Santiago & Rabida – Galapagos Islands

Day 7: Santiago Island (James Bay) & Rabida Island

We were warned that the night’s sailing to Santiago Island would be the roughest yet but we were pleasantly surprised to barely have felt it. We left early in the morning to Santiago Island armed with our snorkelling gear and wetsuit for later as we wouldn’t be returning to the boat until lunch time. We first went off for our morning hike. The tide was low creating lots of tide pools along the rocks where we saw quite a few young sea lions sleeping and playing within them. We saw lots of Sally lightfoot crabs and even a couple who were foaming – apparently this means they are ready to shed their shells! We spotted a couple of our first Fur Seals in the Galapagos. Though called seals, they technically are still sea lions as they have the little ears, however their eyes and whiskers are much larger than the Galapagos Sea Lions. They are also the only animals in the Galapagos to fear humans as they were once hunted for their fur by whalers and pirates.

We came back to the beach and put on our wetsuits which proved to be quite the challenge when trying not to get any sand in them. The water temperature was warmer than when we swam on the west coast of Isabela and the types of fish were reflected in this: they were more tropical and colourful. There were lots of huge parrot fish like we saw in Thailand. The highlight was without a doubt a little baby sea lion who played and swam around Dave and I for about 10 minutes! He was by far the most playful sea lion we had encountered yet and even came to bump his nose on the GoPro twice and even tried to playfully bite it once – we have an awesome still from the video! What was even more amazing was that he picked up two different sea shells from the sandy bottom, his behaviour was so dog-like, it was crazy!

We hopped back on the boat for lunch and headed to Rabida Island, a short 3 hour navigation away. Rabida island, at just 5km², is famous for its distinctive red sand beaches due to the high amounts of iron found in the lava rocks. We saw lots of flowering cacti and a couple of endemic Galapagos Carpenter bees buzzing around them. The females are all black whereas the males are yellow/brown. We have seen the Prickly Pear cactus on most islands in the Galapagos, however, on Rabida island, the cactus has evolved to have soft spines due to a lack of predators. We did a short 30 minute hike up to one of the viewpoints before returning back to the beach to snorkel for our last time in the Galapagos. We snorkelled along the cliff line alongside a myriad of fish and even one ray sleeping on the bottom. As we were returning to the shoreline, the most adorable and friendly sea lion pup came to bid us farewell. By this point there were only 4 of us left in the water and he seemed to be enjoying our company while pirouetting and blowing bubbles at us underwater.

Join us next time as we head to our final destination in the Galapagos, North Seymour island.

Sophie & Dave


Isabela Island, Galapagos, Ecuador

Tagus Cove, Isabela & Fernandina – Galapagos Islands

Day 6: Tagus Cove, Isabela Island and  Fernandina Island

We had breakfast a little earlier than usual so that we could be out on the zodiacs at 7am to see the sea birds when they are at their most active. We saw cormorants, pelicans & blue footed boobies along the rocks of Tagus Cove. We then pulled up to the staircase for our morning hike. Tagus Cove is really famous in the Galapagos because of the graffiti you can find there. People have etched the name of their boats and the year in the rock for hundreds of years. We saw the earliest engraving which was from the boat called Phoenix in 1836! Name carving has been banned since the 90s.

We started to walk up the hill and came to our first viewpoint of the spectacular Darwin lake. It is a beautiful turquoise salt lake sat next to the ocean but without any link to it. Though there wasn’t much in the way of wildlife, we both agreed it was our favourite landscape walk. The island was covered in white trees that made the most stark contrasts against the blue of Darwin lake. We stopped at 3 different viewpoints on our walk offering different perspectives of the lake whilst the final viewpoint at the top even let us see Wolf Volcano on another island! Back at the bottom, as we waited for the zodiacs, a huge pod of penguins swam past us! It was by far the most we had seen and I was so happy to be quick enough to snap a photograph which has over 16 penguins in one photo!

We came back to the boat for a quick wet suit change ready for our first snorkel of the day. Dave was ahead at the front of the group and said he chased the group of penguins only for them to change direction and swim right past him! I didn’t see the big group but I did have one rogue penguin swim straight into my goggles as I came round the corner of a rock! Unfortunately we didn’t capture either penguin encounter on the GoPro but it was a highlight for both of us! On this snorkel, we saw SO many starfish! There’s a few different types of starfish included a small yellow one with brown spots called the Chocolate Chip Starfish – seriously! Our guide also spotted a small Jackson shark resting on the ocean floor though he was quite far down and Dave and I are rubbish at free diving so we didn’t get to see it too clearly.

