Clark & Y's Valentine's Week 2012 Vacation in the Galapagos

We left Rancho Europa on Feb. 6th. There had been a big snowstorm a few days earlier, so we hiked down our snowy driveway to our car, which we had been unable to drive up to the house. We flew to Phoenix so that Clark could attend the MESSENGER Science Team meeting at ASU. On Friday the 10th, we began our American Airlines itinerary (Phoenix to Miami, Miami to Guayaquil; return on Feb. 19th, Guayaquil to Miami, Miami to Denver), which was all upgraded to First or Business class because Clark had received 4 oneway systemwide upgrades in 2011 for reaching the 4 million mile mark on the AAdvantage program.

We arrived at the Hilton Colona hotel in Guayaquil after midnight, due to delays in Miami, and had to be up for breakfast by 6 a.m. in order to catch the group flight to Baltra in the Galapagos. Our tour of the islands was on the National Geographic Endeavour, along with 84 other passengers and a crew of about 70. Our cabin had twin beds and was on the uppermost deck with living quarters (there were two decks above ours, with lounge, bar, fitness room, swimming pool, library, etc.). Carlos Romero was the expedition leader, announcing times to disembark for a hike, snorkeling trip, or whatever, and leading an evening recapitulation of the day's activities and a preview of the next day's activities. There were about seven naturalists on board, welleducated and personable Ecuadorians. They led groups of 15 or less (by national park rules) on the various activities. (The Ecuadorian government is becoming more and more strict concerning the number of tourists who visit the islands so as to preserve the vegetation and wildlife. This was important for us to find out and we applaud their approach.) We took zodiacs from the ship to the shore, prepared for either dry landings or wet landings...always outfitted with lifevests.

The weather was generally beautiful and the water temperature was perfect. There was only one rainy afternoon. We were in "civilization" on one day (not counting the airport arrivals and departure), when we visited the Charles Darwin Research Station in the largest settlement in the Galapagos. Otherwise, we were in totally wild country (or in the water) with the extremely tame animals. We both took lots of photos with our cameras, and a few underwater shots with an underwater camera. We got to meet a number of the other passengers. There was a "small world" phenomenon: a family of three was also from Nederland, Colorado (we didn't know them before), and a family of four included a planetary scientist who works at JPL. Here briefly is our itinerary in the islands:

Sat. 11 Feb. 2012: Land at Baltra airport, embark National Geographic Endeavor. Hike along shore of Las Bachas on Santa Cruz (crabs, birds), followed by swim.

Sun. 12 Feb. 2012: Hike on North Seymour Island (frigate birds, etc.). Afternoon snorkeling at Rabida Island (swimming with sea lions, stings from small jelly fish). Late afternoon scenic hike up a hill and past a lagoon on Rabida (hawk, sea lions).

Mon. 13 Feb. 2012: Hike at Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island (fresh lava flows, numerous marine iguanas, cormorants). Afternoon, zodiac cruise at Punta Vicenta Roca, Isabela Island (rays, penguins, heron, sea turtles, boobies, cormorants, beautiful cave). Sunset: equator crossing celebration.

Tues. 14 Feb. 2012: Hike at Urbina Bay, Isabela Island (giant tortoises, land iguanas, upthrust fossil coral reef). Afternoon: deep water snorkeling at Tagus Cove, Isabela Island (we didn't take "fast hike" up to volcanos). Evening: wedding on deck.

Weds. 15 Feb. 2012: Santiago Island. Prebreakfast walk from Playa Espumilla through large trees with very tame birds. Glass bottom boat trip near Buccaneer Cove. Afternoon: fine snorkeling from a lovely beach at Puerto Egas (sea lions, sharks, sea turtles). Evening: BBQ on deck; we sat at the table of the "birthday girl."

Thurs. 16 Feb. 2012: Santa Cruz Island. Charles Darwin Research Station (tortoises of all sizes and ages, including Lonesome George  the last of his species). Visit to coffee/sugar cane mill, then lunch at "Altair". Afternoon: rainy walk to see tortoises at highland ranch. Evening: Music and dance performed by Ecuadorians from town.

Fri. 17 Feb. 2012: San Cristobal Island. Morning hike 1/3rd of the way up picturesque Punta Pitt to see nesting redfooted boobies and great scenery, followed by cooloff swim and neighboring sea lion. Early afternoon: Y's massage. Later afternoon: snorkeling around Kicker Rock and through channel between two parts of the spectacular rock. Then champagne toast as ship circled Kicker Rock, followed by Captain's farewell cocktail. (We chose not to go into the town  capitol of Galapagos  in the evening.)

