Monday, May 20, 2013

Galapagos Islands, Day 6 & 7 (& 8)

Towards the end of our trip, we visited several smaller islands which had amazing density and diversity of wildlife.

The sixth day was spent at "Las Bachas", named for the remains of some barges that are still present on the beaches. In the morning most people went snorkelling off the beach, but I was intrigued by the herons and egrets and spent the time taking photos instead. I'm particularly proud of these action shots below.


great blue heron:


On the beach, there were also many many "ghost crabs", so named because they disappeared as soon as they were approached or spooked at all.

We also ran across this dead sea turtle hatchling which hadn't made it to the water. Our guide told us that only 10% do, and of those, many are eaten by ocean predators anyway.

In the early afternoon, we did deep water snorkelling around Bartolomé Island. I was most excited when we came across penguins! Like the sea lions, they were much, much faster in the water, but they were a bit shyer. We also saw a huge number of sea stars, and several little rays.

sea stars:

small ray:

Galapagos penguin on land:

In the late afternoon we went hiking on the island itself. It was about 350+ steps to the top but there were lots of gorgeous views up there:

After dinner, Captain Peter and the rest of the crew pulled out some musical instruments and provided evening entertainment for us!

On the last full day, we started at South Plaza. We were greeted by crabs and swallowtail gulls upon landing.


swallowtail gulls:

Further inland were many many land iguanas, large and small. Here's a photo of one of the largest that we encountered:

We spent the afternoon at North Seymour, which was arguably the best part of the entire trip. First we went snorkelling, where we saw schools of thousands (maybe millions?) of tiny fish.

In the afternoon we went hiking on the islanad. Blue-footed boobies where everywhere, doing their dances and exhibiting their "sky pointing" behavior:

North Seymour was also the only place we saw the male frigates with their inflated gular pouches, as well as baby and juvenile frigates.

frigates nesting:

male frigate in flight:

fighting over nesting material:

There were also swallowtail gulls, sea lions, and more land iguanas.

On the last day we arrived back in San Cristobal, and after packing up and disembarking the ship, we spent an hour or so at the Interpretation Center, which was not too interesting. We then said goodbye to our guides and fellow travellers, and boarded our flights back to the mainland.

D and I had booked our flights so that we had a 9 hour layover in Guayaquil, and then a 11pm flight to Miami. Around 9pm we decided to go through security to hang out near the gate. Half an hour later we heard an announcement summoning "American Airlines passengers" to a gate. There, we were told that our flight was delayed 15 hours, and that we'd have to spend the night. To make a long story short, we stayed extra one night in Guayaquil and one extra night in Miami on American's dime, before getting home. To make the story even better, on our MIA->SFO flight, the airplane was so old that it had analog volume controls and no personal air vents. Before takeoff, the flight attendants informed us that although the toilets themselves were working, the faucets were not, and in addition there was no hot water onboard, so no coffee or tea either. Methinks we're done flying American for awhile, maybe forever.

Overall it was a fantastic and memorable trip, during which we saw tons of amazing wildlife and were pleasantly surprised to meet so many fun and interesting people along the way.

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