Galapagos – 13

This post is about day 3 of 8 days on the Anahi Catamaran, Sunday, April 24, 2016.  We went to South Plaza Island and Santa Fe Island.

20160424_120610_sm

We woke up early in a cove between South and North Plaza Islands near Santa Cruz Island  in the ‘mistral’ which we would call fog.  At first you are disappointed to see fog.  Then you realize the hiking part will be much cooler and the fog will soon be gone.

20160424_092627_sm

‘Mistral’ morning, or foggy!

Today started with a long hike on South Plaza Island.

20160424_103305_sm

Looking back at the rocks and rocky dock for arriving on the island.

This was the place to see Land Iguanas, Sea Lions and more sea birds than anyone could imagine.  We spent about two hours hiking around the island. The cactus on this island are much bigger and have large trunks.

The various cactus ‘trees’

The Land Iguanas are various shades of tan, brown and reddish.  They seem to match the area where you see them.

Land Iguanas

These cactus ‘paddles’ are the favorite food for land iguanas and we were lucky enough to come upon a cactus leaf that had fell down.  The iguanas were all fighting for position to eat the leaf.  Also, we found that we needed to be careful of our position as they would also come at our group if we got close to the food.

Land Iguana’s feeding frenzy!

download (6)

Annie & Ryan’s photos

download (21)

Annie & Ryan’s photos

This island had quite varied terrain.  We walked over rocky paths and then out to steep cliffs along the ocean where sea lions lounged and many sea birds were resting.  We also saw a powerful blow hole along the cliffs.  We saw many more land iguanas and small lizards on our way to the cliffs.

20160424_101653_sm

Cute birds, didn’t catch the name

Lizard2

Lava lizard, about 6 inches

20160424_111009_sm

Cliff area, lots of birds, sea lions on the ledge

20160424_110610_sm

Cliff area

 

20160424_112522_sm

Blue Footed Boobies

 

DSC04424wC

Blowhole picture taken by our guide

We Saw sea lions and baby sea lions playing in the rocky surf. We later hiked across  the island to see where the  bachelor sea lions hang out.  These light buoys mark hazards for ships.

20160424_113456_sm

Light buoy

20160424_110204_sm

Bachelor sea lion, resting

Exhilarated and hot, we headed back to boat around 10:30 am. As always, the staff was waiting for us with cold drinks and helping everyone on-board.  During lunch the ship moved to Santa Fe island where we had deep water snorkel after lunch then the boat was moved again. Overall, on this day we did 3 snorkel trips;  deep water and drift current at the end of Santa Fe beach for big fish; then just inside the natural breakwater with sea lions; and finally near the center of the group of islands for eagle and golden rays and a turtle cleaning station  with a turtle actually there.  On the way, we saw a Hammerhead Shark from the boat but we never got to see any while we were snorkeling.

20160424_121104_sm

Deep water snorkel spot with current and big fish

20160424_135951_sm

Second snorkel spot was outside this bay.  We worked our way into the bay.

Inside the bay, the water was warm and clear.  We followed around the point and swam with sea lions and many beautiful fish.  We have GoPro video but it is not yet edited.  I will try to post the video that Kai of our group has finished soon.  It has a lot of footage of this bay and the point.

 


They finally corralled us all back to boat and we had a brief rest then took the pangas to Santa Fe beach. Here we did another long hike looking for yellow ground iguanas that are a different species from morning,  sea lions, mice & snakes. We didn’t see any snakes, which was OK with me.

20160424_191834_sm

Walking into the highlands

20160424_191747_sm

Looking back at the boat

 

20160424_190603_sm

Yellow land iguana

P4243485_sm

Small lizard

 

Sea Lions on Santa Fe Island

Back on the ship to get ready for dinner, then after dinner our naturalist Andres Moreano had a slide show of his photos.  By now our group was quite comfortable with each other.  After dark we would usually end up on the 3rd deck (sun deck) which we renamed the ‘moon deck’ as we used it to check out all the stars in the southern hemisphere.

Tomorrow we start earlier,  hard hike then back for sail for other islands. It was hard to imagine that a day could be more action packed than today.  But we were looking forward to it!

Galapagos – 14

Start Hyw 89 seriesStart Peru series | Start Galapagos series | Start Remodel series |

Please add your email to ‘Follow this Blog‘ for updates.  We never share your email.
Interested in a vacation in Hawaii?  Check out our friends units at SurfCondo.com

Galapagos Islands – 11

Isla Genovesa, Darwin’s Bay and Prince Phillip’s steps

Overnight was the longest single motor trip we would take. We had put on patches for sea sickness upon arrival and never had any problem.  There was some rocking of the ship during the trip and it was interesting to walk in the cabin in the middle of the night.  Before dawn we were anchored at Isla Genovesa (also known as Tower Island) and looking forward to the busy day.

