Galapagos Islands ~ From disillusion to wonderment all in a single day

Wednesday, October 26th ~ Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Arrival at the airport in Baltra

Arrival at the airport in Batra

Day 1 – Getting off of the airplane I was already wondering where I was and what had happened. This surely was not the Island paradise I had envisioned. In fact far from it. Can’t say why I had envisioned lush and tropical, but the reality was hot, humid, arid, volcanic rock, cactus, and not much else. Had we taken a wrong turn and landed in the wrong place? 

The ground team that met us at the airport was well-organized and we were smoothly passed off to other smiling representatives who grabbed our checked luggage, loaded it onto a truck, and advised us that our bus would be along shortly to take us to our ship, the Santa Cruz II. That allowed us time to chat with a few other passengers while we waited, including a couple from Australia. I think we may have a diversified group.

A short five-minute bus ride brings us to the small dock where life vests are passed out and we are loaded into small zodiac style boats called a panga. It actually took longer from the dock to the ship, than from the airport to the dock.

At the dock upon arrival in the Galapagos Islands

At the dock upon arrival in the Galapagos Islands

Check in on board was quick and painless. After handing in our cruise document, we were shown to our cabin which happened to be right next to the main reception area. At least we did not have far to walk…

Our cabin

Our cabin

The cabin is clean, informal, moderately basic, but roomier than some cruise cabins we have occupied in the past. Twin beds with a night stand between them, a tiny corner desk, one chair, and a small closet that contains a safe completes the room. The bathroom has a shower that is actually larger than our one at our shop so I am happy.

The bathroom in our cabin

The bathroom in our cabin

Interestingly there are no keys for the cabin. We can lock it from the inside at night, but during the rest of the time, all cabins remain unlocked. I was slightly uncomfortable with that initially, but after locking our passports and some cash in the safe, I soon accepted that it was actually refreshing to be on an honor system, trusting everyone as we are literally all in the same boat, pun intended.

Almost immediately we are invited to attend a welcome briefing. The Galapagos Islands are a protected National Park, and some strict rules must be followed to protect the native animals and vegetation.

There are 10 rules, but the main ones we are to follow include:

  • We must be accompanied by an approved naturalist guide
  • We must stay at least 6 feet from the animals
  • We can not touch, disturb or feed the animals
  • No flash photography
  • No littering
  • No smoking

There is a small gift shop on board also operated on the honor system where you choose what you want or need, write down the item description, price and your cabin number and off you go. The item amount will be added to your account to be settled I’m assuming on the last day before we disembark.

Rica and Fred are in a cabin right next door. The walls are thin, and when the ship is not moving one can hear muffled conversations. Tim and I remind each other to keep our voices down. Hoping we don’t forget too often.

After a bountiful buffet lunch, we had a brief orientation meeting. Our ship has 50 cabins and can accommodate 90 passengers. This is not prime season, so there are only 51 passengers on board. Announcements are given in Spanish, English and German. We have been divided up into four groups, each with a naturalist guide. The four of us are placed in the Albatross group, and our guide is Roberto.

There are actually four different ships that are each doing different itineraries. We are on the “Western Galapagos” six day/five night journey. The airport and departure point is from Baltra Island, but we will be visiting North Seymour Island, Isabela Island, Fernandina Island, Santa Cruz Island and Floreana Island before returning to Baltra for our next flight. I had not realized that different itineraries were offered and that some of the “Big 15” creatures would not be found on every island.

And what are the Big Fifteen you might want to know?

Galapagos Albatross, Blue-Footed Booby, Nazca Booby, Red-Footed Booby, Flightless Cormorant, American Flamingo, Frigate birds (Great and Magnificent), Galapagos Hawk, Land Iguana, Marine Iguana, Santa Fe Land Iguana, Galapagos Penguin, Galápagos Sea Lion, Galapagos Fur Seal and the Galapagos Giant Tortoise.

The goal is to see as many of these as possible, similar to a trip to Africa to find the Big 5.

The afternoon excursion was to North Seymour Island. After the boat is anchored, all passengers are instructed to meet in the library. Already informed to bring hat, camera, good hiking shoes, water bottle (provided by the ship), wear sun block and bug spray, and bring your panta life jacket (as opposed to the emergency life vest that remains in the cabin except for our safety drill and in case of an actual emergency). When our group is called, we proceeded to the back of the ship to load once again on the panga boats to go ashore.

Just FYI, we are told ahead of time at each stop if it will be a dry or wet landing. This first stop was to be a dry landing. The experienced guides and panga crew are well versed in helping each of us on and off the small boats. Double grips, where you grab each other by the wrist and then are passed on to the next out stretched hand where this maneuver is duplicated with the other hand results in secure and confident embark/disembark maneuvering each time.

Frigate bird over colorful but sparse terrain

Frigate bird over colorful but sparse terrain

North Seymour was also rather bleak, yet beautiful. It is not the rainy season, which is a plus for us with bright blue skies and weather in the high 70’s to low 80’s. The downside is there are zero leaves on the short trees which makes things even more stark. There are a few cactus here and there, but not many.

And then we start seeing a few birds, and then more birds, and then iguanas, and we perk up as the landscape that once seemed barren and desolate starts to come to life.

Our excellent guide, Roberto, informs us about each of the critters we come across. He is so knowledgable and quite obviously loves his chosen profession and the animals.

Pathways and boundaries are clearly marked

Pathways and boundaries are clearly marked

How we marveled at each new encounter. They have NO FEAR of us and although we had been asked to keep a six-foot boundary, the birds and animals simply went about their business as if we were just another animal passing by. Granted there were quite a few clicking noises coming from our direction as each of us took numerous pictures, but other wise they were mostly left in peace.

