Realized I never actually published the draft of our final wrap up on the trip to Ecuador.
We are grateful for the opportunity to travel to the Galápagos Islands, and the visit to Quito exceeded expectations. Our travel partners were great. Olivia and Claudia enthusiastically volunteered for all optional activities, and Catherine was right there with them. Amy and I hobbled along on our private shore walks, but then relived our heydays as athletic superstars at UCR, while sipping on a single malt in the comfortable lounge. Lou mostly sat back and observed, capturing the group with his telephoto lens. We all thank Lou for arranging the trip.
What struck me, and I think my travel partners, about the Galápagos Islands was how different each individual island is, and how National Park areas have been so well-protected. I can see why this was such a unique area for Darwin and other scientists to study the local species. I had read TheOrigin of Species when I was quite young, and reread it before the trip. It was very special to step upon the same land, to see the strange but wonderful giant tortoises, land iguanas, the marine iguanas, the finches, and the colorful crabs. It brought new meaning to Darwin’s work.
We were also very impressed by the city of Quito, and would not hesitate to go back for a longer visit. The architecture was impressive, and the people were welcoming.
We booked this trip through UnCruise. In reality, it wasn’t UnCruise as we know it – but that wasn’t really a problem. La Pinta and it’s staff operated under the UnCruise label during our cruise, but they also do trips through their own touring agency. The staff on the boat, and our naturalist guides were all excellent. We were so grateful for the special considerations given for some of our mobility issues. Life onboard the boat, including food, beverages, and presentations, were all quite good. The Chefs clearly took pride in their offerings, and the wait staff was exceptional.
48 passengers was a nice size, we never felt like we had to wait for meals or for excursions. There was a somewhat major hiccup with our transportation back to the airport, but we were able to recover and all was well. This is still my favorite photo of our group preparing to board the Pangas.
Air travel, both outside of Ecuador, and our internal transfers, did not go super smoothly. But we lived, we received all our luggage in the end, and we are no worse for the wear. So I think we’d just call this a risk of international travel.
A wonderful trip. Thank you Lou for all your hard work in arranging the trip. Thank you Amy and Claudia for sharing the adventure. Thank you Catherine, for stepping in for Tory and being a great traveling partner. Thank you, Olivia, for picking this destination for your graduation trip, and for representing our group in all the activities.
I thought it was about time I gave my feedback about what an incredible trip this was to the Galapagos…Best part were my traveling companions…my Sister Claudia, Sharon and Lou who I have known since college for over 40 years and Catherine and Olivia…who were a real treat, fun and both with great senses of humor…I have known Catherine for a very long time as well. I would go anywhere with you guys again…just tell me when.
I have submitted Catherine’s “armpit photos” to the National Geographic new species competition and they tell me you have a real chance. Sharon took a great photo of me with my sister and commented that I looked like I was from law enforcement, while Claudia looked like a movie star waiting for someone to ask for her photograph.
(Edit by SMD … actually, we said Amy looked like a Cub Scout … still cracks me up!)
I loved the tortoises the best because I finally found something that moves slower than me…and I won’t “go there” with the blue boobies. Spectacular trip, people and adventures. More to come. AMY
Thanks, Amy! It was great sharing the adventure with you and Claudia.
And this completes our report on our Galapagos Adventure. We are hoping Claudia gets time to do a guest blog, because I know it will be spectacular.
I want to thank Lou for arranging this trip, starting over a year in advance. It was great to see Claudia and Amy again, and traveling with the Holmes family is always a treat. We missed Mark and Tory, but hope to see them on future trips. Catherine did an admirable job filling in for Tory, and Olivia seemed to enjoy all aspects of the trip.
Congratulations to Olivia for successfully completing high school, and for getting accepted to USC. We wish you the best as you navigate your college career.
isla seymour norte
First glimpse at a land iguana! Unfortunately, this poor guy didnt make it. This island was also covered in birds. We saw a ton of baby boobies!
punta vicente roca
We saw this guy while on a panga ride through a sea cave!
We walked across new lava rock for this hike. Along the way, we encountered a large sea lion, too many lava lizards, a whale skeleton, and some marine iguanas.
tagus cove – isabella
This hike started in a bay where old ships would write their names on the cliffs. What looked like graffiti was a decades old guestbook. Also, this baby sea lion was blocking our way up the stairs while he posed for pics!
My favorite hike! We saw a couple Galapagos Hawks and the landscape, with the red dirt and bright green cactus contrasting with the deep blue ocean, was very beautiful.
Having swum with green sea turtles before in Hawaii, I was on a quest during our Galapagos trip to finally swim with sea lions. Our naturalist guide, Dres, was confident that we’d see plenty of sea lions during our snorkeling adventures. Like most of the wildlife in the Galapagos, they have had little to fear from human visitors. That “innocente” as our guides described it in combination with an innate curiosity made human-sea lion interactions almost unavoidable.
Sure enough, during our second snorkel off the beach on Fernandina, a friendly sea lion zipped around me while I snorkeled, circling me while I snapped pictures. Getting back on the boat, we couldn’t wait to download the pictures from the underwater camera to see what incredible footage we had captured of our amazing encounter.
Sadly, excitement combined with trying not to drown while operating a camera does not make for fantastic photos…
Here is my best shot of the side of our sea lion friend…
The clear winner from the day – an action shot of the sea lion’s armpit…or underflipper (not quite sure what the official term is).
Our next snorkel outing I was determined to remain calm and capture a great shot if I was lucky enough to see more sea lions in the water. We were snorkeling in deep water off Floreana. As we jumped off the panga, I stayed to adjust my mask while the rest of the group swam away. Floating out in the middle of the ocean, a dark blur came up and grabbed my fin. After I stopped yelling and realized it was a sea lion and not a shark, I turned on my camera and tried to get some good pictures. He (or she) zipped around me, darting in to get a closer look and them zooming away.
Later that evening, I downloaded the files from my camera to see that, although considerably better than the first attempt, National Geographic would not be calling anytime soon…
Luckily, Olivia took possession of the camera for the remainder of the trip and filmed this playful sea lion using giant sea stars to amuse himself!
If National Geographic is interested, she’ll be available in about four years!