the Mauritian way of life, the mindset and mentality is a great one that we should take as an example in our Western societies. Even though every place has it’s own cultural conflicts that come along with diversity of course… I just feel that I can smile so much more here than at home!
I guess that the visit of the garden and this encounter was a very synchrone spiritual experience that made me realize simultaniously that Mauritius is both a very colorful island, but in the same time also colorblind, because people don’t seem to mind so much over skin color, they seem to focus on the positive things they have and be grateful for those, even though all the difficulties there might be. And that is what made me fall in love with this island. It is not the beaches that make this a paradise, but the culture, which I wish all of you from the bottom of my heart to experience one day as well! ❤
So we’re different colours And we’re different creeds And different people have different needs
But I see your true colors Shining through And that’s why I love you So don’t be afraid to let them show Your true colors Beautiful, like a rainbow
People are people So why should it be You and I should get along so awfully
(Creative Mix of Depeche Mode & Cyndi Lauper)
But back on my travelogue now… We finally did manage to get home, but by that time it was evening already though. So there were just a couple of hours left to work a bit on my project and relax while doing silly things at the computer, and then I had to get ready for the next activity. It is crazy how busy I am here! Every day is so occupied but I Love it!
Well, so Saturday night, the Summer School students were invited by the people of the Maha Kali Mata Mandir Temple where we are having our classes each day. They made us a whole local dinner at someone’s place so that was a very nice experience and opportunity to finally also meet all the temple members. We were offered to eat a favourite Mauritian dish: briyani (or briani). It is a rice dish made with beef, chicken, fish, mutton or vegetables (as well as yoghurt, saffron and spicies) that originates from Muslim Mauritians. The local Hindus are vegi/vegan so they eat it of course only with the vegetables, and most importantly: you have to eat it with your hands! Well, that was quite an experience as well! And oh yes, the entire dish is served on a banana leaf, or in our case here… Something that looked like a banana leaf!
Going local! Eating Briyani with the Hindus
Note: in the picture you can see me eating with my left hand, but that was actually a cultural mistake (which I of course realized too late!). One isn’t supposed to use his left hand to eat food because the left hand is considered unclean, just as they believe in India. And also the muslims have their reasons for not using the left hand. I think – to be honest – that the main reason is that you cannot use your left hand because the people here don’t use toilet paper, you know… But I’ve bought some, fair enough! 😉
And to end our Saturday night in Peace & Love, we went to the only place that was open in town to have a last bear or wine before heading back home to sleep… Played some ‘never have I ever’ and ‘most likely to’ and other silly games of which I am going to spare you all embarassing details! 😛
Drinks with the students in the village
Time for Sunday, a new day in paradise! After a slowly morning of showering and work on the computer, and a relaxing lunch near the beach, I decided to explore some more of the surrounding area to make use of my free time today. Together with the American girls and another student, we walked to Trou aux Biches, which is around 30 minutes walking along the beach northwards from where we are located. It was a great walk and extremely relaxing to walk barefoot over the soft sand of iddylic beaches that did not seem to come to an end.
Walking from Pointe aux Piments to Trou aux Biches
By the time we reached Trou aux Biches, a lovely touristy town I finally got myself an ice cream! That did not happen until today in Mauritius! Me happy! But what made me more happy was sitting down at the beach and walking around in the village on a Sunday and seeing all these locals having a great family quality time together, picknicking at the beach or near the sea. Those are the moments that you are at the beach and you bring a book to read, but then you realize: I should just lay down and observe what is surrounding me, so much more interesting than a fiction story!
After spending a few hours on the lovely beaches of Trou aux Biches, I called up one of the informants for my research project, and I managed to get a meeting the same night in the same location. So I met the woman who was so friendly to pick me up right at the beach and invited me to come over at the house. And after an hour and a half of interviewing and chatting for a little bit longer, her husband even offered to bring me back home by car to Pointe aux Piments. Well, that was rather a necesity than a friendly offer in the same time, because apparently public bus services stop to run after 6.30PM in the evening, so I would not have gotten a bus back anyway! But again: great people here, never a problem!
