Home » Luxury Cruises Galapagos »Travel to Ecuador » Currently Reading:

My Galapagos Adventure – Day Six

November 26, 2014 Luxury Cruises Galapagos, Travel to Ecuador No Comments

Take A Picture

Sometimes, because of passengers’ coming and going, the morning excursion is early. Thursday is one of those days.  To be more accurate, on this trip Thursday was one of those days.  It depends on the length of the trip the guests have signed up for.  The Galapagos National Park Service allows for 4, 6, 8 and 15 day cruises. On my boat, the Ocean Spray, the possible change over days were Thursday, Saturday and Tuesday.  You can’t anticipate in advance when passengers will be coming and going.  This is the first time for me that the 15 other passengers all left mid-week, meaning on Thursday.

Approaching South Plaza at Sunrise from Panga

Approaching South Plaza at Sunrise from Panga

Because the cruise company wants to assure that the last morning is as memorable as the first afternoon, a fabulous excursion is planned early enough in the day to assure that every one leaves with this as their last recollection, but with enough time to allow for a final breakfast, last minute packing and getting to the airport.  Thus, we disembark very early for a one-hour visit to South Plaza Island. In my mind, I’m thinking that a one-hour visit can’t offer much.  Maybe, I think, this is just a way to keep us busy before some of the guests leave. Was I ever wrong. South Plaza is a panoply of colors, bird life and sea lions. The profusion is breathtaking; the landscape is stunning.

Swallow Tailed Gull

Swallow Tailed Gull

South Plaza Swallow Tailed Gull Family

South Plaza Swallow Tailed Gull Family

Getting off the panga for a dry landing, the swallow tailed gulls await in droves and pose patiently for their photo ops. These birds, white and black with bright red feet and bright red rings around their eyes, set against a background of grays, browns, greens, reds and the brilliant blue sky (even at this early hour) are dreamy. We even catch a little baby with both mom and dad. They appear to be standing by, proud parents watching their little one test his wings so that he can fly. The swallow tailed gulls present a teaching opportunity and we learn that to fish – the mainstay of their diet – the bright red eyes appear like phosphorescent plankton at night. Thus, the fish are drawn toward the gulls, instantly becoming easy prey. The swallow tailed gulls and red footed boobies have the same diet, leading scientists to conclude that something in the fish causes a chemical reaction turning the feet red. Most interesting but not the only photo op this morning.

South Plaza Island Sunrise

South Plaza Island Sunrise

South Plaza Sunrise

South Plaza Sunrise

The landscape here is beautiful: a red ground cover against black lava, green cactus and bright blue sky. South Plaza Island is quite narrow so the view is beautiful in all directions. Santa Cruz is in the distance and North Plaza nearby. It’s almost impossible to take a bad picture.

South Plaza Iguana

South Plaza Iguana

As we keep walking along a rocky path, we once again have to be careful not to step on the land iguanas dotting the landscape. They smile for the camera. Very cooperative indeed.

Bird on the Balcony

Bird on the Balcony

Tropic Bird Flying

Tropic Bird Flying

Then Harry literally yells, “red billed tropic bird. Take a picture.”  We all turn to see this graceful flyer with his bright red beak and long gliding tail soaring high in the sky. This distinctive bird is hard to capture in a photo, but it turns out we are lucky, or else Harry arranged it with his remote control (truly these things often appear out of nowhere as if he is turning them on just for us). Two nights later a red billed tropic birds lands on the balcony of one of the cabins. Maybe for a rest. He proceeds to lay quietly in place for an hour or so while we all get brilliant photos. When we’re done, rest time over, he sails away. OK – here’s a photo of one flying and you see just how amazing this bird is – but I can’t take credit for this photo – it’s Harry’s that he willingly shared with us, once again proving that the quality of your guide is vitally important.