We got back on the boat for a short 40 minute navigation across to Fernandina island where we would have our second snorkel of the morning. This was our favourite snorkel so far because it was so diverse! For the first time, we saw marine iguanas diving under the water and munching on algae on the rocks. These incredible reptiles can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes! We saw 1 dive down, 3 eating underwater and 1 swimming along the surface towards us – it was so bizarre and absolutely amazing!

We swam further on and came in to a group of sea turtles where it was genuinely a struggle to swim around and not hit any of them! I’ve never seen anything like it, there were about 7 massive ones in a cluster! We both saw a flightless cormorant diving down underwater which was so fast but awesome. We then saw a penguin in the water, tried to follow him and then just round the corner, we found him sat on the rock right next to us whilst a sea lion played with us underwater! We managed to snap a photo with us and the penguin on the GoPro.

In the afternoon, we set off for our hike around Fernandina island. Fernandina island is the youngest of all the Galapagos islands and also the most untouched. It doesn’t have any introduced plant or animal species, so the island remains exactly as it was thousands of years ago. It is also a famous island because it is where BBC’s Blue Planet filmed the iconic snakes-chasing-baby-iguanas scene. Unfortunately that precise location is in a part of the island that tourists cannot visit, plus it wasn’t the right season. Having said that, I was so happy to spot a Racer snake snoozing in the shade in a crevice in the rocks! It was quite thin but really long – it had about 10 ‘bends’ where it lay and if you pulled it taut, so to speak, it would have been about 2 metres long!

The shores of Fernandina island have the highest concentration of marine iguanas. Everywhere you looked, there would be an iguana. There were so many that we even saw one with a Darwin finch perched upon it and one with a crab on top of it. These marine iguanas often spit too which is such a strange sight! They do it to exhale the salt water in their lungs from their dives in the ocean! They are so quick but Dave caught one spitting on film.

Fernandina island was special because we we got to see such diverse wildlife all seemingly sat side by side! A Galapagos hawk sat next to some chunky marine iguanas. Flightless cormorant birds next to the iguanas. Even sea turtles sunbathing in the shallows of the beach only half submerged with their shells poking out! I took one of my favourite photos from this trip where you can see marine iguanas, sea lions and sea turtles all in one spot!

We also saw an Oyster catcher bird who was protecting two eggs that it had laid so close to the path! There was no nest, just the eggs on the bare rock – something we had never seen before! The most fascinating animal however was the lizard on Fernandina island. We saw a larger lizard eating a small lizard!! Apparently when food is extremely scarce, the animals can resort to canabalism where the bigger ones prey on the small ones. I took a photograph and our guide, Fabian, even asked me to send it to him because in his whole life living in the Galapagos and then 10 years as a guide, he’d never seen it himself! Definitely my rarest and luckiest picture ever!

When we came back on board the yacht for the evening, we were all very excited when the Captain sounded the alarm to let us know there was a whale nearby. We only saw a brief spurt and its’ back so we don’t even know what type of whale it was but it was still awesome!

Thanks for reading and join us for the next day of the Galapagos cruise!

Sophie & Dave

Ep.10 – Koh Samui & Koh Tao


We hope you enjoy watching our underwater adventures in the Thai Islands.  See below for our fish identification chart of Koh Tao’s marine life. The video is mostly of our snorkelling in Koh Tao filmed on our GoPro!

Dave & Sophie’s fish guide to Koh Tao:

Black, white and yellow striped fish with tail
Angel Fish
Yellow and blue fish with large teeth
Blue-Barred Parrotfish
Brightly coloured closing shells
Bright yellow fish with subtle polka dots
Coral Rabbitfish
Small yellow fish with black stripes
Eight-Stripe Butterflyfish
Giant blue, brown and white clam
Giant Clam
Yellow and white fish with whiskers
Brown and white spotty fish hidden in coral
Honeycomb Grouper
Bright green fish with pink face markings
Lunar Wrasse
Thin silver fish with pointed noses
Needle Fish
Large, multicoloured fish with big teeth
Bright yellow fish with black and white striped face
Pocket Butterflyfish
Black and white fish with red stomach
Red Breasted Wrasse
Small blue and black striped fish
Sergeant Major Fish
Extendable jaw on pastel coloured fish
Sling Jaw Wrasse
Large green fish with black scales
Thick Lip Wrasse
Large, aggressive, ugly fish with sharp teeth
Titan Triggerfish
Polkadot fish with yellow patch and spines
Yellow Blotch Rabbitfish

Koh Samui & Koh Tao – Thailand


We’d been to the north of Thailand last month and came back to visit some of the islands. From Siem Reap, we flew to Phuket as it was a lot cheaper than heading straight to Koh Samui but unfortunately this meant we were set for another 6-7 hour bus journey upon arrival. This was probably the first time our lack of planning didn’t do us any favours… Phuket airport is about a 45 minute journey north of Phuket town, already on the way to Surat Thani (the connecting town to the islands). We assumed we’d be able to catch a bus straight from the airport instead of wasting a journey into town only to head back on ourselves an hour or two later. After bitterly trudging around the area near the airport in the mid-day sun and enquiring in several places, it was quickly apparent that we would have to catch the bus from town. Palava. So yes, we wasted more time taking a taxi to the bus stop in town.

