Tag Archives: Galapagos

Galapagos – Finch Bay

Thursday
Looks like another ship wasn’t in our cards. Instead we’re back in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, roughing it at Finch Bay, a luxury hotel. We said farewell to our newfound travel mates and got a ride in a pick-up truck (a.k.a taxi) across the island.

We ate lunch by the pool – ceviche and salad with chicken for me. Karen and Nancy choose to stay and relax while I went on a tiring walk to Tortuga Bay. The main beach was gorgeous, but too dangerous for swimming. A smaller beach was calmer, but not good for snorkeling. The highlight was seeing a sea iguana emerge fron the water near me and walk onto the beach. That and the Great Blue Herons who stood without moving when I approached. Overall not worth the 8K round trip walk in muggy weather.
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Friday
We took a day trip to South Plaza with a group from the hotel. After yet another bus ride across Santa Cruz ( always raining in the highlands) we boarded a small ship for a one hour ride. We met people from Australia, England, the U.S, and Germany. They all seem to be traveling on a package arranged through the hotel that includes daily excursions.

We were greeted by playful young sea lions on this colorful island (lots of a red iceplant-like plant). It’s a tiny bit of an island, less than 500 feet wide. Many of the rocks are white, from sea lion excrement (they prefer to go on land to avoid predators at sea), some of the rocks polished smooth by generations of sea lions. One edge of the island is a steep cliff with nesting birds – Nazca Boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, and tropicbirds. Thanks to our guide, we saw a chick of the latter hiding in a small rock cave.

After lunch, we hand the best snorkeling yet, somewhere on the southern end of Santa Cruz. Many schools of little fish – silvery, striped, yellow, red and black, etc, plus too many species of larger fish to count. One of my favorite was a spotted box fish related to pufferfish, and a white-tipped reef shark. We went into a small bay with the clearest water we’ve seen (too bad my new underwater camera sprung a leak).

On our way back across the island, we stopped to see the twin sink holes, created when gases were trapped below the surface during an ancient volcanic eruption. A later earthquake, about 3000 years ago, caused the ceilings to collapse.

Nancy and I did a little souvenir shopping when we got back; I got a little silver pendant of a sea turtle, though it haven’t seen one here yet. We were entertained by the pelicans hanging out at the fish market waiting for scraps.

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Saturday
Today we went to Floreana, my least favorite island. The rough ride in a cramped, noisy, smelly boat didn’t help. One passenger got sick on the way over. We only visited two spots – the black beach near the dock (cloudy water with few fish, though a couple people saw a sea turtle) and the highlands. A few tortoises, imported from another island, are being bred in captivity; the native ones are extinct thanks to human activity, starting with pirates in the 1500’s. A face carved into the rocks, near one on the few fresh water springs in the islands, is believed to have been carved by them, but no one is sure. Before we left home, we saw The Galapagos Affair, a documentary about early settlers on this island. It was interesting to see some of the locations in person.

I left a postcard for my son, Alex, in the barrel at Post Office Bay. Let’s see how long it takes to reach him. (These are hand delivered by whoever wants to take them). The boat was slightly less crowded on the way back and more comfortable most of the way, until the waves got rougher and we thought the pilot was going to flip the boat. The t-shirt below seems to sum up today. Tomorrow we head back to Quito.

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Galapagos – The Legend

The Legend has a capacity of 100 passengers, but there were only 61 on board our cruise. It’s larger and nicer than the one we had booked. We have been divided into four groups for excursion; we’re part of the Cormorant group, the others are albatrosses, boobies, and dolphins.

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Monday
We started out quite frustrated this morning, but ended up satisfied. We road the bus back to the airport and waited for the rest of the passengers for the Legend, a wasted morning. We then transferred to the ship and received our room assignments. One room was great, a spacious double with windows. The other was a cramped interior room which none of us could stand, including Sandra, a nice young woman from East Berlin who was assigned to room with us. We pleaded with the ship manager and finally by late afternoon he relented and gave us another window room even though he was unable to get the change confirmed by the company managing the Xavier.

We had a nice buffet lunch, received an orientation to the ship, and then boarded dinghies to Santa Cruz Island for a bus ride up to the highlands where we saw giant tortoises in the wild. I had to scramble out of the way of one who walked right towards me as I was photographing her. When another tourist approached too close, she hissed and retreated into her shell. it rained on our way back until we reached the coast. The light was beautiful on our dingy ride back and we were thrilled to see Blue-footed Boobies, both on the rocks and flying overhead. It’s warm and humid; I’m wearing shorts and sandals for the first time.

The rocking of the ship almost put me to sleep during our briefings – safety procedures and an overview of tomorrow’s excursions.

