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Our trip to Galapagos - April 2013

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Our trip to Galapagos - April 2013

Post  Laikipia on Wed May 08, 2013 11:01 am

We have just been on a once in a lifetime holiday to Galapagos aboard the Yacht La Pinta with 48 other guests including Jonathan and Angie Scott, Jonathan Truss a wildlife artist and 4 superb naturalists (all local) and Clive and his wife Kay who were the organisers. We were lucky in that we knew some of the others from past safaris so that made it more fun.

We arrived in Quito after a long flight and stayed in a beautiful hotel in the city (altitude 9,350 feet What a Face ) we weren't sure whether it was being tired or the altitude but scratch did some of us did feel a bit spacey Very Happy Coca tea was a must, I would point out the amount of coccaine in the leaves is negligible although I don't recommend you travel back to the UK with it!

After a couple of nights we flew to Baltra, Galapagos a short flight, and were happy to board our boat - sea level is great after all that altitude.

I'll just list the places we visited - North Seymour Island, Punta Vicente Roca (Isabella Island) Fernandina Island, Urbina Bay (Isabela Island) Taqus Cove (Isabela Island) Jervis (Rabida Island) Dragon Hill (Santa Cruz Island) Puerto Avora and the Charles Darwin Research Station, the Highlands of Santa Cruz Island, Baroness Cove and Post Office Bay (Floreana Island) Punta Cormorant (Floreana Island) Santa Fe Island, South Plaza Island, Moreno San Cristobal (Chatham Island) - so as you see it was a good and active itinerary. Each morning and afternoon being different, but with time to deep sea snorkel mostly from the pangas (zodiacs) sometimes from the beach and once from the back of the boat. You could also kayak, but I ran out of time as the snorkelling was just brilliant. Oh and a glass bottom boat for those who didnt want to snorkel. We were provided with wet suits etc as the sea was quite cool in places.

Each day Pete and I would get up early to hopefully get some 'shots' up on deck. Jonathan always beat me to it and definitely got better photos - but it was good practice.

The Charles Darwin Research Station was a bit run down looking and rather sad to see but they are doing great things there and rearing lots of tortoises, this is where Lonesome George was, now they have Diego who is old but not as old and maybe not the same type?

The fun part was visiting the fish market. An abundance of sea lions, and pelicans and one heron all waiting very patiently the for the tail or scrap once the fish/s had been prepared for whoever was buying them. Mostly it was a dignified wait but occasionally the pelicans would scrap and chaos would break out, the lady doing the fish never batted an eyelid just carried on, obviously very used to this and not wanting to take her eye of the fish for even a second. It seems they all benefit in turn somehow as they were all happy just waiting.

After that we had lunch at the Finch Bay hotel, our only day not eating on board and it was an okay experience but I loved life away from people and the madding crowds so would have preferred to be on our boat again. Although it did give an opportunity to buy the odd T shirt in the town.

There is an old barrel at Baroness Cove & Post Office Bay on Floreana Island, you post a postcard and take a PC to pass on when you get home. The idea is to take a local one and hand deliver it, the reality is I took 2 and posted them from the UK as I couldn't find any that were remotely local. It's just a fun thing that's been done for years is supposed to date back 200 years! I will see if my mum ever receives hers that I left in the barrel.

Each island is so different and the wildlife is just wonderful as nothing has any fear, you can get so close to the Darwin finches (mmmmm there are plenty of them defined mostly by beak size). Iguanas spit through their nostrils if you get too close affraid but as long as you respect everything you can take photos up close and personal with everything.

It would take me ages and bore you rigid to list what we saw but I will do anyway.