We got a local bus rather than a tourist bus (inadvertently) which was a fair bit cheaper. The bus journey was ok but the driver frequently stopped to pick up locals in the middle of the road and inevitably we were an hour or so late. We finally arrived late in the evening but thankfully the hotel staff were very helpful in arranging our boat the following morning.

We caught an early bus to Donsak Pier and boarded a ferry to our first Thai island, Koh Samui. Again, we sort of accidentally booked a ticket on a cargo boat rather than the fancy high speed catamaran tourist boats that most people get because it was cheaper and we didn’t really question what boat we’d be on. We had found a good deal online to stay at a fancy resort on Mae Nam beach. The complex was massive and I think the fact they give you a ride to your room in a golf buggy speaks for itself. There was a massive cockroach in the room though that I valiantly removed using the ashtray (nothing else was big enough to trap it) as Dave isn’t a fan of cockroaches. Unfortunately it looked like we had brought the English weather with us. It would be sunny in the mornings but then take a turn for the worse with torrential downpours. We got caught in one and the roads filled up ankle deep really quickly. Lots of locals stopped to wave/laugh at us as we ran down the street bare foot and soaked to the core! Koh Samui’s waters are too cloudy to see any marine life so we just chilled by the beach. I’ve realised that I don’t actually like doing that because I get bored sunbathing after about 2 minutes and can’t read unless I’m in the shade. I just hassle Dave every 5 seconds asking if he’s finished his chapter yet and to come and play in the sea. Comparatively, if you give me a snorkel set, I’ll be happily amused for hours without coming up once.

A few days later, we moved round the coast slightly to Bohput Fisherman’s Village. We had both envisaged a small traditional village but if anything it was more touristy than Mae Nam. It was nice however to walk along the beach (usually ice cream in hand) and wonder through the various night stalls. We were always a little concerned about our belongings because we were staying in a bamboo hut that you couldn’t actually lock properly (all was fine though).

After a few days, we decided we weren’t fans of Koh Samui and decided to move on. Koh Samui wasn’t what I thought it would be, it’s feels very much like a city rather than an island; I can see the draw of Koh Samui if you’re very social and like drinking (I’m still going strong on the alcohol ban) and sunbathing (I’m rubbish). But for us, we decided to head for Koh Tao about 40km north with the promise of marine life. The ferry only took a couple of hours (we entertained ourselves with a wasabi pea eating contest) and it was a welcome surprise when there was a 4×4 pick up truck waiting for us from our hotel to transfer us to the other side of the island to a remote bay called Tanote. We had originally planned to only stay a few nights but instantly loved it so much, we ended up staying 5 nights. Our favourite thing to do, obviously, was snorkelling. The coral and marine life literally started about a metre or two from the beach. We’ve been fortunate enough to snorkel in some very cool places but I think Koh Tao was the most impressive we’ve ever seen. We saw so many different species of fish and then we’d try googling them later on to learn more about them. We saw loads of beautiful Parrot fish; they’re about half a metre and the brightest colours you’ve ever seen! Upon my extensive googling endeavours, I learned that Parrot fish can change gender in their lives! If the dominant male dies, a female becomes male to take over. On the first day we saw a huge, quite ugly fish with sticky out horse-like teeth. We followed him for a while filming on the GoPro. When we researched it later, turns out it was a Titan Triggerfish which can actually be really aggressive and territorial; you should always stay clear of them, they’ve been known to bite through people’s fins! Google said to swim horizontally away if you encounter them. The next day we saw them again but they were swimming fast, so we decided to swim quickly the other way, when we watched back the GoPro footage later, we saw the fish had doubled back and come right next to me ready to attack! Stay tuned for all the different fishies on our next video!

You’d think we’d have gotten bored of 5 days of snorkelling but we were sad to leave.  We embarked on the long reverse journey back to Phuket where we had a one night stopover in the old town which is a world heritage site with quirky little meandering streets.

Thanks for reading and join us next time for our time in Singapore!

Sophie & Dave