Guest Blog

Today I’m including a guest blog from my new friend and swimming buddy, the whip smart, very funny Alex/ Lexie Harrison-Cripps.

It descibes her day after we all left and describes to alternate boats trips.

Here it is. Thanks Lexie

Hi Everyone,

San Cristóbal is fantastic. I travelled over on a luxury yacht where they supplied endless gin and tonics and mantas hung out on the edges ready to provide shade if you needed it. They have trained the sea lions here to assist you in any way you need, so they act as taxis, waiters and even sun loungers (which isn’t that pleasant as the sea lions smell a bit). There are so many land iguanas here they are having to cull them and have a big BBQ. I was also surprised to learn that they censor the news so nothing about Trump can get to this Island. The bag checks consist of any literature or podcasts that may contain such references. Fortunately they took my sun burn line from my swimming hat as a sign of a recent lobotomy to delete all such knowledge.*

*alternative version: boat was the same as ours to Isabella except twice the amount of people, giving it the feeling of refugees escaping an island, and being the last one on meant that I tested out my English skin in the sun for 2 hours. I adopted Steve’s method of hiding under my Turkish towel and using my baseball cap to keep it in place -it was a strong look. Highlights of the trip were watching the rays do flips next to our boat. It seems similar here to the other Islands although a lot more sea lions. I went for a swim today but definitely felt lost without my (far more) adventurous swim buddy. I even had to buy my own ice cream afterwards!!!

I haven’t heard to call of the Galapagos Step-hen yet, but I shall listen out for ‘Frannnnneeeeee’ just to check if they exist here on this island too.

Andrew, I hope that you are feeling better. That foot will surely need to heal before getting near any of the hygiene hazards that present in our London pools.

Lexie. Xx

Thanks Lexie for the laugh! Loved meeting you on Swim Trek. Had dinner with Bill tonight. How come you had the key and poor Mumma Betty had to sleep on the couch! Bill said he wasn’t pleased you didn’t swim on the last morning!

Final Swim. A cracker. 

All good things come to an end. Well I guess that’s true as SwimTrek finishes today.

Would it be the sensational last day we hope for?
You betcha!
Everyone was very chatty on the walk to the port. Last day brings an extra energy even though some have picked up coughs and colds!

Into the water taxi and off to our two waiting boats for the day.

Luck put me on Nicko’s boat. Even though it has less shade, it is more business class style of travel (not that the other boat was bad – perhaps not quite the same level of service!) I had been told by Joe and Lexie that Nicko provided rolled towels, boxed tea selections, iced lemon water, a set table for lunch and a pristine ship-shape cabin. I did not quite believe it until it happened.


Nico’s boat. note the tea pot, the tea box and the little table all set up

We motored for about 45 mins to a new island, Isola Santa Fe. Into the water and once again gorgeous swimming weather. I needn’t have worried about needing a wet suit. It would have been perfect in just swimmers, or cozzie or bathers or togs. Whatever you call them! I used my wet shirt / rash vest against the rather brutal sun.

Along we went stopping more frequently than usual to look at fish, turtles and assorted sea life just to make the day last longer. In the end we got to a small island which we could circle and circle until they dragged us out of the water.

Morning tea and then we motored along to a protected bay where we did some more snorkelling and played with the super friendly sea lions. I’m not exaggerating when I say they come up to you and roll, wanting you to imitate them. They blow bubbles at you. They practically nudge you to get you going! So much fun.

Lunch on Nicko’s boat was great. Places were set up when we climbed back on board. I’m becoming an expert at getting back on the boat! Being stronger helps.
Our boat had grilled tuna on his little bbq with a lovely side of rice and veggies. Followed by chocolate and tea. The other boat had mixed cerviche and fruit. We are definitely being spoilt. Our “girl guides” Marlys and Kelly would normally have to have shopped and pre prepared our lunch as is done on other swim treks! They are enjoying the change as well.

Nico in the water telling us about the sea life.

To finish the trek we found another beautiful section of coastline and swam, all groups together, for about 2 km – we didn’t want it to finish.

