Got delayed in Houston. Oh well.
Got delayed in Houston. Oh well.
Arrived late in the day from Houston and proceeded to hotel. Decided to have dinner there and had what was to be the first (of many) side dishes of popcorn. What a great idea.
Sunday. San Cristobal
After boarding boat (our luggage already in our cabin) we unpacked and meet the other guests and had a great lunch. Then off on our first excursion to a giant tortoise breeding facility. Here we saw both mature tortoises and hatchlings. On the pier where we landed, there were many sea lions just hanging out on abandoned boats as well as on benches.
On our return from the turtle sanctuary, it poured rain almost the entire 45 min ride to the dock. We waited under some covering waiting for the pangas to pick us up. It slowed a bit for the ride back but we were pretty wet even with a raincoat on.
We had our briefing for the next day as well as a welcome cocktail with the crew before dinner. After dinner we pulled up anchor and headed for an overnight ride to Genovesa.
Early rise and early out to be first on the island. We took the Prince Phillip steps to the top where we were greeted by all kinds of birds. This was as our first encounter with animals up close and it was amazing to see them up close and unafraid of humans. The frigate birds were mating (trying to at least) so the males had their red pouches inflated to attracted the females. Red and blue footed boobies were nesting and we saw eggs as well as hatchlings. Highlight was probably the short eared owl. Beautiful yellow eyes. We were fairly close to it and it stayed perched, almost posing for us. Then he decided to have lunch and killed a petrel, which is very rare to see. (It apparently took a professional film crew weeks to get the shot of the owl making a kill) Then back to boat lunch and siesta.
In the afternoon we did a deep water snorkel along the cliffs. Had a wet suit on for this but could have done without it. We saw hammerhead sharks and sea turtle on our first snorkel. It seems our guides will find us everything we came to see. After the deep water snorkel we went to Darwin beach for a short hike to see sea lions, iguanas, more birds and snorkeling from the beach. Great day.
Back to boat for showers before dinner. While leaving Genovesa, we encountered a whale. Then a large pod of dolphins were near the boat. All of this in one day.
Up at 7:00 A.M. Breakfast then ready in pangas by 8 am for a wet landing on a sandy beach. We walked a short distance to brackish lagoon and saw 8 pink flamingos. We watched them for a bit and just enjoyed the scenery and got to know everyone a bit better. Then we headed back to the beach to snorkel. Saw marine iguanas and sally light foot crabs. Snorkeling in sandy rough surf was fun and while we had low visibility under water, we still managed to see schools of bait fish, a large school of yellow tailed surgeonfish and a ray. We were back on the boat by 11 ish. We hung out on top deck awaiting lunch and enjoying the views. One of the nicest parts of this trip was that there were never more than two other boats in sight and rarely did we even see other groups. You really felt that you were some place special.
North Seymour island, We went deep water snorkeling against the cliffs. The tide was strong but manageable and the guides did a great job of - well, guiding us. As soon as we got in we saw a school of about 15 spotted eagle rays. The water was on the cooler side and my wet suit did the trick. We saw lots of big fish and then at least 10 white tip reef sharks and a sea lion. On the way back to the boat we saw other sharks. Not sure why, but seeing sharks wasnt scary, quite the opposite. If I saw a shark while at the beach in NC, that's another story.
We changed and went back on North Seymour for a hike. We saw land iguanas, lots of birds, the magnificent frigate bird, yellow warbler, sea lion pups, heron, blue footed boobies, spiders and lizards.
The trip to Fernandina took all night. Our first excursion of the day was to the island via panga landing on lava rocks (very slippery...always listen to your guide when they suggest what shoes to wear) and greeted by marine iguanas and sea lions. This is a very large lava field where hundreds of iguanas and crabs live. There were many sea lions and also flightless cormorants. In the lava field you could see all of the details of how the lava flowed and then cooled. Truly unique. Even though it was a cloudy and breezy day, the ground was warm to the touch. We saw a galapagos hawk at the top of a tree. There were many bones around as well as a couple of iguana skeletons. On the edge of the island were red and white mangroves.
Our second excursion of the morning was deep water snorkeling. Everyone wore wet suits as this was fairly cold water. When you first got in the water seemed very cold but the wet suits did the trick and made it comfortable. We saw cormorants diving and at least 10 sea turtles. The water had a bit of current but we were able to get close to the turtles. A few sea lions were swimming around very close to us as well. We saw a blue sea star and a chocolate chip sea star along with many fish. We were able to swim near the cormorant breeding area and see the nests up close.
After lunch we headed to Isabela. This took a few hours. With the weather still cloudy, it seemed prime time for a nap in our cabin. The afternoon excursion was a panga tour of Isabela.
