Galapagos Trip Report – One great week.
Day 1 – Sunday
I decided to start a new thread with more detail. Not sure how long it will be.
All went well and my pre-trip planning (posted here earlier) and schedule tweeking worked out. We had been met by a Linblad rep at the Miami airport on Saturday, where we began to get acquainted with some of our shipmates while awaiting our flight. Our Miami departure was delayed slightly as the airport had to clear Air Force 1 after the President’s commencement speech at a Miami college. But no problem, we became fast friends with our mates for the next week while sitting in the waiting room.
We arrived Guayaquil about 10PM, only about 30 minutes late. Linblad reps accompanied us to the Hilton Hotel, where we went through an expedited check in. Our luggage was in our rooms. We got a coupon good for a free drink in the bar, or a bottle of water the next day. Since the coupon was only good for a rum and coke, I opted for a marguerita and the free bottle of water. Our room rate included an adequate cooked breakfast buffet, after which we were whisked off to the Guayaquil airport for our 9:30AM departure. Linblad had arranged for us to wait in a VIP lounge prior to takeoff. So far, I am very impressed with Linblad.
Upon arrival at Baltra airport, our guides rounded us up and bused us to nearby Puerto Norte, about 10 minutes, where we boarded pangas (zodiaks) and were taken to the Linblad’s MS Islander. The harbor was quite active, with many ships loading and unloading passengers. Sea Lions had taken over the benches on the dock and we were warned not to get too close or touch, but they ignored us. It was our first glimpse of what was to come.
Aboard the Islander, we found our room. Two single beds (very comfortable), a desk, a compact but clean and neat bathroom, lots of storage space for our two suitcases and one carryon and backpack. We had a window but kept the curtain closed most of the time, as it was a outside passageway. We certainly didn’t spend much time in the room with all there was to do at all times. We had a quick buffet lunch and orientation. Then the prerequisite safety drills. All accompanied by increasingly loud chatter as we became friendlier with our ship mates.
The ship sailed to nearby North Seymour Island and about 4pm with great anticipation and excitement, we went out on our first expedition. WOW!
In what was to become a very familiar operation, we grabbed our life vests for the panga ride, which we kept in our rooms. Then we lined up in the reception area and filed out to the waiting pangas. There were about 44 of us, and the groups are maximum of 16. We had three guides on board. We boarded the pangas and your group of 16 was pot luck so to speak, different people each time, though many paired up to be sure they went ashore together. They alternated the guides so that you never knew which guide you would get. On shore, they keep the groups separated to avoid larger groups. Also, the Park service controls how many boats are at any island at any one time. All very organized and controlled. You cannot go off by yourself; must stay on the path with your group. We all felt this was very positive, and congratulate the Ecuadorian government for their strict policies.
At our dry landing site there were frigate birds swooping around, the males with their red throats extended. Brown pelicans sat calmly on nearby rocks, and walking up the slope, we had to step over a sleeping sea lion. So this is the Galapagos. We began walking through low shrubs and bush, but didn’t keep much of a pace. Before long we were stepping over lava lizards, mocking birds, and nesting blue footed boobies. Several eggs and chicks were spotted. They stared unflinchingly at us. Then we came upon hundreds of frigate birds. The males with their red throats sitting proudly on nests trying to attract one of the circling females. Idle juvenile frigates sat on rocks along the pathway. We stopped every few feet snapping off pictures of this or that. I am lost on some of the smaller land birds, but the birders amongst us were loosing their minds. But frankly, about me and finches, ho hum. This was our introduction to the wonders of the Galapagos. We also saw Swallow tail gulls, storm petrals, sally lightfoot crabs, land iguana, Galapagos Dove, marine iguana, and sea lion pups nursing. Our first day and we’re in overload.
That evening before dinner, we had a debriefing session and an outline of tomorrow’s events. The Captain gave us a welcome toast, and we adjorned to our first of many wonderful meals. We were all talking loudly and over each other, we were so excited. Lynn, our tour director, was impressed with the instant comraderie among us. We couldn’t wait for tomorrow.
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Galapagos Trip Report – One great week.