Chosen! Merlyn and I…
Chosen! Merlyn and I settled our plans for the Galapagos. Booked and ready to ROLL! We’ll spend a week in Ecuador too, which should be great, but it’s all about the Galapagos.
This is going to be amazing.
Chosen! Merlyn and I settled our plans for the Galapagos. Booked and ready to ROLL! We’ll spend a week in Ecuador too, which should be great, but it’s all about the Galapagos.
Day 1 (Monday)
San Cristobal Island
In the morning, you will arrive at San Cristobal Island. After passing through immigration and baggage claim, you will be met by the Majestic staff and transferred to the yacht. You will be shown to your cabin where you will have some time to settle in before lunch and a welcome briefing.
In the afternoon, your first visit takes you to El Junco Lagoon. Located in the highlands 19 kilometers from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, El Junco is located in the caldera of an extinct volcano. Rainwater feeds the lagoon. There are many farms and ranches in this area of San Cristobal Island, and sometime cows can be found near the lagoon.
Activities: Hike around the lagoon, Difficulty: Easy/moderate, Type of Landing: Dry landing
Highlights & Animals: Beautiful lagoon filling the crater of the extinct volcano, frigates, occasionally some species of local water birds
The tour folks sent a private car and driver to take us from the hotel they provided for the first night, a Marriott, through some crazy-steep switch-back roads…
((I’ll put in the Quito part with the rest of my stay there.))
…to the new airport in Quito.
Cotopaxi Volcano – what a gorgeous and lucky sight as we traveled to the airport. We flew from Quito to Guayaquil, Guayaquil being the largest port and the largest city in Ecuador.
From Guayaquil we joined our group for the flight to San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos. There are two airports in the islands that take flights from Guayaquil and 200,000 visitors arrive each year.
At the port of San Cristobal we are welcomed by the huge number of sea lions that have colonized every boat in the harbor not in constant use.
There are a few waterfront cafés, some souvenir shops, a place to buy cold drinks and AA batteries, a small resort, and some guesthouse accommodation, just to give you a feeling for the size, and it’s the second largest town in the Galapagos. The population of the entire island is about 6,000.
A recognizable waterfront decoration.
We piled back into pangas (their word for what we all thought of as zodiacs) for the transfer to Majestic. We got very familiar with those pangas because it was the only way off and on the ship.
There were fifteen of us for the first three nights and sixteen for the last four nights – we never felt crowded and everyone got on famously.
Our room, and we were thrilled. We flipped for the bed choice and I Won! Yay! I got the windows and it was glorious.
mc. (mc=The notation for Merlyn’s pictures!)
Then back to the pangas and onto land where we went by bus to this caldera, El Junca. Notice the fog…and hence not so many pictures.
Meet our guide Peter, and he’s holding an abandoned nest from one of the birds that live there.
There was fog in every direction and I don’t remember the name of that bird.
Back to the pangas and Majestic, our home for the next week.
And another one.
Day 2 (Tuesday)
In the morning, you will visit the famous Post Office Bay. You will land on a beach and head to a spot where 18th century whalers placed a wooden barrel used as an unofficial mail box. The custom continues to this day with Galapagos visitors. So, don’t forget your postcards, and don’t be surprised if the post card arrives to its destination before you even get home!
Post Office Bay
Activities: Short hike (less than 0,6 miles / 1km) & snorkeling, Difficulty: Easy, Type of Landing: Wet landing
Highlights: Post office barrel, nice sandy beach
Your afternoon visit is to Cormorant Point. Here you will enjoy a hike to a salt-water lagoon which is home to flamingos. You will also have a chance to snorkel around Devil’s Crown which is the rocky remains of an offshore volcano sticking out of the water. This is a great location to see a wide range of marine creatures.
Cormorant Point / Devil´s Crown
Activities: Snorkeling & panga ride & hike (1,2 miles / 2km), Difficulty: Easy, Type of Landing: Wet landing
Highlights & Animals: Flamingos occasionally, snorkeling around Devil’s Crown
The panga ride took us past some steep cliffs with blue-footed boobies perched on some outcroppings. I could have made the birds nearer but I wanted to show the cliffs and plenty more blue-footed boobies are to come.
The historic Post Office…
…where we dropped off postcards (provided by the ship) and took any that were addressed near by our homes to drop off.
Then we went a bit off schedule because it’s not in the ship’s plan but Peter took us for a walk – photophotophoto of course…
…to this crazy cave. It was a serious challenge for me and I felt so relieved to have got out without falling!