I had dinner at my host family and talked about my daily experiences in Mauritius, and went to back very satisfied with this lovely weekend. Ready for bed and a new week with new adventures! Curious about those? Well, then keep following the blog!
Waww, I have only been here for a few days and so much has happened already! I feel like a cameleon, adapting smoothly to my environment. So: where to start?!
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.
It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin
Sunday I arrived and I got to know my host mother a bit. She speaks some French but mostly Créole and it is obviously not always obvious what she is trying to say. She is very nice and kind, but also a little bit possessive in her own unique hospitable way, as she is cooking dinner and makes me eat whatever she likes. She made me eat the weirdest things, fortunately she is Hindu so I am not supposed to eat meat (lucky vegetarian I am!).
I was very happy to meet my fellow roommates after a few hours of being drawned into a little culture shock, having no internet, no phone, no toilet, no shower and so on. Emily is an American student who is staying at “grandma’s place” (as she calls it) as well, and Francesca is also an American student who is staying in the house next door, where I go to shower and use the internet. The house next door belongs to the children of ‘Grandma’.
Where I stay there is no bathroom at all, unless you consider the open air sink as a bathroom. So I have to walk through a garden and knock at the other houses door, which is not really a problem actually. But not really a luxury either! :p In the shower I got company of Mom and Daughter Cockroach, so yes… I have already made some friends here, and built up a reputation as murderer!
Going out to get some streetfood with my roommates
But enough about the house and the weirdest food being served there, I am here for Ethnographic Fieldwork, not for wishing I was at the beach all day! And dear friends, I hope you don’t keep thinking that that is (the only thing) what I am doing here. Anthropologists do have a hard life! 😉
Because as fast as I arrived in the house, so fast was I gone again. After a terrible too sweet and pink drink that I was offered to drink as a way of welcoming me into the family, I was invited at a Knife-Walking ritual in the village of Pointe-aux-Piments. So I did not even have time to put my luggage down and check my room, as my host father and I were already gone again.
Colorful Hindus in Pointe-aux-Piments
The ritual was exactly what it sounded like: people were literally walking over knifes, while playing music, burning essence sticks, while suffering and so on. I had never seen a ritual like this before – and I am not expecting to see many of these again in my life – and I was also not really understanding much about it either. The only thing that is for sure that is they sacrifice theirselves for their religion (Hinduism). I was told that before the ceremony those people were praying and fasting for several days, and during the ceremony partcipents would then envoken their godess whilst making a sacrifice. Walking over the swords appears to be a very meaningful and extreme ritual for hindus, in which they are seeking to prove their piety by withstanding their pain.
Walking over Knifes… A quite unsual religious practice in Mauritius!
Monday it was time to go to school at 9AM… Dimitris Xygalatas, the Summer School professor, an anthropologist who is very experienced in doing research on extreme rituals in Mauritius, opened the course by overviewing all practical concerns and reviewing the syllabus. I got to meet all the other students. We are with 18 students, coming from different countries such as Denmark, United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Peru, Servia and Belgium (which is represented by myself). After introducing ourselves, our field of study (we come from different degrees in social sciences, varying from Bachelors to Masters levels), the instructors also presented themselves. Apart from Dimitris, there are a few other instructors as well, who are basically research assistants or connections of Dimitris who are also researching within Mauritius. So we are a group of +/- 25 persons.
Having classes at the beach. This is The Life!
So what is this “Ethnographic Field School” all about?
Well, the course will “provide empirical training in ethnographic fieldwork through immersion into the field and engaging in qualitative as well as quantitative field studies involving a variety of methods such as participant-observation, interviews, surveys, and behavioral and biometric measures. The course also examines key methodological, epistemological, and ethical issues pertaining to the study of culture and working with human subjects. Furthermore, it involves a series of field trips and lectures on Mauritius, its diverse culture, and its fascinating history”, as it is mentioned in the syllabus.
So: again, we did not come here for 3 weeks of paradise and sunbathing, but we came to experience “the real Mauritius” (even though you can start questioning that, if you think about being a large group of Western students living closely to each other for the next few weeks).
