Ecuador – Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands have been high on our list of places to visit, and we figured that since we had signed up for a week of SCUBA diving to see the underwater creatures, we might as well opt for a week of land-based activities to see the above water wildlife. We are so glad that we planned for two weeks here, as the Galapagos certainly lives up to all its hype. Our land based tour was with the tourist class boat, “Angelique”, which has a great 8 day loop of the northern and southern islands (Santa Cruz, Floreana, Espanola, Santa Fe, South Plaza, North Seymour, Genovesa, Bartolome). Since we had a few days to spare before our next cruise, we were able to get in a few dives from Santa Cruz, the highlight of which was Gordon Rocks (hammerhead sharks, massive manta rays, and mola molas). It was easy to hop from Santa Cruz to our next destination of San Cristobal where we linked up with the “Deep Blue” for a week’s diving at the SCUBA mecca of the world. Diving the Galapagos is truly special, and we will never forget diving alongside Mr Big (10 whale shark sightings!), witnessing the playful antics of the curious sea lions, seeing hunting packs of bottlenose dolphins in action, becoming mesmerized as hundreds of hammerhead sharks swam by, and gazing at a humpback whale and its calf while diving beneath them…not a view you get every day! Spend the money and visit the Galapagos…its worth every penny for the priceless lifetime memories.

Awww, how cute! Robby and Luke stand in front of a poster of a pair of loving albatross birds; Santa Cruz Emblem on the wall at the Charles Darwin Center on Santa Cruz Lonesome George is the last of his species from Pinta Island; Charles Darwin Center on Santa Cruz This sign tells the sad tale of Lonesome George. His efforts at mating with two female tortoises from a nearby island have been in vain A yawning giant tortoise is a funny sight! A sign reminding visitors not to touch the giant tortoises; Santa Cruz Giant tortoises thrive on private ranches where the owners charge a nominal fee for visitors; Santa Cruz Luke pretending to stand on a giant tortoise (he is actually about 6 feet behind it, keeping a respectful distance from the wildlife is mandatory in the Galapagos) A giant tortoise checks us out as it grazes peacefully; Santa Cruz Robby and Luke don heavy tortoise shells (weighing about 40 lbs each) and pretend to battle it out Family portrait next to giant tortoises at the Charles Darwin Center; Santa Cruz The tourist class "Angelique" has 8 cabins for 16 passengers. If you can score a last minute deal on this vessel, don't has a great itinerary and fun crew Luke and Robby emerge unscathed from the lava tunnel on Floreana Island An age-old tradition at Floreana's Post Office. Fellow travelers sort through the post cards and ensure safe delivery. We picked up two postcards bound for Lisbon, Portugal as that was on our future itinerary Two Sally Light-footed crabs prepare to battle over prime turf; Cormorant Point, Floreana Sally Lightfoot crabs are extremely photogenic, with a blue underbelly contrasting with the red body View of the Angelique from the bow Even though the Galapagos is on the equator, a wetsuit is joke, the water can be super cold! Becky assists a struggling Luke with his hoodie...he owes her big time! Luke leaping from the bow of the Angelique Luke enjoying our snorkeling experience at Floreana A friendly green sea turtle is not perturbed by our presence at all; Floreana View of a green sea turtle; Floreana Becky spent some time snorkeling with this friendly eagle ray, which seemed completely unconcerned with her presence A giant hawkfish peers at us curiously but doesn't budge from its position A guineafowl puffer fish This poisonous sea snake buries into the sea bed through its tail first (and backs up into the sand) A Galapagos penguin zooms off; Floreana's Post Office Bay Playful sea lions put on a show for us; Floreana A sea lion shakes off the water after swimming in Espanola's pristine turquoise hued sea Mockingbirds yell at each other in a show of dominance; Espanola's Gardner Bay Its a mockingbird council as these birds viciously debate some vital topic; Espanola Mockingbirds are extremely resourceful. Here, three of them plot how they are going to tear this water bottle open to quench their thirst! Be careful with your belongings around these birds; Espanola Island A sandy sea lion pup frolics nearby; Espanola's Gardner Bay