The panga tour went through the mangroves of Isabela. The water on the way to and from the mangroves was very rough but not for that long. We saw a few penguins as soon as we entered the mangroves, but they kept going underwater and we couldn't get a good picture. Past the penguins, we saw a great blue heron on a branch. As we continued through, we saw a lot of sea turtles both swimming and resting on the bottom. We saw a yellow warbler and another type of heron. On the way out we saw more penguins. We also saw some blue-footed boobies diving.
When we retuned the chef greeted us with shredded coconut balls and plantains with cheese. (Each day we had a great snack and cold beverage when we returned from our afternoon excursion)
We took the panga and had a wet lnding on a black sandy beach. We took a nice long hike on sandy and rocky trail. This is where we got to see at least 10 giant tortoises and as many or more land iguanas. The area we were walking on was underwater 50 years ago but volcanic uprising made lifted it out of the water. How cool is that? There were huge pieces of coral on dry land. We hiked back to the beach and went snorkeling. While snorkeling, we saw a sea turtle that was very friendly and let me swim with him for a few minutes. I saw a penguin but just for a second because they are so fast. Then back to the boat for lunch.
We went snorkeling along the cliffs of a small cove. Didn't see much at first except for a sea turtle and some starfish. But a bit later, we started seeing a lot more fish and then what looked like a barracuda. We finally reached a rock that had 6 penguins and 2 sea lions on it. The sea lions swam around with us until we moved on. We kept going and saw some flightless cormorants that were diving for food so we could watch them above and then as the dove below the water. We found another rock with a half dozen penguins and a few sea lions. One of the penguins got knocked into the water by a wave and ended up swimming right near us, but he was too fast to keep up with. We took almost an entire underwater disposable camera's worth of pictures of penguins.
We went back to the boat to get ready for the panga ride along the coast of Isabela and saw lots more penguins and blue-footed boobies. We saw some cool caves and a cormorant eating a small octopus - amazing to say the least. We also saw sea turtles, pelicans, a Galapagos hawk, and noddy terns. This time, the boat caught up with us and we got on board. Today's snack was a sort of pizza..Delicious.
Great coastline with rocky lava formations and crashing surf which created huge geysers at times some of the formations were natural bridges and passage ways. On area is called Darwin's toilet which is a round deep crevice and when the sea water rushes in and out...well it swirls like a toilet! Saw lots of marine iguanas, sally light foot crabs and sea lion pups. One of which didn't look so healthy. A galapagos fly catcher bird landed on my arm - really! This was one of the most picturesque islands.
Rabida - in the afternoon we went to the island of Rabida which is a red volcanic island. Here we did a deep water snorkel and saw white tip reef sharks, rays, sea turtles, millions of baby fish, and garden eels. Ben went kayaking with three other kids and had a giant manta ray swim under their kayak! They spoke of this for the rest of the trip. We then went for a hike and saw a single flamingo in a small lagoon. The red sand beach was very unique and the sand was extremely soft. There were many cactus along the walk and the views were awesome.
We took a bus to the highlands to see a unique sunken volcano formation and then to the Charles Darwin Research Center. We got to see Lonesome George along with many other giant tortoises. We walked through town on the way back and got a chance to have some ice cream.
Santa Fe - here we did a short walk on the island and saw a large group of LARGE sea lions on the beach. The vegetation was mostly cactus and low shrub type plants. We saw a few iguanas and birds but mostly sea lions were the attraction. Some were in our path and Pepe, our guide, had to get them to move so we could get back to the beach. The have very loud barks! We then went on a deep water snorkel in clear and not too cold water - no not need to wear wet suits. We saw a very large school of sardine like fish - so large that you could not see the bottom thorough it nor the end of it when you were in the middle of it. It was massive. We also got to see 2 Galapagos sharks circling at the bottom under this bait ball. There were also large schools of very small jelly fish which were harmless. We swam across the bay to an area where sea lions were swimming including some baby sea lions who would swim right up to your face mask. It was very cool
Back on board we had had a nice dinner where the adults sat together and the kids at another. We hung out for a while and shared email addresses so we could share photos, etc.
Up and off the boat by 8:15 so they could clean and provision it for the next group. We left our packed bags in our cabins and would see them next at the airport It was these little things that impressed me about this tour - Everything was so well executed.
First we want to a Galapagos information center and then into town for a while to kill time before going to airport. Did some shopping and got some great artwork to remind us of our adventure.
We flew from San Cristobal to Guayaquil and then on to Quito where we will overnight and be on an early flight to Quito.
Arrived back in Quito. Enjoyed being on land. Ben enjoyed having Internet access again. Spent hours going through photos and appreciating what a unique experience we had.
Re- entry is tough!