Galápagos 2017: Day 7 [Main] [Contact Us] [Events] [Family] [Fun] [Garden] [Misc.] [Photos] [Search] [Site Index] [Travel]

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Thursday, March 16, 2017: Sunrise from our cabin was beautiful.
We were anchored off of Santa Cruz with Daphne Major and Daphne Minor just north of us.
Daphne Major was looking especially lovely this morning.
We opted for the beach walk and snorkel, so we were on an early boat to shore.
Cristina was our naturalist this morning.
Our destination was Bachas Beach on Santa Cruz Island.
Leo helped us with the wet landing.
That is some purty sand and water.
Some passengers skipped the walk and went straight for the water.
There was a perfect cowrie shell mixed in with all of the other tiny shells and pieces of coral that make up the beach, but everything must stay in the Galápagos and can not come home with us.
These poles marked a green sea turtle nest.
Rangers from Parque Nacional Galápagos Ecuador stood watch over the beach to help protect the turtles, their eggs, and their babies.
Here's a great egret. Not just good. Great.
We saw some white morning glories.
Bachas Beach gets its name from the WWII barges that washed up on shore, one of which is still visible.
This is a striated heron.
Here's a look at some of the finer sand.
There are the Daphnes.
So many different types of tracks here. Not sure what all these are, but we're seeing at least four different kinds.
Frank and his camera take in their surroundings.
Here's a brown pelican and the remains of one of the WWII barges.
There's Daphne Major in the background and a diving pelican in the foreground.
These are turtle tracks - one set going toward a nest in the bushes and another set walking away.
This is a ruddy turnstone in non-breeding plumage.
We got to this pond and it was the moment of truth. Would it contain flamingos? They were what we had come here to see.
Yes, it did! Here are two American flamingos.
Behold the most perfect photo we took on the entire trip. Take it in. Marvel at its perfection.
These black dots in the shallow water are flamingo tracks.
Frank got a photo of us on the beach as Debbie adjusted her shoes, ...
... then got a posed shot of us.
Here's a closer look at the WWII barge remains.
Here's a Galápagos heron (lava heron), ...
... and here's a brown pelican.
We finished our walk after about an hour and it was time to get our snorkel gear on.
There's a pelican turning to dive bomb the ocean in the middle of the swimmers.
Of course, the first fish we see when we get underwater is a bullseye pufferfish. Why do these things always swim alone?
Today's snorkeling highlight was seeing baby black-tipped reef sharks.
These things were everywhere, swimming among people like they just don't care.
We saw bluechin parrotfish (initial stage) ...
... and bluechin parrotfish (adult).
We snorkeled out past the rocks but there wasn't much to see out there.
So we headed back toward the beach and spotted another black-tipped reef shark.
We realized that these were probably garden eel holes but we never saw any garden eels.
Fellow passenger Margaret had difficulty walking but managed to participate in nearly every activity, including snorkeling. We had dinner with her later in the week and enjoyed hearing about her future adventure plans.
A brown pelican landed in the water really close to us.
Seriously close. Here's Tom looking at the pelican's feet.
If you look closely at the right side of this photo, you'll see that not one but two pelicans were splashing into the water at the same time.
There they are, just a few feet away from us.
As all this swimming and watching pelicans was going on, black-tipped reef sharks continued to swim among us. There's one now.
We decided to head back to the ship and take our time enjoying the deserted part of the beach as we went.
Then we were back on the zodiac, ...
... back on the ship, etc.
After each excursion, we signed ourselves back in.
Fredy was standing by to help Alex get some fresh juice.
We grabbed some too, along with the pastries of the day.
At noon, we were back at our favorite hot-dog-and-hamburger joint. We found ceviche available as well -- had that always been an option? The entire week was a ceviche lover's dream.
