Galapagos

ThomD

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SF Bay Area
This year’s Big Trip was a 2 week trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. The best way to see the Galapagos is to take a cruise so that you can see the widest variety of islands. Our cruise was 7 days aboard La Pinta, one of the larger ships that ply these waters. Tourism in the islands is strictly regulated by the Ecuadorian government, so I doubt there is a bad cruise ship out there. By regulation, shore groups max out at 16 people per guide, so our ship split the passengers into 3 groups for each landing. This keeps the experience from feeling crowded. The advantages of a larger boat are more facilities (treadmill!) and more comfort. La Pinta was simply exquisite. The cabins were good sized and comfortable and the food was spectacular. The guides were extremely knowledgeable and were able to answer every question asked. Most days had a morning landing, an afternoon landing and an aquatic activity like snorkeling or a zodiac ride close along the shore. Every evening there was a natural history presentation in the lounge so that anyone who didn’t do obsessive research (like we did), would know what to expect the next day.

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La Pinta


Camera notes: G6, with a G2 as a backup. Underwater TS-2 for snorkeling. Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest to carry the hydration bladder and lenses. No flashes allowed on shore. Initial count: 700+ photos. Result: 64 shots with the G6: 8 w/12-35, 10 w/35-100, 46 w/100-300 (20 at 300mm!) The animals may not be afraid of you, but you cannot go off the path to get closer.


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Blue Footed Boobies

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Sally Light Foot crab

La Pinta has 7 day, 3 day and 4 day cruises that generally offer two shore trips per day – in all of those landings only 2 or 3 are duplicated between the trips, so if you took all three trips you would only see the same thing a few times. Nearly every island supports a different mix of animals, so when you see something in abundance on one island, it doesn’t mean you will see that animal again all week. For example, our first afternoon aboard we visited North Seymour Island and saw Blue Footed Boobies and and Frigate Bird colonies. The rest of the week we barely saw any more Blue Footed Boobies or Frigate Birds. The hikes were on well established trails, usually less than 1.5 miles long and with only one moderately strenuous hike. Thom’s retired parents joined us on the trip and were able to keep up on all but one of the hikes.

In addition to hikes, the trip included a good bit of snorkeling, both from the beach and from the zodiac boats that we used to shuttle ashore. While the water wasn’t always clear, the snorkeling was spectacular for the wildlife. The most impressive part of snorkeling in the Galapagos is the seals. They regularly get into the water to check out and frolic with the snorkelers. They move so fast and were so close that is was extremely difficult to get any pictures of them, but we did get a couple of shots. Other notable wild life included more sea turtles than we could count, marine iguanas and a coupe of sharks. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any penguins in the water.

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Marine Iguanas

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Land Iguana

Say Galapagos to most people and they’ll think tortoises or Darwin’s finches. While we did see a few tortoises and a lot of little birds, they are not the most prolific creature on the islands. We’d probably go with land iguanas and for the snorkelers, sea turtles. The waterproof camera died on the first day, so we have no pictures of the many sea turtles we saw. There were so many that we started saying (half joking), “Look, it’s another sea turtle.” That is, until one surfaced right beside Veronica. They are kind of creepy and alien looking up close.

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American Flamingo

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Suckling Seals

Notable parts of the trip included:

Visiting a tortoise reserve on Santa Cruz island that had a preserved tortoise shell big enough for Veronica to crawl inside.
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Tortise Shell Fun

Post office Bay - During the whaling years of the 1700s & 1800s, sailors would leave letters here for homeward bound ships to deliver. Today, tourists leave post cards for other tourists to pick up and hand deliver. The key is hand delivery – if you take a post card left by somebody else, you are expected to show up at somebody’s front door with the post card. Some people address cards to themselves; other cards are addressed to friends and relatives. Because so many people visit this bay, most post cards get delivered withing a couple of months. We delivered a post card addressed to somebody in Hood River, OR because we were headed there the week after we returned from South America. We delivered the post card about a 14 days after it was left in Post Office Bay. We left a card addressed to us and it was delivered to our house in about a month.

Seeing seals on two occasions that were recovering from shark bites. One was somewhat healed, while the other looked very fresh.
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Shark Bite

Seeing a Blue Footed Boobie nest with two chicks. – Boobies often have two chicks that hatched a few days apart. The second chick is a backup in case the first chick doesn’t survive. Boobies practice siblicide, with the older chick keeping the younger one from eating unless there is an abundance of food.
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Blue Footed Boobies

Land animals absolutely unafraid of humans. – Because there are no land predators in the Galapagos, the wildlife has evolved to be less cautious. We had iguanas and seals saunter through our groups like we were not there. Park regulations limit people to no closer then 6 feet from the wildlife, but that wasn’t always possible. At times, we had seals lounging about and t blocking our way on and off the boats. Unfortunately, dragonflies did not get the memo about being approachable, we didn’t get any decent pictures of the few that we saw.
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We can all get long
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No Fear

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Fish Market Customer

We don’t have much interest in birds, so some of the classic draw of the islands (finches, etc) was lost on us. Even so, it was an awe inspiring trip.

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