After that first general session in the morning, we had our first lunch break and everyone was excited to get to know each other better, to overcome to culture shock and make some new friends. We decided to explore the coastal area of Pointe-aux-Piments (the village were we stay), and so we discovered our first beach at only 5 minutes walking from the classroom, which is actually located nearby a fancy hotel: Récif Attitude Hotel*** (about €90 per night for a standard room, which is kind of affordable for a paradise island!)
Getting to know each other at the beach of Pointe-aux-Piments
Well, I have to admit… It is kind of paradise here, right? And I guess not many of you reading this have lunch breaks as I am having here. So God bless the life I lead, and thank God for this amazing opportunity! But to all good things come to an end, quite fast, because lunch break was “only 2 hours” and then it was time again to return to the afternoon class. The only thing that I could think of, was that this might become an extreme ritual that people must start to practice every day and everywhere, lol.
This session an introduction about Mauritius and its culture was on the schedule, but as smart as Dimitris is (yes, we can actually call our professor here by his first name!), he started with a little quiz to test our knowledge about Mauritius, or in other words: did we read enough, and prepare ourselves well for this course? I spare you the answer to be honest… Woops! 😉
Funny facts you might like to know about Mauritius:
Did you know that Mauritius is about the size of Luxemburg?
Did you know that Mauritius has no official language? (But English and French are taught at school)
Did you know that the tallest mountain on the island is about 800 meters high?
Did you know that Charles Darwin has written not only about the Galapagos Islands (which I visited last year), but also about the flora and fauna of Mauritius?
Did you know that there is actually a town called Pamplemousses (grapefruit) in Mauritius?
But… maybe most important, do you actually know where in the world Mauritius is located? I bet most of you readers don’t, which is actually not really a problem (because I also did not know it very well before I heard about this course and looked it up). The most important is that you know that it is NOT “one of those French islands in the Caribbean”, but that is actually “one of those islands in the Indian Ocean, near Madagascar and La Réunion”. Or to be more specific… here’s a map:
Enough educational stuff for today! Unless you really want to know more interesting facts about this island, then you should look at this nicely written article! Tomorrow I’ll write about more interesting facts, but more important: my interesting life and experiences here, a Sega dance night and much more fun!
A big kiss for all of those who are so great to keep following me!
The last week of the 10 week program with The Leap was pretty intense. Not only did we do the Ruta del Sol (Itinerary of the Sun) – Guayaquil, Montañita, Puerto Lopez – and party hard every night of the week, we also came to the final moment in which we had to say goodbye to each other. Many tears flooded and emotions were strong. We’ve had a great team and nobody wanted this journey ever to end, I guess. Last but not least, I will reveal some YOLO story in this post… So keep reading and find it out!
The Ruta del Sol could better have been called Ruta del Alcohol, because to be honest we’ve seen more alcohol than sun that week. I do not really have much more to tell in this blog post then that we ate, slept, drank and partied. We started our itinerary in Quito, after returning from Mindo, and woke up at 3AM to catch a bus early in the morning towards Guayaquil.
With almost 4 million people, Guayaquil is the largest and most populous city in Ecuador. Located on the coast, it is as well the nation’s main port. The Malécon 2000 is the symbolic center of the city, with much green and many shops in the area. We only had a few looks from out of the bus, driving along the city to the bus terminal. So we did not spend much time there, just a quick hop to catch the next bus to Montañita, and had lunch in Mc Donalds!!! What a fancy bus terminal they had there!
Malecon 2000, Guayaquil (Ecuador)
We arrived around dinner time in Montañita and enjoyed our first night out partying as it should. Montañita is a small coastal town in the south coast of Ecuador. It is translated as ‘little hill’ because it became famous so slowly. It is a place for surfing and used to be a rustic fishermen town. In 1960, some hippies settled in Montañita and now it is a popular destination for surfers from around the world. Moreover, it is considered one of the best beaches in Ecuador, and it has a great nightlife! We enjoyed the sunset and left for our first party night out!
