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Galapagos Islands Vacation !

In August we were able to travel to the Galapagos Islands for a once in a lifetime adventure. We traveled with Natural Habitat Adventures on their Eastern itinerary on board the Nemo III catamaran luxury sailboat. Each day we traveled to a differnt Galapagos island where we hiked, snorkled and kayaked amongst the incredible wildlife where we learned about the ecosystem and animals from our incredible guides. Along the way we made new friends and enjoyed the spending time with them, the guides and the crew of the Nemo III.

See below for the Best of the Galapagos pictures, a condensed presentation with select images from each day.

For even more pictures from each day follow the these links:


The Best of Galapagos Islands

Select Highlights from each day of our Galapagos trip

Day 1 - North Seymour Island

We arrived in Baltra by air from Quito in the morning and were able to board the Nemo III just in time for a nice lunch. After lunch, we embarked on a short sail to our first excursion - a nature hike on North Seymout Island where "you can see more". This island featured nesting grounds for the various Frigate Bird species as well as our first of many sightings of Blue Footed Boobies and Sea Lions.

First look at the Nemo III, the 75 foot cataraman where we and the other 13 guests and 7 crew would spend the next 8 days.

The first of hundreds of Galapagos Sea Lions we would encounter both above and below the water on our trip. The Galapagos is home to about 10,000 Sea Lions.
A male Magnificent Frigatebird and a Blue-Footed Booby surveying the coast for prey.
The famed Blue-Footed Booby - the Galapagos is home to about 20,000 pairs of Blue-Footed Boobys of which we saw quite a few!
A Great Frigatebird - there are two species of Frigatebirds in the Galapagos, the Great and the aforementioned Magnificiant.
The male Magnificent Frigate Bird is able to expand its red chest to attract mates.
A juvenile Magnificent Frigatebird near its nest.

A Galapagos Land Iquana.

Day 2 - San Cristobal Island

We sailed to San Cristobal Island overnight and started the day with a nature hike where we saw more Frigate Birds, our first close up encounters with Blue Footed Boobies, Marine Iguanas and more Sea Lions. Later that morning we would do our first snorkel outing braving the chilly waters to see reef fish and to frolic with our first underwater Sea Lions. In the afternoon, we did a beach walk followed by our first kayaking excursion including kayaking into a rock formation known as 'the cathederal'

A Frigatebird chick in its nest.

It was birthing season and we saw lots of baby Seal Lion pups!

A Marine Iquana sunning itself on lava rock. The Marine Iquana is the only Iguana species in the world that swims and dives for food underwater, a Galapagos adaptation.

A large male Sea Lion barking and defending its territory.
A small Ground Finch - one of "Darwin's Finches" by which he considered the orgin of species.

This guy was swimming back and forth and barking seemingly trying to beckon his harem to join him.
A Blue-Footed Booby admiring his blue feet.

The Yellow Warbler is a common Galapagos shore bird.
A soft fluffy Blue-Footed Booby chick.

Our first of many snorkel outings, despite the equatorial loaction the water was pretty cold thanks to the Humboldt Current bringing nutrients from the Antartic.
Young Sea Lions were very curious and playful and always joined us during our snorkel outings. If you dove beneath the surface and twisted and somersaulted you could often get the Sea Lions to do the same. One of the coolest experiences in the Galapagos.

The Nemo III in front of the Sleeping Lion rock formation.

Kayaking inside "The Cathedral" on the coast of San Cristobal.
With our fellow Nemo III passengers and Veronica (far left), one of our amazing Galapagos guides.

Day 3 - Espanola Island

After a rough overnight cruise where it felt like we were sleeping on a roller coaster, we arrived at the island of Espanola, the east most and oldest geologically of the islands we would visit. Soon we would give the island the nickname "Land of the Lost" as it felt as though we had stepped back in time. We started with an early morning kayak and then a snorkel where we saw our first sea turtles and a beach walk all before lunch. In the afternoon we would do a hike on the island where we would see thousands of iguanas, lots of Sea Lion pups including one just born, Blue Footed and Masked Boobies and our first and only up close sightings of the majestic and quirky Albatrosses.

Our first Galapago Sea Turtle spotted on a morning snorkel outing.

A small group of Marine Iquanas - there would be thousands on Espanola in large groups piled a top each other.
The Espanola Mockingbird.

A Galapagos Lava Heron snatches a meal.

Two American Oyster Catchers, another shore bird species hunting for crabs.

Three species in one picture!
tThe Wave Albatross - these huge birds cannot just take off, they have to run to gain speed like a plane going down a runway and they wobble to and fro as they run, a humorous and epic sight to behold.

The Masked Booby.

A Wave Albatross soars past a blow hole.