Don't forget dessert!
From our ship, we could see the windmills at the airport on Baltra Island.
We could also get Internet service on our phones for a change and it was glorious. We spent some time alone in the shade on the smoking deck so we could enjoy it.
Our next excursion was a deep-water snorkel at North Seymour Island at 3:00.
Mosquera Island is next to it, straight ahead of our boat. It appeared to be nothing but a mirage of incredibly white sand.
Frank wasn't feeling well so he wasn't going to go snorkeling with us. Instead, he was photographer as we watched the zodiacs get lowered, ...
... and waited for our turn to get on one.
Will was our naturalist for this snorkel. Debbie got a picture of him (and Frank on the top deck on the left) ...
... at nearly the same moment that Frank got a picture of us.
Hi, Frank!
Other Debbie says hi too!
Two other groups were already there when we pulled up.
We were in the water no more than a minute when a white-tipped reef shark swam by.
Here's a blurry king angelfish.
Barnacles. Really big barnacles.
Here are some black triggerfish.
Boat red 3 followed us nearby at all times.
The barnacles along the wall were really cool. Even cooler were the walls themselves. They were the same hexagon columns we had seen at Devil's Tower in 2016 and at Giant's Causeway in 2015. Collect 'em all!
Here's a razor surgeonfish.
This is a pyramid sea star. We had seen a blue one earlier in the week.
Another white-tipped reef shark swam by, ...
... and then there were two.
The hexagon columns gave way to hexagon stones below.
Here's a spotted porcupinefish.
This photo of black triggerfish and panamic sergeant majors can't convey the magic of huge open spaces of water filled with fish, but we tried.
This is a finescale triggerfish.
He was huge. Use the king angelfish underneath him for scale.
This reef cornetfish sure make it hard to photograph him, but finally we got a photo that contained him in his entirety.
This is a guineafowl puffer (yellow phase).
Ewww. Sea cucumbers are gross.
This was the only pair of three-banded butterflyfish we saw.
Another white-tipped reef shark, which was apparently the featured wildlife-to-snorkel-with on this trip, having previously snorkeled with sea lions, golden rays, green turtles, penguins, and black-tipped reef sharks on our previous five snorkels.
Oh, yeah, there's a sea lion too. This wasn't surprising since ...
... the rocks above water had numerous sea lions on them.
This is a bumphead parrotfish ...
... and this is a bluechin parrotfish.
Some of the deeper water photos look washed out but this photo gives an idea of how intense the colors actually were.
Note the bright red on this one.
At 4:00, it was time to get out of the water.
It was a sad day indeed when we had to turn in our snorkel bag for the last time.
As usual, we showered in record time and headed out for another excursion back to North Seymour Island at 4:45. Note the great frigatebirds overhead (this is foreshadowing).
First, we had a zodiac tour of the coastline. Here's a sleepy sea lion ...
... and here's a baby sea lion nursing.
Here are some female frigatebirds overhead. Males have a red pouch so it is easy to tell the difference.
This is a swallow-tailed gull.
We were in the Galápagos during the mating season of great frigatebirds, so we were hoping to see the red throats of male frigatebirds inflated. When our naturalist spotted this one in the shrubs, we took photos endlessly, not knowing if we'd have a better viewing opportunity. Spoiler: we did.
Here's a juvenille blue-footed booby. His feet show hints that they'll be bright blue someday, but they aren't just yet.
As we pulled up to our landing site, we arrived just in time to see swallow-tailed gulls mating. Awkward.
It was a dry landing but a little tricky to step onto wet rocks. A brown towel helped with traction.
It wasn't terribly difficult.
At the start of the trail, we immediately saw a land iguana ...
.. and a sea lion.
They're both in this photo, so you can see how close we were to them. The iguana is on top of the green plant just over the sea lion's head.

