US National Parks blog to visit

If you haven’t already found this blog, please take a minute to look at the beautiful photos and information about United States National Parks.  The photos are exquisite and the writing about the visits is wonderful.  I highly recommend following it so you get their updates.  For now, here is a link to all the parks they plan to visit and each one with a photo instead of just a title is where they have already visited.  I usually go to the site and do one park a day when I want to ‘arm chair travel’.  I just started following this blog when they were at Glacier Bay National Park .   Hope you like this blog as much as I do!

The Greatest Road Trip blog link.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!  We are blessed with health, friends and family and hope you have many blessings too.

Below are a couple of pictures to inspire your journeys to US National Parks:

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Grand Canyon National Park

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Mt. Lassen at Lassen Volcano National Park

Grand Canyon picture is from a 2015 trip that I should write up for you.  The Mt. Lassen picture is from the Highway 89 road trip posts.

Until the next time – be adventurous and enjoy this short life! Vicki and Bob

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Galapagos – 20, Goodbye to the Galapagos

Enjoy the magnificence of the Galapagos Islands! These beautiful photos are from our amazing naturalist, Andrés Moreano.  He did an absolutely wonderful job leading our tours on all the islands, helping everyone with photo ideas and always trying to help our group see everything possible on our trip.

We enjoyed Peru and the Galapagos Islands so much!  It truly was a trip of a lifetime.  We hope you have enjoyed this series of blog posts and maybe it has inspired you to plan your own ‘bucket list’ trip.  At the very least, we hope you enjoy this as ‘armchair travel’ and it inspires you to find out more about these wonderful places.  We are so thankful to 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 on this amazing trip.

Until the next time – be adventurous and enjoy this short life! Vicki and Bob

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Galapagos – 19, More Tortoises!

Not ready to leave the Anahi, I do believe we should have taken the 15 day trip! Up early and we bring our airport bags down to the main deck.  The crew takes the bags and leaves us with just our backpacks for the days adventure.  We take our last trip in the panga to the boat dock at Puerta Ayora, Santa Cruz island. Part of our group had stayed on this island before the cruise and some were staying here tonight.

We took a walk up the main street to meet a bus to the Charles Darwin Station which is a research and animal protection facility.

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The long paved road up to the facility

The facility has many areas of study but we were focusing on the Giant Tortoise Restoration Program area. Lonesome George was the mascot of this facility.  Lonesome George died in 2012 but his fame has helped to keep and expand the tortoise breeding programs. There are over a dozen types of tortoises in the Galapagos and the most defining feature is the rise in the carapace which determines how far they can raise their head to reach for food.  You will notice differences in the pictures below.

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Notice how high they can lift their head to reach food

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Juveniles

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Close up

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Tortoise in motion

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Showing their flexible legs

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They move faster than you’d expect

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The facility also protects endangered Land Iguanas

After about an hour at the Charles Darwin Research Center we took a long bus ride to the highland area of Santa Cruz.  We went to Rancho Manzanillo. This part of the island was much more wooded. Not trees like you would see in the mountains of the Hawaiian Islands, but small diameter and shorter trees. Here was a large tortoise reserve and it had quite a nice facility to greet guests and serve lunch.  They allowed us to walk quite a bit of the reserve.

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Rancho Manzanillo, Santa Cruz Island welcome area and restaurant

This place is set up for large groups but don’t let that stop you from going and wandering the large grounds where the tortoises can live freely in an environment that offers them everything they need.

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This gives you an idea of the trees and area where the tortoises live

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Tortoise coming towards us on the path

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Large fresh water area for the tortoises to cool off

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Tortoise at the side of the pond

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Tortoise in the covered area

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Large tortoise

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Anther large tortoise

We enjoyed walking this area and seeing the tortoises in a more natural habitat than at the Charles Darwin Station.

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Not my most flattering picture, but it does give you the size of the tortoises

Next, it was back onto the bus and finding out how we would get to Baltra Island and the airport.  We found this very interesting, particularly if we were to come back and stay on one of the islands.  I posted the instructions that were on the wall at the airport at the start of the blog.  But since we were being escorted, I really didn’t pay close attention.  However, after understanding that you must have a boat pick you up to get to any land accommodations from the airport, I was now much more interested.

The bus took us down a narrow two lane road, with many taxis and buses parked hugging the side of the road.  Obviously, they were waiting for a ferry to arrive and pick up passengers.  This was the ferry we would take.  We departed the bus and walked to the ferry landing.  There, we noticed our luggage being put on top of a small passenger boat, which we found out was the ferry.

All went well.  It seems that we were picked up almost at the same location that the pangas picked us up to get on the Anahi.  At the other side was a bus that took everyone to the airport.  We had a couple of hours before our flight to Quito, Ecuador. The Galapagos Airport had a large shopping mall of stalls and a few take out restaurants to pass the time.