Sunset in Montañita
Montañita is one of the few beaches in Ecuador where (European) women frequently go topless, according to Wikipedia. However, I am European but I did not do it… 😉 There was one night in which I wanted to go “skinny-dipping”, but eventually that did not happen. Guess we were not drunk enough… 😛
Another Wikipedia fact is that Montañita is the only place in Ecuador where marijuana is smoked freely. Marijuana is illegal in Ecuador, but you can smell and see it in the Streets every single day.
Montañita – Party Night N°1
It is very common to hear reggea and reggeaton music on street corners, to see banners of peace symbols and hippies who hang around. Gay travellers should also very comfortable here, as walking holding hands is freely accepted.
The Streets of Montañita are filled with international bars, restaurants and cafés. Our favourite street was ‘Cocktail Alley’ where cocktails were freshly blended for $4,00 a cup. A cheap and eficient way to get our nights started!
Montañita – Party Night N°2
The second day the other Leap group that was travelling through Ecuador in a different sequence, also arrived in this party town and joined our group for the daily celebrations. We had the whole hostel for ourselves, as we were 25 persons in total. The atmosphere was insane! ❤
Montañita – Party Night N°3
I was happy to have the other (Dutch) group leader around for the next days, as most of the group members spent the daytime sleeping… We usually went out with them to party, but came back at a more descent time (as we were still on duty here!! Remember… Group leading IS an actual JOB). So during daylight we enjoyed food, drinks and terraces (paid by the company) and wandered around town… And at night we joined the groups for dinner and pre-drinking games.
Montañita – Party Night N°4
The last night we planned a dinner with both groups together in the same restaurant and we bought some huge beertaps for all. Food and drinks were great, as usually here in Montañita, and we went out for a last – and of course even more crazy – night out. I think what happened in Montañita should definetely stay in Montañita, and that Montañita was a YOLO town more then any other place in Ecuador. We all had great fun, crazy memories and an incredible experience!
However, it was pretty hard to wake up all 23 group members to leave to the next ‘Ruta del Sol’ destination the day after. With some pretty sweet hangovers and a big lack of descent sleep, we left by public bus to Puerto Lopez. This is a a small fishing village set in an arched bay on the Pacific coast in the Ecuadorian Manabí Province.
On the streets near the beach you can find restaurants and beach bars with hammocks, while the other streets have some travel agencies where you can book a tour for whalewatching or fishing. Amberjack, dolphins, wahoos, marlins and tunas are many of the different species that you can see just off the coast. Of course, we only did the laid back activities and didn’t go whalewatching due to our time limit.
Puerto Lopez – City views
After a night bus back to Quito, our final day had come. I held a global evaluation session with the group and they filled in a survey. It was an emotional moment, and the results of the questionnaire were amazing. I got to read amazing comments and Yanapuma was very happy with this final results. They gave me 94% for my internship! Some examples of comments:
“Julie was like a friend but also led us really well, always making me feel safe. Did not distance herself from us but joined in with everything we did while still being responsible”
“Julie was brilliant throughout, very laid back but was strict and purposeful in the situations where it was needed. Even though she was our leader, it still felt like she was one of us in the group and that´s definitely a good thing”
“Julie has been an excellent leader. I have absolutely no complaints. She was extremely approachable, and dealt brilliantly when she had to take people to the hospital, for example. Being so close to us in age was imperative”
Survey Result – Thank you, Leapers!!!
After a very last goodbye dinner, goodbye speech and goodbye breakfast, it was time to say GOODBYE – which was really hard. Of course there were many tears, more then I expected, but after all… It were tears of gratitude. This had been one of the most life changing experiences for each and everyone of us. For me, this had been the biggest carreer jump so far, and even though I had not find myself yet in this whole wide world, I came so much closer to myself, to what I feel as where I am born for. I felt truly blessed for this opportunity, for having such a great group and seeing such a beautiful country. There were no words to describe the feeling!
“La despedida” – Goodbye Picture Leap Group B
The YOLO Mistake….