And it didn’t! We pulled into no-name beach and were allowed ashore. It had sand and before long the group were doing yoga – started off by Canadian Mr Fresh, Barry, then continued with a few different poses by Roly, before the finale of Lexi and Roly doing handstands.
Lots of laughs and clapping. Back on the boat for our trip back to Porto. Nico chatted to us about his life in Galapagos, his political views, and Lynn our American journalist took a few notes. She is going to be writing a commissioned article about this first Galapagos Swim Trek. It will appear in a Swimmers World magazine in America. Can’t wait to read it.
Final night on Swim Trek is always a a buoyant fun night, tinged with sadness. It’s over. Something we all looked forward to for months is finished.
Lots of laughs from a group of not just fellow swimmers but friends. Lots of exchanging of emails,  instigated by Lynn, our funny determined journalist from America. She and her sister Lynn, who had only had a knee replacement a few months ago,  were both so much fun and wouldn’t give in. Wonderful gals.

We felt for Andrew who had cut his foot and it had become infected. So no final swim for him. No party night. Good luck Andrew. Lexi is going to continue the party on San Cristobel. She is the ‘whip smart ‘ youngest member of our group and we’re starting to think she should move from law to stand up comedy. I will feature her description of her first day without us all! Watch this blog. Bill and Barry ( Mr Fresh ) are in Cusco when we are,  so more party time with them. Yah! Patricia folded and missed party night  with ‘the shared  cold’. And she was one of our strongest swimmers. Rebecca our funny, never say die, pinky swimmer and yoga Roly and wife Yvette ( she didn’t swim but was part of the group each night). Joe , how can I safely swim without you looking out for sharks? Miss you all.

We had the usual end of week awards. Mine was for being “the group minder” I guess the one who looked out for people both in and out of the water. I thought I could have shared that with pocket rocket Betty , my ‘wing woman’ who was such a fun caring women. But she won the ‘pyjama party girl’
Steve got ‘ Ice cream ‘ award. He managed to polish off several serves each time it was offered. He also was commended on his determined swimming and life saving skills. Joe got his for being our ‘shark spotter’

We all plan to stay in touch and I’m sure over the months and years we will catch up again.

So farewell swimmers,  my new friends. It was fun.

Thanks to our great ” girl guides” Marlys and Kelly and to Simon , the head of Swim Trek who joined the trip ( with his dad Bill) as it was a first.

Now to start the next part of the journey. Cusco here we come.

Day 5 Tintoreras

This morning it was hot as we headed to Tintoreras, a bay made up of lava channels and home to assorted wildlife. Predominantly the iguana.
The water here is yet another shade of blue. More a beautiful emerald colour.

We got off the boat and walked along the rough path, lead by Fernando. We saw the iguana nests and even managed to see some of them digging. The small beach onto the cove was like an iguana highway. Fernando gave us lots of information about iguanas and we once again were pleased Swim Trek had included him  on the trip.
We spent maybe an hour all up and by then it was HOT. We were all wanting to swim.
So back to the boat and off to a good spot outside the little harbour of Isola Isabela to start our swim.

We saw a little penguin sitting in companionable silence with a blue footed boogie bird and wondered if the water was going to be cooler.

No it wasn’t but it was divine. In and away. Today we followed Carlos on his kayak and made our way into the beach in front of our hotel.
What a way to finish the visit to Isola Isabela.

A quick shower and lunch, ( the lunches here at Casa de Marita are great) then onto the boat I’m now thinking of as the torture boat. It was hot and I was sitting mostly in the sun with no breeze. Two hours! By the end of it I was feeling slightly heat exhausted. Not like me at all.

So our arrival at the Port of Ayora was a blessing.
A very cold shower and things improved after a cool beer. Love a beer in this hot weather.
There was a festival happening in the port. A few floats and lots of music. Party atmosphere.

 Dinner at eat street before heading to bed. Eat Street is about two streets away from Posada del Mar and is made up of little restaurants with tables running down the middle of the road. Great in this weather and the food is inexpensive and good. I had octopus and salad. And rice. Everything here comes with rice. And Plantains –  a local food. They come mostly fried, like chips.
I think I feel a cold coming on. A number of us are coughing! Last swim tomorrow!

We’ll be sad to leave this beautiful place.

Day 4 Isola Isabela

Tortuga is the remains of a collapsed volcano. It’s shaped like a horse shoe.

The water was delicious. Perfect temperature. Nice little current and plenty to see along the way – both above and below the water. Frigate birds, sea lions, masses of fish, and of course marine iguanas. And of course Joe our shark spotter saw several sharks. I saw one and funnily it seems alright here because they are so well fed they aren’t interested in humans.

We set a good pace with Betty and myself finding a steady rhythm. After a few days you find someone who matches your style of swimming- not to mention speed!

the pineapple suit gets a workout! The yellow cap is not the most attractive and its so tight!