It was crazy steep and three ladders deep, crazy slippery, and crazy crazy dark. We had one flashlight that Peter brought to lead with, far too ahead for me to see, and one of our members brought a head lamp. I stuck close to him!
Having survived the cave trip we walked back to the beach where we put on our snorkeling gear and headed out into the water.
You’ll see in the schedule, there are two kinds of snorkeling. Often we wear our bathing suits for the morning or afternoon hike and carry our snorkel gear to the beach, then after the hike we pour ourselves into the wetsuits and head in from the beach.
The second type is called Deep Water snorkeling when we get ready on the ship and go into the water from the pangas. Unbelievably to me I did it all.
…and mine. Or maybe Merlyn took this picture? I don’t remember!
Some fish. It took several snorkels to get the idea of how best to use the underwater camera and in the end it was Merlyn who prevailed.
I’ve got the morning and afternoon snorkeling mixed up and I can’t figure it out from the pictures just yet…but it doesn’t really matter does it…say I to me.
And ok, that’s a photoshopped sandwich. I admit it. I photoshopped them all, I just won’t mention it every time.
Not sharp but awfully cute.
Crew from other boats playing soccer behind the beach where we were snorkeling, and then we went back to Majestic for lunch and a Very Well Earned rest. Little did I know that EVERY day I would so welcome our very well earned rest!
On the walk-in for our afternoon outing..
…another pair of blue-footed Boobies. This guys were doing the mating dance and we watched for a very long time.
Merlyn has videos and a lot of other people took videos too. There is a plan for a group collection site, dropbox probably, and I hope I can get videos in here. I’ll give it a try with Merlyn’s but I might need Darryl to make it work.
…and way over there in the little red square is one single flamingo.
Then we saw a couple more a little closer.
One of Darwin’s many finches.
We also saw distinct beaches, one called the “Green Beach” named due to its green color, which comes from a high percentage of olivine crystals in the sand, and the “Four Sand Beach” composed of white coral.
This place was gorgeous but I forgot its name.
It was here that the soaring birds were grabbing up the hatchling turtles causing quite a stir among the tourists.
Some sunsets on view during the walk back.
And Another One.
Day 3 (Wednesday)
In the morning, you will visit Suarez Point . On the trail you will have the chance to see blue-footed boobies, albatrosses, and Nazca boobies. This island is the breeding site of nearly all of the world’s 12,000 pairs of waved albatrosses. You will also visit a beautiful site on the ocean front where there is a cliff that the large albatrosses use as a launching pad! You will have the chance to see the famous blowhole that spurts water into the air. The landscape is great for photography.
Activities: Hike (1,9 miles / 3 km), Difficulty: Difficult, Type of Landing: Dry landing
Highlights: Hood mockingbird, Nazca boobies, waved albatross (from the last week of April until the last week of January), red-billed tropicbirds, lava lizards, Galapagos hawk, blue-footed boobies, blow hole, amazing landscape.
In the afternoon, your excursion takes you to the spectacular Gardner Bay. After landing, you can walk across a lovely white-sand beach amongst a busy sea lion colony or dive into the water to swim with sea lion pups. You may also see curious mockingbirds on the beach.
Gardner Islet / Osborn Islet / Gardner Bay
Activities: Snorkeling, panga ride, kayaking, short hike of (0,6 miles / 1km), Difficulty: Easy, Type of Landing: Wet Landing
Highlights & Animals: White sandy beach, sea lions, mockingbirds. Snorkeling: colorful fish, sea lion nursery
More Marine Iguanas. So so many and they are so photogenic. I couldn’t stop. No one could.
Now’s the time to notice how the animals match their environment. Look at that guy’s head and the rocks he enjoys most.
Whoo, yeah, count then.
A Sally Lightfoot.
Hi big guy.
A Galapagos Mockingbird…
…just hanging out by our shoulders.
It seems the animals have been acting as if we were not there, but this guy decided to…
…drop on by for a sniff.
So many iguanas crowded there in the foreground here in this Waved Albatross breeding ground.
The birds were so close we could feel them passing.
A Galapagos Hawk soaring just overhead.
A baby sea lion making his way around town.
They make the best honking sounds and when they all get going together you’ve got to laugh.
Some of the birds look different by age and gender. I’m not sure about this guy but he certainly does resemble his environment.
