Galápagos 2017: Day 4


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Galapagos 2017: [Day 1 [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4] [Day 5] [Day 6] [Day 7] [Day 8] [Day 9] [Day 10] [Day 11]

Monday, March 13, 2017: The sun wasn't quite up shortly before 7:00 AM as we anchored off of Santiago Island.
To the right was the Pan de Azucar volcano in the background of Puerto Egas.
Our first excursion was an hour away, but zodiacs had already been lowered from the ship.
We headed to the restaurant for breakfast, which alternated between delicious French toast and pancakes daily, plus bacon and other hot items.
There were different fruit juices daily, ...
... and a variety of fruit, cold cuts, and smoked salmon.
So many pastries, but we almost never made it to this end of the buffet.
Our first destination was the beach and coastline in the distance.
Here's a closer look. We were warned several times to be careful of the poison apple tree in the middle of the beach.
For each shore excursion, Monica was there to remind everyone to get on their life jackets and to check in with her as they boarded the boats.
We were on the first boat to go ashore, ...
... and the first to board the boat.
The very back of the boat was our second-favorite location. Not quite as great as being at the very front, but still nice.
Our friend Frank was in the next group of passengers and got this photo of us leaving.
And we're off!
Cristina was our naturalist for the morning. Each group can contain no more than 16 people and must be guided by a naturalist.
We approached the beach. Here's the view toward the left, where an abandoned building stands on the bluff.
To the left of the beach, we spotted our first sea lions on the rocks.
There they are!
We saw our first lava lizard on the black sand.
Frank and Other Debbie's zodiac was arriving as Debbie was facing down a marine iguana on the beach.
He smiled for a picture, ...
... then swam away.
Ever seen iguana tracks in the sand?
This was the first and only ghost crab we saw on the entire trip. Check out those eyes sticking straight up from his head. We also saw a terrestrial hermit crab but our photo was lousy and then we never saw one again.
This is an American oystercatcher.
Prepare yourself for many photos of the beautiful Xpedition.
By 8:25, we were off on our morning walk, starting at this sign that states: "Republic of Ecuador, National Park of the Galápagos. Visitors are respectfully reminded that the indigenous wildlife of these islands is strictly protected by law."
We had opted to go on the long walk instead of the short walk, since we wanted to see as much as we possibly could. Here's a beacon light.
We saw several mockingbirds, starting with this one.
Tom hates spiders, but Debbie can't resist photographing them. Here's a zig-zag spider.
This is a Galápagos silver fritillary butterfly.
We passed the remains of a salt mine operation.
There were many, many lava lizards on the trail. Here's a male lava lizard, ...
... and here is a colorful female.
The Galápagos dove has distinctive blue eyes and red feet.
This is prickly pear cactus.
What's this non-descript little bird? One of the famous Darwin finches. But which type? Only Darwin knows.
Here's a little finch nest.
After we walked a path through the brush, we came out to the lava rocks by the ocean.
Tide pools are nestled in the rocks.
Sally Lightfoot crabs were everywhere.
They are so colorful and Debbie was compelled to photograph every single one.
We had already seen this lava arch in a brochure, so it was great to see it in person.
Cristina spotted some wildlife tucked into the rocks. If you look closely, ...
... you'll see two sleeping Galápagos fur seals.
This photo would make a nice computer backdrop.
Here's a lava heron.
This fur seal was hiding in a crevice in the rocks.
Here's another lava heron, but this one has redder legs.
By now, we were seeing marine iguanas regularly.
Splash!
Here's a handsome guy and doesn't he know it?
More pretty landscape.
The lava rock was beautiful.
Another arch. Look at the color of that water!
Hiding on the side of the rock was a yellow-crowned night heron.
Here's another arch.
Cristina found a crab shell and explained the process of crabs molting their shells in order to grow.
Here's a close-up of what the sand is really made up of here: barnacles, shells, crab bits, etc.
More iguanas strolled past us.
These white sticks marked the approved path for visitors to take. Someone had thoughtfully decorated the spot with a beautiful shell for us to admire but not take home. Removing anything from the Galápagos is strictly prohibited and heavily fined.
Iguana and Sally Lightfoot crabs posed for this shot.
Yeah, I see you.
The paparazzi were out that day. Frank got some photos of our group as their group got closer to ours. Later on, we made a sacred pact to share photos at the end of the trip.
Debbie: "Hmmm? What's over here to photograph?"

Tom: "Probably more of those crabs you like so much."

Debbie: "I must photograph all of them."

Tom: "Whatever. They're just crabs."

Debbie: "But what about this cool bird over here?"

Tom: "OK, take a picture of that."