Sea Lion and Pup on Rock South Plazas island from boat img_1135 (2)

Baby Sea Lion

Last, but certainly not least, there is both a colony of sea lion bachelors recuperating and one of mothers and their pups on this tiny island. The males are lulling around, restoring their strength. They are like couch potatoes eating, drinking sleeping and watching the world around them. The babies, on the other hand, are active and even playfully chasing a little boy who was on our cruise. Maybe he thinks he’s a playmate! No worries, we never ever are allowed to touch the animals and the sea lion pups are no exception.  Touching is strictly prohibited by the National Park Rules.  More importantly, not only may a nearby mother may get upset, but if your scent is on the baby, it will later be rejected by its mother.  This, of course, results in starvation and death to the little one.  Sea lions are very protective of their young, and have a limited amount of milk to provide.  It’s hard work going out to the sea for sustenance and, upon their return, the moms feed their babies well.  But no mom feeds another one’s baby because there just isn’t enough to share.  Bottom line – don’t touch.  Do “Take  a Picture.”

“Take a Picture” may very well become your mantra.

IMG_0038After quick breakfast, all the other passengers are off to the airport and I’m all alone on the boat – what to do?  The first time I came to Galapagos, I was here for a week with no stops, so didn’t experience this “down time.”  The second cruise, I experienced it, but both times other passengers stayed on board with me.  Once, we hooked up the ship’s outdoor sound system – complete with disco lights believe it or not, and had a dance party, so we didn’t even notice the time going by. The other, since we were together, we just talked.  It’s important not to get frustrated with the downtime.  Just prepare yourself for it; it’s inevitable, and you will still get to have your afternoon activity.  It’s just a little delayed.  And you’ll soon meet new people and you’ll be the experienced traveler.  This time, all alone as I waited, I started in a bit of a quandary, but soon enough figured out what to do.  I went to the captain and got a fabulous tour of the bridge.  I learned that the boat is never alone really.  We are watched by and constantly in touch with the Navy, the National Park Service and the Cruise Operator. Then, I asked the wonderful chef, Xavier, for a tour of the galley.  It is remarkable what he is able to do in his fully equipped, though small, kitchen.  The french pastries and breads he makes are beyond delicious every day – even homemade croissants for breakfast.

This respite also gave me time to catch up with my photographs and get to know the crew better.  This is really fun.  They are dying to improve their English and I am determined to learn even a little Spanish.  As they laugh at my attempts, I encourage theirs.

One other thing – the jacuzzi.  This is a great time to put on a bathing suit and have a relaxing and very private time in the jacuzzi on the upper deck.  It’s quiet and you are alone, seeing nothing but the gorgeous Galapagos sky and frigatebirds flying above.

With all of that to do, before you know it the new passengers and guide will be arriving on the boat.  They will have a briefing and then it’s time for lunch.  The wait wasn’t so bad at all.  Plus, now I met a whole new group of people – a very different composition from the first group.

 

This Must Be the Best Cruise – Ask the Frigatebirds

Frigatebirds from my balcony

Frigatebirds from my balcony

This afternoon, we have a peaceful cruise to Sante Fe for snorkeling and hiking. On our way a stream of frigates won’t leave our side. Maybe they smell our delicious lunch or maybe they are just taking advantage of the slipstream as they glide. Either way, I take this as a sign that even these birds know a good thing when they see it! Really, what is more wonderful than connecting yourself to this luxurious catamaran? Maybe they’d like to come on board. (I’m told this photograph is a very stylish composition – taken from my balcony, holding up my iPad and shooting in the general direction of the sky.  I told you – it’s impossible to take a bad photo in Galapagos.)

Unfortunately, there’s no room on the catamaran for the frigate birds as every cabin is taken with people of all kinds from all over the world: Australia, Israel, Germany, Canada and the U.S. in this group alone.  The first included families and couples, many from the U.S.  This is very typical of the type of people you will encounter on the luxury cruise lines – interesting, diverse, cultured and well-traveled.  On my trips I’ve made friends as well from South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia and more.

Underwater Photo Jan 17, 4 36 56 PM Underwater Photo Jan 17, 4 36 58 PMThe snorkeling at Sante Fe was beyond my wildest expectations.  We are in a protected cove literally teeming with marine life. Best most wonderful snorkeling ever. We actually swam with manta rays and chased them while Harry took photos that he shared with us.  Manta rays are beautiful, fast and graceful. They didn’t mind us in the least.

Photo Apr 01, 2 09 00 AM (1)We were led to a dozen white tipped reef sharks and we swam two feet above where they were laying in the water. Don’t be afraid to swim directly above them. As long as you don’t step on them, you are nothing more than a shadow, just another cloud. Truly, they are undaunted.