Here’s some wiki-weather facts!: “Although located on the Equator, the Humboldt Current brings cold water to the islands, causing frequent drizzles during most of the year. The weather is periodically influenced by the El Niño events, which occur about every 3–7 years and are characterized by warm sea surface temperatures, a rise in sea level, greater wave action, and a depletion of nutrients in the water.
“During the season known as the garúa (June to November), the temperature by the sea is 22 °C (72 °F), a steady and cold wind blows from south and southeast, frequent drizzles (garúas) last most of the day, and dense fog conceals the islands. During the warm season (December to May), the average sea and air temperature rises to 25 °C (77 °F), there is no wind at all, there are sporadic, though strong, rains and the sun shines.
“Weather changes as altitude increases in the large islands. Temperature decreases gradually with altitude, while precipitation increases due to the condensation of moisture in clouds on the slopes. There is a large range in precipitation from one place to another, not only with altitude, but also depending on the location of the islands, and also with the seasons.”
The whole first group gathered for a short break.
Merlyn swatting at the flies. This was the only time in the entire trip we were inconvenienced by bugs.
The sea lion moving in the top picture was making his way into the group below by pushing aside the little guy on the left. So many family dynamics out here in the wild.
One of our group was trying to catch a photo of the mass of rays that were passing by – you can see the dark shadow in the middle of the water.
A few more then took a panga buzz back to Majestic to get their gear and swim with the rays. They said it was both thrilling and frightful.
The marine iguanas are eating the green goop…
…and when the waves drive them off the rock as happened many times they just re-attach themselves at any angle and keep eating.
Patience. Not us I should add.
We did a long kayak paddle…
…and were the first to give up!
Day 4 (Thursday)
Santa Cruz Island
In the morning, you will visit Twin Craters located opposite to each other on both sides of the road leading from Puerto Ayora to Baltra. The name is only figurative; not real craters, these formations were created by the collapse of surface material in underground fissures and chambers. The view is breathtaking.
Activities: Walking and land scape viewing, Difficulty: Easy, Type of Landing: Dry landing
Highlights & Animals: Pit Craters, Scalesia Forest
In the afternoon, you will visit “Fausto Llerena” Giant land tortoises breeding center in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, where giant tortoises are bred in captivity; this is home to tortoises ranging from 3-inches (new hatchlings) to 4-feet long adults. Subspecies of the giant tortoises interact with one another, and many of the older tortoises are accustomed to humans stretching out their heads for a photo opportunity. The babies are kept until they are about four years-old and strong enough to survive on their own.
“Fausto Llerena” Giant land tortoises breeding center
Activities: Walking, Difficulty: Easy, Type of Landing: Dry landing
Highlights: Giant land tortoises
The brochure mentioned about Twin Craters where we didn’t go and didn’t mention El Chato where we did go.
El Chato is a private property reserve for giant tortoises…
…with features for tourists. Our team stepped right up for the photo-op.
Outside ‘running’ free…
Hearing interesting stories that I might even remember.
And then we visited the cave they have on the property.
Peter enjoying himself in this easy-peasy cave walk, not the cave of terrors we walked through on the second day.
Back on board for lunch and then out again to visit the breeding center.
These are tortoises who have interbred between islands so they’re living here to keep them out of the controlled gene pool.
He is as old as he looks.
Our only chance to see a land iguana, and I couldn’t get around in front so this is it.
Day 5 (Friday)
In the morning, you will visit El Barranco which is also known as Prince Phillip’s Steps. It is a steep, rocky path that leads up to a high cliff-face. A marvelous view can be appreciated from here. This site is also home to palo santo vegetation as well as red-footed boobies, short-eared lava owls, Galapagos swallows, and Galapagos doves.
Activities: Hiking (0,9 miles / 2 Km), Difficulty: Moderate, Type of Landing: Dry, difficult landing
Highlights & Animals: Red-footed boobies, short-eared lava owls, storm-petrels, Galapagos doves
In the afternoon, you will visit the white-sand coral beach of Darwin Bay which heads a half mile trail (0,75km) that winds through mangroves filled with land birds. Nazca boobies, red-footed boobies, and swallow-tailed gulls can be spotted here. Further down the path we find tidal pools where sea lions swim playfully. At the end is a spectacular view of a cliff.