This is a pretty yellow warbler.
We saw a whimbrel but our photo turned out blurry, so here's Frank's photo.
This piece of art is titled, "Me and My Reflection."
Hello, ladies. Do you come here often?
Handsome lava lizard.
This is an American oystercatcher and her adorable baby.
Imagine. This used to be liquid hot magma.
This is a semipalmated plover.
We know this because we used our primitive hand signs to remember that its name started with a "P" so we could look it up when we got back home.
Here's a large tide pool. But what's that in the middle of it?
It's a sea lion, lazing happily in the water.
Off to the side in the same pond were schools of small fish, or lunch, if you're a sea lion.
Watch where you step, because marine iguanas are everywhere.
Some are just a little more obvious.
Iguana and crab, each getting the amount of sunlight they want.
Frank and Other Debbie's group was about 10 minutes behind our group, with another one behind them.
Cristina found some fur seals to check out.
This sleepy guy is a fur seal pup, ...
... and here's a fur seal mama cuddling with her pup.
Ewww, fascinating: the final remains of what used to be an iguana.
Look closely for the lava lizard sunning himself on one of these three marine iguanas.
Toward the end of our walk, we spotted a Galápagos hawk.
We got a photo just as it was flying away.
We were back at the beach by 10:30 and finally it was time to stop sweating and get into the water.
We had left our snorkel and swimming gear on the beach, and now we hurried to change. We were advised to try snorkeling without our wetsuits because the water was plenty warm, so we ended up doing that all week. The downside was that we hadn't brought our rash guards or applied sunscreen to the parts of us that were covered by our wetsuits but the sunburn was worth it.
After soaping up our masks and getting into our gear, we were in the water 15 minutes later. Here's a graybar grunt.
Here are some colorful schools of tiny fish.
This shy guy is a yellow-tailed damselfish.
Here's a leather bass.
This is a flag cabrilla.
Here's a yellowtail surgeonfish, AKA razor surgeonfish.
This is a hogfish.
Here's a king angelfish, ...
... and this one is a juvenile.
This is a bluechin parrotfish (initial stage), ...
... and here's the adult version.
This is a chocolate chip sea star.
Whoa! There's a sea lion!
This is a pyramid blue sea star.
These are Galápagos mullets.
We quickly learned that bubbles mean sea lions. This sea lion kept diving into this huge school of fish just out of sight.
Here's a large school of razor surgeonfish. We would see many of these every time we snorkeled.
This is another flag cabrilla.
Here's a panamic fanged blenny.
Oooh! Pretty spiral anemones.
More sea lions! Each snorkeling site we went to was different, and this was definitely the place to swim with sea lions.
They didn't fear us at all, and swam all around us.
We started to snorkel our way back to the beach. There's Pan de Azucar volcano in the distance, and some rocks straight ahead.
A trio of marine iguanas stood guard on the rocks.
Shark! Shark! This beauty is a white-tipped reef shark.
Here's another hogfish.
This is orange cup coral.
There's a reason that they call these reef sharks. This shark was happy to swim among rocks no deeper than three feet below the surface.
We found a sand dollar as we were near the beach.
This diamond ray caught our eye. Within a minute of stopping, he had hidden himself pretty effectively in the sand.
After a while, he swam off.
We saw a couple more rays before reluctantly leaving the water after 50 glorious minutes of some of the best snorkeling we had ever enjoyed.
We were among the last few passengers to go back on the last zodiac.
Back onboard, we showered quickly and then headed to the Beagle Grill for the most delicious hot dogs ever served.
We ordered Diet Cokes, of course. When Fredy came around to see if we needed anything else, he returned with a full bottle of Diet Coke. That is when we finally realized that contrary to what we thought, Ecuador really does have Diet Coke. It's just disguised as regular Coke with a very thin silver border around the label. Similarly, Coke Zero looks exactly the same except for a thin black border.
We left Santiago Island and headed to Rabida Island. Rain had moved in to the bay where we had been anchored earlier.
We could just barely see the lava rocks where we had hiked earlier in the day.
To the west of us was Isabela Island.
By 3:00, Santiago Island was to the north of us, ...
... and we were anchored off of Rabida Island.
It is known for its red rock and ...
... red sand. (How about that impressive optical zoom, huh?)
Down came the zodiacs, ...
... and out came the drivers, ...
... and at 3:30, we were off on another adventure.
Someone on our zodiac spotted bottlenose dolphins, but we didn't, despite our boat driver's attempts to lure them back by driving some donuts in the water. Frank and Other Debbie's zodiac was the next to leave and they were treated to the dolphins swimming along side them. (This is Frank's photo, obviously!)
Cristina was our naturalist again for our afternoon walk.
This was our second wet landing. By this time, we had learned that it was better to jump off barefoot instead of in water shoes. Either way, you have to change into dry walking shoes, but then you don't have to deal with wet shoes when you are done.
This sand was really, really red. Like blood red.