Sally Lightfoot crab
Ghost Crab - you have to be quick getting a photo, hence the name
Terrestrial Hermit crab
Pacific Green sea tortoise
Galapagos Giant tortoise
Marine Iguana
Galapagos land Iguana
Lava lizard
Galapagos snake
White tipped reef shark (cool and fun to swim with, but not too close)
Ray - manta? or Golden Cowray
Galapagos Sea lion
Galapagos Penguin (whilst snorkelling)
Shearwater
Storm Petrel
Blue footed Booby
Nazca Booby
Red footed Booby
Flightless Cormorant
Brown Pelican
Magnificent Frigatebird
Swallow tailed Gull
Brown Noddy Tern
Great blue Heron
Striated Heron
American Oystercatcher
Greater Flamingo
Galapagos Dove
Ruddy Turnstone
Yellow Warbler
Mockingbird - Floreana, San Cristobel and Galapagos
Galapagos Flycatcher

And of course Darwins Finches - there are 13 different species and mmmmm they all look quite similar as they are mostly black well some are brown but I need the book to ID them.

We had a couple of lectures during the afternoon from one of the naturalists which was fascinating, sadly I missed one after falling asleep, I do enjoy a lager at lunchtime on holiday drunken we have suggested they try and do more on their next trip, and each evening we had a short talk from Jonathan or Jonathan the artist and a briefing for the next day.

It really was a wonderful experience and a very special place which I hope they will maintain and not ruin with too many tourists. They limit the time spent on each island and we only once met another group from another boat so I guess they are very mindful of this.

Highlights for me were swimming with the sealions, so amazing and just so close and very inquisitive. Also on the beach they would come and have a good look. One guest was taking a photo and the sealion came right up to the end of his lens - not sure he will have much of a shot as it was so close but it was lovely to see.

I'll now sort out some photos to post so the above makes sense!

Lai Very Happy





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Re: Our trip to Galapagos - April 2013

Post  Laikipia on Wed May 08, 2013 11:21 am

Blue Footed Booby - amazing birds who can dive at huge speed and who hop from foot to foot


Frigatebird - male displaying


scratch Darwins Finch - possibly a Cactus Finch


Giant Tortoise


Giant tortoise and nervous person (not Pete) wondering if he would get nibbled!


They are really quite prehistoric looking


More later ............ slow broadband!

Lai
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Re: Our trip to Galapagos - April 2013

Post  gregrowlerson on Wed May 08, 2013 2:08 pm

Love your story Lai Very Happy Great detail and we can feel the enthusiasm that you have for the islands. And what a grand list of creatures; I love many of the names, particularly ghost crab!
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Re: Our trip to Galapagos - April 2013

Post  Laikipia on Wed May 08, 2013 3:26 pm

Thanks GR. I mustn't forget to post a photo of one, it disappeared a tad rapidly but I did get a glimpse from afar.

Still lots to post but thought I would make a start ..................

Lai
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Re: Our trip to Galapagos - April 2013

Post  littlewid on Wed May 08, 2013 10:56 pm

Fantastic post Lai and what a place it sounds, just full of wildlife and you saw so much and the amount of places you visited, that was a busy holiday for sure. I wonder if your mum will ever get her postcard from the barrel, you'll have to let us know, fingers crossed she will, its a lovely idea though.
I am a wee bit envious of you swimming with sealions, that must have been amazing, I think I would have passed on the kayaking to do the snorkeling.
So is this tea made of Coccaine then? bet that tasted a bit weird.....are you sure that wasnt the reason for the spacey head Very Happy
Loving those pictures, the birds are amazing and I love the Giant tortoise especially the head shot. I remember Lonesome george, poor fellow. Love the Blue Footed Booby bird and he is doing a little hop there, his colours are very cool looking.
Cant wait to see more pics but it genuinely sounds like you had the best time.

littlewid-x-

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Re: Our trip to Galapagos - April 2013

Post  whitestarling on Wed May 08, 2013 11:19 pm

Thats a wonderful trip Lai. What a fantastic experience, all that wildlife, such a great variety of Birds, and Reptiles, and the different Islands to visit. It must have been a plus knowing so many people you had been with before, and made things so easy. You sure it was the larger, and not the tea that made you doze off . I would have loved to snorkle with the Sealions, they are fantastic the way they move through the water, I bet you loved that. Great photos Lai love them all. I dont think Diego is the same as Lonesome I'm sure he was the last of the line, on the male side anyway.
Thanks for sharing

WS

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Re: Our trip to Galapagos - April 2013