Activities: Hiking (0,9 miles / 1,5 Km), snorkeling, kayaking, and dinghy ride, Difficulty: Easy, Type of landing: Wet landing
Highlights & Animals: Nazca boobies, red-footed boobies, swallow-tail gulls, mangroves, coral pebble beach, snorkeling: rays, colorful reef fish, and hammerhead sharks occasionally
Motoring up to our dry landing (dry landing means you step out onto dry land and wet landing means you have to slip out of the panga into the sea – maybe a foot deep, maybe three), described as a difficult landing, it was difficult!
We stepped out onto slippery rocks and immediately climbed a ton of stairs. I put this here twice because there were multiple ‘staircases’ required to make it to the top.
Hey guy, ok, we’ll go there..
A rare Short-eared Lava Owl, rare because he hunts during the day but not so rare because we get to see them.
A Nazca booby’s just hatched chick. There’s another egg under her. I have a picture of a chick who’s a few weeks old (but where is that thing?)…
…and this one who is probably one-two months or so old.
The story of Nazca booby babies: The mother lays two eggs five days apart. They hatch five days apart and then the strongest starts trying to push the weakest out of the designated nest area.
The designated nest area looks like this – the mom and dad shoot out poop from the center to make the circle. Once one of the babies is outside the circle the parents no longer take any interest and it becomes food for the hunting birds.
Circle of life and all.
A happy pair of Swallow-Tailed Gulls.
A handsome Red Footed Booby, I’m guessing a juvenile.
From Wiki: The magnificent frigatebird is a large, lightly built seabird with brownish-black plumage, long narrow wings and a deeply forked tail. The male has a striking red gular sac which it inflates to attract a mate. The female is slightly larger than the male and has a white breast and belly. Frigatebirds feed on fish taken in flight from the ocean’s surface (often flying fish), and sometimes indulge in kleptoparasitism, harassing other birds to force them to regurgitate their food.
If you ever go to the Galapagos Islands my number one recommendation is to make sure your itinerary includes Darwin Bay. It is beyond breathtaking. I could hardly breath it was so amazing. The only way I can think to share some of the amazingness is with a video so you can hear the sound.
The sound is UnBeLEAVEable. I’ll try to figure out how to get videos in here when I get home.
Me! What’s cool is that far far in the distance, up and to the right of my head, you can see a male frigate puffing his red balloon. Maybe not in the picture but he was there in real life. They can call the ladies from far far away.
I think this is another finch, maybe the same as the one from day two.
Snorkeling and Fish – I don’t know from where or when but I’m spreading them around.
A lot more.
Sunset cocktail hour. That’s a hot tub alright, not too hot really, but warm compared to the ocean and a favored after-snorkel rest area.
Day 6 (Saturday)
Rabida and Chinese Hat
In the morning, you will visit Rabida Island (or Jervis) which is one of the most colourful and volcanically varied islands in the archipelago as well as a great snorkeling site. We will start on Rabida’s famous maroon sandy beach, and after an easy hike, you will arrive to a stunning lookout to enjoy the amazing landscapes. The island is a birdwatcher’s delight. Some of the rarest species are in abundance such as nine varieties of finches, large-billed flycatchers, Galapagos hawks and brown pelicans.
Activities: Snorkeling, panga ride & short hike (0,6 miles / 1km), Difficulty: Easy/Moderate, Type of Landing: Wet landing
Highlights & Animals: Snorkeling: white-cheeked pintail ducks, colourful fish, sea lions, brackish water lagoon, penguins, Galapagos hawk.
In the afternoon, you will visit Chinese Hat Islet. This small islet is located near the southeast coast of Santiago Island. Its name comes from the distinct shape of the islet’s summit. This small islet is a great location to view many geological formations such as lava tubes and lava flows. Some of the lava flows were formed underwater and subsequently raised above sea level. The presence of coral heads on the lava flow indicates this phenomenon.
Chinese Hat Islet
Possible Activities: Hike (1,9 miles / 3 km), Difficulty: Easy/moderate, Type of Landing: Wet Landing
Highlights & Animals: Lava formations, great site for snorkeling with an abundance of marine species, marine iguanas, sea lions
A wet landing and a scramble.
Since I’ve finished Proust (clap-clap-clap) I can read other things without thinking, as I have been for the last three years all those times I entertained myself with something else, oh, I could be reading Proust.
So I read this, The Voyage of the Beagle, Darwin’s abridged journal from his trip around the world during 1831-1836. Not the whole thing though, yikes, just the short section on the Galapagos and it really was worth getting through all the many many names of things to see how he was thinking before he ever thought of The Origin of Species.
Creatures, they’re everywhere, and they’re so close!