I kept it a secret for quite a long time, but now it’s time to tell it…. Where do I start…
I ended up buying a T-shirt saying “YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE, Montañita – Ecuador”. The whole group laughed at my for that, but that was not the YOLO mistake I was planning to reveal. YOLO, in our case was You Only Leap Once. But that’s a mistake: I’m going to Leap twice!!! Yep, you hear it well, I am off this summer to be a Group Leader again. The Leap offered me a job in Cambodia, a country of which I did not even know the capital city before now. But I looked at the program, saw it was great, booked my tickets and gone am I again the end of June. I am super excited for this new experience and I feel this is a perfect kind of synchronity in my life, as I was feeling my life needed a change. Thanks for the opportunities to The Leap, one of the greatest companies I know, just because they believe in young people who are motivated to gain experience and discover new horizons in life! #feelingblessed!
After taking a 2 hour boat ride from Isabela to Santa Cruz, and another one from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal, I had finally arrived back at the island where my Leap group was volunteering.
View from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, capital of Galapagos
During my stopover in Santa Cruz, I had the best fruit bowl with granola for breakfast ever, and visited the Charles Darwin Research Center, as it is not so far walking from the peer and it is a must-see in the islands, I was told. However, it did not really impress me a lot. After the death of Lonesome George, I do not think that there is that much more to see in the station. Or at least not things you can’t see anywhere else on the islands, such as iguanas and tortoises.
Tortoises in Charles Darwin Research Center, Santa Cruz
So I walked back quite quickly, went to the internetcafe to do some work for school, had a salad for lunch (yes, a healthy day) and bought some last souvenirs on the avenue. Then it was time to board the next ferry, which would bring me in another two hours to San Cristobal.
I did not have a reservation or a fixed plan, but I was not planning to return to Hacienda Tranquila because I wanted my two last nights to be spent as a holiday. So when I arrived at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, I went to a hostel called Leon Dormido and asked if they had a room. They tried to sell it for $30 a night, but I got it down to $20, convincing them that I did not have more budget. I got a very nice room with airconditioning and hot water, and I had to walk 2 steps to be on the main street. And there was WiFi, even in the room. Perfect!
After putting my laundry in the shop, I met my group by coincidence in town. We had a drink together and decided to meet for dinner in a restaurant. It was really nice to spend that evening together with them again and I enjoyed a chicken burger. We watched the sea lions playing on the beach at night and then we headed back seperately to our accommodations.
Sea lion in San Cristobal
Thursday 8th of May it was my last full day on the islands, and I had a free day to do whatever I felt like doing. I slept later then my usual 6 o`clock, had a good breakfast and was planning to go searching for `Fundacion Nueva Era` as Yanapuma was interested in a collaboration with them. It felt like a great coincidence, because while I was eating breakfast on a terrace, some poster crossed my eye and that was it! Right there was the foundation. So I went inside, explained myself and 5 minutes later I had an appointment with the boss for the next morning. Great because that ment work for today was done…
I went for a walk in town, bought some souvenir, had a freshly squeezed juice and did some reflection on my time in the Galapagos. It had definetely been a great journey so far. And to give myself some last sun rays before heading back to Quito, I headed to the beach. I walked via the coast to Playa Mann, which was surprisingly relaxed. There was a beach bar, again some sea lions and some trees to look for shadow when the sun is too hot.
Beach bar at Playa Mann, San Cristobal
I also visited the opposite Interpretaton Center of San Cristobal, which was the most interesting museum of the Galapagos Islands, to my opinion. After traveling a lot, I felt like all the pieces fell together and I got answers to questions I did not think about. It was free entrance and I have learned a lot of things about the history of the island and the income generation of tourism for example.
The most interesting information of all… – Interpretation Center
After the cultural visit I went back to the beach and watched sunset. Enjoying to the fullest my very last moments here. I went to the hostel for a shower, and had something small for dinner. As the Galapagos came to an end, it means that another Phase with my Leap volunteers was coming soon. Tomorrow I would meet them at the airport to fly back to Quito and start the Adventure Week. I was definetely nervous for that, but come on up… Break a leg!