Day2-Cropped

Day 2 Itinerary

Having been to the Hawaiian Islands near the equator which have lots of rain forest areas, it was very surprising to see that most of the islands were quite arid and many types of cactus grew on each island. Genovesa is a rather flat island.

20160423_102718_sm

Rocky ground

20160423_104223_sm

Paddle cactus

The island forms around the caldera of an old volcano that has collapsed.  At Darwin’s Bay we are inside a collapsed volcano.

20160423_131151_sm

Looking out to sea from Darwin’s Bay you can see the entrance to the collapsed volcano

20160423_111842_sm

Bob and Vicki at Darwin’s Bay before our walk

20160423_111625_sm

Looking out, they limit the ships that can dock at each location

Today we realized what a great job the Park Service does to give each group a unique experience.  While multiple boats were in Darwin’s Bay each boat had specific times to be on the island and to keep all tours separate.

We arrived at Darwin’s Beach for a hike and then snorkeling. This was a wet landing.  This means you will jump or slide off the panga into about knee deep water so you bring anything that must stay dry in your own small dry bag or hold it high. The boat brings beach towels.  Some people brought shoes to change into but most of us used Teva or Keene sandals or some type of water shoe and also hiked in the same shoes. I had gotten these shoes from REI and really liked their versatility for the water and hikes. Our guide would tell us in advance if the hiking would require more protective shoes.

The key attraction this day was birds;  Red Footed Boobies that stay mostly in the trees and Nazca Boobies which also nest on the ground and Frigate Birds.

20160423_103759_sm

Andre explaining feeding grounds

Blue Footed boobies feed closest to shore, Nazco boobies a little farther out and the Red Footed boobies feed the furthest out to sea.  So each species still nests very close to each other.

20160423_101231_sm

Male and Female Frigate Birds

 

 

P4233328_sm

Male Great Frigates have a red area that they expand when female birds fly over

20160423_104705_sm

Male Great Frigate bird trying to impress the female

20160423_110227_sm

Red Footed Boobies, nesting in the bushes

P4233317_sm

Red Footed Boobie

20160423_104040_sm

Juvenile Red Footed Boobie, feet still grey

20160423_190334_sm

Nazco Boobie

20160423_193737_sm

Pair of Nazca Boobies

Hiking the island was amazing as the birds were so close to us and ignored us completely. It was mating season and the sounds of the male birds calling to the female birds to land by them were wonderful.

Snorkeling

The water was much clearer than yesterday and we saw many small fish and purple starfish.
We came back for lunch, kayaking off the stern of the catamaran and then went to our first deep water snorkel.

Kayaking was great.  The ship has 4 double kayaks.  We went out two by two and were able to see many birds nesting along cliffs of the rocky coast.  Again, the crew gave great instructions to anyone unsure of kayaking and everyone enjoyed the solitude of kayaking at their own pace.

20160423_131602_sm

2 person kayaks

20160423_131055_sm

Kayaking along the cliffs

After lunch and a brief rest to transfer photo’s and write notes we loaded up into the pangas for a deep water snorkeling trip along the wall near the steps.  Interesting snorkeling with some current but very murky water. Much bigger fish to see.  I was to find out that each day the snorkeling offered a little more challenge.  But with our guides instructions and the panga drivers assistance even the novice snorkelers did great!  The panga drivers kept a good eye on everyone and would keep the boat nearby for anyone that looked like they would like to get out of the water. The pangas had a small ladder that was lowered into the water, so exiting the water was quite easy. We took ‘shorty’ wet suits but the boat also had nice shorty wet suits that could be rented for the trip.  They rinsed the suits and dried them after each dive even if you brought your own suit.

Later we did a dry landing at Prince Phillips steps.  A dry landing means to wear your hiking shoes and the pangas will pull up close enough to rocks, a dock or steps that you can step or hop to without getting your feet wet.

P4233288_sm

Everyone getting ready to go on the pangas

I was expecting Prince Phillips Steps to be going up a steep hill without any rails.  Obviously, I had seen the wrong picture.  These steps go right up the rocky cliffs near the point of the island.  It is a stairwell built of rocks of various shapes, sizes and step heights with a very good railing. So, no problem for the Adventurous Chicken to navigate this one!

