We booked this trip with Braden Escobar as a "couples trip". We had always wanted to go to the Galapagos, but had not been excited about the "nature tours" advertised in the travel magazines. This trip allowed us to get off the beaten path to see the Galapagos.
The Galapagos are volcanic islands with a lot of extremely rough and abrasive rocks. In past history, the islands were used as prison islands. There is not much rainfall. "Desert island" is an apt description, with cactus and bush in the low lying areas. The equatorial sun heats the rocks, making walking a task that requires attention to the distinct possibility of dehydration and heat exhaustion. In 1979, 300 Ecuadorian Marines staged an amphibious landing on one side of Isabela Island, with a 28 kilometer march across the island to their pickup point. The planned 36 hour march turned into a five day ordeal, with the troops becoming lost and disoriented due to dehydration and heat exhaustion. One man died.
This is not sport hunting, nor is it a "drive the Suburban out to the pasture" prairie dog shoot. Travel to the shooting area on Santa Cruz involved at least a one hour trip by truck, and another hour by open boat powered by a 50 hp. outboard. We saw sea lions, sea turtles, and manta rays on the boat trip. While I walked inland and shot 13 feral donkeys in 3 1/2 hours, my wife snorkeled with her guide, who caught fresh lobsters and prepared a midday luncheon. We boated back to the truck, and viewed volcanic craters and birds on the way back to the very comfortable Angermeyer Hotel in Puerto Ayerto.
I spent a day trying to shoot a wild boar that we hunted with the locals' hunting dogs. The dogs were unable to turn or stop the boar, so I did not get a shot. It was a pleasant surprise to walk through the bush, and find 400 pound tortoises meandering though the bush.
The most goats were seen on Santiago Island, which was a six hour ocean ride by open boat powered by a 60 hp. outboard. Santiago Island has no inhabitants and is a National Park. The landing on the beach was rugged and wet. We set up the "traditional Galapaganian fishing camp" of a suspended tarp to shade the sun and a campfire. In the late afternoon heat, I shot 17 feral goats. The bushes and grass on the island had been stripped by the feral goats, leaving little vegetation for the land tortoises and other native fauna.
My wife and her guide snorkeled, hiked, and photographed marine iquanas, pink flamingos, sea turtles and other wildlife. That night, she and I were sleeping in a nylon pup tent on the beach. We were awakened after midnight by a sea turtle throwing sand on our tent as she dug a nest for her eggs. The next morning, I shot 51 goats in about 3 1/2 hours. Our embarkation was in waist deep water.
On our last day, we traveled two hours by open boat to the west side of Santiago. We attempted to find wild boar while my wife and her guide snorkeled for lobster. After an hour of unsuccessful searching for boars, we went back toward the beach, where I shot 24 feral donkeys in 1 1/2 hours. We then went back to the landing site for our wedding anniversary luncheon of wine, fruit salad, and fresh lobster ceviche. After lunch, we boated back to the hotel. That evening, we were treated to a delightful anniversary dinner at a rural restaurant.
After a week in the Galapagos, we flew back to Quito. The next day we headed east across the Andes into Amazonia and the Napo River valley, one of the tributaries of the Amazon River. I did not hunt or shoot. We spent several days touring the rain forest, tubing, and canoeing down the Napo. The road trip was in the Suzuki Samari owned by Braden's friend. Unfortunately, it was cramped, and the short wheel base made f or a rough ride on the rocky dirt roads. We returned to Quito, where we toured the sights of the city for a day.
This is definitely a trip to a Third World country that standard commercial tours do not cover. We experienced the Galapagos, "up close and personal". Braden Escobar is 25 years of age. His family is from Ecuador, but he is an American citizen, and attended college in the United States. He is fluent in English and Spanish. His assistant guides in the Galapagos speak passable English, and are also registered guides with the National Parks. A registered guide is needed to go to most places on the islands. The equipment and transportation on the Galapagos were the same as those used by the locals. While not luxurious, they were serviceable, and adequate for our needs.
The effort to please by Escobar and his crew was outstanding. We were made to f eel at home. If you only want to hunt and shoot, this is not the trip for you. Hunting was just an opportunity to enjoy and experience the Galapagos Islands and its unique wildlife.