Last Sunset on San Cristobal
Well, that was it. The end of my Galapagos Dream Journey. I had spend 3 weeks on the islands, felt like the luckiest girl on earth for having this amazing opportunity to visit the islands on a budget and was absolutely sure about never ever ever forgetting this in my life. I had seen the most amazing animals on earth, met great people, found new volunteer projects and did some volunteer work myself as well, was more tanned then ever before, spend too much money but oh so well spend so I could not care, I felt great because life was good and with loads of energy I was heading back to Ecuador`s mainland, ready to give the best of myself for another 4 weeks with The Leap.
The 3rd of May it was time to head further to the biggest island of the Galapagos archipelago. In order to survive the 2 hour ‘lancha’ boat trip, I took an anti-seasickness pill, as many other travellers adviced me to do so. It wasn’t that bad, too be honest. I enjoyed the sunrise and was warmly welcomed by my tour operator on the peer. As it was the first time in my life that anyone was waiting for me with a personal nametag, I was super excited! Lol 😛
Just some advice for any Galapagos backpacker reading this post: Isabela has no ATM so you have to take enough cash with you from either San Cristobal or Santa Cruz. Upon arrival at the peer you will be obligated to pay an additional $5 entrance fee to Isabela, helping the island’s conservation.
I felt like ‘a real tourist’ with my super cheap all-inclusive package deal, checked in at Hotel Coral Blanco, got meal coupons and excursion vouchers. I paid $185 for 4 nights in a single room (airco, wifi, hot water), 2 diners, 2 lunched and 2 breakfasts, a city/flamingo tour, the full-day trekking to Sierra Negra & Volcano Chico and an excursion to Las Tintoreras.
However, the first day on the island I decided to take it easy and I headed to the beach for some tanning and sleep. Every once in a while a crab or marine iguana passed by next to my towel, but apart from that it was a very enjoyable morning at the beach.
After lunch I had a very short city and flamingo tour, which was not so impressive as Puerto Villamil is a tiny beach village with only unpaved roads and everything is in walking distance. But it was pretty cool to see the wild flamingos chilling in the lagoon.
After the tour I wandered around some more but got quite bored soon as Puerto Villlamil is an undevelopped and tiny village of which you can count the bars and shops on one hand…
I did another nap (siesta) and went to the restaurant with my food coupon for dinner. I felt quite lonely and bored, so headed to the Iguana Bar on the peer in search for some new friends and cocktails. I chatted with the bartender, told him about my job and found out some adresses and contact persons for new volunteer projects for Yanapuma. Lovely how working, enjoying cocktails and watching pinguins can go all together here! This is the life!
The next morning I felt like a new person and totally ready for my day excursion to Sierra Negra & Volcano Chico. With a lunchbox and loads of water packed, I left for what turned out to be a SICK day! Apparently, they ‘forgot’ to inform us that the hike was 16km in 2 difficult phases: a muddy and rainy hike uptil the Caldera of Sierra Negra, and a climb over lava rocks to Volcano Chico. And that everything, the same road as we went to go back. It took our group 8 hours of non-stop struggling through very changing weather and landscape types.
After walking for 3 hours in the rain, mud and mist we finally reached the top of Sierra Negra. Here we could see the caldera partially, but it was still pretty impressive to see this black sea of lava floods.
Then as we walked further the green and lush landscape changed into a dry desert of volcanic rocks…
We reached volcano Chico and already left half of our group behind somewhere because they could not handle it. The hike was a real stuggle and adventure. I thought it was a good excercise if I would ever go climbing the Mount Everest, lol :-p
Me, the guide and two other tourists climed all the way up to Volcano Chico, where we had the most spectacular views at +/- 1000 meter above sea level.
We took half an hour to eat our lunch box and then we headed back. On our way we put our hand in some lava rock and it was very hot, so that means – yes yes – that this volcano is active! I was told that the last eruption was in 2005.
On our way back I thought about ice cream and home, that way the time went faster and I tried to forget about the rainy part of the hike that was still coming. I ended up making jokes and good chats with the other tourists and by the time we all arrived, we were friends and could only smile about this insane day. We headed back completely soaked, full of mud and exhausted, ran in the sea with clothes and walking boots to get the mud off and had a good time.