Sleeping sea lions in a row look like the picture of contentedness; Espanola The quintessential sea lion pose; Espanola Becky mimics a sea lion's pose; Gardner Bay A sleepy sea lion rests its weary head on a rock; Espanola Sea lion kiss; Espanola Island Three sea lions barking at each other in a family squabble; Espanola Island A yellow colored Darwin's Finch stands out against the green seaweed rocks of Espanola's Gardner Bay Seaweed covered rocks allow marine iguanas to easily grip their way across; Espanola Island A marine iguana soaking up the ray's of the sun; Espanola's Suarez Point Dozens of marine iguanas resting after feeding in the sea; Suarez Point Marine iguanas are always found hugging each other for body heat; Espanola's Suarez Point A red-throated lava lizard peers at us in curiosity; Suarez Point Darwin's finches come in many colors and sizes. This puff ball sized finch waits patiently to see if there are any feeding opportunities; Suarez Point Two blue footed boobies have a brief moment of copulation (it was literally over in about 10 seconds!); Suarez Point A nazca booby gifts its mate with a stone for their nest; Suarez Point Blue footed boobies perform a mating ritual; Suarez Point A new born blue footed booby chick is guarded protectively by one of its parents; Suarez Point A nazca booby stretches its long wings; Espanola's Suarez Point A fluffy albatross chick waits patiently for one of its parents to return for a feeding; Suarez Point A natural blow hole spouts water every few seconds; Espanola's Suarez Point Its a tough life for male sea lions! Either he is a dominant bull and gets to enjoy the benefits of his harem, or else the majority of males are sent into exile where they form bachelor pads and are known as "retired" sea lions View of Espanola Island from Suarez Point A mother sea lion vigorously shakes her stillborn pup which is still attached to the placenta. Sadly, the pup made no motion of movement, and we didn't think the pup was going to survive An aggressive bull sea lion patrols his territory. Beware these sea of our fellow SCUBA divers was bitten on the leg when the bull determined him to be a threat, and we heard that a lady snorkeling off San Cristobal's sea lion colony was viciously attacked by an aggressive bull sea lion Alvaro gives the panga a healthy shove away from our dry landing; Espanola Pelicans take up their daily spot on the Angelique, fighting each other for the prime seats Frigate birds don't look quite as majestic without their puffed out red throat sac Robby and a sea lion pup had a face off until the sea lion started nuzzling itself; Santa Fe A sleepy sea lion points its flipper at Becky by way of greeting; Santa Fe Another sea lion greets us on Santa Fe. We learned that the main difference between sea lions and fur seals (they look awfully similar) is that fur seals have larger, rounder heads, bigger eyes, a more protruding snout, and larger ears A curious Galapagos Hawk soars overhead. This hawk had been tagged by scientists and interestingly, held no fear of humans; Santa Fe The Galapagos rats are actually quite cute, looking more like a mouse than a rat. These are devastating to sea turtles, devouring their eggs if they can find the nest; Santa Fe Close up of a Hood Mockingbird which uses its sharp beak to penetrate and eat the seeds of this Cactus pear; Santa Fe Island Portrait of a Galapagos Hawk; Sante Fe Prickly cactus on Santa Fe Island. We were astounded to learn that on islands where the cacti are not a food source, their barbs are actually soft and pliable! Playful sea lions off the coast of Santa Fe Luke playing with sea lions; Santa Fe Becky loves watching the antics of the sea lions, which are curious, playful and quite mischievous, often mimicking divers by blowing air bubbles The Angelique is a welcome sight next to beautiful South Plazas Island Posing in front of the beautiful red hues of the "Galapagos Carpet"; South Plazas A hungry land iguana props itself on its hind legs and devours a piece of this cactus; South Plazas A Swallow Tailed Gull (easily identifiable with its black head, red eye rim and red feet); South Plazas View from the cliffs of South Plazas This land iguana approached Becky to get its up close and personal head shot Close up portrait of a friendly land iguana; South Plazas A land iguana enjoys a cactus pear; South Plazas Portrait of a land iguana; South Plazas A banded