We swam for an hour and half or more and covered about 4km – including a crossing to another island (which had a distinct aroma of sea animals!). At the time I didn’t realise the shape of Tortuga but it’s a unique swim.
Back on the boat we motored along for at least 45 mins to Los Tuneles, which is a network of lava tunnels which have been eroded over time and now form archways which you can swim under.

We really would liked to have swum in the series of pools near the tunnels but the National Park is very strict about the area and recently closed the pools.

So we walked onto the lava which was rocky and home to many cactus and iguanas.

Back on the boat and a very late 3 pm lunch at our hotel. Unlike other swim treks we can’t land anywhere to eat lunch. It has to be back at the hotel or on the boat.
Then it was a walk through the small village of Porta Villamil to the Flamingo sanctuary. They are so beautiful. And the song Pretty Flamingo keeps echoing through my head.
By then we were well and truly exhausted and stayed at our hotel for a group dinner. A few didn’t quite make the dinner. Tiredness is setting in.
Beautiful Betty from the U.S. is sharing with Lexie, her swimtrek buddy over a few treks and tonight decided to stay in to be ‘mother’ to a heat exhausted Lexie. Thinking we’d headed off to the village, she came over to the outdoor bar in her Pyjamas. Very nice they were too. She carried it off so well!

The group is bonding.
Tomorrow another big day.

Day 3 : Isola Isabela

Breakfast was a 7am at Deli Cafe next door to our hotel. Better than yesterday’s at LoLo Cafe. A good coffee is a definite when we have a long day planned.


Betty, Barry, Patricia, Roly, Rebecca and Andrew

Then it was luggage downstairs ready for the trip across to Isola Isabela our next stay.  The swimming group are bonding and it’s fun and interesting to learn more about our fellow swimmers.

We had our usual briefing with Fernando our guide, then walked together to the port.
Sitting on one of the seats was a snoozing sea lion with his brother dozing under the seat. An everyday scene in Galapagos.

Into the boat and away. Two hours away!

The boat was snug and the day was hot! We sweated together chatting and dozing and bumping along. This is the surprise to me. The distances between islands.

When you come here to Galapagos, you can choose to have a cruise where you live on board and they take you from place to place for snorkelling, swimming, observing and walking.

Or you can stay on land and book tours of the more interesting places to go. If you choose this option the lady to talk to is Jill Blythe from Galapagos Alternative. She and her husband have helped put the swim trek together and has a business to help travellers who do it alone.

Neither of these ways includes the longer swims we are doing. This is a first and we are lucky enough to be on this trip.

After arriving at Isabela (Puerto Villamil) and Casa De Marita we had a lovely lunch before heading out for our afternoon swim. The new island is a great place – much quieter than Porto Aroya. We all lined up on the deck waiting to leave. We were facing the beach and for a moment I was tempted to stay ! But no the swim sounded too good.

The hard part was being back on the boats for a bumpy ride of about an hour to the Los 4 Hermanos. Once again two boats. One with not much shade! Today it was my turn on the sunny boat! Into the water we jumped. Pink, yellow and orange caps last.

It didn’t take long to spot the sea life. We swam into a cave with lots of spotted eagle rays. It’s a bit disconcerting for an Aussie, knowing the Steve Irwin story, to look at the ray, look at the long pointy tail and not be just a little scared! However Fernando said he had been an idiot and tried to ride the ray!

So I pretended to be brave and swam around counting the rays. We then saw a white tipped shark, lots of yellow tipped fish, iguanas and birds.
What the collective noun for a group of iguanas? A mess!

We hugged the coastline and swam and swam spotting fish,sharks, turtles, Blue footed boogie birds, sea lions and iguanas on the rocks. Amazing.

 Our swim this afternoon was 2.5km. and we all felt great.

Back on board it was afternoon tea. Very different to the snacks provided by the guides on other treks. And no hot tea. Mind you the water temperature is so good we’re not feeling cold.
Feeling pretty chuffed at swimming so far, we bumped across to Isola Pinzon to a gorgeous cove where we played with the assorted sea life. Turtles, sea lions and fish of all colours. It was a highlight.
We added another 1.5 km swim along the west coast of Santa Cruz. Then onto Isabela. Well deserved shower and off to the lovely low key village centre for dinner at the Grill.

Fell into bed for another 7 am breakfast.

The days on tour are long and exciting. Not much down time. Unless you count the time spent in the boat bumping over the water to the next adventure.

