Galapagos – June 2011


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After flying into Quito, Ecuador late Saturday, Sabrina and I took off for the Galapagos the next day. Quito is high up in the Andes (2800m), surrounded by volcanoes. This is probably the most famous in the area, Cotopaxi, a volcano we would come to hate... Landed on San Cristobal Island, and after dropping our stuff in the hotel went for a walk around the small town. Didn't take long to find a big heron.
Or then many, many sea lions. They are numerous on the island, and often come ashore and onto the boardwalk near the water. The main pier of San Cristobal. Some of the numerous, colourful Sally Lightfoot Crabs.
Had to be careful where you sat and walked. Posing with the sleeping sea lion. After the walk about town, we went up to the highlands to begin a mountain bike ride back down.
Near the end of the bike ride, we hit the beach. Found our first Marine Iguanas! And Frigate Birds.
Lots more sea lions and pups. Posing with them. All in a row.
The sun was setting on the beach as we headed back for the bikes. Biking back to town. For the most part, the biking was pretty easy, along a paved road. Had to watch out for potholes, and other bicyclists...
Back in town, after dinner a few of us went looking for a nice drink to end the evening. Unfortunately, it was Sunday. No upstanding establishments in Ecuador serve alcohol on Sundays. We still found a few beers. The next morning, our first (short) boat ride for animals and snorkeling. Didn't take long to find the famous Blue Footed Boobies.
And more. Some of us went to the front of the speedboat for better views. The male Frigatebird and it's red balloon of love...
Our first stop for snorkeling! Called Sea Lion Island. We got in our wetsuits and hopped in the water. Not really sure there is a comment that goes with this kind of picture...
And said hello to some curious sea lions! Some nice fish in the water too. All different sizes.
But the sea lions were the main attraction! Unlike on land, they moved very quickly and wanted to play. Schooling fish. After playing with the sea lions and swimming 40 minutes or so, it was back to the boat.
And off to Kicker Rock. Some really neat formations on the rock. We circled it completely, looking at the numerous birds that nest.
Sheer cliffs. The channel of Kicker Rock, that we snorkeled through. It was COLD water! While in the channel, we got to see 3 eagle rays swimming together!
Lots of aquatic life in the area. Back on the boat, now off to lunch at a quiet beach. Like a lot of beaches, it was a mix of white sand and lava rocks.
At the beach, a sea lion basking in the sun. He came over to say hi. One of the many lizards.
Back on land, now off to a small information hall and then an optional hike. Riding in the back of a truck. Looking back at the town. The hike gave some great views of Darwin's Bay.
The 5 of us that attempted the hike! Found Charles Darwin. He was a strange looking fellow.
One of Darwin's 14 types of finches. This one was the fat one of the family... Sun setting.
Lots of sea lions enjoying the sunset. This one came out of the water and came over to say hello to us...fairly quickly. After all that hiking and swimming, a good dinner was needed! This was Sabrina's...I don't remember what I had, but this looks good!
Day #3, our first long (2hr) boat ride. Oh, we had such anticipation of a simple boat ride. Rachel and Sabrina had the unlucky position of getting absolutely soaking wet where they were sitting. Rachel donned special gear. After 2 hours of the extremely bumpy seas, we all felt fairly sea-sick (one person ended up throwing up, overboard). After the exhausting boat trip, we stopped at Champion's Islet for more snorkeling.
The water was cold, but it was good to get off the scary boat. More sea lions to play with! They were again, a pretty playful and curious bunch. I always wanted to touch one to see what they felt like, but they were always just out of reach...
More fishies. Our guide Pepo going under to swim with the sea lion. They loved to be chased, and play chicken. One sea lion came to the surface and bobbed along with Emily for a bit.
A lobster was found. And some sea urchins. Chocolate Chip Starfish! Not edible.
After the snorkeling, we made it to Floreana Island. Barely inhabited (<100 people), we stayed at a nice little place right on the black sand beach. Their marine iguanas had some more colour to them. This one was huge.
Later in the afternoon, a trip up to the highlands of Floreana. Very green and lush. Our first Galapagos Giant tortoises!
They came in different sizes, but same speed (slow). The big one eventually bit the little one. After a rousing game of soccer that evening, a few of us went out onto the black sand beach for a couple hours to relax and listen to the waves/chat.
Next morning, an early hike. The girls were up for it, though we were the second group to go, 3 other people left a bit earlier than us. Nice views.
This unfortunately doesn't capture shortly after, with Emily running away from the water as a large wave came in to where she is sitting. Looking back at Floreana.
After the morning hike, it was back on the scary boat. We all prepared for the worst in different ways. Many of us took Gravol, some pre-emptively went to the fetal position.
