Archive for the ‘Galapagos Islands’ Tag

Galapagos Vacation Cruise Two

Since we were continuing our cruise aboard the Coral I, the ship dropped us off on the island to see the Highlands and the tortoise sanctuary on a private farm. We were with two lesbians from Australia whose company we enjoyed. When we arrived, the people from the cruise who were flying out that afternoon stood at the entrance to the farm. We exchanged hugs and fist bumps with them before they boarded their bus for the airport.

at the private farm

The ship took off on a long route to the southern portion of the Galapagos for Espanola. Before breakfast sea creatures came by the boat. We watched a pack of dolphins jump in the water. Manta and black rays appeared off the bow.

Manta rays in formationThe lone black ray seemed comfortable on his/her own.

black ray

Monday began with Floreana offered us Cormorant Point and a colony of pink flamingos in lagoons.

.pink flamingos

The “Green Beach” is named so due to its green color, which comes from a high percentage of olivine crystals in the sand, and the “Four Sand Beach” is composed of white coral. Instead of staying on the beach I decided to join in the snorkeling activity.

Cormorant Point had craters that house reefs provide one of the best places for swimming and snorkeling at Devil’s Crown. The devil did me in. The water was deep and we had a long swim so I was often trailing behind the group and missing some of the great sea creatures.

We moved in the afternoon to the Post Office Bay. Yes, the name is literal. Vacationers put post cards that they receive on board the ship into the box as sailors once did hundreds of years ago. The hope is that a visitor would mail the card if they lived near the area. Seemed like a silly exercise to me and I did not partake. Instead we made our way to the beach.

My favorite part was the old soccer field. Here’s a look through the net on one end.

looking through the soccer net

There’s always sea lions on the beach; often putting on a show, intentionally or not.

sea lion formation

Even the iguanas struck a pose.

what are they looking at?

Our voyage moved back toward the eastern section of the islands. On Espanola, we started with Suarez Point, a dry landing but supposedly one of the more difficult ones that we would encounter. The island had many birds and a giant blowhole.

Suarez Point

In the afternoon Gardner Bay hosted us with its turquoise water and the white coralline sand beach that reaches around the point a kilometer away. We passed a herd of sea lions all lined up basking in the sun along the beach to find mysterious prints in the sand.

Gardener Bay beach

The iguanas get more active up in the cliffs. They manage their territory and look for mates, sparking the occasional fight. The cliffs housed the waved albatross colony that spends three-quarters of the year in the islands or nearby in Peru and Ecuador. The remaining time, they fly as far as parts of Asia.

in the cliffs

The birds are remarkable in flight with a wing span of over 7 feet.

albatross in the air

There’s always time for another beach excursion where shining lizards capture the eye. One is copper and another red.

shiny copper iguana100_0751

After returning to the enticements of the big capital city of Quito, we arranged for a taxi to drive us into the Andes to visit Park De Condor. We saw a bird show featuring raptors of all sorts.

bird demonstration

While the condors weren’t taken out, we walked over to their cage. This bird has the largest wing span in the world. While Ira thought it humorous that we drove 2.5 hours to see such an ugly buzzard, I’d read books with pictures of condors in them since the late 1960s. The smaller California species is making a comeback in the US. but its larger cousin is struggling in the wild.

condors

The park had an impressive array of raptors, including a great bald eagle.

bald eagle

or this beauty with a sharp gaze on something tasty:

another raptor

this one wouldn’t hear of being in a photograph

seemingly distracted

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Galapagos Islands Cruise One

We started our first cruise in the middle of the week. We stepped on the ship and saw our small cabin. Home for the next five days and four nights.

Inside our cabin

We pushed our single beds together to give us the kind of sleeping quarters we wanted. The suitcases went under the bed, out of the way.

The tour began with a discussion of the rules, including stay on the paths and touch nothing!!! Fortunately, the other 30 or so people on the boat seemed as enthusiastic and were as young or younger than us. They also seemed to understand the special nature of where they were and would obey the rules. We then took off in our first of many dingy rides with fifteen others for a raft ride. We took a bus to the Cerro Colorado – Tortoise Reserve n San Cristobal. Since giant tortoises are where the islands got their name, this seemed an appropriate beginning.