We had booked ourselves from the Galapagos to Quito to Atlanta to San Francisco with about 3 hours between flights which was not smart.  If we had to do again we would have done something different.  Staying in Quito was not appealing since the only flight out was very early in the morning, 5:30 AM. If we could have found a later flight that would have been best. Alternatively, we arrived in Atlanta at 8:30 am in the morning and maybe should have just spent the day and night at an airport hotel and fly home the next day.  But we made it.  We have done worse! Somehow, leaving SFO at 7 am to Atlanta, GA then to Lima, Peru did not seem near as bad as the flights home.  But we did pick up a bug the last day of the cruise and I’m sure that didn’t help our flights!

Overall, an amazing trip.  Peru and the Galapagos Islands exceeded our expectations and we highly recommend doing this trip whenever you can! One more post to follow, it will showcase the beautiful pictures from Andres Moreano.

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Galapagos – 18, April 28, 2016, Amazing Floreana Island and Post Office Bay

Today is our last island and snorkeling day!  Have to make the most of it. Also, this is our last day with Andres as our guide which is sad.  He has been amazing. Floreana is one of the southernmost islands of the Galapagos.

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Temperature most days has been between 30 to 31 C (85 to 88 degrees F). So you can see why it was nice to hike in the fog some days. Today we had breakfast on the second deck rather than in the dining room, nice views.

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View of Devils Crown islands where we will snorkel later today

We took pangas to  Cormorant Point on Floreana  Island.  Very unique experience as the the water was cold on Devils Crown side where we disembarked the pangas.  But, we hiked across island and the water was very warm.  At first we said,” can we go in?” Andres said, “no”…more about that later.

As we took the path across the island we had the opportunity to see more more flamingos and babies.

The babies were almost white as they have not eaten enough shrimp to turn pink! Unfortunately, the pictures of the babies did not come out.

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Flamingos feeding

We hiked over the hill to the other side to a beautiful beach with warm water.

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Trail to the other side

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Beautiful beach

As we walked, some immediately tested the water and it was so warm and inviting.  Andres said, “first let’s walk over here”. He showed us the turtle nesting grounds up away from the beach.  At this time, just the trails of the turtles were left no turtles.

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Stop sign, no walking above this line to protect the turtle nesting area

The Andres directed our attention back to the shore break.  You could see dark images in the surf line, these were rather large sharks (4 to 6 ft long) that patrol this beach just circling round from one end of the beach and back.  Hence, he didn’t recommend we go into this water!

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Shark fin

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See the dark shape just past the wave?

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Two sharks in the wave

Along with the sharks we saw some stingrays in the waves.

We hiked back and took pangas to the boat and had a break until 10:30 am.  Then we all got ready for our deep water snorkel which had us snorkeling all the way around Devils Crown. Very clear water, many fish, some sharks that Bob and others saw.  This was a great snorkel.  One side had a steep drop off into the deep water and the other side was like a large rocky bottom tide pool about 15 to 25 feet in places.  The snorkeling was beautiful.

Everyone was ready to dry off, talk about what they had seen and enjoy the lunch BBQ on the 2nd deck.

Well, I can see I had a faulty memory as Jeff and Lori are obviously still here.  They didn’t leave after 5 days as I said in an earlier post.

After lunch we took pangas to Post Office Bay to check for postcards to deliver. Post Office Barrel is a big deal for many and most of the cruise ships stop here along with small tours.  The barrel stop is old, they say it was the sailors post office.  It began with ships stopping at the Galapagos to pick up stores and a barrel was set up for other ships to pick up mail to carry on if they were going to a destination marked on the letter. The barrel has been replaced and now it is a fun activity for tourists to pick up and drop off a post card to have it hand delivered.  We picked up a card and hand delivered it to an Oakland, CA family after we got home. Some people just take the cards back to their country and put them in the post too.

Then we walked back to the beach.  This was supposed to be time to relax, walk around or  snorkel from the beach.  The crew and Andres all went to a nearby soccer field for some time off and a game.  Unfortunately, the beach had lots of biting flies so we stayed in the water up to our necks or snorkeled.  It was almost impossible to escape the flies.  This was the only time we had run into this situation on our trip. Luckily, we also saw 2 penguins on the rocky beach when we were in the pangas.  Supposedly, we should have seen seahorses near the rocky shore area, but I don’t think any of the group found them.  We did see lots of fish and rays.

Back to the ship to clean up for dinner and final briefing.  Tomorrow, we split up into two groups; those going to the airport and those staying on the islands.  Our group was the airport group and we were to have a new guide for our trip to the airport and stops along the way.

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Our last sunset in the Galapagos Islands

Back to Galapagos – 17
Back to Galapagos – 16
Galapagos – 19

I have two more posts planned for this series, please check back soon.

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Galapagos – 16, Great Frigate Birds

Enjoy these pictures of Great Frigate Birds, it was mating season and they seemed to be on all the islands.  The males have the red pouch under their throat which they inflate to attract female birds whenever the females fly over the males.  Sometimes the females are impressed and land next to the male birds and sometimes they just ignore them.  Then the crowd of male birds let the bladder deflate and wait for the next flyover. Great Frigate birds do not land in the water, their preferred food is various types of boobies and smaller birds but they also hook fish near the service with their beaks.  Fantastic birds to watch!

Also, I finally can show you Kai’s video that he put together from the first 5 days of our cruise with underwater shots.  He did a great job showing the different areas.  He is the photographer in the video and his companion is shown in many of the shots.