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Tuesday
I slept fairly well, in spite of the rocking and engine noise, no hint of seasickness. Breakfast was at 7:00 mainland/ship time (6:00 Galapagos time). After eating, we collected snorkel gear and headed out for two morning excursions at Puerto Egas on Santiago Island. After a wet landing on a red beach, we took a walk to see sea iguanas, sea lions, fur seals, lava lizards, and various birds. I really enjoy getting close to animals that aren’t afraid of us. Then we snorkeled. I was pleased to find that the water to be a comfortable temperature. It was a bit murky, but I enjoyed seeing a variety of fish, poorly captured on my cheap waterproof camera (which I figured out how to charge).

After lunch, all three of us napped. I made the mistake of taking the first half hour of my nap on a chaise lounge and now have sunburnt legs. Karen decided to stay behind for the afternoon snorkel at Bartolme Island. Nancy and I went, hoping to see penguins. Instead we saw similar fish to the last stop. We had time for a quick shower and change before our final outing of the day, a walk up 300-400 steps to the top of this small volcanic island. We welcomed the overcast skies, otherwise this would be one hot walk. We were rewarded with great views of the archipelago. On our way back in the dingy, our boatman spotted a few penguins, which all 15 of us photographed. (I could have used a longer lens; I’m shooting with the 35mm equivalent of a 200 mm lens).

For dinner, we had a barbecue on the deck. I’ll probably gain a couple pounds with all the food they’re feeding us.

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Wednesday
Up again at 6:30, our first outing departed at 8:00. Back to Santa Cruz, where the cactuses grow like trees, this time to Dragon Hill. We saw many colorful land iguanas. I’d say they have a face only a mother could love, except in this case the mothers abandon their eggs within hours of laying them. As with all the reptiles on these islands, the young are left to fend for themselves, and try to avoid being eaten by hawks and other birds (plus human-introduced cats and rats). We also saw a couple flamingoes in a lagoon and a couple flying overhead – my first sighting of a flamingo in flight. The weather was perfect, a bright overcast. We were pleased to find a platter of fruit and a chocolate fountain when we returned to ship. (There isn’t much chocolate aboard this vessel, so I accept every bit I get).

We attended a naturalist talk before lunch. In mid-afternoon, I joined a few other passengers for a deep water snorkel off North Seymour. Actually the water wasn’t that deep, but we went off the dingy because the shore was rocky. I saw as real small sharks and a large school of — fish. we returned in time for the end of the ice cream social – more chocolate, this time with Amaretto on top, yum.

I had time for a quick shower before my favorite outing yet. We saw numerous Frigatebirds, from fluffy white babies to red throated adult males. There were Blue-footed Booby nests; the parents take turn watching the young when they are little. We got a glimpse of a featherless baby under her mom and a mating dance. We also saw Swallow-tailed Gulls and more land iguanas.

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Thursday
Our three-language wake up call (Spanish, English, and French) came even earlier than usual. Our last excursion from the legend left the ship at 7:30. We visited a narrow beach on Santa Cruz. I went barefoot. This is one of the spots where sea turtles lay their eggs. We could see tracks where the newly hatch turtles had headed to the water. It was a pleasant to to spend an hour.

Back on board, we awaited departure, wondering what would be planned for us next. Our other refugees had already heard from their travel agents; they are all boarding our ships and most are heading to Espanola, the island that was top on my list.

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Galapagos – Arrival

I had a dream the night before last. Someone handed my a phone saying it was my mother. A voice I didn’t recognize said “Don’t get on the ship”. So it was with a sense of foreboding the I headed to the airport for our flight to the Galapagos. After an hour delay and a bit of turbulence, we reached Baltra.

A guide shepherded a dozen or so of us onto a bus, than onto a ferry, then into a van before breaking the news that a mechanical problem had been discovered on the Xavier, the ship we booked a month ago (our third booking after the Voyager crashed last December and the Nemo was taken out of service to receive a new navigation system). Hopefully the was the ship I was warned about in my dream and the next one will go smoothly.

As for a ship, we are being placed on one called The Legend for a 4 day/3 night cruise (not the 8 day/7night one we had been looking forward to). They’re not sure what they’re going to do with us after that. Instead of seeing Blue-Footed Boobies and dining on a ship, we skipped lunch, briefly toured the Darwin Center (large tortoises), and checked into a hotel on Santa Cruz island (hence the WiFi connection).

Five other passengers are on the same boat, the others were placed on a different ship. We commiserated at dinner and to vent some of our frustration, we ordered everything possible off the menu – a large salad, fish, and dessert.

Once again, I’m reminded that patience and flexibility are essential for travel.

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