After dropping off our swimming gear on the beach, we set off on our walk.
We weren't 20 feet in before we had to stop to admire a fur seal sleeping by the side of the trail.
So sleepy.
Another five feet and we passed a pair of Galápagos mockingbirds.
Another few hundred feet and we passed a cactus. Nothing very interesting about that except ...
... that it introduced us to a cactus finch, ...
... who was busy building a nest in the middle of the cactus.
We climbed partway up the hill until we encountered this. The marked trails had these helpful signs to remind the naturalists to stop, take a break, ...
... explain some stuff, and let the passengers take photos ...
... like this one.
Another cactus, another cactus finch nest.
We hiked further to the top of the hill, ...
... and took another info/rest/photography break.
There's Santiago Island again just north of us.
This lava lizard walked right into the middle of our group and checked us out.
Next, we hiked across the top of the hill ...
... before heading downhill again.
Beagle Island was visible in the distance.
Let's look at it a little closer. It's actually three separate pieces of rock but they're all part of the island group.
We stopped at the water's edge ...
... and looked around a bit.
That little plant is Galápagos purslane, and the hill behind us was covered with it.
We got a better shot of a beautiful Galápagos dove.
We passed the another walking group going in the opposite direction. Celebrity did a really great job of keeping the activities from feeling too crowded by carefully timing and spacing the departures of each group.
Here's another cactus finch ...
... and another cactus finch nest.
Here's a mandatory photo stop.
Yeah, here's another photo of a lava lizard.
After an hour and a half of walking, we headed back toward the beach.
Psych! No beach time yet. We turned left to follow the trail along the lake.
A semipalmated plover explored the shoreline. We wondered, is there such as thing as a fully-palmated plover?
There were a trio of American oystercatchers looking for food along the water's edge.
This is a juvenile sanderling.
We made it to nearly the end of the lake, ...
... and walked through the brush only to find that the tide had come in too far for us to walk back along the beach.
So we walked back along the lake.
Near the beach, we found that our little fur seal buddy had been joined by another little fur seal.
He was also very sleepy.
Shortly after 5:00 PM, we were in our snorkel gear and ready to hit the water.
Here we go. The red sand looks really cool underwater.
This gorgeous guy is a giant hawkfish.
Here's a guineafowl puffer.
Debbie was so excited when she spotted this stone scorpionfish. She turned around to call Tom over then lost where it was when she turned back. These guys really don't look like fish.
What's this? No idea.
So many teeny teeny fish!
King angelfish are really beautiful.
More interesting stuff we can't identify.
Rainbow wrasses are mesmerizing.
Hey guys? There's a turtle down there.
After a bit, we looked on shore to see what was happening there. Just some marine iguanas hanging out.
You know, like marine iguanas do.
Some of our fellow passengers were young boys who were really good at spotting wildlife. They alerted snorkelers around them that some rays were swimming by. Wow. Look at all these gorgeous golden rays. It was surreal.
Here's a sea urchin.
A shark swam below us.
We got a photo of a Sally Lightfoot crab as we were leaving the water, 45 minutes after we started.
Our zodiac got stuck on the beach as we were leaving, ...
... so we had to get a tow, do a little bouncing, and work with the waves a bit.
We applauded when we broke free. We weren't the last passengers on the beach this time, but pretty close.
There's our beautiful ship, ...
... and we're home again.
Every time we returned from an excursion, there was fruit juice and food waiting for us. This afternoon's snack was pizza.
We were back in our cabin by 6:30 PM and found our program for the next day waiting for us.
We were also surprised by champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. We decided to save the champagne to enjoy with our dinner.
After a quick shower, we headed up on deck to have a quick beer, ...
... then grabbed our favorite seats in the lounge for the nightly briefing.
We'd be heading to Isabela Island the next day.
We had two time options for the morning zodiac tour of Elizabeth Bay, ...
... plus a long and short walk option and a zodiac ride in Tagus Cove.
Next up was dinner. We had signed up for Dining under the Stars, so the posted dinner menu wasn't relevant to us.
Instead, we headed outdoors to Deck 4.
We brought our bottle of champagne and were thrilled to learn that we were seated at a table for two instead of having dinner with other guests.
Our waiter brought us an ice bucket and glasses for our champagne, plus cheesy bread, glasses of sangria, and several dipping sauces.
Debbie had seafood soup and Tom had something else that we don't recall.
Dinner consisted of a side dish of vegetables, ...
... followed by chicken, salmon, ...
... sausage, steak, ...
... and a beautiful shrimp.

Dessert was a perfect tiny scoop of bread pudding.

Day 5 >


Galapagos 2017: [Day 1 [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4] [Day 5] [Day 6] [Day 7] [Day 8] [Day 9] [Day 10] [Day 11]

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