Month: July 2018

Visiting the Charles Darwin Research Center

July 3, 2018 – day 5 – part one of a special land adventure

We all looked forward to today’s visit to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. We were going to the Charles Darwin Research Center, home to many Giant Tortoises. Fernanda, one of our expedition guides, was very kind and set up special transportation to make sure Lou could visit the Research Center. There was a lot of walking involved to get to the Center, but our guides arranged for a taxi that could take us past most of the walking. This also worked well for another passenger, and we enjoyed getting to know Nancy. Daniel, the lead expedition guide, accompanied us and gave us our own special tour. 

 

The starting point of the tour is a rather somber place. Lonesome George, the rarest of all Giant Tortoises, is kept in an air conditioned room.  Lonesome George, you see, is no longer with us. He died in 2012, after living an estimated 100 years. George was then sent to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he was “stuffed” and returned to the Research Center. George was the last known of the La Pinta Giant Tortoise species, and was considered the rarest creature on earth during his last few years. You can read more about poor Lonesome George here.

 

( ^^^ Photo source … the above wiki link about Lonesome George)

 

We then walked around the Center, observing and learning about the different species of tortoises. The habitat is designed to look very natural and includes several different enclosed areas, where natural breeding projects are in progress.

One of the first areas we saw was the nursery, where there are many baby tortoises, just a few inches long. These will be returned to their natural habitats when they are old enough.

 

A couple of smaller toroises do a stand off … Daniel explained this type of fighting is won by the guy who can raise his head the highest:

 

 

 

There was an abundance of birds around, mostly finches:

 

 

 

Frisky Tortoises

 

Ran in to a couple of folks we recognized:

 

After our informative tour of the Research Center, we loaded into busses and took about a 45 minute ride up into the highlands.  The plan was to see the Giant Tortoises in one of their natural habitats.

Click HERE to go up to the highlands with us

The Rest of Day 4 on La Pinta

(Apologies for the delay in postings … had to catch up on my gaming today 🙂 And I have our annual Golf Tournament this weekend which is a fundraiser for the local Mammography Center )

July 2, 2018 – day 4 aboard La Pinta

We chose the Shore Walk for our afternoon activity. Setting off to Cerro Dragon on Santa Cruz Island, we were told we might see Flamingos. We made a dry landing upon natural made lava steps … kinda cool. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We watched the crabs scrambling along the sand, and one of the larger ones planted himself over a rock to await the incoming tide:

 

 

 

Marine Igauna .,, making tracks

 

 

 

 

The pensive, but well-dressed, explorer:

 

 

 

 

 

The young fur seal shown above was waiting for us when we returned to catch the Panga. It wasn’t the best excursion in terms of new wildlife seen, but it was very pleasant. We all just sat at the lagoon, reflecting on what we’d seen to date, and enjoying the quiet.  We hadn’t seen the American Flamingo in the lagoon, but we might have another chance before trip’s end.

We returned in time to sample the drink of the day

 

And enjoyed another very nice evening meal. 

This completes Day 4.  Stay tuned for Day 5, as we set off the boat to enjoy more of the surrounding islands. There is a rumor there might be giant tortoises involved. 

Click HERE for the more

An Ecuadorian Feast

July 2, 2018 – a very special lunch

Lunch was preceded by a Ceviche cooking demonstration. I did not attend, but found out Claudia assisted Chef Darwin in making the ceviche. 

Oscar, the ship’s hospitality manager, gave an intro before lunch describing the local specialties we would be enjoying. He even dressed in traditional Ecuadorian style, as did the other crew members. The centerpiece of our luncheon was pork and it was delicious, as was everything. 

 

 

 

 

Lunch was followed by a nap or a naturalist presentation. The afternoon activity was a Shore Walk on Santa Cruz Island … stay tuned. 

Click HERE to go to Santa Cruz

Rabida Island … Are we on Mars?

July 2, day 4 – morning activities 

Rabida Island was our destination as soon as breakfast ended. This Island looks much different than previous landing spots … with dark red soil and a brackish lagoon. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catherine shared photos from the long hike, showing the views from higher up, as well as some interesting vegetation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our our hikes, we had the option to swim or snorkel from the beach. I gave it a try, and the water wasn’t nearly as cold as I thought it would be. 