Post  Laikipia on Thu May 09, 2013 8:15 am

The coca plant is more popularly known for its association with cocaine the drug that has been the cause of addiction, violence, and corruption all over the world. However, the leaves of this plant also have another, less well known purpose: they can be made into a tea that is not only harmless, but can actually be good for those who drink it. In fact, the use of coca leaf tea actually outdates the discovery of cocaine, and has been consumed for centuries in Peru, Bolivia, and other South American countries by the natives who use it to acclimatize themselves to the extreme altitudes of the Andes Mountains. Its popularity extended far beyond those of Andean culture, and was drunk even among the tribes of the Amazon Forest. Now, in modern times, coca tea is experiencing something of a sudden rise in popularity.

http://library.hidalgofoods.com/?p=321

Just to prove it was okay cheers

Thanks for the comments WS and Littlewid. You are right I think WS about Diego, I will post a photo of him later and some more of rest of the wildlife.

Lai
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Re: Our trip to Galapagos - April 2013

Post  gregrowlerson on Thu May 09, 2013 12:20 pm

flower flower flower

You're an angel again in our eyes Lai after that thorough coca explanation Laughing

Thanks for doing such a great job with all the photo uploads of your beautiful holiday http://i70.servimg.c
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Re: Our trip to Galapagos - April 2013

Post  Laikipia on Thu May 09, 2013 1:31 pm

http://i70.servimg.c http://www.picgifs.c thanks GR. I'm on a bit of a roll with uploading photos. Might get some giant tortoises done this afternoon.

Lai
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Re: Our trip to Galapagos - April 2013

Post  gregrowlerson on Thu May 09, 2013 1:44 pm

It would be rather apt if the giant tortoises took extra long to upload Laughing

Then again my meerkats haven't exactly been uploading at cheetah speed! Next trip I'll have to take more photos from the ant enclosure Laughing
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Re: Our trip to Galapagos - April 2013

Post  Laikipia on Thu May 09, 2013 3:21 pm

Or http://i77.servimg.c http://i77.servimg.c http://i77.servimg.c GR - makes you feel dizzy watching http://i77.servimg.c

Giant tortoises next ...........

Lai Laughing
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Re: Our trip to Galapagos - April 2013

Post  Safariman on Thu May 09, 2013 3:34 pm

Sounds as if you had a great time Lai. I am not a sea person myself preferring dryland or the occasional river trip.You certainly saw some interesting and fascinating wildlife and must have been a wonderful to get up close and personal with the sea-lions. The pictures are all great and I have just been looking at the ones of the crabs and iguanas on your other thread as well. Did you manage to get any pics while you were in the water swimming? It must also have been good to have some naturalists on hand to explain things and answer any questions. Is the wildlife habituated because of the numbers of tourists or is it just plain friendly? I know that there has been talk of trying to limit the numbers of tourists to ensure the minimum impact on the ecology of the islands but I suppose even with small numbers there is still the need for ever increasing amounts of infra-structure which must over time have a detrimental effect. It is always a problem between generating income for the local communities and preserving the pristine nature of the environment as can be visibly seen in the Mara.
Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience.

Safariman
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Re: Our trip to Galapagos - April 2013

Post  Laikipia on Thu May 09, 2013 4:07 pm

Sadly we didn't get any underwater shots Safariman, I don't have a small camera and Pete didn't have a case for his so we just swam. Some people did and got some great shots but in all honesty if I had been trying to get photos all the time I wouldn't have had time to simply enjoy the experience.

I imagine as there are no predators, (the goats that arrived and bred were removed at a huge cost to protect the wildlife), that they just are naturally tolerant and have no fear of humans. You can get so close to the little birds which certainly here at home we can't do.

Visits to each of the islands are restricted in numbers and times. On board we 48 and split into 4 groups each with a guide whilst on the island. No food/drink/smoking allowed on the islands, no facilities at all and long may that last. We found the odd bit of litter on a beach one day that had been washed ashore.
We did dry landings on the rocks and wet landings in the sea. I like to think tourism is not ruining what is so special but helping preserve it through income.

Certainly in the Mara you can see the change, and my dearest wish is that Galapagos stays as it should be.

Lai
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