The Galápagos Islands Day 11 & 12

Saturday, April 16th, 2022 & Sunday, April 17th, 2022

Saturday, April 16th, 2022

Well, after the canceled American Airlines flight we were able to rebook for a flight to Miami, Florida leaving Saturday afternoon. Of course this flight still had us missing our connections so there was no way we were going to make it home Saturday. We also checked every other airline and their available flight times were even worse! The fact that we were able to get a later flight out of Quito on Saturday meant we didn’t have to spend the money for another COVID-19 test. To get back in the United States the test was only good for 24 hours! It was either spend another night at the hotel we were and change rooms, take another COVID test or get to Miami Saturday evening and spend the night there and fly home Sunday morning. We chose flying to Miami on Saturday.

Since our flight was leaving early afternoon we were able to have breakfast at the hotel.

Morning at our hotel

We enjoyed our last day of fresh fruit! We were sitting in the restaurant with others from our group when we felt the room shaking and experienced our first earthquake tremor. We all froze and weren’t sure what to do next! The wait staff went on about their business and weren’t bothered. We asked about it and they told us they have these tremors almost every day! When you live in Ohio you don’t experience those things.

Those of us on the afternoon flight had a mid-morning bus ride to the airport so we would be there three hours in advance. Below are pictures taken from the bus on our way to the airport!

We were told that Ecuador required you be at the airport three hours in advance for international flights. Our arrival so early gave us time to shop at the airport! We purchased shirts again since we would have an extra night in Miami!

Our flight left Quito on time.

We arrived in Miami and went through customs without any problems. We waited for our hotel shuttle and were finally settled in our hotel room by 10:00 PM.

Sunday, April 17th, 2022

We were up by 6:30 AM so we could catch the 7:15 AM shuttle to take us back to the Miami airport for our 9:43 AM flight to Columbus. This flight also left on time! Goodbye Miami!

Hello Columbus! We arrived home about sixteen hours later than we were originally scheduled.

It was a fantastic ten days in Quito, Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. Everyday was a new adventure and we will treasure those experiences and the new friends that we made on this trip. Having a small group was perfect and we enjoyed getting to know each other! A big thank you to our guide, Fernando, for his patience, knowledge, and words of wisdom.

Road Scholar Travelers

The Galápagos Islands Day 10

Friday, April 15th, 2022

Most of our group got up for a 6:00 AM dinghy ride to North Seymour Island. It was a dry landing and walk. Before leaving the yacht we saw a Galápagos shark swimming around!

Shark swimming.

North Seymour was a major nesting area for Blue-footed Boobies and Magnificent Frigatebirds. We saw some Blue-footed Boobies dancing in a circle. We did spot a few iguanas, both marine and land.

Palo Santo Trees & Prickly Pear Cacti

We also saw some sea lions still snoozing and relaxing.

There were swallow-tailed gulls also on the island.

As we walked we saw Magnificent Frigatebirds as well as the Blue-footed Boobies.

Blue-footed Booby and Magnificent Frigatebird

The Magnificent Frigatebird males have a red throat pouch that inflates. This is called a gular pouch that the male frigatebirds use to attract females. We saw many males trying to get the females attentions.

There were many juvenile Magnificent Frigatebirds around the area and on the nests.

The males and females frigates take turns on the nest. We observed more males sitting than females.

There were Blue-footed boobies and they had nests too. One way to tell the difference between a male and female is the color of their feet. A female has deeper blue hued feet. The females are also a little larger in size so they can carry more food. The male whistles and the female makes more of a honking/braying sound. We heard both as we walked around. The females have larger pupils and the males have more of pinpoint pupils.

Blue-footed Boobies

The dinghy took us back to the Tip Top V for the last time.

After breakfast we packed up and headed for our dinghy ride to take us to the pier for our bus ride to the airport on Baltra Island. At the airport we checked in and before we went through security we said goodbye to our Naturalist and Galápagos guide Fernando.

Our group!

Taking off from the airport in Baltra Island.

Our flight from Baltra to Quito had a stop in Guayaquil. Some passengers got off and others got on.

Flying over Guayaquil, Ecuador

We got a good view of Quito as we were coming into land.

Quito, Ecuador

Patricia met us at the airport when we arrived. It was good to see a familiar face again. We headed to our hotel, Hosteria Rincon de Puembo and later had our farewell dinner with our group. We said our goodbyes and we have each other’s emails so we can keep in touch!

Looking out at town from our hotel.

