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 one-way system-wide 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, well-educated 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 life-vests.

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. Pre-breakfast 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 red-footed boobies and great scenery, followed by cool-off 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


Blue-footed booby on Santa Cruz


Zodiacs arriving on Santa Cruz


Pelican


Oystercatcher


Marine iguana


Sally Lightfoot crabs


Sanderling


Booby in flight


Swallow-tailed gulls on North Seymour Island


Swallow-tailed 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


Hawk


Dinner buffet


Bob and Marilyn Hopkins from Indiana


Y coming ashore on Fernandina, Punta Espinoza


Marine iguanas


Lizard


Cactus


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


Cormorant


Green sea turtle off Isabela Island


Blue heron


Penguins


Booby


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


Sunset


Diverse finches


Giant tortoise


Giant tortoise


The moon above the Galapagos


Land iguana going the wrong way


Dried-out 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


Blue-footed boobies


Butterflies


The beach, Isabela


The bride-to-be (Skye) sketching the iguana going the wrong way


Lunch


Clark in snorkeling gear


Kayakers


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 close-up


Cactus tree along trail on Santiago


Tame flycatcher


Heart-shaped leaf


Spider in its web with drops of dew


Buccaneer Cove


Practically the only "fish" we saw through glass-bottom 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 Vaglos 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 close-up in Darwin Research Station


Lonesome Goerge (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 upside-down sign)


Roy and Diana Vaglos


Carlos addressing group having lunch at Altair resort restaurant


The naturalists in a huddle, with pile of mud-boots 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


Close-up of abundant plant


Male and female lizards


Lizard on a stick


Naturalist "searching" for red-footed boobies


Red-footed 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


Sunset


Fanciful cloud illuminated by setting sun


View of setting sun from ship's bow


Clark sitting at the bar-end 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