Giant Tortoise

The tour started in Sa Cristobal for the first two days, moved up to the some of the northern islands of Bartolome, Rabida and San Salvador, with the last day spent on Santa Cruz. Each days itinerary would be announced the night before and then available for reading during the day in the lounge/bar room.

First day gets you into the pattern. A 6:30 or 7 am wake-up call, breakfast for an hour, half hour to get ready, and into the dingy boat  to your first event at 8:30 am. We started with birding on a large rockcropping.

Rock cropping near Santa Cristobal

The site gave us one particular visage that accompanied us throughout the trip. The pseudo-barren rock is one type of location that appears often in the Galapagos. It serves as an arresting contrast to another popular land form, the long beach, which we saw often as well. Birds, particularly frigates and Nunca Boobies made nests in the rocks or thin vegetation.

In the afternoon, the ship moved around the island and we walked through the water to get onto Point Pitt. The moderately long beach had a greenish tinge that came from olivine. We walked up to the top of a volcanic tuff and looked out over the island. Some wild vegetation appeared on the way.

wild bush

Cactus are on the Galapagos islands in many forms.

cactus tree

Next day, we moved on toward Mosquera Islet, which is located between North Seymour and Baltra Islands. A large colony of sea lions lay about, along with a group of marine iguanas. The faces on the iguana looked ghostly.

marine iguana

But most shocking, the carcasses of sea lions and iguanas appeared along our stroll down the beach.

bones

In the afternoon we had two sets of activities on Bartolome island. We made a wet landing and had an hour to snorkle, then we got in the boat and took off to walk up a long series of steps to the top of the island’s volcano.

Before reaching the beach, the dingy zoomed over to the rocks to show us the most tropical of penguins.Galapagos penguins

Not all of the fascinating species were only visible underwater. I had fun chatting with our travelers, like a crew from Australia.

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view from Bartolome Island
The impressive views from the top of the 365 stairs to the top of Bartolome Island gave you the chance to see the apparent lifeless surroundings on the island but a great view of the neighboring area. The climb is not as difficult as we may have believed.

101_0297Whether the starkness of this landscape, or simply my interest in things that are different, I could not wait until next morning when we would visit an island with red sand.

Actually, I could wait. After playing cards during the afternoon siesta break, I started a game of Risk with the Canadian family, there because their son had always wanted to visit the Galapagos.

absorbed in the game

We made the excursion to Rabida Island the next morning. The sand’s red hue comes from the iron that the volcano carried when it erupted to create the island and its beach. Rabida's red sand beach

The island had another of the Galapagos’s iconic birds, the blue-footed booby. Their distinctive bright blue feet are a sexually selected trait. Males display their feet in an elaborate mating ritual by lifting one and then the other up, while strutting before the female. Both males and females prefer mates with brighter feet and adjust their parental investment based on the attractiveness of their mate.

Blue Footed Boobies

Occasionally, these beasts with their remarkable traits come to you. This frigate bird stopped for a show on our boat before we left for the island. The red waddle also helps the males attract females of their species.

Male Frigate bird in full display

As if this wasn’t remarkable enough, the frigate lacks the ability to swim and cannot walk well. Most importantly, they cannot take off from a flat surface. Having the largest wingspan to body weight ratio of any bird, they are essentially aerial, able to stay aloft for more than a week, landing only to roost or breed on trees or cliffs. Their food comes from catching fish and turtles on the surface of the water as they remain aloft.

In the afternoon, we followed in Charles Darwin’s footprints and had a wet landing on Egas Port of Santiago Island. We saw a black sand beach and a very rocky coast line filled with sea lions and marine iguanas.

sea lions lounging among the rocks

 

Like many other animals they are more fun when they engage us. Here’s a sea lion who wanted to swim with the snorkeling humans.

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While not as interested in the people, some of the marine iguanas put on their own display. They are quite efficient swimmers.

marine iguana swimming