Thankfully, this boat ride went MUCH better. That, and we got to see some great wildlife! First up was a lone Minke Whale. It surfaced just a few times before disappearing beneath the water. Shortly afterwards, we slowed the boat again for a large number of common dolphins. They swam on both sides of the boat.
They also jumped quite often, but were further away at the time. Relaxing on the front of the boat as we reach our next island, Isabela. We had a great little hotel here - even a rooftop jacuzzi! Sadly, it didn't have hot water. It did have bubbles though.
That afternoon, snorkeling one final time. Shallow lagoon type waters this time, with some colourful fish. And some giant sea turtles!
Also found some un-puffed Puffer Fish. And then our first Galapagos Penguins! They swam very quickly, and unlike sea lions, weren't overly curious about the humans. More interested in the tasty fish.
Found some more Blue Footed Boobies. A penguin on land. We stepped out of the water and walked around some odd lava landscape.
Lava rocks are sharp. Falling on the isn't really recommended. We walked to a major breeding ground for some marine iguanas. And a resting place for some white tipped reef sharks!
They were pretty small and cuddly looking, probably about 1-1.5 meters long or so. Emily getting a lesson on how shark babies are made... Some more crabs.
Back on the boat, we floated by a favourite spot for penguins and boobies. Can see the silly neon blue feet of the boobie here, above the penguin. Back on shore, a giant pelican greeted us.
Out for drinks that night. Next morning, beginning our 6 hour hike of the Sierra Negra Volcano. The weather - not so good.
After walking around Sierra Negra's famous 10km Caldera and seeing nothing we continued on to Volcan Chico, a neat landscape just outside Sierra Negra. First, lunch, with some birds. Then, crawling through lava tunnels.
Sabrina got a pretty good cut on one of her knees - volcano rocks are sharp! Walking down into Volcan Chico. The landscape changed quickly from green to black.
Neat panoramic from Sabrina's camera. It started to rain, so some donned...brightly coloured garbage bags. Others put on a jacket. Continuing the walk across the lava.
I thought it was really cool. Here is the difference between two different lava flows, the black being more recent.
Giving a sense of how big the area is.
We reached our final destination, looking out across the blackened landscape.
We headed back to the Caldera at Sierra Negra - and the sun was finally coming out!
I was so glad it did, because NOW the view really was spectacular. Apparently a type of bird on Sierra Negra that only a hundred or so are left...we saw 6 in a short period of time, so we aren't sure of those claims. At dinner that night.
The group (with Sabrina taking the picture) Next day, a hike through some mangroves. Got to see a bunch of flamingos.
Poison apples. A delicacy for giant tortoises, not so good for human consumption. A giant tortoise breeding center! There were hundreds of the little guys. This one was going to town on his/her food.
Getting even smaller. And a really tiny giant tortoise, and egg for comparison. How those tiny giant tortoises are made.
The wall of tears, built by convicts on the island to keep them busy. The land iguana of the Galapagos. Poor Lonesome George. He's the last giant tortoise known of his sub-species.
They grow their cactus trees big here. For those that experienced the thrill, the excitement...the diesel fumes...know what an experience riding this thing around town was. Thanks again Emily. :P Next morning, before hiking to a beautiful beach.
One of the nicest beaches I have walked along. The sand was so very soft. After getting to a second beach, a pelican greeted us. Then it was time for some kayaking fun!
Rachel looked like she knew what we were doing. Sabrina and I didn't have many issues either. The guys however...they got stuck...
And also capsized. Sabrina and I somehow stayed nice and dry. We did find a few more blue footed boobies.
After the kayaking and beach time, we re-boarded a taxi-truck. This time, we had an additional passenger - a live chicken! Not pictured here is the screaming from Emily and Sabrina when first discovering a frightened chicken in a bag. Last time with giant tortoises, this time out in the wild! They really don't move quickly, such nice and easy subjects for photos.
We also got to try on a tortoise shell for size.
Sabrina did get up in hers as well, but I thought this picture was funnier. :P These things were HEAVY. Our last activity in the Galapagos, lava tunnels! These were really cool.
Carved by lava flows, but they look clean cut in many places and are BIG. Some neat patterns on the ceiling as well. Had to crawl under one section.
It wasn't too bad a fit. Climbing back up towards the light. One last dinner with the group! Sabrina with our great guide, Pepo.
Everyone from the tour at dinner. Then some of us went out for final drinks.
Great trip! A final outing in Quito for dinner and....non-alcoholic drinks (it was Sunday again!).  
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Description: The first part of a 16 day trip Sabrina and I took to Ecuador - we spent 8 days exploring the Galapagos, and 8 days exploring the mainland!
Location: The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

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