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Trip Report March 2012 Galapagos Cruise on the Eric part 2

Hi all -
I'm back to write more on our week aboard the Eric. This is about Day 1 - Sunday and Day 2 on Genovesa. We were on a "family week" and did Itinerary B whcih includes San Cristobal, Genovesa, Mosquera Islet, North Seymour, Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, Rabida, Santa Cruz, and Santa Fe. Each stop offered different topography or animals. We really enjoyed this itinerary but of course we haven't been on "A" so cannot do a comparison.

Starting your trip: The night before we received a card at our hotel which told uswhich boat we were assigned to, what time to be at the airport and who the representative would be to help us. We had an 8:10a flight out of Quito and the card said to be there at 6:30a. We arrived about 6a because we weren't sure how much security there would be to go through. You do not need to arrive earlier than the card indicates....in fact arriving before the rep just caused me to goof up (more later on this) and there is no reason to.

Our taxi dropped us off where there was along line of people with bags. We did not know what it was but looked like people checking them and we did not have tickets so went inisde. Our mistake - that was a line we needed to get into to have the bags checked (the quarantine check) to go to the Galapagos Islands. Even though our card said this inspection point is known as SICGAL I didn't see it anywhere. There were a ton of people in the AeroGal line and area. It was a bit chaotic but turns out those folks were there for an earlier flight and once they cleared out it was pretty quiet and calm. I did not know what we were suppose to do. I asked the AeroGal counter person and they told me to go pay of taxes and get the bag inspected. SO I did - but I remembered we had paid taxes a part of our account with Ecoventura so it did not seem right but he said I need a certain paper to show I'd paid and I did not have that. I paid the taxes for the 3 of us and we had the bags inspected (no line though at this point). IF YOU HAVE PAID TAXES don't worry and don't do it again like me. THe rep will have the paperwork needed with him and give it to you. Trust that the rep will have everything you need and take care of everything once he arrives at the airport. Just get your bags inspected.

Once the rep arrived I told him that I paid the taxes and he was nice, went to talk to the lady and got our money back. The rep has the tickets, tax papers, and tags for the bag so check in was easy.

We went through security which moved fast and was painless compared to TSA. Inside the waiting hall there are 1 or 2 places to get a quick coffee or breakfast. The waiitng area is one large area with a few different gates and 2 airlines. Do not always trust looking at the screen at your gate to see which plane is boarding. I was reading and kept glancing up to check the screen and never once did I see our flight up there. At one point I heard our names being called ...yep last call for the missing passengers. My husband and daughter never heard it and a couple of feloow Ecoventura passengers did not hear the boarding announcement or see it so listen and look for your other Ecoventura passengers to make sure you get on the plane. You walk out on the tarmac and upstairs to the aircraft. We usually do carry-on only but checked our little suitcases for this flight. AeroGal checked our boarding pass at least at 4 differnent points between the waiting area and the aircraft so don't stuff them in an out of the way place after leaving the waiting hall.

Our flight stopped in Guayaquil (spelling?) briefly then on to San Cristobal. Loved the plane - new, comfy seats with more room and individual entertainment systems. We weren't allowed to use our own electronic gizmos though. The first leg is super short. They come by with a drink and snack. Not enough time to watch a movie but you can play some games on their system. The second leg was long enough (about 90 minutes) to watch a movie. Very nice flight.

Arriving in Galapagos they look in your hand bags to make sure you aren't bring in any "forbidden" things... so you go thru a customs or immigration type area where they look at passports forms. I think we grabbed our bags (maybe someone form Ecoventura did bit of a blur) and then exited into the main area. Quickly we saw 2 guys from Ecoventura - Pepe and Ivan - who were our naturalists. They checked our names off and had us wait i the area while the other Ecoventura guests made it through security. The bags were handled for us. Once everyone gathered we boarded buses with our own naturalists which took us up to park where there is a tortoise breeding program. Once there we split into 2 groups - some went with Ivana nd some wiht Pepe. You walk along boardwalks and paths through the park and see some of the giant tortoises. This is a good introduction of things to come.