Later in the night, after a good shower, I went to see the sunset at the peer, felt a little bit lonely and had dinner. The next day I woke up early again for the next excursion, I really wanted to make the best out of my stay here and see as much as possible. So I went to visit Las Tintoreras.
First we went to take our snorkel gear and drove to the boat dock where we started our tour. Las Tintoreras is a small archipelago of volcanic islands near Puerto Villamil.
On your way to the islands, you can see sea lions chilling on boats, pinguins chilling on rocks and so on…
Once we got onto land, we walked around a little bit. We saw a colony of baby iguanas, which was very cute to see. They all sit on top of each other and it looks like some of them are hugging each other. Big love, babies!
Then we were on a beautiful beach were sea lions lived and played, which was absolutely paradise!
And after that we walked on some more volcanic rock material and enjoyed the views and the sun.
We encountered another colony of marine iguanas, this time it were the mommies and the daddies I suppose… And last but not least, we found granddaddie, but I think he did not survive it …. 😉 RIP
We headed back to the boat and jumped in the water to cool off and enjoy some snorkeling. To my biggest surprise this was one of the best snorkel trips so far, as I saw gigantic sea turtles of over hundred years in the water. At least 7 of them!
There were also sea stars and other fish types that had not seen before so far on the Galapagos trip. Recommendable!
In the afternoon I went to visit the tortoise project on Isabela, in order to find out whether they can receive volunteers for Yanapuma. I decided to walk via the 20 minutes trail, which turned out to be a beautiful walk. I had to pass some crossing iguanas every now and then, but it was peaceful and quiet.
Upon my arrival at the project I registered and introduced myself to one of the guards. I got a private guided tour through the whole area and got to feed the turtles, which is normally strictly forbidden for tourists. The advantages of working in the industry, I guess!
It was a rehabilitation center for tortoises that were rescued from an eruption of a volcano on Isabela, and over 2 years they had already made over 200 baby tortoises. I can only say it was a very nice experience to feed the tortoises, but in order to get more information for Yanapuma I had to go back to the village to talk to the people of the Ministerio de Galapagos, which I managed to do, but with all these restrictions it was quite hard to get a deal out of it.
So I made another appointment in the evening to visit another project the next day, and finished my day at a bar with some cocktails and met some French volunteers from Hacienda Tranquila, with whome I turned out to have dinner with. We ended our night near a campfire and a bar, drank Tequila Sunrise and Piña Colada, felt like hippies and went to bed tipsy. Love life!
The last day in Isabela was fully booked with ambitious plans: snorkeling in Los Tuneles and project visit to Campo Duro… I noticed that waking up at 6 o’clock became the weirdest holiday habit ever, but I enjoyed it as I could make the most out of my days. Although I have to say I was also happy that it was the last day of doing excursions and snorkeling, because after 3 weeks of die-hard travelling, you really have enough of it. No matter how much paradise factor this place has.
Oh yeah, last night I dreamed that there was a volcano eruption which caused a tsunami wherefor I escaped on a zodiac and I had saved my photo camera in a mysterious way. I was one of the only persons that survived on earth and when I woke up, I did not realize it was not happening for real. Was it the alcohol? Or had I just been to much fascinated by the stories of the guides on this island? Lol 😛
The tour started, I met a Dutch woman on the boat, who became my buddy for the day and we sailed away… On our way we passed by Union Rock, which is full of Nazca Boobies! Sailed around it up to very close, and then went further.
It was difficult to sail between the tunnels of Los Tuneles, as they are all volcanic erosions in the water. But it was a beautiful walk with nice views.
We could also see some tortoises swimming and later we had the chance to snorkel with them and literally chased some sharks out of their tunnels. It was pretty pretty adventurous, and I was exhausted from doing this excercise snorkel around under and through the tunnels.
After two snorkel trips, a lunch on board and seeing some gigantic manta rays jumping out of the ocean, it was time to head back.
