Month: July 2018

In Search of a Galápagos Giant Tortoise

July 1, 2018 – day 3 morning activity

A hike on Isabela Island was on the agenda right after breakfast. There were whispers we might see giant tortoises, and maybe land iguanas. But no promises were made. We set out in  the Pangas for our first wet landing. Wet landings were usually just a little bit wet. We stepped off the Panga into ankle deep water, and most wet landings were easier than dry landings. 

 

We landed near a small cove which Fernanda said was used as a nursery for young Pelicans.

 

This part of the Island has lots of greenery, even though we were at the beginning of the dry season.

 

The rest took off in several groups for the Big Kid’s Hike, while Amy and I had our own personal guided Kiddie Hike.  Seriously … our Shore Walks (the PC term for our walks) were very good and we saw most of the same things, but missed the higher elevation views of the island.  Fernanda told us about the giant tortoises and explained how we needed to look in the underbrush, because they liked to make little resting spots out of the sun.

 

We kept looking, and hoping to see a giant tortoise, but the closest we got was giant tortoise poop.  

 

We did see birds: a Yellow Warbler, some Darwin Finches, and a Galápagos Mockingbird.

 

We turned a corner and …

There he was!!!  Fernanda thought this was a young male. He just sat there, but looked around and watched as we walked by.

 

He wasn’t the largest tortoise we would see during our visit, but he was the most exciting.  We were very happy to be able to see a giant tortoise in the wild. 

We continued walking and turned another bend to see …

 

 

 

We turned back after seeing this beautiful land iguana, but heard the other hikers saw a few more. It had been a very successful shore walk!

Catherine approves this message.

Click HERE to see how the afternoon unfolds.

Invasion of the Marine Iquanas

June 30, 2018, day 2 afternoon …

We had the option of a hike or Shore Walk on Fernandina Island at Punta Espinoza.  Amy and I picked the Shore Walk.  After a short Panga ride, we arrived at some rock stairs and made a dry landing. 

This is one of the few areas with a short man made walkway to take us through a small swampy area … most of the rest of the area we visited  on this walk was quite dry and arid.  There were only four of us on the Shore Walk, led by Fernanda. 

Soon after stepping onto land we started seeing black marine iguanas  they were oblivious to us, although one twitched when Amy stepped on him (just kidding!)

 

 

 

This is another of our groups … typically 12 in a group with one naturalist guide. Notice the clump of marine iguanas on the right.  All walking areas were marked with stakes to minimize the impact of tour groups.  The animals seemed oblivious to humans in their midst.

 

The Ship’s Doctor, getting up close and personal with a marine iguana (but not too close – We stayed at least two meters away whenever possible).

 

The Doctor insisted on taking my photo …

 

Our first sighting of a Lava Heron … small birds but very active and entertaining. 

 

 

We had to be careful not to step on sleeping Sea Lions (or Fur Seals)

 

 

 

We saw several more birds … a flightless cormorant sitting on a nest, a Galápagos Hawk, and a Great Blue Heron:

 

 

 

 

We ran into a few folks we recognized:

 

 

 

 

We saw the sea turtle swimming near the rocks as we waited for our Panga to take us back to the boat. This post is jam packed with photos, but these are just a sampling of the abundant wildlife we saw while visiting this special place. 

We returned to the Ship after 5pm, just in time for a shower and a refreshing drink. Dinner was served between 7 and 7:30pm.  We sometimes had a naturalist presentation in the afternoon, just before dinner or after dinner. Dinners were sit down affairs, and the food was always good. Dinner included a starter, then there was a choice of of a fish, meat, or vegetarian entree.  This was followed by a fancy dessert or fruit. I will share photos of our dining experience in a future post  

Click HERE to see what prehistoric creatures lie in wait for us.

 

More Morning Fun & Crossing the Equator

June 30, 2018, day 2 on La Pinta continued…

Previous posts shared photos from our early morning Panga Trip. In fact, those are combined photos from a second Panga Tour in the morning. Some of us went back out on the Pangas while others took the first Snorkling Adventure.  The ship had a good selection of shorty wetsuits and all snorkeling gear for guests.

 

Snorkeling took place out in a cove near where we went on the Panga Exploration.  The snorkelers dropped into the water from the Panga.  Claudia, Catherine, and Olivia all rose to the challenge.  

 

A couple photos from Catherine and Olivia … hoping they will share more from later days in the trip:

 

 

After the Snorkeling and Panga rides, we were all called to the top sun deck. It was time to celebrate our first Equator Crossing. I missed some of the explanation, but it seemed to involve jumping back and forth over “the line”while wearing a silly hat and acting silly. We could do that. 