Great Frigate Bird Photos

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Frigate bird soaring, they do no to into the water but can catch fish on the surface

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Male frigate bird hitching a ride on the Anahi

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Female Frigate hitching a ride on the Anahi

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Juvenile Frigate bird in flight

Close up shots of the male Great Frigate Bird displaying for the females from our naturalist

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Look at me!

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Ok, I’m waiting

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Really, no ones interested?

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Finally, a couple!

I am adding these picture posts as short posts as I prepare the final posts.

Galapagos – 15
Galapagos – 17
Galapagos – 19

 

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Galapagos – 17 – Wed, April 16, 2016, Española Island

We went to Española island in the morning, also known as Hood Island. This volcanic island was formed from one volcano.  We had a dry landing and walked the island to see Marine Iguanas, just one pair of nesting blue footed boobies, but many other blue footed boobies moving about, lava lizards, mocking birds and some juvenile Nazca boobies.

Above was just the first few minutes getting off the panga

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Notice the group of Marine Iguanas, they are hard to see

This was our first time seeing the endemic Albatross.  They mate on this island.  The males arrive first, then the females. Each time a female flies over the males get up and make noise. They pair for life and come back to the same nesting site, although the birds will change mates if one does not come back.  It takes approximately 45 days for an egg to hatch; then they care and feed hatch-ling for about 5 months.  The Albatross leave the island separately after about 5 months.  The offspring will come back to the same island but not for 5 years when they are ready to mate.  We saw the territorial fights of young males coming back into nesting areas trying to hold an area and attract a female.

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This is the landscape where the Albatross nest

We walked to the cliff area and watched the blow hole.

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Walking across the island to the cliff side

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A pair of Blue Footes Boobies we passed on our way across the island

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The blow hole and cliff area, lots of birds, seals and marine iguanas

Near the end of the 2.5 hour walk we saw 2 Galapagos Hawks.  Many males will mate with one female and then all of them will feed the hatch-ling. The most common food for hawks are Marine Iguanas.

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Galapagos Hawk, they keep their distance from tourists

We went back to boat had lunch and they moved the boat to a deep water snorkel at Gardner Island, which is just off shore of Española Island.


Much clearer water than yesterday. Small area with lots of rocks on the bottom with a very steep drop off.  Some also saw more Galapagos sharks.  We also saw rays, many types of tropical fish and schools of brightly colored fish.

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2nd deck of the Anahi with Gardiner Island in the background

Briefly back on the boat, then off to Gardner Bay to a very long, fine white sand beach.  Shallow snorkeling, swimming, walking along the beach. Aqua marine water, sort of shallow and quite warm today.


Great day and a beautiful evening!

 

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Anahi in the sunset

Galapagos – 18
Galapagos – 16

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Galapagos – 15, Tortoises on San Cristobal Island

Day 13, Tuesday, April 26, 2016 San Cristobal Island land tours

Another early breakfast then back on the panga (rubber boats like Zodiacs used to get to/from the ship) to town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island.  We went by bus for approximately 45 min to Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado or Cerro Colorado Galapagos which is a Giant Tortoise Breeding Station and protected area for tortoises.  This area is also part of the National Park. This is a large area and facility.

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A tortoise using the walkway into the center

Saw baby Tortoise about 1 month up to 200 years old.  Also saw 10 year olds.  The 10 to 20 year old ones are only about 15 inches across,  they stay separate from the mature ones. The older ones cannot be returned to the wild but the hatch-lings are kept until 5 years old and then released on the island.  They try to simulate actual conditions with the hatch-lings so they can be released. Only 14 eggs are laid,  versus 100’s for sea turtles.  Mature ones can go a year without food or water. Eggs are not sex determined when laid.  A higher temp incubation produces female eggs, colder males. According to our guide, the program manipulates the temperature based on what they want to put into the wild.

Tortoises come together to feed or mate, generally they are solitary

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We even saw mating tortoises as we walked the reserve.  You hear them first!

Stayed in town after the bus trip. Bought drinks and used WiFi at the restaurant as we didn’t have any WiFi on the boat. We went back to the boat for lunch. Baby sea lion came all the way up to 1st deck and was checking out the shoes, then decided to take a nap.

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Seal came up to the deck

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Seal decided to nap; so Bob imitated the seal

We sadly said goodbye to the 7 group members that had signed up for just 5 days.  Most left before lunch and a few left after lunch.  Today 8 more passengers arrived for the last 3 days of the cruise.

Went to a natural history museum for Galapagos after lunch. The architect for the building was our guide Andreas’ father.  Covered the history both cultural and physical for the Galapagos Islands. Centro de Interpretacaion Ambiental Gianni Arismeni.


Then went to public beach in town. Went in the water to cool off, surprisingly cold water. Stayed about 1.5 hours there then walked back to town, about 10 minutes.  Got picked up by the panga at the dock and went back to the boat to meet our new group members.

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One of the many tour stores in town

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Beautiful sunset while we waited for the panga

Another good day given it was a transition day for the ships crew.  Next up Espanola Island with many animals to see.

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