We set our alarms to get up a little after 2:00 AM because our flight was at 6:40 AM. Thank goodness Susie still had her phone on and saw that our flight was canceled. She let the rest of us know. We all were scurrying to rebook and figure out our flights. It became a restless night once we figured out our route home.

The Galápagos Islands Day 9

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

This morning we had a dry landing at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island.

Academy Bay, Santa Cruz Island

Fernando pointed out our afternoon meeting place because we would finish the day with several hours of free time. It’s been almost a week since we’ve been in a town. Once we boarded the Tip Top V it was just the crew and us! It seemed strange to see roads, cars, people, restaurants and stores! The cabs here were white, double cabbed pickup trucks! They cost $1.50 if you were to take one!

Taxis were pickup trucks!

We boarded a small bus that took us into the Santa Cruz highlands. We had a walking field trip along a lush path that lead us to the twin pit craters.

On the way we passed by the Santa Cruz fish market at Puerto Ayora.

Fish Market

Walking the path to see the “Twins”.

Some cool fungi growing along our trail.

The twin craters were called Los Gemelos, the Spanish word for the twins! All around was the Scalesia forest and you could see them in and around the twin craters. These trees were also called giant daisy trees. They were endemic to the Galápagos Islands and were part of the Asteraceae family. These trees have the ability of adaptive radiation like Darwin’s finches.

These twin craters weren’t really craters. They were pits caused by the collapse of empty magma chambers. After we finished our walk, the bus met us and took us to a lava tube. We descended steps and then walked over some rocks that were loose. Lights were hanging so that gave us some light. We walked until we came to a portion of the tube that you had to crawl for about 8-10 feet. We were running out of clean shirts and couldn’t afford to get dirty! Part of our group crawled or planked their way through the approximately eight feet then they walked to the other end. The rest of us turned around and walked back the way we came.

The bus driver picked us up and drove us to the El Chato Reserve. This family owned reserve has about 30 acres in the highlands. It had green pastures, scalesia forest, and muddy pools. We saw giant tortoises all around as well as other birds.

We saw cattle egrets and a white-cheeked pintail which were the only ones we were able to catch with a camera.

We ate lunch at the reserve’s restaurant. We enjoyed a delicious meal and then we boarded the bus to head to the Charles Darwin Research Station. It was an international biological research station. It had scientists from all over the world. The station was dedicated to scientific research and currently managed 20 projects. They were currently working on a project preserving the Galápagos for future generations, the conservation of Giant Tortoises, mapping invasive plants, and more. Their website listed the current projects the research station was working on.

Some of the birds were finches that we observed as we walked around the Darwin Research Station.

We also saw the plant conservation that the station was doing and helped to provide the locals with plants that would help the area.

We visited “Lonesome George” who was the last male Pinta Island tortoise. After his death, he became a symbol of the necessity for conservation! His frozen body was sent to the American Museum of Natural History in New York where taxidermists preserved him. He was displayed in the Galápagos National Park Headquarters in his own building.

After touring the Charles Darwin Research Center museum we walked back into town and passed the bust of Charles Darwin.

On our walk back to town we stopped in many shops to look around. Our time in town went quickly and then it was time to meet at our designated spot. We took the dinghy back to our yacht.

This would be our last night on board. We had a farewell cocktail with the crew and the chef made a special dessert for our dinner.

Farewell Cocktail
Special Dessert

During our last briefing, Fernando began with a video that he put together of our week in the Galápagos Islands. It was awesome and we enjoyed it so much that we asked him to show it again! He also gave us a copy of the video and his pictures. It was so kind of him to do this for us!

Watching the video that Fernando put together!
Anchored in Academy Bay

The Galápagos Islands Day 8

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

Today was a very early start and it was a beautiful sunrise.

Every morning the ship chef had fresh fruit and a centerpiece of fruit carved into an animal shape! This morning was our favorite!

Our first activity was to navigate around Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat) which was located near Santiago Island. It was an island with a small volcanic cone that resembles a Chinese hat. We had a wet landing and a hike around the island.

Chinese Hat

Along the beach we immediately saw a sea lion swimming, sally lightfoot crabs scrambling around and a great blue heron!

Sally lightfoot crabs, Great Blue Heron, and a Sea lion playing in the water
Galápagos ’22

A mother sea lion was nursing on the beach near where we came ashore.

Sea lion cub nursing

There were also a lot of sea lions hanging around.

The island trail from the beach headed through a lava field. We saw wildlife and the views were spectacular.

As we hiked on the trail we saw marine iguanas out on the rocks.

Great Blue Heron

Common carpetweed could be found all over the lava field! It is an endemic species of plant to the Galápagos.

After our hike on Chinese Hat we went back to the ship to get ready for our last snorkeling excursion. We can’t believe it is our last time. We’ve had such fantastic experiences so far. Well, let us tell you, our last snorkeling time was one amazing encounter. We had read that the snorkeling by Chinese Hat was excellent because the area is pretty protected and the water is clear and full of marine life! It did not disappoint. We saw Galápagos penguins, stingrays, white tip sharks, sea turtles, sea lions, sea stars, and many varieties of fish! Our entire group was pumped up when we came to the yacht.

Part of the area where we snorkeled.
Our snorkeling Selfie

Some pictures from our last time snorkeling!

Swimming Galápagos Penguin

We saw a lot of sea cucumbers!

Sea Cucumber

And so many fish!

This afternoon Fernando gave a lecture called “What Are We Stepping On?” He discussed the three main types of rocks that we have seen. The first: magmatic or igneous rocks which were formed from the cooling and solidifying of magma or lava. The two main types of igneous rocks were intrusive(plutonic rocks) and extrusive(volcanic rocks). Extrusive rocks were formed on the surface from lava and intrusive rocks were formed from magma that cooled and solidified within the crust, they never reached the surface. The second type of rock was the sedimentary rocks that were formed on or near the Earth’s surface from preexisting rocks and/or pieces of once living organisms. And the third type of rock he discussed was the metamorphic rocks. These rocks began as one type of rock and then were exposed to high heat, high pressure, hot mineral-rich fluids or any combination of these and gradually changed into a new type. These conditions were found deep in the Earth or where tectonic plates collide.

Some of the passengers were interested in touring the yacht’s kitchen! Fernando arranged it. We couldn’t all fit in because it was small and no air conditioning so it was very warm! It was amazing all the delicious food he produced within such tight, hot quarters!

Our next stop was Dragon Hill on Santa Cruz Island. It was a rocky terrain. We had a dry landing for a hike which lead us to a lookout point. The sky looked threatening but we didn’t have any precipitation.

Dragon Hill

The island was very green and as we came upon the lagoon we were hoping to see flamingos. We could see their tracks in the water but they weren’t around but we were hoping to see them when we walked back to the beach.

Prickly Pear Cacti around the lagoon and if you look closely a dragonfly

We saw a lot of birds and iguanas!

On our way back from our hike the flamingos had arrived to eat! We saw two that were feeding in the lagoon as well as some marine iguanas floating around! They were American Flamingos.

As we were getting on the dinghy to head back to the yacht, there was a blue-footed booby.

Blue-footed Booby

Once we were back on board, we had our briefing with Fernando to go over tomorrow’s schedule. It’s hard to believe we only have two more days! This has been such an experience!

The Galápagos Islands Day 7

Tuesday, April 12th, 2022

This morning we were at Puerto Egas (Egas Port) on Santiago Island. Our landing this morning was a wet landing so we carried our hiking shoes in a dry bag. The yacht also provided us with a special cloth for wiping the sand off of our feet before we put on our socks and shoes! It really helped. Our landing was a black sand beach.

This was the only place where we saw Galápagos Fur seals. They are endemic to the Galápagos Islands and are the smallest of the eared seals. We saw them resting on the rocks or playing in the water!

There was an abundance of marine and land animal life this morning. Below are just a sampling from our morning walk!

This area had black volcanic formations and also rock crevices and tide pools. The shoreline was carved from the water into interesting shapes. This area provided homes for a lot of creatures.

After our hike we went back to the yacht to get on our wetsuits and grab our gear for a snorkeling adventure off of the dinghy.

The pictures below were taken by Fernando with Dave’s GoPro! The quality is so much better than our underwater camera. The variety of fish that we observed was unbelievable. Everywhere we snorkeled there was something different to see. We were blown away!

When we were finished snorkeling our chef on the yacht gave a ceviche demonstration. He taught us how it was made and Fernando interpreted for him because he doesn’t speak much English.

After Eddy, the chef, finished his demonstration, we then had some for lunch! It was delicious! Our yacht then sailed to Bartolomé Island. It was a small island and it is known for its Pinnacle Rock, it looked like an obelisk. It was a volcanic plug that was part of an eroded volcanic dike that once connected Bartolomé Island and Santiago Island.

Pinnacle Rock in the distance

We did an afternoon snorkeling from the dinghy near Pinnacle Rock. We were excited because we saw Galápagos penguins up on the rocks!

Galápagos Penguins

We were thrilled to have the penguins join us in the water and swam all around!

We observed a lot of sea life when we snorkeled both this morning and this afternoon. There was a blacktip shark, stingrays, and huge schools of fish.

We changed into our hiking clothes and shoes and had a dry landing for our hike on Bartolomé. We hiked up Escalera Hill where we saw lava bombs, spatter, and cinder cones. The Galápagos National Park Service built stairs (about 375 steps) for the climb.

Grey Matplant was found growing on the side of the volcano and is endemic to the Galápagos Islands.

The views from the top were awesome. We read that if it was a clear day you could see more than ten islands.

Once we were back on board the yacht, we had our briefing for tomorrow’s activities and also watched the last of the Galápagos Affair. It was another fantastic day in the Galápagos.

The Galápagos Islands Day 6

Monday, April 11th, 2022

This morning we began with a wet landing and then hiking at Urbina Bay, along Isabela’s western coast. This area was uplifted from the sea and showed signs of a coral reef on land! This elevation occurred in the 1950’s from an eruption of The Alcedo Volcano. It is one of the six that make up Isabela Island.

Our wet landing location

As we trekked inland we spotted many Galápagos tortoises or Galápagos giant tortoise. It was the largest living species of tortoise. These tortoises grazed on grass, leaves, and cactus. Many were feeding and a few were mating. As Fernando stated, “love is in the air”!

Land iguanas were also lying around. These iguanas were very different from the marine iguanas. They were primarily herbivores and they were cold-blooded. These yellowish land iguanas were one of three species of land iguanas found in the Galápagos Islands. The other two species were not found here.

The Manchineel tree was found on this island. One doesn’t want to touch this tree. It had a toxic sap that was in the bark, the leaves, and the fruit which resembled a green apple! This toxic tree caused severe blistering. This tree was also discussed the Jodi Picoult book, Wish You Were Here.

We spotted a hermit crab which was a scavenger and looking for food. It would eat whatever it could find.

A Galápagos Hermit Crab

After our trek we got ready to snorkel from the beach. We used the lava rocks to take off our hiking shoes and underneath we wore our swimsuits. We just put on our wetsuits and grabbed our snorkeling gear and off we went into the water. The tide was coming in so the water wasn’t very clear and the current was strong. This was our shortest time snorkeling.

After lunch we sailed to Tagus Cove which also was part of Isabela Island. We went kayaking and saw the names of hundreds of ships names painted (grafitti) on the high stones. This is prohibited now. The names were everywhere. Tagus Cove also was a hideout for whalers and pirates because of its protection by the surf.

After our kayaking adventure we went snorkeling here and the water was much clearer. Fernando’s GoPro broke so he used Dave’s to take pictures and video the rest of the trip. The pictures below were taken with our underwater camera.

The following snorkeling pictures were taken with the GoPro! It captured some wonderful underwater life!

Next we had a dry landing and hiked uphill! At one of our stops we saw Darwin Lake (crater lake) and Tagus Bay! It was just a small strip of land separating the two bodies of water. It was threatening rain so the visibility wasn’t very good.

An interesting fact about Darwin Lake was that it’s salty! They think it was because of the volcanic eruptions that caused earthquakes and tsunamis that caused the ocean water to get in the lake.

We continued our climb to the top of a parasitic volcanic cone. It started to rain and it made the trek down slippery and daylight was fading quickly.

It was a very busy day and we were tired but excited about what all we experienced! We stayed awake because the captain invited us to the bridge to see the latitude roll to all zeros as we crossed the equator.

Crossing the Equator!

The Galápagos Islands Day 5

Sunday, April 10th, 2022

This morning began with a dry landing and hiking on Espinoza Point or Punta Espinoza. As we got off the dinghy we saw a striated heron in the mangroves. It was also known as a mangrove heron.

Striated Heron

Of course there were sally lightfoot crabs scrambling around the area.

Espinoza Point is located on the northeastern shore of Fernandina Island. There was a colony of marine iguanas, about 1,000 to 2,000 resting on the lava. We were there early enough that the iguanas were still warming up and didn’t need to cool off in the ocean. On our hike we saw nests for the iguanas so you had to be careful and make sure you stayed on the marked trail.

Look closely at the two pictures below and see if you can find the marine iguanas within the lava. They were camouflaged very well.