Once back on the buses we headed back to the marina/dock to take the panga to the boats. It was hot and pretty humid upon arrival. The marina was great - I say this because it was fun to see the sea lions up close and personal lying all over and really started to get us excited about the week to come. We also saw a large group of eagle rays swimming by the dock. Boarding the pangas is actually pretty easy. They are great about helping you in. Everyone was ferried out to their boat. quick little ride acorss the marina. Once on board we were directed to our cabins where our luggage awaited. We took teh time to unpack, get organized for the week. Of course our first delicious lunch was served and the guides gave an orientation about the boat, how our days would be organized, the types of actviities we would do and safety aspects. We also had the obligatory safety drill with life preservers a little later in the afternoon. Otherwise the afternoon was spent just watching the scenery go by, enjoying a beer and a gorgeous sunset and just relaxing. After sunset we had our first briefing and welcome cocktail. All of the staff was introduced, a welcome toast done, a few words from the captain then a powerpoint presentation either by Ivan, Pepe or both (during the week they usually swithced off giving these briefings). This briefing of course told us about Genovesa - what we would see, what the schedule for the day would be, whether we would have dry or wet landings and what to brig ashore or what best to wear. After the briefing we ate dinner. You sit where you like. Dinner is a sit down meaning it is served to you. All but one table seats 4. The captains table seats 6. You dine with your boat mates. I think over the week we dines with all but 4 of our 16 boat mates. Dinner finishes up about 9pm then it was off to our cabin fo us. Day 1 in paradise has come to an end but so much more is ahead of us.

PS each day's schedule was written on a white board and I took pictures of that white board daily so I could remember exactly where our day was and what it comprised. Just a helpful hint.

On our second day (Monday) we explored Genovesa Island (otherwise known as Tower). The crossing overnight was a bit rocky but nothing extreme. When I woke I found ourselves in a quiet bay with the Letty and Galapagos Sky (both Ecoventura boats). And if you are just joining in... they staggered when the passengers of the boats go ashore so it is not like 60 people head in in at once.

I believe breakfast was at 7:30a and our "wet" shore landing at 8:30a (this is the one day I did not take a photo of the white board). It was a beautiful day in my book. An almost cloudless blue sky, a hot sun and a wisp of a breeze. They suggested wearing our swim suits ashore this morning. Our first landing was at Darwin Bay. And bam - right away we have our first sea lion - a mom and a pup on the beach. Oh and yes those brochure photos are true - you can actually get that close to the seals. The guides will let you know when keeping a distance is a good idea because of a nearby protective male. Lots of initial photos there on the beach. We then took our first hike. The hikes are generally fairly easy but there can be uneven footing. On this day an elderly woman took a fall on the path and got a few cuts so if you are unsteady a walking stick might assist.

On the hike,- which lasted about an hour, we saw lava gulls, red-footed boobies, Nasca boobies, great frigatebird, mockingbirds, a heron, and finches. I am sure there are a few more we saw that I did not note specifically for this day. I LOVE the boobies and the frigatebirds. Once again like the sealions they have no fear of humans. During the hile you stay on a path to make sure you don't damage any nesting areas or vegetation. Everyone was very respectful of the rules. I got lots of great photos on this first morning. After the walk we had a swimming opportunity from the beach. Ah - it felt so good after our hot walk. It was a chance for folks to try out their snorkel gear. We had roughly about 30-45 minutes to swim. Some people said the water seemed cold but I thought it was great.

Now the order of the rest of our day may not be exact (since I did not get the white board photo) but I'll cover what we did. We had a fantastic snorkel around the corner from Darwin's Bay. Within a minute of jumping in from the panga (most of the snorkels are from the panga and there is a swim latter to get back on the panga) my husband and I saw a hammerhead shark. It was so cool to see but before I could snap a photot it was gone. Definitely more afraid of us than we of him. The visibility wasn't great here but we saw hard corals and a fair number of fish. The snorkeling on this trip was great (some spots better than others of course) and I would have been happy doing even more. As a reference DH and I have snorkeled all over the world - Caribbean, Belize, Australia, Borneo, Hawaii, Mexico, Thailand ....so it takes some to impress us now. We spent quite a while in the water. Ivan took us to a second spot which is usually inaccessible due to conditions. Today we were lucky to get back in a swallow little area. Tons of colorful fish and our first encounter with a sea lion underwater. loved the experience of swimming with them.

After the snorkel we went back to the Eric to for snacks and clean up. We also had a second hike of the day at Philip's Steps. This is a dry landing but has steep rock steps up to the top. There are hand rails but take your time because at the bottom they can be a bit slippery when wet. On this hike we saw a bunch of the Nasca boobies nesting. We were lucky to see the various stages meaning eggs in some nest, brand new chicks in some and older chicks in others. Very interesting. We also saw lava lizards and storm petrels. Another treat was seeing a short-eared owl. Another great hike...and as Ivan would say "a wonderful day in paradise."

Dinner was particularly special for us because it was my DH's birthday. He did not know I ordered a cake and balloons and it worked perfectly because it also happened to be the captain's birthday so he thought the decorations were for the captain. We dined at the captain's table that night. After dinner they dimmed the lights, brought out a cake for each of the birthday guys and sang "happy birthday." Then the "Eric" band played some music and sang songs. After the meal was over they played a little longer and some of the guests danced. What a fabulous day.

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