21 PICTURE ALBUM
Wednesday, April 21
Paula and Steve: From the beginning of our planning,
we considered the Galapagos Islands to be a must-see destination, but this
part of our itinerary has always seemed so far away. Today, we finally made
the trip to this very special archipelago located 600 miles off the coast
of Ecuador. It took us most of the day to travel from Quito to San Cristobal
Island, the easternmost of the Galapagos Islands. We arrived late in the afternoon
and were greeted at the airport by staff from the Galapagos Explorer II, the
boat we will be staying on for the next week.
The Galapagos Explorer II is a large and very comfortable cruise ship (capacity
of 100 passengers). We had considered a smaller boat, but thought that this
bigger option would be best to reduce the risk of seasickness, and to provide
us with some much-needed creature comforts. Our cabins are very nice, and
the boat provides many amenities that will help make our stay enjoyable. Unfortunately,
we are the only family with children on board - we had hoped to meet some
other families since this is spring break week, but this hasn't worked out.
This is the
first major group activity that we have done since our travels began 9 months
ago, and we're actually looking forward to interacting with other travelers.
Most people on board are either American or British.
We were taken by bus to the harbor in San Cristobal, and it didn't take long
to experience the tame and abundant wildlife that lives here.
The shoreline is absolutely filled with large sea lions that were lounging
on rocks and stone walls, oblivious to the passing people and cars. Then as
we rode our dinghy out to the ship, we saw that the sea lions also make themselves
comfortable INSIDE and ON TOP OF the small fishing boats docked in the harbor.
The boats floated awkwardly under the weight of the multiple sea lions, and
we could see how some smaller boats have actually been sunk as a result (we
wondered whether insurance covers such a loss
). Brown pelicans and frigate
birds were also soaring through the sky and perched on boats. This of course
whetted our appetites and we climbed aboard the ship anxious to begin our
After receiving our cabin assignments and listening to briefings regarding
the boat and the islands, we again boarded a zodiac for a quick sunset cruise
to Sea Lion Island. We had just enough daylight left to cruise along the shore
and were thrilled with our first views of sea lions, blue footed boobies and
sea lions were friendly and very curious. The pups immediately took to the
water and swam around the zodiac, putting on quite a show. They even followed
us once we had to head back to our boat. The frigate birds are black and have
large wing spans and long tail feathers. Even more striking are the male's
pouches that were clearly visible as the birds flew above us (it's mating
season and these are used to attract females). The boobies impressed us with
their razor-like dives, sometimes landing just a few
meters off the front of our dingy. We also saw one large black marine iguana
and many bright red Sally Lightfoot crabs.
Seeing all this wildlife so effortlessly was absolutely wonderful, and our
naturalist told us that this is just the beginning - we have
much to see!
The setting sun forced us back to the boat for the night, eager for the opportunity
to actually set foot in the Galapagos Islands. Tomorrow we will visit Espanola,
the southernmost island in the archipelago and Santa Cruz Island. We have
heard that the wildlife on Espanola in particular is very special, and we're
excited about what should be a fascinating day.