Ecuador – Galapagos

8 years after our first trip to the Galapagos, we finally made it back to this very special place. A chance to SCUBA with whale sharks during peak season lured us back, and we were immediately reminded why we love these islands so much. Wildlife galore both on land and in the water…wow, Galapagos did not disappoint. Unlike our first trip in 2010, we came back armed with underwater cameras to record our marine adventures. Some of our highlights included: playing with friendly, bubble blowing sea lions at Playa Mann (with one trying to gift Becky some seaweed), snorkeling with dozens of turtles at La Loberia, swimming with a marine iguana at Punta Carola, being mesmerized by a whopping 24 whale shark sightings at Darwin’s Arch, getting front row seats at cleaning stations to watch scalloped hammerhead sharks getting rid of pesky parasites via butterflyfish, watching schools of dozens of hammerhead sharks both at Wolf Island and Darwin’s Arch, laughing as Becky got some turtle love by an overeager sea turtle keen on curling up in her lap, and indulging in phenomenal ceviche for cheap (courtesy of the excellent “menu del dia” offerings at the beach side food shacks). We met some wonderful people on our liveaboard with the Humboldt Explorer (two huge thumbs up), and had excellent dive masters Daniel and Paulo to guide us. Our return trip was so phenomenal that we are hesitant to return for a third trip…we fear nothing could top this trip!

Robby next to a blue footed booby (made from recycled plastic); near Playa Mann A juvenile sea lion sucks milk from its mom; Playa Mann A curious sea lion checks us out; Playa Mann Becky playing with a friendly sea lion; Playa Mann Posing beneath a hammerhead shark welcome sign; Puerto Baquerizo Moreno Yellow crowned night heron; Puerto Baquerizo Moreno Sleeping sea lions by a San Cristobal sign Carrying our snorkel gear to La Loberia beach, a 30 minute hike out of town; San Cristobal To get into the water, you have to run by this gauntlet of sea lions; La Loberia Beach Marine iguana soaking up the sun; La Loberia Admiring the coastal views on our short hike from La Loberia beach Robby checking out one of dozens of green sea turtles at La Loberia; San Cristobal Shoal of black striped salema fish; La Loberia A turtle performs stretching exercises; La Loberia Yellow tail surgeon fish; La Loberia Landscape seen on our walk from La Loberia beach back to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno; San Cristobal A marine iguana swimming to shore after feeding on algae; Playa Punta Carola Becky joins the sleepy sea lions for a snooze; Playa Punta Carola Robby riding a US cannon from WWII; near Tijeretas Viewpoint Becky at the Charles Darwin statue; near Tijeretas Viewpoint A nice view from Tijeretas Mirador San Cristobal Island welcomes all visitors! Paulo giving us a safety briefing on board the Humboldt Explorer Stingray; Punta Carrion Bacalao yellow grouper; Punta Carrion Bullseye puffer; Punta Carrion A sea lion sunning itself; North Seymour Island A marine iguana perched on lava rock; North Seymour Island A frigatebird preparing to fly Hungry baby frigate bird; North Seymour Island Male frigatebirds inflate a red gular sac with air to attract females during breeding season A male frigatebird attracts a potential mate who swoops in for a closer view Adult male magnificent frigatebird in flight; North Seymour Island Check out the sharp, curved beak of this frigatebird! Blue footed booby; North Seymour Island Profile of a land iguana Getting picked up by zodiac after our North Seymour Island excursion Getting ready to dive Wolf Island (which we reached after a 12 hour journey!) Pacific spotted scorpionfish; Wolf Island Guineafowl puffer; Wolf Island Mexican hogfish; Wolf Island Finescale triggerfish Green sea turtle; Wolf Island Golden pufferfish Two silky sharks checking us out from the blue; Wolf Island A fever of spotted eagle rays glides by; Wolf Island Cleaning time! Butterfly fish picking parasites off a hammerhead shark Black jack fish; Wolf Island Lunch buffet on the top deck; Humboldt Explorer Wolf Island - the remains of an extinct volcano soaring 250 meters above sea level A school of scalloped hammerhead sharks; Wolf Island Dolphins zipping around us during a safety stop; Wolf Island Sea lions playing in the distance; Wolf Island Paulo getting up close and personal with a galapagos shark; Wolf Island Galapagos shark slowly cruising past our dive group; Wolf Island One of our favorite places on earth, Darwin's Arch! Diving here is spectacular due to the abundance of marine life School of trevally jack fish; Darwin's Arch Pacific creole fish; Darwin's Arch The first of 24 sightings of whale sharks at Darwin's Arch! Even though we visited during peak whale shark season, we were surprised by how many we saw Becky capturing a whale shark swimming past; Darwin's Arch Flavia is tiny compared to this heavily pregnant whale shark; Darwin's Arch Enjoying dinner with Margaret, Flavia, Felix & Leif. At the other table are Bettina, Maria, Alberto, Bjorn, Eric, Bernard and Katrina; Humboldt Explorer We were shocked to hear that local fishing boats are allowed to fish at Darwin Island (special permit only). Thankfully this fishing boat looks small! Hieroglyphic hawkfish; Darwin's Arch A tornado shaped swarm of pacific creole fish; Darwin's Arch A heavily pregnant whale shark swims by; Darwin's Arch It is very hard to gain perspective on how large this whale shark is (about the size of a school bus) Alberto getting some close up video of a massive whale shark; Darwin's Arch Frigate birds hoping to score some food fly above the Humboldt Explorer; Darwin's Island Close up of a flag cabrilla fish (starry grouper); Darwin's Arch The female whalesharks at Darwin's Arch are so big that even a GoPro's wide angle isn't enough! Becky got about 10 minutes of "turtle love" by this overeager green sea turtle; Darwin's Arch Inquisitive red-footed boobies have no idea what to make of us SCUBA divers; Darwin's Arch Team Whaleshark at Darwin's Arch - Eric, Robby, Margaret, Flavia, Becky & Bjorn Our stateroom cabin; Humboldt Explorer Felix checks out a red-footed booby; Darwin's Island A scavenging spotted eagle ray; Wolf Island A giant moray eel poses for its closeup; Wolf Island Longfin bannerfish; Wolf Island A black jack fish "rides" a spotted eagle ray; Wolf Island A scalloped hammerhead shark swims up close to our dive group; Wolf Island Mexican goatfish; Wolf Island Such a lucky lobster! No one will bother it at Wolf Island Simply magical as dozens of hammerheads swim by; Wolf Island Posing with our awesome dive guides Daniel and Paulo; Humboldt Explorer Blue starfish; Cousin's Rock An octopus tries to hide in coral; Cousin's Rock Two panamic fanged blennies side by side; Cousin's Rock Yellow cup coral; Cousin's Rock The face only a mother could love! Close up of a pacific spotted scorpionfish; Cousin's Rock A reef cornetfish swims past our group; Cousin's Rock Starfish; Cousin's Rock Guineafowl pufferfish; Cousin's Rock School of bluestriped snapper; Cousin's Rock The hilly road leading to Puerto Ayora; Santa Cruz Island Galápagos giant tortoise; El Manzanillo Ranch The tortoise shells are super heavy! Trying our best to imagine life as a tortoise Munching giant tortoise Getting a brush down; Puerto Ayora Galapagos scene made from colorful ceramics; Puerto Ayora Skeleton of a 13 meter bryde's whale; Charles Darwin Research Station Detail of a galapagos giant tortoise; Charles Darwin Research Center Galapagos mockingbirds Marine iguanas huddled for warmth Juvenile marine iguana Lava heron; Puerto Ayora Robby and Charles Darwin chat it up Souvenir shops; Puerto Ayora Galapagos brown pelican Sleeping sea lions blocking the path; Puerto Ayora Boats lined up near the fish market; Puerto Ayora Our last breakfast on board the Humboldt Explorer....yummy bacon! Art work on a house in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno; San Cristobal Island Robby and a flamingo; San Cristóbal Airport Striking a pose by an orca; San Cristóbal Airport Ecuador tourism poster foto gallery lightboxby v6.1

