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 excursions immediately.

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 frigate birds.

The 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 distinctive red 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.












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