Sunday, December 4, 2016

Galapagos Adventure (Santa Cruz, El Eden & Daphne Islands)~Wednesday, Nov. 23-Day 5

Today breakfast was served earlier than usual, 0630-0730 as we are scheduled for a "long hike at a fast pace". Our ship moved again early this morning but we are now anchored along the pristine, arid north-western coast of Santa Cruz Island. We will be hiking Cerro Dragon which translates to "Dragon Hill' where we will search for the land iguanas.  Feral dogs nearly wiped out the population of land iguanas in the 1960's but with captive and semi-captive breeding programs and the elimination of the feral dogs the population has been on the increase. At 0730 we disembarked for a dry landing at Cerro Dragon.

The wetland near our landing site offered some great early morning photos.

Black-necked Stilt

We saw more burrows than land iguanas

But the two we saw were pretty massive

Our naturalist this morning was Emma, one of my favorites.

Sally Lightfoot Crab

Luke found this baby puffer fish in a tidal pool.  Can you see it?

Waiting for our zodiac
Luke took some great photos on this hike. My favorite is his flamingo shot.

At 1015 hours we donned our wet suits and headed to Guy Fawkes Islets for a deep water snorkel. The water has been cold each time we have snorkeled but today it seemed more frigid than the other times.  It literally took our breath away when we jumped into the water.  To make matters worse, the visibility was poor and the site where we started was very deep with a strong current and not much to see.  By the time we reached the calmer side of the islet we were so tired and cold that we signaled our zodiac and got out to warm up.
It even looks cold in this photo!!

There was one playful sea lion and we did see a lone Galapagos penguin before we entered the water

Lunch today was a special Ecuadorian Buffet and Captain Patricio Jaramillo ate with us and explained many of the dishes we were eating.  Luke especially enjoyed the different corn nuts.  I never took pictures of our food, I guess I was too hungry and never thought about it until now. After lunch the Young Explorers painted hats with Enrique and at 1430 hours they got to learn to drive one of the zodiacs.  I didn't go with Luke so I didn't get any pics but all of the kids had a great time and on the last evening they were presented with a Zodiac drivers license.  This was also the evening that the kids had pizza and movie night.  Luke said the pizza was worse than Grotto's pizza.
While Luke was learning to drive a zodiac, I was exploring the shoreline by zodiac.

 Tonight at 1745 hours there was a wine tasting on the outer deck as we circumnavigated Daphne Major.  At one point we were joined by a pod of bottle nose dolphins. What a beautiful evening!

The week is speeding by and I am not ready for the magic to end but I will embrace the present!
Tomorrow: Bartolome & Sombrero Chino Islands

Galapagos Grand Adventure (Santa Cruz Island) Tuesday Nov. 22-Day 4

This morning we are greeted by a lovely sunrise as we look forward to our onshore visit to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. Puerto Ayora is the most populated city of the Galapagos, home to 18,000 inhabitants, and the economic hub of the archipelago.  We will spend our entire day visiting the island which is home to the Darwin Research Center, the Galapagos National Park Visitor Center and the Galapagos tortoises.  We will also visit the Tomas de Berlanga school.
Arriving in Puerto Ayora

Boarding the bus to the Darwin Research Center

Our naturalist this morning is Enrique

Entrance to the Darwin Research Center

Lonesome George was the last of his particular species on one of the islands. He lived out his life here at the center and died in 2012.

These tortoises are part of the captive breeding program.  Their offspring are returned to the islands of their parents

a land iguana

a lava lizard

A picture of Charles Darwin composed by strategically placing small photos of wildlife in the Galapagos..  See below

This is the right cheek and neck of the Darwin picture

Luke pointing to where we were.

Walking back into the city

We stopped at a small fish market and watched the fishermen unload their catch

A sea lion checking to see if anything was left behind

Lobsters are all caught by hand by divers that free dive 20-30 feet.

"Sorry, this is my bench!"

a Marine Iguana

A male Frigate bird
After our tour of the Research Center we met back in town at the Rock, a cafe, and got on a bus that took us to a bilingual K-12 school that is supported by Lindblad and National Geographic.  We were going to donate books to the library.
Naturalist Benjamin accompanied us to the Tomas de Berlanga School

PE Class - Futbol on the basketball court

All of the classrooms were open air buildings

Jose, a senior this year, was our guide today.  This was an opportunity for him to practice his English.  He did a wonderful job and plans to attend a university in Ecuador next year.

This was the Art Room and below you can see some of their projects

Luke donating our books, 2 Captain Underpants books written in Spanish and a Batman book in English.

Books in this environment don't have a very long shelf life.

A 3rd grade classroom

After a lovely lunch at the Aquelarre Restaurant we continued into the highlands where we saw the Galapagos tortoises in the wild.
Lunch at Restaurant Aquelarre

Luke and Ari photographing their 1st wild tortoise

The road to the highlands of Santa Cruz

Yep, that's a Galapagos tortoise in the middle of the road

Enrique, our tortoise whisperer

my first Whimbrel

Yellow warbler

Another Dispatch Travel section photo

tortoises at the watering hole

Smooth-billed Ani

Luke's photo

Luke's photo
We returned to town and were given some free time to shop or sight see.  I wanted to check out a church that Enrique suggested because of their stain glass windows.  Luke and I got a few photos of the church and when we came out we made the decision to catch an early zodiac back to our ship and relax before dinner.  After dinner we were entertained by several students from the school we had visited and a local musical group.  A cultural treat!

The band was really good and the dancers were so colorful and fun to watch.
They even had an audience participation dance and one of the pretty young dancers had Luke up and dancing! Luke was such a good sport about everything.