We spotted a whale off the coast of Espanola - I call this one "tourists looking for a whale"
This photo of an Albatross soaring was taken from a high vantage point where the group sat in peaceful silence as dozens of Blue Footed Boobys, Wave Albatross and Frigatebirds gracefully circled just above us patrolling the shoreline sometimes so close you could almost reach up and touch them. It was a memorable few minutes.
A recently born Sea Lion pup nursing.
We passed this mother at the beginning of the hike and on the way back some 45 minutes to an hour later she had given birth - this pup was minutes old and the placenta was still visible.

Day 4 - Floreana Island

Next up was the island of Floreana known for its black sand beach, its flora variety and home to a lagoon with flamingos. Floreana also had a small human settlement in the 1800s and is famous for its dark stories of The Baroness and the remenants of its Post Office. Aside from a beach hike and a kayaking outing, we snorkled twice on this day where the primary attraction was a large popultation of Sea Turtles.

A Medium Ground Finch.

A Trio of Sanderlings foraging on the shoreline.

We missed most of the Flamingos, but there were still a few loitering in the brackish waters of Floreana.

A Lava Gull, usually present on the lava rocks along the shorelines.

Our other amazing guide, Andreas, coaxes a Sea Lion into playing.

Our guides Veronica and Andreas handing out mail at the famous Floreana "Post Office" which was a real Post Office in the early 1800s. Now visitors leave behind postcards for loved ones or friends and future visitors can take those postcards back to their home town to deliver them personally.


Day 5 - Santa Cruz Island

Our next destination was Santa Cruz, the main population center of the Galapagos and home to the famed Giant Tortoises. We had a busy day that started with a long board walk to the beach followed by a kayak excursion in the lagoon. From there we traveled to a working micro Coffee Plantation where we did some coffee bean tasting before traveling to our home for the night, the Giant Tortoise Camp. At the camp, we enjoyed a quick tour through a volcanic lava tube and a wonderful dinner before heading to bed in our tree house!

Our Treehouse room for the night on Santa Cruz at the Giant Tortoise Camp.
A Galapagos Giant Tortoise- these tortoises can weigh over 800 pounds and live to over 100 years old.

There are two main subspecies of Giant Tortoise - the domed type shown here and the saddleback tpe which adapted to be able to raise its neck high to feed on branches.

Dinner at the Giant Tortoise Camp.

Day 6 - More Santa Cruz Island and Santa Fe Island

We awoke in our tree house and enjoyed a nice breakfast before participating in a planting aiming to restore natural fauna to the area. After that we traveled to the Charles Darwin Research Center in Santa Cruz where scientists amon other things are working on restoring the Giant Tortoise population. After the Research Center tour and some shopping and lunch in downtown Santa Cruz, we dparted for the Santa Fe Island where we snorkled, followed by a hike and capped off the afternoon with a short kayak.

Planting an endemic speicies of tree in order to return this area of the Santa Cruz Highlands to its original native state.

A Saddleback variety of Giant Tortoise at the Darwin research center.

Day 7- Bartolome Island

We again sailed by night to arrive at Baltra where we would do a long hike up a boardwalk to the summit of the island. This view can be seen in the feature film "Master and Commander" when the ship's doctor spots the enemy vessel after collecting new and fascinating species. After the hike we did two snorkel dives where we were able to swim with Equatorial Penguins. We got an even better view of the Penguins on an excursion along the shore line in the Panga and finally took in the rocky beauty of the coast via kayak in the afternoon. This would be the last night on the Nemo III and we honored the crew and it being a clear night, we were finally able to see the Southern Hemisphere constellations including the Southern Cross.

A Great Blue Heron patrolling for fish on the shoreline.

An Equatorial Penquin - we would see a whole lot more later this day.

View from the top of Bartolome Island. This Island was featured in the film Master and Commander.

White Tip Reef Shark.

The world's only Equatorial Penquin species!

Young Sea Lions breaking up the Penquin party.

Frigatebirds soaring around our catamaran as they are want to do and probably so named because they circled Frigates crossing and exploring the Atlantic. They can soar for weeks on air currents.

The last night with our intrepid crew and guides...



Day 8- Baltra

Before arriving to Baltra for our flight back to Quito on the mainland of Ecuador, we took one last Panga ride to try to spot a different species of sea lion and of course one last look at Blue Footed Boobies and other bird species.

The Brown Pelican.
The elusive Galapagos Fur Seal - though they are called a 'Seal' they are actually a species of Sea Lion. They are found on the Western islands of the archipeligo and have longer hair than the other Seal Lions we have been encountering.

A good example of the longer coat of the 'Fur Seal'

One of the first birds we saw, the ever present Storm Petrel - here are two hunting off the stern of our boat.
Departing Baltra back to Equador on the mainland.


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