 

 

We returned to the ship before lunch, hoping to get some rest before the afternoon adventures  began. 

Click HERE to continue on …

Let’s Talk about Food …

I will share some photos here from our first three evening meals. I thought I had missed photos of our first dinner, but had mistakenly identified them as coming from our second night. 

As mentioned before, dinner was a sit down affair, usually served in the first floor dining room. We tried to sit together at a table for 6, but occasionally mixed with our fellow passengers (note, everyone we met on the cruise was very nice).  We were asked to pick our evening entree and dessert selection at lunchtime. The first evening, we sampled the beef selection, the fish, and the vegetarian -risotto with asparagus. All were very good. An appetizer Dish was also served before the meal, often highlighting Ecuadorian Cuisine.  

Our first evening’s fare:

 

 

As as you can see, the main dessert was usually quite fancy. Fruit was a nice alternative as it was always very fresh and tasty. 

Our second dinner was just as good. I didn’t take notes on the fish selection each night, but I remember red snapper, wahoo,  and grouper as some of the offerings. The meat selections included beef, pork, turkey, and chicken. We also discovered a range of pastas were offered each evening. I chose the Pasta Carbonara on night 2, and it was delicious. 

 

 

The others caught on to the pasta trick, and we had colorful Trio of Pastas for night 3. 

 

 

 

This is a good example of the meals we were served on La Pinta. We had no complaints, and will also say the service was very good. Our waiter, Luis took exceptional care of us. 

Click HERE for our next other-worldly adventure.

Lunchtime Fun & Afternoon Activities

July 1, 2018 – day 3, afternoon fun

We returned to the ship after visiting Urbina Bay, listened to a Naturalist talk on the Galápagos Islands, and then had lunch. 

Carbo Loading for the Afternoon Activities:

A good time to comment on the delicious soups we had at most meals. Many contained potato and corn, with Ecuadorian variations throughout the week. And, of course, we can’t let a meal pass without dessert. 

 

There were two options for the afternoon … a Panga Coastline Exploration, or more Snorkeling from the Pangas in Tagus Cove off of Isabela Island. Lou, Amy & I picked the Panga Tour, while las tres amigas chose the Snorkeling. 

 

This turned out to be an entertaining Panga Tour. It was a little choppy for photos, but we adapted as we saw lots of Pelicans, our first Galápagos Penguins, Flightless Cormorants, and an industrious Lava Heron. 

This was obviously a prime area for Pelicans, and we saw a nesting site high on the cliffs as well. I always considered Pelicans to be rather ho-hum, but these were beautiful.

 

 

 

 

We got excited when we saw the little Galápagos Penguins. These are the second smallest penguin species, and the average height is 19 inches (the ones we saw looked smaller). 

Mama Penguin is calling to her young…and talk about camouflage; these penguins were very hard to photograph as they blended right in with the background.

 

He (or maybe she) swam up and out of the water, clamoring up the cliff

 

Reunited -we actually saw the adult regurgitate some food into the young one’s mouth, but not quick enough to capture a photo.  Apparently  adults might share food with a young adult penguin who has already left the nest – a rare behavior for most other types of penguins. 

 

The caves in this area were large enough to go into with the Panga. The water was crystal clear, and we could see many fish and even some sea turtles, as well as birds nesting in the rocky shelves within the cave.

 

 

Just outside the cave. We spotted a little Galápagos Lava Heron. This guy was fishing like mad. And then the penguins, and even some of the pelicans tried to steal his fish. 

 

 

I think the Lava Heron was Lou’s favorite-he almost cracked a smile 😊 

 

We watched the Lava Heron for quite a while. Then moved on and saw more Pelicans and several Flightless Cormorant. The cormorants look like the ones we have in Florida, but don’t fly … they hop up and down the rocks, and are very good swimmers. 

 

We caught up with the snorkelers back on the ship.They were pleased with the afternoon, although Catherine said it was a little rough at times. Olivia captured some great photos, but she may be sharing some later, so I will just leave you with a sample for now.

 

Catherine took this nice photo of Olivia as they returned from Snorkeling:

 

That is it for the off-boat activities today. Quite a good selection, and one of the top days of the trip. 

 

Click HERE to read more about our favorite topic, food.