Yes! We got a better look at a male frigatebird. You can tell that it's a magnificent frigatebird instead of a great frigatebird because it has all black feathers instead of a green sheen to their feathers.


Here's a blue-footed booby.

Here are two swallow-tailed gulls falling in love.

Here's another land iguana.
This male magnificent frigatebird is doing his best to be impressive.
There were land iguanas everywhere, constantly strolling to find a delicious plant to eat.
This swallow-tailed gull was nesting on one egg right in the middle of the trail, so we went off the trail for a minute to give her plenty of room.
Nature is cruel. Here's a dead blue-footed booby.
Another handsome land iguana.
There are at least two land iguanas in this picture.
There's our ship off the coast of Baltra Island, with sea lions in the foreground.
Here's a mama sea lion with her baby.
The baby was very interested in us, and walked right up to our group.
He went up to several people to say hello.
Then he moved into the center of the group, ...
... started to yawn, ...
... thought about his next move, ...
... and decided to nap right there.
Here's another magnificient frigatebird showing off.
The waves at the west end of the island were beautiful. That's Daphne Major on the horizon.
There were marine iguanas on the rocks and this one ventured onto the sand to get a closer look.
Here's a male great frigatebird. Note the green sheen on the feathers to indicate that he is a great frigatebird, not a magnificent frigatebird.
The sky was filled with frigatebirds and boobies and gulls everywhere. There's a land iguana too.
This pair of blue-footed boobies were beginning their courtship ritual.
Ah, young love.
We hate to pick favorites, but land iguanas are better looking than marine iguanas. There, we said it.
The male frigatebirds often keep their throat pouches inflated when they fly.
Here's a dead sea lion. If you look closely enough, you can still see the whiskers and nose on what is left of its face.
We call this composition, "A Galápagos Still Life." By now, you know that this is a blue-footed booby and a land iguana.
Here's a great frigatebird in all his male glory. Well, not quite, because his throat pouch wasn't fully inflated.
Here's a female frigatebird on her nest.
More frigatebirds everywhere you look.
This pair of blue-footed boobies were well into their courtship dance, so we stuck around to watch.
The male is about to make his move.
There we go. They're having some private time.
Oh, yeah, he's pretty pleased with himself.
They continued their funny little dance and we moved on.
This male booby was auditioning for a mate.
Here's a nursery of juvenile frigatebirds.
This male great frigatebird was adding a gun show to his display.
This male great frigatebird was tending his nest. Check out the iguana underneath on the left.
Here's a blue-footed booby with a lovely stick for a nest.
We started to head back to zodiac shortly before 6:30.
The surf was even larger than before and looked gorgeous in the setting sun.
The Daphnes were looking good, as usual.
We passed a few more sea lions, ...
... and then saw this tiny one. We slowly realized that it was either dead or almost there. Mama must not have come back from the ocean. It's heartbreaking.
We got one last photo of the frigatebirds (including a male with a pouch), ...
... before heading to the ship ...
... and getting one last photo of Sally Lightfoot crabs.
There's our magnificent ship.
Back on board, margaritas were being passed out to returning passengers. Cheers!
Sunset was lovely.
We had another round of drinks in the lounge when it was time for our daily briefing.
Monica announced a special happy birthday ...
... to Eric, one of the twin brothers on the trip.
Monica told us all about the Celebrity Xpediction Galápagos Fund and the projects that it supports, including artisanal fishing. Not sure what that means other than it helped provide a great deal of the delicious seafood we ate all week.
The next day, we'd be visiting San Cristóbal Island. For the first time, we'd be back in civilization. We had a choice of a long fitness walk, and both options involved the Interpretation Center and time in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
Here were some plants we were likely to see, and sure enough, we did see them: Rock purslane, Darwin's daisy, Darwin's cotton flower, and candelabra cactus.
Our travel map was getting even more impressive by now.
Our afternoon would consist of a visit to Punta Pitt at the other end of San Cristóbal Island. Option 1 was a long hike, but we were interested in Option 2 instead: a zodiac ride and beach time.
Next, it was time to announce the winner of the crossword puzzle challenge: It was Tom and Other Debbie! The prize bag contained two Celebrity Xpedition hats and two bars of Republica del Cacao dark chocolate with coffee nibs, just perfect for splitting. We didn't have a perfect entry but no one got one of the clues, because the word they were looking for wasn't identical to the word with the same meaning that we wrote, but we won't give it away here.
Dave came by to express how impressed he was by the accomplishment.
We headed to dinner with Frank and Other Debbie, ...
... where Tom had Ecuadorian Churrasco (beef tenderloin), ...
... and Debbie had the petit filet mignon.
A couple of tables over, the dining room staff surprised Eric and Alex with a birthday cake each.
After dinner, we went up to the lounge for Galápagos trivia. While we waited, we got some photos of the art in the lounge. Here's a model of H.M.S. Beagle.
Next to the model is a chart showing the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle in the Galápagos Archipelago, September 14 - October 19, 1835.
Will led the trivia contest, ending many of the questions with the commentary, "This is an easy one."
Tom and Other Debbie recruited Eric to be on their team, ...
... while Alex joined another couple, ...
... and their parents were on a team by themselves.
A pair of siblings made up another team.
Here's an example question. Which of the following is not found in the Galápagos Islands? We won't tell you the answer, but by the end of this travelog, you should be able to figure it out.
Orlando, Will, and Martha spent some time trying to determine the winner.

In the very best possible outcome, Eric and Alex's parents won the trivia contest and ended up with two baseball caps to give to their sons.

Day 8 >

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