P4233347_sm

Coming up Prince Phillip’s Steps

At the top we followed a path to see an amazing amount of Nazca Boobies with eggs and young chicks.  They lay 2 eggs, most only hatch one or have 1 that lives.  They leave the fuzzy, white baby to go out and feed to bring it back to the baby.

20160423_104440_sm

Mating Nazca Boobies

20160423_185256_sm

Nazca Bobbie settling in to care for egg after mate has left to feed

20160423_192410_sm

Nazca Bobbie and baby

20160423_200500_sm

Juvenile Nazca Boobie

We also were lucky enough to see an endemic owl both flying and resting.  Luckily, our companions shared this picture so I can post. These owls feed during the day.

short eared owl 3_sm

 

We saw many more Frigate birds and began to see a pattern of Frigate birds catching a ride on the ship.

Frigate-Ryan

Great Frigate hitching a ride on the ship

 

20160423_131222_sm

Dinner was served on the 2nd deck

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another beautiful sunset

Galapagos Islands-10

Welcome back!  The Galapagos Islands were everything we hoped for and more!  Cannot thank our crew and guide enough on the Anahi Catamaran for the outstanding crew, captain, tours, food and accommodations. Also, Rainforest Cruises for helping us select this boat and upgrading our cabin.

P4243453_sm

Anahi, 95 ft. Motorized Catamaran

I plan to give you an overview of the islands visited and then group the pictures by type with some commentary.  Until you visit it is impossible to realize how close you get to the the wildlife and how unaffected they are by your presence.  We saw Blue Footed Boobies (birds) on most islands and stood within a foot of them while they did mating dances, tended their young and even slept.  Other birds, iguanas, turtles were similarly indifferent to our standing nearby.  So I hope to give you information about each island, planning your trip, options for visiting the Galapagos Islands and pictures to give you the scope of our visit.  Here we go…

On April 22, 2016 we left Guayaquil, Ecuador airport for Baltra, Ecuador which is approximately 600 miles out in the Pacific Ocean.

Galapagos Islands off South America

Galapagos Islands off South America

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands

The airport is a converted military base and the only facility on this island. To reach the inhabited islands you must take a bus from the airport to the ferry or meet your boat at a private dock.

Airplane departure

No jet-ways into the terminal here. Just walk!

Until we started planning this trip, we thought that all the Galapagos Islands were uninhabited except for Park facilities and the like.  Soon we realized that many of the islands have been inhabited since shortly after Darwin’s visit and are quite large towns.  The main source of income is working for the Ecuador Parks serving visitors to the islands and the service industries maintaining the ships, towns and the people that visit and live in the islands.

Arriving at Baltra is beautiful.  As you fly in you get a view of the islands.     All of the people for our cruise arrived on flights near the same time. So we claimed our bags, paid our park entrance fee ($100, cash only) and met our tour guide, Andres Moreno, who escorted us to the bus and to the dock.

20160422_113347_sm

Airport staff ready for the inbound flight from mainland Ecuador

P4223247_sm

Wall map shows the options to get to an inhabited island

Overall, the towns appeared quite prosperous and the standard of living appeared better than Guayaquil.  We choose to visit the islands by live aboard boat so that we didn’t have to spend 1 to 2 hours reaching the park protected islands by boat each day.  However, you can also do a mix of staying on one island and visiting the nearby islands and then move to another island and take day trips out.  Some of the guests that joined us on our cruise had both stayed on island doing day trips and also took the 7 night trip or shorter trips.  We found that live aboard boats offer 3, 5, 8 or 15 day trips.  If you do a 7 night/8 day or less trip, you will see either the Eastern Islands or the Western Islands but not both.  We choose the B2 (East) because this itinerary offered the most time snorkeling along with visiting the islands.

Realizing that this was a ‘bucket list’ trip for us, I must say it is not inexpensive but it is so worth it.  Blogs exist that tell you how to see the islands on a tight budget.  We may consider that if we can go back, but we enjoyed this trip so much I think we would just take the B1 (West) itinerary which we missed and maybe stay a few days on Santa Rosa Island and Cristabal Island before and after the boat trip.  I found this blog to be very informative.

At the dock we waited for Anahi’s tender boats (pangas) to pick us up and take us out to the boat.  While we waited we saw many birds perching very close to us and seals just an arm’s length away.  The magic had begun!

We were taken to the boat and assigned our staterooms.  Our bags had been put in the rooms and we were told to take a look around and meet back in the dining room for lunch and briefing.