San Cristobal

Hostal Terito – free airport pickup. Friendly owner and clean room with hot water shower and free drinking water. WiFi very weak and unusable. Had to ask for the AC remote control. No ventilation in the room (esp the bathroom, so nothing wet will dry overnight). Cost: $40 for 2 per night. Check out is at 9 am, but we were able to store our gear in the living room.

Casa de Jeimy – walking distance of the airport and sea port. Friendly staff who let us check in at 9 am. Huge rooms with fan (good ventilation). Close to the mercado (cheap meals upstairs). Decent WiFi at times. Free drinking water, two kitchens for self caterers, hammocks on the top floor. Cost: $30 for 2 per night.

Cri’s Burgers – people rave about the burgers here but they were just OK, prices were quite high. We preferred eating at the local food shacks which cost $4 – $5 (juice, soup, main). Highly recommend getting ceviche!

Humboldt Explorer Itinerary

27 Aug: San Cristobal check dive (near Playa Mann)
28 Aug: Punta Carrion (2 dives), North Seymour Island tour. Transit to Wolf Island
29 Aug: Wolf Island (4 dives)
30 Aug: Wolf Island (2 dives), Darwin’s Arch (2 dives)
31 Aug: Darwin’s Arch (4 dives)
1 Sep: Wolf Island (3 dives), Transit to Santiago Island
2 Sep: Cousins Rock (2 dives), Santa Cruz (visit El Manzanillo Galapagos Tortoise Ranch and free time)
3 Sep: San Cristobal morning drop off

The Humboldt Explorer is a great option for SCUBA diving in the Galapagos. Staff is competent and friendly. Dive masters were excellent, swapping between dive groups daily (2 dive groups of 8 pax). Briefings are very good, with nightly lectures on the wildlife. Nitrox is $150 extra (worth it). The crew bends over backwards to ensure everyone is happy and satisfied. Hot water jacuzzi on the top deck was a nice bonus although water level too low. Free soda, beer and wine on board, although you are cut off from diving the moment you have your first drink. Smart TVs in each room fully stocked with new movies and BBC Galapagos specials. We were upgraded to a stateroom next to the kitchen. Huge windows, including one in the shower (nice views looking out but nearby boats can also peep in!). Food on board was varied and good. Snacks all day and hot beverages and towels provided after each dive. We would dive with this liveaboard again if offered the chance!

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