Galapagos Islands Feb 2014

The long awaited trip to Galapagos Islands has finally happened.  It reminded me of going on an African safari but more.  If you are prone to seasickness, do not pick a small boat. I was advised before the trip to choose at least a medium size boat because there are nights when the seas can be quite rough. I chose the Eclipse which is a 48 passenger cruise ship. I normally don’t get seasick but there was one night where I felt queasy and had to ask the nurse on board for some Dramamine.

After the trip, I met some people who were on a 16 person boat and one lady said she was sick the whole week and wasn’t able to enjoy the trip at all. But if you choose a large cruise ship, you might not be able to visit some of the islands because the water is too shallow to get close and taking a zodiac from where they are docked is sometimes too far.  After you decide on the boat, you must decide on the season to visit.  We chose the wet season where the sea is actually more calm.  You have to do a little research and decide when to come depending on what you want to see.

Eclipse – our home for the next 5 nights.

Our luggage being delivered on board the Eclipse.

We we welcomed by this sea lion waiting for us at the dock.

The Eclipse offers two itineraries – the Espanola which visits the southern islands and the Genovesa which visits the northern ones.  Both itineraries are offered on a 5-night or 7-night basis.  We chose the Espanola 5-night itinerary for our trip.

Day 1
We flew into Baltra airport from Quito in Ecuador and after a short bus ride to the harbor, we were transferred to the Eclipse.  We immediately navigated to North Seymour Island to see a variety of animals we will continue to see at the different islands such as blue-footed boobies, iguanas, frigate birds, sea lions etc.

Panga rides to access the islands.

Blue footed booby

The male boobies display their feet in an elaborate mating ritual by lifting their feet up and down while strutting before the female.

20140208_172217Magnificent frigatebird in flight.

The animals are not afraid of us since they are in an isolated environment with very few natural predators and human beings have never harmed them so they wil come up close and check out what you are doing.

Beautiful sunset to a beautiful first day.

The Galapagos Islands is where you see evolutioin at work. The islands are close enough together but the iguanas are restricted to their own island. Each species of iguana look different because they have adapted to the different terrain and food available on their island. For example, one species of iguana only eats the fruit of the flower of one specific cacti.  Another example is the black colored iguana who developed a long tail so that it can swim and look for seaweed because there is little vegetation on its island.

Day 2:
Today we visited South Plaza Island to see the large opuntia cacti, Nazca boobies, iguanas, and large sea lion colonies.  After that, we visited Santa Fe Island to see more sea lions and birds and the special Sante Fe Iguana.

South Plaza Island

DSC03295Cacti on South Plaza Island

DSC03260Sea lion pup checking out the colorful crabs.

DSC03330

Frigate birds puff up their red throats during mating season.

DSC03398Sea Lions of Santa Fe Island

Santa Fe land iguana only exists on this island in the whole world.

DSC03365Cacti of Santa Fe Island

DSC03308These iguanas adapted to swim with their long tails

Day 3:
Woke up early to do a morning hike up to Pitt Point on San Cristobal Island where we tried to look for some red-footed boobies.

The elusive red-footed booby

DSC03347Sea lion colony

DSC03390Sea lion pup nursing

We then spent the afternoon at Cerro Brujo on San Cristobal Island which is the first place Charles Darwin visited in the archipelago. Beautiful white sand beach where we snorkeled with sea lions.

Cerro Brujo beach where Charles Darwin first landed in the archipelago.

Curious sea lion checking out our packs.

Photo courtesy of a friend of me taking photos of a playful sea lion.

Almost looks like it is posing for me :)

Sea lions are such playful animals and they like to swim up very close towards you very fast as if we are playing a game of chicken.

Nap time zzz

The most beautiful white sand beach I have ever been to

20140210_182454Sunset against the Sleeping Lion Rock as we leave San Cristobal Island.

Day 4:
We arrive at Florena Island’s Post Office Bay where the tradition continues with visitors leaving addressed postcards and sorting through older postcards to deliver at home in person.

Post Office at Florena Island

Sorting the mail

Then we got a chance to snorkel with the giant sea turtles.

Giant sea turtle

Grumpy giant sea turtle!

Beautiful shells and dried sea urchins

DSC03426Notice that the lower leaves on the stems are dried and dead whereas the upper leaves are green. Turns out this is the plant’s protective mechanism to trick pests into thinking that the plant is dead as it climbs up the stems.

DSC03428Hermit crab

20140211_172642These holes are where the sea turtles lay their eggs and they always return to their birthplace when it is their turn to lay eggs.

20140211_173610The most colorful crab I have seen.

20140211_174002Footprints into the sand

In the afternoon, we were taken to Champion Islet and Cormorant Point where there is a beautiful lagoon that is home to flamingos and pintail ducks.

Champion Islet

I was surprised there was really anything to see on this island.

Well worth the hike on the uneven volcanic rock

Day 5:
Isabela Island’s Elizabeth Bay is the furthest point of the cruise. We visited the mangrove ecosystem that is a refuge for sea turtles.

20140212_101043

And then we went to Moreno Point of Isbela Island where we got close to large populations of sea birds on our zodiac.

Blue footed boobies

20140212_084632When boobies spot fish, from 30-50 feet in the air, they dive head first into the water at super high speeds, folding their wings back only at the last minute.

Fighting for food.

Reminds me of Gozilla or Planet of Apes…

Fighting for territory

Stingray hidden in the sand

I was surprised to see penguins here

Dolphins following our zodiac

Day 6:
On the last day, we visited the famous Galapagos giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island before being transferred back to Baltra airport.

It was an amazing journey and I look forward to coming again to explore the northern group of islands soon!

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