Lava Gull checks us out. We were surprised to learn there are only 600 of these birds left in the wild; South Plazas A friendly sea lion tries repeatedly to hop into our panga; South Plazas Another view of how massive the male frigate bird's throat sac can become in an effort to seduce females to mate with him; North Seymour Island A male frigate bird with its red balloon fully inflated, puffing out its throat to attract females; North Seymour Island A blue footed booby contemplates feeding its chick; North Seymour Profile of a land iguana; North Seymour A female frigate bird eyeballs us cautiously as we avoid her nest on the foot path; North Seymour Luke freezes as a mother sea lion and her pup approach him; North Seymour A sea lion pup calls for its mother, hungry to feed on the nutrient rich milk; North Seymour Marine iguanas huddle for body heat, sneezing, snorting, and spitting up salt from the seawater which crystallizes on their foreheads; North Seymour A male frigate bird flies with its gular sac inflated to attract potential female mates; North Seymour A blue footed booby parent stares at its hungry chick as if to say, "feeding time, again?"; North Seymour How the blue footed booby gets its name A blue footed booby performing a mating dance; North Seymour Deep chasms exist all over volcanic Genovesa island. At this lookout point, we were able to spot a Galapagos owl in the distance There are several different types of cacti throughout the Galapagos islands. This one is found on Genovesa A hungry Nazca booby chick cries to be fed; Prince Philip's Steps in Genovesa A nazca booby chick stretches its wings and waits impatiently for its parent to return for a feeding Juvenile Swallow Tailed Gull A lava crevice on Genovesa, one of the northernmost islands in the Galapagos (as a result, most cruises do not visit this magical island) Marine iguanas could easily have been the inspiration for "Godzilla"; Genovesa A nazca booby feeding; Genovesa Close up of a Darwin Finch; Genovesa A Frigate bird regurgitates fish for its hungry chick; Genovesa's Darwin Bay A nazca booby refuses to budge from the footpath, forcing us to detour around it; Genovesa's Darwin Bay Close up of a heron at Genovesa's Darwin Bay A red footed booby inquisitively checks us out; Genovesa Alvaro, Helene, Luke, Ruben, Con, Becky, Rachel and Robby; Genovesa's Darwin Bay Salt water pond; Genovesa's Darwin Bay Becky, Luke and Robby take a family portrait on Prince Philip's Steps; Genovesa The only way to get to Prince Philip's Steps is via a panga, an inflatable zodiac raft Alvaro, our naturalist guide on the Angelique, leads us on a tour around Bartolome Island The volcanic contours of beautiful Bartolome Island Bartolome's rugged landscape The rugged peaks of Bartolome Island loom in the distance (we learned that several scenes from the movie "Master and Commander" were filmed here) Bartolome Island has a well laid out track that leads to the fantastic look out point View of the bay on our hike to the lookout point; Bartolome Island Probably the most photographed vista on Bartolome Island Ruben and Luke acting goofy at the Bartolome lookout point One of our favorite photos from the Galapagos, admiring the gorgeous view from the Bartolome lookout point Our goofy group photo at Bartolome's lookout point A Galapagos penguin poses in solitude; Bartolome A large manta ray skims the surface of the water near our panga; Bartolome Life vests are mandatory while riding in the panga View of Bartolome as seen from volcanic Sullivan Island The volcanic flow on Sullivan Island is considered fairly recent, occurring a mere 100 years ago Striking a pose against a massive lava field; Sullivan Island There are numerous interesting lava formations on Sullivan Island Luke picks up Ruben in a herculean moment; Sullivan Island Starfish are seen in abundance around Bartolome These starfish were way more vivid in real life...snorkel at Bartolome and see for yourself! Pretty Bachas Beach; Santa Cruz We were happy to spot a pink flamingo feeding at Bachas Beach Luke and Becky chilling on the Angelique Becky leads the group (in Spanish) for the farewell toast...the silly pirate hat is NOT her idea! Brown pelicans wait patiently for a handout; Santa Cruz fish market Another view of the hungry pelicans; fish market in Santa Cruz Santa Cruz is the place to stock up on Galapagos souvenirs, with plenty of cute boutique stores This mola-mola was quite large (6 