Frolic & Detour

Galapagos Adventures

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Sea lions appear to have the best lives

Along with the Inca Trail and Patagonia, a trip to the Galapagos was a must-do for our time in South America, but the booking process was daunting,  There are countless choices: island hopping or cruise, duration of trip, route of trip, type of boat, and so on.  And it’s far from cheap.  Based on initial research, we knew that a cruise was for us, and that we wanted to be there for at least a week.  Neither of us is a cruise person, but it’s nearly universally considered to be the best way to see the Galapagos– we were able to do a lot of our long-distance traveling at night and make two island stops each day.  I had read that at least a week was required to see a sufficient portion of the area, after our trip, we’d definitely agree.  Though it seems like a lot of time with wildlife / on a small boat, the 8 days we had absolutely flew by, and we’d have been happy to stay longer and continue the adventure.

We took well over a thousand photos– one of the many reasons this post was so delayed– but we’ve picked out a few favorites below.

The Beluga, our home on the high seas

The Beluga, our home on the high sea

Snack time

Snack time

 

 

Nazca booby, looking like a bandit

Nazca booby, looking like a bandit

 

 

 

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Galapagos short-eared owl

 

 

 

 

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Blue-footed boobies

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We named him Henry

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Waved albatross mid-flight on Española island

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“New” (around 100 years old) lava at Sullivan Bay, Santiago Island looked like it was mid-flow

Trying to be one with the sea lions, who couldn't care less

Trying to be one with the sea lions, who couldn’t care less

Galapagos Hawk, identified by our guide as the top predator in the Galapagos

Galapagos Hawk, identified by our guide as the top predator in the Galapagos

 

 

 

 

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The true top predators of the Galapagos, poised for attack (alternate caption: our two favorite shipmates / Euchre teammates, Lee and Yin)

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Fun facts: Waved albatrosses only breed on Española Island– nowhere else in the world. They are the largest bird on the islands with a wingspan of 7-8 feet. And they are hilariously, cartoonishly awkward when waddling around.

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Marine iguana hug

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Kicker Rock, snorkeling spot

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I now know that this is called a squadron of rays

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Brown pelican

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Galapagos land iguana

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Galapagos giant tortoise living up to his name

Great frigatebird working on attracting a mate by inflating his fancy red chest balloon

Great frigate bird working on attracting a mate by inflating his fancy red chest balloon

Lesser known, but prettier, red-footed booby

Lesser known, but prettier, red-footed booby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The moral of the story: Go to the Galapagos! It’s expensive and somewhat time-consuming to get to, but it’s unlike any experience we’ve ever had and was worth every penny.

Not pictured (because enough is enough): Galapagos hawks, Sally Lightfoot crabs, Galapagos doves, a truly excessive number of sea lions and tortoises, herons, various famous finches, exotic plants, all manner of underwater life including white and black tip sharks, octopus, eels, sea turtles, more photos of Yin and I acting ferocious, etc.

Practicalities / Galapagos tips should you be considering making the trip (seriously, make the trip):

      • Do your research and choose based on your priorities.  The area is impressively well-regulated and protected, and boats stick to a set of pre-determined itineraries with varied landing locations and routes among the islands.  If there’s a particular type of wildlife or geological formation that you’re dying to see, you may be choosing a route accordingly.  In our case, it all looked good, so this was less of an issue.  Our bigger concern was group size: we didn’t want to end up on a huge boat and have to wait for a large group to get it together each morning / be the 90th person in line on a hike to find giant tortoises or in a scrum of snorklers, and we saw a ton of enormous boats.  Basically, we were curmudgeons looking for the non-cruise cruise.  We also wanted a highly rated guide and a fairly nice boat.  We lucked out by working with the booking company Happy Gringo based on a recommendation from a fellow traveler.  Maria was infinitely patient with our questions as well as our delayed responses while we tromped around the salt flats or other less-connected areas.  And we were thrilled with the Beluga and its crew, as well as our fabulous guide Juan and the dozen or so lovely fellow passengers.
      • At least in late April / early May during our cruise, seasickness wasn’t really an issue, even on our small boat.  Sunscreen shortages were more of a concern, particularly given the exorbitant costs on the island, so we ended up doing a bit of scrounging from friends on board (thanks, Lee and Yin!).
      • We snorkeled for an hour or more at least once a day, which we loved– the locations were varied and we saw an incredible variety of underwater life (enough to finally convince us to look into scuba certification when Southeast Asia rolls around…).  The boat rented short wetsuits, which helped with warmth in the slightly chilly water / protected B from any serious sunburn.  No need for anything heavier than that unless diving is involved.
      • Be at peace with not being dry much: between the daily snorkeling, the average of two hikes on steamy islands and the attendant showers, and the sunscreen slathering that went on before all these activities, there’s not much choice in the matter.
      • No fancy hiking gear required– just light clothes.  Worth investing in a fancy camera, though– this is the first time on this trip that I’ve wished for our DSLR.

3 thoughts on “Galapagos Adventures

  1. Ashley

    So jealous!!! Mostly of the amazing wildlife and snorkeling, but also because you cheated on us with new euchre partners :)

  2. Yin

    YES! Finally, time to comment. Where to start? It was awesome meeting you guys on the boat! The pictures are wonderful and the boat commentary spot on. A few things:

    – So happy to share sunscreen! The prices were absolutely insane — especially considering everything looked like it had been on the shelf collecting dust for so long it wouldn’t even block sun through a window. Does SPF have an expiration date?
    – Re South Asia…so my cousin’s wedding just happens to fall smack in the middle of our 2 weeks off, making our meet-up plans far more tenuous. I’ll send a group email in the next few days to more fully explain.
    – Re your future travels: looking forward to more posts! We’re trying to plan a possible backpacking trip to Patagonia next year (Torred del Paine). Get ready for questions :).
    – Re our predatory tendencies: every once in a while, I’ll look at Lee, put up the claws and growl a little. Maybe bear some teeth. He’s still unimpressed. Maybe the #1 predator of the Galapagos is less scary in NYC?

    Hope you guys are having a WONDERFUL time on a new continent! I saw the hot balloon photo — looks amaaaaaaaaazing. Miss you!

    Yin (and Lee)

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