 

 

Olivia led the way, showing us how to jump around while wearing a silly hat. 

 

Once the celebration was over, we hiked down to the dining room for lunch (all staterooms were on Deck 2, the Lounge and Sundeck on Deck 3, and the Dining Room on Deck 1). 

Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style. Chef Darwin and staff often provided customized dishes.  In this case, stir fried rice with a choice of meat and veggies.  In the mornings, they made omelets or eggs to your liking. There were also plenty of other options offered, including choices for vegetarians.

 

 

Click HERE to see if we did more than eat …

More Photos of Isabela … by Lou

Lou took some photos of us in the Panga, and also captured some shots of the Isabela Island landscape.

 

 

Someone looks confused.  “Who is that guy taking our photo?”

 

“Oh, that’s Lou.” (Responding with the over the shoulder backwards wave)

 

 

Lou zoomed in and captured us as we floated close to the cliff.

 

Love this shot … almost other worldly.

Click HERE to cross the equator.

Coastal Exploration along Isabela Island

June 30,2018 … day 2 on La Pinta

We completed our first night on board with a nice sit down dinner in the ship’s dining room.  No photos … fatigue had the best of me.  There will be ample food photos as we get into the week 🙂  Breakfast this morning was served outside on the top deck.

 

During the night we had motored to Isabela Island and the first activity of the day was a Panga tour of the Coast. Let me digress to explain how each day’s activities were scheduled. We were given a briefing the night before and shown slides of the terrain for hikes, as well as other pertinent information. There were usually one or two longer hikes offered, and perhaps snorkeling or kayaking. For those of us not up to climbing or walking on rocky paths, the guides offered a Shore Walk along the beach. We still saw most of the wildlife seen on the longer hikes. Panga tours were given when there was no hiking, or as an option instead of other water activities. There was no rushing to sign up for your choice … with 48 passengers and 4 Naturalist Guides, they were always able to accommodate the entire group. 

Sisters -Amy and Claudia ready to head out for their adventure.  So cute 🙂

 

The first thing we spotted once we got we got close to Isabela was a cliff side full of baby alligators  Oops, those aren’t gaters, those are Marine Iguanas.  

 

The iguanas would entertain us throughout the trip. Next up was a large, sleepy Sea Lion and one of many many colorful crabs:

 

It took some some time to get used to spotting the birds perched on the rocks. These Brown Noddy Terns were all around, finding interesting places to land and even to build their nest. 

 

 

More Blue-Footed Boobies …

 

 

Some more Marine Iguana action. And no, there is no hanky lanky going on, just a friendly pat on the back as the larger guy moves past the smaller one to hop into the sea. 

 

 

And some more Boobies. But these pretty birds are called Nazcar Boobies. (Oops, as Laurie pointed out, this is a Nazca Booby … not a race car driving booby.)

 

 

Claudia and Catherine, mesmerized by all the new things we are seeing.

 

We were a little surprised to find a male frigatebird out here all alone … pretending to be a blue-footed booby.

 

And, a close up of one of the gorgeous crabs … love their patterned shells  

 

What a great Panga Tour!!!!  It is hard to convey the feeling of being out in the ocean, in such a remote area, seeing species we’ve only read about. Awesome. (For Olivia … OPAF)

Click HERE to see if we have even more fun on our next adventure.

Coastal Exploration – North Seymour Island

June 29, 2018

Oops. I almost forgot about the Panga ride we took while the serious hikers were traversing North Seymour Island. 

First, a view of the hikers doing a dry landing and starting on their hike:

 

 

This first Panga ride was a chance to practice spotting wildlife and taking photos from a moving boat. Many of the birds and animals were quite well camouflaged.

 

 

 

We spotted male frigate birds up on the cliff, their bright red chests in various stages of puffer-outedness (perhaps not an official birding term). 

 

 

A view of the landscape … I get so excited by the wildlife  I forget to capture the overall look of the place.  Lou is generally better at getting those photos.

 

Bob from Washington State had an eagle eye and spotted a land iguana on the rocks. Well done!

 

We also saw Galapagos Fur Seals … they might have been Galápagos Sea Lions, but they have wider heads and more pronounced ears so I think they are Fur Seals.

 

We saw many colors and types of volcanic rock throughout the week, with varying types of vegetation:

 

Here we have Swallow-Tailed Gulls

 

And some colorful crabs hanging from the rocks

 

After surviving our our first Panga ride, we returned to the ship. I will have photos later that show how we get on and off the Panga’s, but it involved pulling up to the stern or side of the ship, and stepping out onto the deck. There were always at least two crew members to assist. 

Click HERE for the next post.