Joanne capturing the moment

Joanne capturing the moment

Please allow me to now introduce you to the critters we met on our first afternoon here:

Galapagos Sea Lion

Baby Sea Lion, approximately 4 weeks old

Baby Sea Lion, approximately 4 weeks old

Blue-Footed Booby

Blue-footed Booby

Blue-footed Booby

Blue-footed Booby

Blue-footed Booby

Land Iguana

Land Iguana

Land Iguana

Frigate bird

Male frigate bird on the right

Male frigate bird on the right

Frigate chick

Frigate chick

And just a few random shots:

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Returning to the ship at sundown, we had our mandatory nautical safety drill then off to a wonderful dinner.

All ready for our evening safety drill

All ready for our evening safety drill

How first impressions can be deceiving. From what initially appeared to be a barren wasteland, is now seen through more enlightened and educated eyes. Not only am I learning, I am growing more and more excited to see what is around each corner. Most of these amazing creatures can be found nowhere else on earth. They have adapted, evolved and now thrive with few natural enemies.

Beautiful sunset brought us a joyous end to our first day in the Galapagos Islands

Beautiful sunset brought us a joyous end to our first day in the Galapagos Islands

Life is everywhere and living in harmony with each other. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this same principle were adopted throughout the world…

GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful to have arrived in the Galapagos Islands, a long-time item on my proverbial bucket list. I am also thankful for excellent guides who are slowly introducing us to this sheltered corner of our planet. They are slowly peeling back the covers, a little at a time to reveal all the hidden treasures and magic that is the Galapagos.

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our "next chapter". At a stage in life where traveling the world, taking pictures, and sharing our adventures with friends and family will be our dream come true.
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54 Responses to Galapagos Islands ~ From disillusion to wonderment all in a single day

  1. Jane Fritz says:

    Hidden treasures and magic, that says it all. Enjoy every stop along the way, each one has a different treasure to reveal. Great post!

    Like

  2. Paul Finnell says:

    So happy to see those “blue feet” !!

    Like

  3. payel says:

    Very nice photography!!

    Like

  4. V.J. says:

    Thank you so much for the tour – amazing photography

    Like

  5. joylennick says:

    Thanks for photos and commentary – all from the comfort of my office! What of tomorrow, eh! Enjoy.

    Like

  6. Asif says:

    Great pictures Joanne – keep them coming.. Truly is amazing that the animals on the Island have no fear of man. Is there Wi-Fi available on the boats or did you have to wait until you were back in the Hotel to post the blog?

    I did the land part of Ecuador, but not the Galapagos Islands – and they are at the top of my list of places to visit!

    Like

    • Asif, we had almost zero internet on this portion of the trip. When the ship was anchored near Santa Cruz Island we were able to get just enough for me to do this post. Now at the airport in Baltra ready to fly back to the mainland. Should have better service in Quito.

      Like

  7. loving you posts, I feel like I am with you, I will try not to shout in your cabin 😉

    Like

  8. Lovely post…and quite inspiring! I may have just added Galapagos Islands to my (rather long) bucket list! Delighted to have discovered your blog.

    Like

  9. Val Boyko says:

    What an interesting and rewarding trip!

    Like

  10. Terry says:

    Great adventure, enjoy the travels. Love this honor system, too bad more people aren’t like that anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Trish Hatcher says:

    Awwwwwww! That sweet baby sea lion. And what a gorgeous shot of the sunset. Thanks for sharing!!!!

    Like

  12. Pingback: Galapagos Islands ~ From disillusion to wonderment all in a single day — A Note From Abroad | The Love Chronicles

  13. usfman says:

    The pictures tell it all. Thanks for your honest assessment of the trip.

    Like

  14. sheilsm says:

    Really, really, really enjoying your commentary on this trip. You are taking me to places on my bucket list…that I may never get to. Thank you for your beautiful photos and detailed commentary.

    Like

  15. Ginny says:

    Joanne, have you ever considered putting your blogs together into a book? You are such a good writer and your photos are excellent. I think lots of people would buy it for their coffee tables..

    Liked by 1 person

  16. great post thanks for sharing!!!

    Like

  17. GeorgieMoon says:

    What a fabulous post! How wonderful to be able to travel to the Galapagos! I would definitely want to have that on my bucket list. It must be amazing to see the animals, I hope you get to see the giant tortoise, but I love the iguanas best.

    Like

  18. John Love says:

    I made the assumption that it was ok to reblog your submissions. I already did your first of the Galapagos trip. So if it is not ok, please let me know. My readers like what you write better than the stuff I submit.

    Like

  19. Such a marvelous concoction of life, Joanne. The feet of the Booby and the neck pouch on the Frigate Bird would be worth the journey alone.:) –Curt

    Like

  20. judycnorris says:

    Beautiful photography and excellent text. You make it come alive for me. I just told my husband we need to put this on our list. Can you tell me what cruise line you used?

    Like

  21. Rosie says:

    Thanks for liking one of my posts and bringing me to your blog – the Galapagos islands look incredible! Fascinating how a landscape can appear so barren at first glance, yet so much wildlife thrives there.

    Like

  22. Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I loved seeing all the photos. I have always wanted to go …. now i really want to go!!!

    Like

  23. adguru101 says:

    So happy to have found this! It’s on our bucket list too, and approaching retirement means we can start planning.

    Like

  24. What interesting wildlife. And so varied! I wouldn’t think about iguanas and sea lions in the same place.

    Like

  25. Great post and fantastic photos! Makes me think about taking the trip myself!

    Liked by 1 person

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