Sat. 18 Feb. 2012: Early departure after breakfast to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno Town and its airport for flight back to Guayaquil.

Best Galapagos Slides, Chapman Trip, Feb. 2012

View of volcanic island as we land at Baltra

Baltra airport

Our cabin on the Endeavour

Bluefooted booby on Santa Cruz

Zodiacs arriving on Santa Cruz



Marine iguana

Sally Lightfoot crabs


Booby in flight

Swallowtailed gulls on North Seymour Island

Swallowtailed gull

Frigate bird chick

Frigate bird in flight

Juvenile frigate bird

Land iguana

Male frigate bird

Juvenile frigate bird on branch

Young sea lion

Yellow warbler

Waves crashing ashore on North Seymour

Children playing with sea lion


Dinner buffet

Bob and Marilyn Hopkins from Indiana

Y coming ashore on Fernandina, Punta Espinoza

Marine iguanas



Marine iguana in a crack in the lava

Another group from our ship exploring Fernandina

Male marine iguana

Young sea lion getting milk from mother


Green sea turtle off Isabela Island

Blue heron



Sea cave

Two rays near the water's surface in the sea cave

Boobies take flight

The Endeavour against the volcanic edifice of Isabela

The bridge


Diverse finches

Giant tortoise

Giant tortoise

The moon above the Galapagos

Land iguana going the wrong way

Driedout coral reef, lifted from the sea fifty years ago by an earthquake

Scene inland from shore

Naturalist Xmena Cordova on shore of Isabela

Underwater plant reaching to the surface

Pelicans flying away

Bluefooted boobies


The beach, Isabela

The bridetobe (Skye) sketching the iguana going the wrong way


Clark in snorkeling gear


Charlie and Skye being wed by the Captain

Endeavour's crew members

Early morning hike begins on Santiago beach with sea turtle tracks in the sand

Small bird lands on twig

Small bird lands on twig held by naturalist Ceslo Montalvo

View down to the bay

Flower closeup

Cactus tree along trail on Santiago

Tame flycatcher

Heartshaped leaf

Spider in its web with drops of dew

Buccaneer Cove

Practically the only "fish" we saw through glassbottom boat's window

Rock pinnacles

Jeremy and Jennifer Traub

Y in hallway outside our cabin

Clark snorkeling near Puerto Egas, Santiago

Fish and underwater views

The Endeavour at the end of the rainbow

Map of the Galapagos and our route during the first half of our voyage

Twilight, with gleaming Venus and lighthouse

Diana Vagelos blowing out candle on birthday cake

Disembarking from upper level for Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island

Cactus tree near Charles Darwin Research Station

Giant tortoise

Giant tortoise

Unhappy child (William)

Male land iguana reaches arm through hole in screen toward female in adjacent pen

Land iguana

Flower closeup in Darwin Research Station

Lonesome George (last of his kind)

Numbered baby tortoises in Charles Darwin Research Station

Giant cactus

Cactus flower

Carles Darwin statue in city park

"The Rock" cafe (with upsidedown sign)

Roy and Diana Vagelos

Carlos addressing group having lunch at Altair resort restaurant

The naturalists in a huddle, with pile of mudboots at the side

Rainy hike at a ranch to see giant tortoises

Finch in the mud

Group watches giant tortoise

The Endeavour's photographer from Chicago

Punta Pitt on San Cristobal Island

Rock textures along hike up Punta Pitt

Hiking up to plateau on Punta Pitt

View down to the beach

Group on plateau of Punta Pitt

Closeup of abundant plant

Male and female lizards

Lizard on a stick

Naturalist "searching" for redfooted boobies

Redfooted booby sitting on egg in nest under cliff's edge

View on hike back down to beach

Naturalist Antonio with sea lion

Clark at end of beach with male sea lion

Gap between two parts of Kicker Rock

Kicker Rock viewed from the ship

View of Kicker Rock from a different angle

Clark & Y

Y with Diana and Roy

Classic view of Kicker Rock


Fanciful cloud illuminated by setting sun

View of setting sun from ship's bow

Clark sitting at the barend of the lounge, awaiting final disembarkation

Our airplane arrives to pick us up at San Cristobal airport

View of Kicker Rock from the air

View of Punta Pitt from the air