P4223253_sm

Arriving to the boat, getting instructions for entering and exiting the ‘pangas’

20160423_131343_sm

Dining room, set up with 8 per table

20160423_131329_sm

Briefing and rest area

We were briefed on the balance of the days activities and that we would have lunch, then have approximately one-half hour to get our bathing suits on and be back at the panga loading station at the back of the boat for our first adventure.  We had a wonderful lunch and met the great group that shared this trip.  It was an international group; Sweden, Poland, Canada, Australia, United States, Germany, Ecuador and New Zealand were represented with ages ranging from 7 to 70’s years old and we all got along like old friends. The group was considerate and very punctual with arrival and departure times so we didn’t miss anything.

Our first adventure was to Bachas Beach on Baltra Island where we saw lots of seals, old barges that had deteriorated and left structures in the sand and then we returned to a beautiful beach to swim and snorkel.

Bachas Beach with barge remains in the sand**

P4223276_sm

Frigate bird on a post

P4223277_sm

Large cactus plants, many on the island

P4223269_sm

We walked to an inland pond to see pink flamingos

Flamingos-Ryan

A closeup shot of the flamingos**

We retraced our steps and went back to the beautiful beach where we had landed and enjoyed the beach with swimming and snorkeling.  The water visibility was not quite as good as expected during this week due to all the current and water movement after the earthquake.  However, we still saw many types of fish, sharks, rays and other marine life.

Back on the boat we explored our home for the next week and enjoyed a wonderful evening.

The 2nd floor – deck, the door to our room, our room, the bar area and entrance to sundeck

20160422_195445_sm

Bob enjoying the sunset

After dinner we had the briefing for the next day and everyone retired early as breakfast was at 7 am and a wet landing at Darwin’s at 8 am.  That means if you want to savor your coffee or tea, you will be up no later than 6:30 am each day!

20160422_214810_sm

Every evening we were briefed on the plan for the next day and the white board would be checked quite often during the day as nobody wanted to be the person holding up the group.  Next, Genovesa Island which I think was the most amazing for bird life.

20160422_195958_sm

The end of a beautiful day

**Pictures from Ryan and Annie’s blog with permission. They were on this tour and are great travel companions!

Also, my apologies for the big gap since the Peru posting and this post.  But we were having fun on a trip to Hawaii and then busy taking care of some wonderful family business as we get ready for our first grandchild to be born.

Peru and the Galapagos – 9

Guayaquil

We had an early morning flight from Cuzco, Peru to Guayaquil, Ecuador by way of Lima.  This flight was just about a week after the big earthquake in Ecuador centered near the coast about 300 miles from Guayaquil.  Needless to say, we wondered what damage we would see.  Luckily, Guayaquil suffered small physical damage compared to other cities but it did suffer lives lost which is always sobering.   We had to bypass the overpass which collapsed and noticed damage in our hotel such as marble panels that had fell and were being replaced. But our guide assured us that Ecuador needed and wanted visitors as tourism is a huge part of their economy.  Our first night, we had a 6.5 aftershock which was quite a ride.  No one seemed concerned and we didn’t have any more shaking.

Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador and a major finance center.  For us, it was massive and we did just a short taxi tour to hit the tourist highlights. Two major rivers meet here, Rio Daule and Rio Babahoyo which form the Rio Guayas.  It is so large it appears as though you are at the coast and not a river.  See map below.

guayaquil-map-0

Map of Guayaquil center and map of general area

Our hotel helped us to hire a taxi to see the sights.  First stop was to see the Cathedral in the main square. Then on to Seminary Park to see all of the iguanas that hang out there looking for handouts.  We drove along the Malecon de Simon Bolivar area which is a large, gated park along the river.  The taxi driver worked his way through the traffic to allow us to visit the Cerro Santa Ana area which is the nicest residential area in the city. Then up to Cemetery Hill for a view of the city and river.

20160421_173952_sm

Cathedral

20160421_174007_sm

Statue of Simon Bolivar

20160421_173936_sm

Seminary Park with hundreds of iquanas

20160421_174043_sm

Iguana in a tree

20160421_175311_sm

Gated residential area, Santa Ana Hill

20160421_175423_sm

Beautiful old residences

20160421_180440_sm

View of Guayaquil and river from Cemetery Hill

We stayed at a beautiful hotel, the most highly rated of our trip.  It was nice and the service was excellent.  Below is contact information about our hotel.

Guayaquil, Ecuador Hotel
Hotel Oro Verde Guayaquil
Avenida 9 de Octubre y Garcia Moreno, Guayaquil, Ecuador
011 593 4-232-7999

Even though we didn’t need as much time here, we did use the day to relax and rest for the main event – The Galapagos Islands!

Next:  The Galapagos Islands