feet), and we stared in amazement while trying to figure out what it was exactly (none of us had ever seen one before); Gordon Rocks This giant manta ray was at least 21 feet in wingspan and we loved diving with it; Gordon Rocks The 17 islands of the Galapagos; signpost in San Cristobal This sleepy sea lion made a bee line to its favorite bench; San Cristobal Sunset in San Cristobal Frigate birds and pelicans hope to score an easy meal; San Cristobal harbor Pelicans making this boat their home for the night (sea lions are just as opportunistic, and we saw some boat owners installing protective nets to prevent such "hijackings") Quaint San Cristobal has different animals on all its street signs A picturesque dining spot; San Cristobal Probably the most unique accommodation in all of the Galapagos. Fancy staying a night in a tree house at "Quinta El Ceibo"? It is advertised as the largest and oldest tree in the Galapagos; San Cristobal Island Giant tortoises gather for feeding time; Cerro Colorado on San Cristobal A giant tortoise pauses on the foot path at Cerro Colorado; San Cristobal A lava lizard freezes in motion, hoping to blend in against the lava rock; Cerro Colorado, San Cristobal Robby getting checked out by a curious sea lion View of the beach at Port Chino, San Cristobal Island Becky assumes a pose on an inviting tree; San Cristobal A Yellow Crowned Night Heron peruses the small pools of sea water for any edible treats; San Cristobal Robby mimics a bull sea lion; San Cristobal's Sea Lion Colony (La Loberia) Two sea lions hugging it out on the beach; San Cristobal A curious sea lion checks Becky out; San Cristobal's La Loberia View of a frigate bird looking for a smaller bird to bully with Deep Blue in the background. Frigate birds, unable to get wet, must steal food from birds returning from the sea, chasing them until they regurgitate Bottlenose dolphins playing alongside our bow; Wolf Island Frigate birds are amazing creatures, weighing in at only 1.5 lbs with a massive wing span. They are unable to get their feathers wet, and thus have some of the most ingenious methods of obtaining their food to survive View of Wolf Island, where we dove with hundreds of hammerhead sharks Another view of Wolf Island. Sadly, the only way to reach this island is via an expensive liveaboard SCUBA cruise. The diving here is spectacular and worth the effort and expense Wolf Island is home to hundreds of bottlenose dolphins, which leapt playfully out of the water and tantalized us with their close proximity to our boat We couldn't figure out why this bottlenose dolphin kept slapping his tail repeatedly on the surface of the water...perhaps it is a hunting technique? View of a green sea turtle, which are quite plentiful in the Galapagos Bottlenose dolphins quickly became our favorite mammals, with their playful antics and aggressive hunting techniques (watching massive schools of fish disappear in a split second when the dolphins are on the hunt is unforgettable!) Profile of a hammerhead shark; Wolf Island Hammerhead sharks are amazing to watch as they gracefully swim by...we loved seeing them A white tip reef shark Schools of fish dart out of the way when larger predators glide by Swimming in the middle of of a school of fish...awesome Spotted eagle rays are majestic creatures. This school of rays kept circling around us at Wolf Island Darwin's Arch...every avid SCUBA diver's dream is to dive here! A bottlenose dolphin playing in the waters around Darwin's Arch Darwin's Island is one of the most popular dive spots in the world. It did not disappoint and we were thrilled with our 8 dives here A yellow puffer fish darts away once it spots us A school of Barber fish Snorkelers and divers alike can delight in the wonders of the Galapagos rich waters Garden eels will disappear into the sand if approached too closely so we forced ourselves to keep our distance Swimming alongside a whale shark is one of the most incredible experiences! Its hard to visualize just how big this whale shark us, it is freaking massive and we were dwarfed by its sheer size Fish galore! We lost count of how many dolphins we could see around Darwin's Island A swordfish leaping out of the water just as Robby was skimming the surface looking for dolphins; Darwin Island Frigate birds following our boat as we finally departed Darwin's Island...a magical moment foto gallery lightboxby v6.1

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