Photo Apr 03, 1 57 59 AM Copy of Photo Apr 09, 9 15 11 PM Copy of Facebook Photo Apr 10, 10 33 46 PM (3) IMG_0020

We saw dozens of different fish today: yellowfin surgeon fish, king angelfish , striated salemas, blue chin parrot fish, puffer fish, baby salemas, sardines, just to name the ones I can remember. The way snorkeling works is this:  if someone sees a great specimen, they yell out “sea star” or “sea turtle” or “puffer fish”  – whatever. Usually, then, everyone goes to the spot advertised so they don’t miss out on the action.  You get to know each other very well in the water!  All photos courtesy of Harry, although many of the snorkelers will have cameras and be willing to share their photos with you if you want.

A word here about snorkeling and safety on the best and smallest boats.  On my first trip, day one, we got into wet suits – very nice ones, provided on the cruise.  The guide said, “We’re snorkeling.”  Not one to talk much in front of others, I reluctantly asked, “But what if you’ve never snorkeled before?”  His answer, “Then this will be the first time,”  made me laugh and actually feel secure.  Once in the water, he took pains to teach me not to flail around and how to breath properly.  I’ve seen him do this patiently and repeatedly with lots of different cruise guests. So, if you don’t know how, you will be taught. Also, he insists that everyone have a partner and keep their eyes on each other. As for me, I just trail along with the guide because he knows the best places to look – even what rocks to look under to find something special.

And, if you are still have some trepidation, there will be a flotation device that you can hold onto so that you don’t miss the snorkeling altogether.  There are even special snorkeling vests for those who need them.  Fins, face masks and wetsuits – all are provided.  And they are kept impeccably clean and replaced as needed.  At the beginning of your tour, you will be provided with the necessary freshly sanitized equipment and it will be yours throughout the journey. You will have a bag marked with your room number so there is no getting confused.  Also, you may bring your own wetsuit.  Though there is every shape and size available, if you are a difficult size or just prefer your own, then I suggest bringing one.  I also bring my own mask.  But there is no need at all to carry your fins.

Another thing about the safety of snorkeling – at ALL times, the two pangas are within waving distance of everyone in the water.  They keep their eye on all of us and all one need do is wave and they are with you in literally seconds. If you get cold (as sometimes happens), just climb on the panga and sit in the sun.  Also, Harry always has a “route” for us to go – and he tries very hard to lead the way, provided no wayward people set off on their own.  The one thing he definitely does is repeatedly count the number of people in the water.  Snorkeling is exciting and the personal attention continues even in the water.

Snorkeling finished, we get back on the boat, have a cup of hot chocolate and snack.  Then, after a quick shower, we are back on the pangas.

IMG_0021April 30 Sante Fe Island_1151 April 30 Sante Fe Island_1152April 30 Sante Fe Island_1154

This time we go to Sante Fe Island to see the tall endemic Palo Santo cactus, terrific sea lions including a one day old pup and a light colored iguana. Another highlight is the Galapagos dove, once again appearing as if by magic.

Sante Fe wild life:

IMG_0025 IMG_0037 IMG_0034 IMG_0029 April 30 Sante Fe Island_1155 (2)  April 30 Sante Fe Island_1148 April 30 Sante Fe Island IMG_1109

April 30 Sante Fe Island_1142

Doves Harry

Here’s another secret, if you’re not a world-class photographer, probably someone around you is. On this boat some of the guests have profession-grade cameras and lenses. Take advantage! Ask them for advice, or even to share their photos. It’s a good way to get to know your fellow travelers and to improve your own skills. Another alternative: see if your guide, like ours, has an uncanny knack and ability to photograph the light, movement and feeling of these islands. If so, he will happily share his knowledge and, when you get frustrated or just want to quietly observe, maybe he’ll take some photos with your camera. (For example – this perfect dove shot.) This is a full service tour, after all.

To learn more about the Galapagos Islands and for help planning your cruise, go to Haugan Cruise Lines or call 1-800-769-0869. Personnel are equipped to help answer all of your questions and get your started on a glorious, once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Comment on this Article: