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!