A Glorious Galapagos

When you have a big day ahead it’s a good idea not to miss breakfast. So at 7am we headed to LoLo (the cafe next to our hotel) for the standard swimmers breakfast. Eggs, bread, juice and coffee. By 8 am we were on the bus for the 30 min ride across the island to board our boats.

There are two boats this time. Not sure I like this idea as it divides the group. But I guess you can’t talk to everyone at once so as long as we mix it up it will work.

As we crossed towards the island we flew over yesterday I felt a combination of nerves and excitement. This is Galapagos.

It’s warm, blue, vast, fairly deserted and a dream of a lifetime.

And we’re about to swim it.

The ‘girl guides’ Marlys and Kelly gave out the swimming caps. Pink, Yellow and Orange. Slow medium and fast.

This year I’m a yellow! Swimming with Betty, Alex, Barry & Bill. Great group.

Into the water. Splash.
Off we go.

We immediately spotted hundreds of beautiful coloured fish followed by orange rock crabs, a ray , a white tipped reef shark, blue footed boobie birds


The water temperature is divine though a little choppy. We completely circumnavigated the island (Daphne Major) – about 4 km. By the end it was getting rough but exhilarating.

Back on the boat (for morning tea) with its padded seating, shade cover and cute blue and white checked floor.

We missed the ‘tea wallah’ from our last swim trek. No hot drink! At least on our boat!  Apparently the other boat had full tea service. Hmm.

After motoring for about an hour spent eating and recovering we entered a sheltered bay at Pinzon Island and had the most fun I’ve ever had in the water.

image  image image image

Swam and played with seals, saw turtles large and small swimming lazily around the rocks, was amazed to see a sea iguana, and watched the blue footed boobie birds dive with the precision of an arrow at the little silver fish.

After the show was over it was back to the boat for lunch.

Our guides are let off this trek. They don’t have to prepare lunch. The two boat owners do lunch!

Apparently each boat had its own menu!

Who had the best!

After lunch it was rest time before motoring around the island for another swim.
Now on our way back. High speed and rather bumpy!

What a day!

The evening drinks were held on the open verandah of our hotel with Fernando giving us the most incredibly informative talk about the islands.

A beautiful salad dinner at Isola Grill before climbing exhausted into bed.

Tomorrow we move to Isola Isabela. Can’t wait.

If you’ve been to Galapagos leave a comment to tell me your favourite things about it.


First day in Paradise 

Our plane flight was short. An hour and half. The view on arrival was promising. Blue and calm  Let the Trek begin!

We were met by the Swim Trek guides, Kelly and Marlys, and settled into the airport outdoor seating area to await some fellow swimmers. The temperature is warm and slightly humid but less than we’ve been experiencing in Brisbane!  The ‘girlguides’ Kelly and Marlys filled us in on the plan for the day. Then we met Fernando – a local Marine Biologist who will be giving us all the naturalist details on the animal life. He’s a gem. And gorgeous to look at and listen to. Very expressive face.

Unfortunately some of the flights delivering fellow swimmers were late, but it gave us plenty of time to get to know some of the others. Alex, a sweet but whip-smart girl from London; followed by Bill, who happens to be Simon (Mr Swim Trek)’s father. Then sisters, funny friendly Lynn and Lois from New York;and Joe an Australian teacher working in Beijing. Then lovely Betty from California. By 12.30 we were more than ready to head of to meet the others, who sensibly had arrived a day early. It was lunch on the Giant tortoise farm followed by a walk through the tortoise habitat.  So over a delicious fish lunch we met Rebecca from London; Barry – smiling Canadian; Roly and Andrew – paediatrician friends from London;and Trish – a Colombian living in Atlanta. Our group is complete.

Our walk through the tortoise habitat was great. Fernando is a wealth of knowledge and after lots of questions from our group we felt we knew a little or a lot about tortoises.  Off to our hotel, we quickly checked in and headed off for our first swim.  The hotel is back from the water and has the usual number of stairs to climb to keep us fit. Our room is clean,  big and has a veranda for all our wet things. Only downside is the wifi is only down 2 flights of stairs in reception. So posting here is haphazard. We are so busy.

The first swim was at a beach nearby and we had to hurry as the beach is closed by 6pm. It’s a National Park so there is no concession given to those who want a late swim! I tried to impress with my swimming but I’m still slow! But I’m in good company. We seem to be similar speeds overall. So the trek will be great.  It’s not a competition. We are here to observe, we are told and you better believe it. There is much to see.   Dinner was great so  off to bed. Swim tomorrow. Bring it on.