I called a taxi to go to Campo Duro, which was a fantastic project I found on the island. This ecolodge does not only offer camping sites, but has its own tortoise refuge and organic farm where they harvest food for the animals and the community. Their grounds are massive and I have never before seen the tortoises living so happily in natural surroundings.
I was warmly welcomed by the owner, Don Michui, in his restaurant. Again I was offered a guided tour, got the chance to ask a lot of questions and felt very professional, lol. No, I’m serious… I really enjoyed doing this visits and negotiations and I really hoped that Yanapuma would be able to work with them because I could see volunteers coming here…
I took a taxi back to the hostal and met my French friends again for one last goodbye dinner and cocktail on the beach. The next day I would leave very early to take 2 ferries and having a long travel day…
Next stop: SAN CRISTOBAL (7) –> Keep following for the last destination of my Galapagos Dream Journey
Here follows the highly anticipated story of my exceptional journey to San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Santa Fé, Isla Bartolomé, North Seymour and Isla Isabela… Or the one and only Galápagos Islands.
My last blog post was about volunteering in Hacienda Tranquila. I left my group of volunteers there and travelled further during 2 weeks on my own. My employer approved me to discover the islands if I would come back with some new projects for the foundation. So, that deal being made I took a ferry to the first island…
1: SANTA CRUZ
Early in the morning I left San Cristobal for Santa Cruz (a $25/2hr boatride away), the most important and busy island of the Galapagos archipelago, from where most of the cruise ships and tours start of. Puerto Ayora is the largest town in on the island and the only one with tourist accommodation.
Puerto Ayora – Capital of Santa Cruz
After my check-in at Hostal Lirio de Mar ($15 a night for a single room with private bathroom, no AC) I headed to a local travel agency to start bargaining on my tours for the next days. I was planning to visit the Galapagos Islands on a budget, and so I had to OR book a cheap last minute cruise (which always stays more expensive than seperate tours with accommodation in backpacker hostals) OR buy the excursions for every day. I had honestly no idea about the different options and prices, so I informed myself in a few places, went for lunch to overthink everything and returned to the agency with the best deals, MOCKING BIRD TOURS (same street as the hostal) to bargain another few dollars out of the deal. I ended up getting a 10% discount and paid $475 for a daytours to Santa Fé, Floreana, Isla Bartolomé and North Seymour. And above that, I started immediately doing the Tour de Bahia in Santa Cruz itself… A lot of money, but definetely a good deal knowing that cruises start from 800$ last-minute.
The Tour de Bahia (Bay Tour) was worth a $30 and started from the main dock in Puerto Ayora. Together with 15 other passengers and a naturalist guide I visited the main attractions in the area. By boat we headed to La Loberia, where we could observe sea lions on the beach and rocks.
La Loberia, Santa Cruz
After that we went for a snorkel session near Punta Estrada, where I saw a Tiger Snake Eel and other impressive marine life.
Tiger Snake Eel
Then we had a dry landing near Canal de Amor, where a lot of animals were chilling on the rocks and there was a bright blue lagoon.
A marine iguana
Near Playa de los Perros I could see a lot of marine iguanas who were happy to pose for a picture with me.
After a small walk and lots of pictures, it was back on the boat for Las Grietas, the last stop of the trip. Directly translated, “grieta” means crevasse or crack. It is is a great place to swim in cool ocean water between two tall cliffs, where the earth has opened like a crack.
We had to follow a 15 minute trail that started off sandy and rocky, and winded up crossing over a jagged lava field, through a cactus forest, and up a sandy path once again to the top of Las Grietas. A nice experience!
Walking to Las Grietas
After the walk back I enjoyed a fresh Coke in a local bar, chatting with other travellers. Life was good! And another boat ride away, we arrived back in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island where I headed back to the Hostel for a fresh shower…
It wasn’t a bad last-minute day tour decision at all and I ended my day having a nice dinner in one of the many cosy restaurants near the main strip in Puerto Ayora. It was holiday time and so I enjoyed every single minute of it!
Next stop: SANTE FÉ (2) –> Keep following for the next destination