Category Archives: News

Lindblad Endeavour’s Floating SPA

Lindblad Floating Spa-1

by Linda O’Keefe

A motional massage

One thing I don’t expect to find onboard Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour is a wellness specialist as well as a mini spa. Alexandra Cueva, the wellness specialist for our voyage, puts in a long day, beginning around 6:30 a.m. with a yoga, stretching or water aerobics class just before breakfast. The rest of the day she is on call for paid spa services such as massage, reflexology and other spa treatments.

One service on the spa menu especially catches my eye: a “floating massage.” Technically, all massages given aboard the Endeavour are floating but this offering is something special. One of the Endeavour’s old glass bottomed boats has been redesigned to provide a viewing porthole of the sea bottom directly under the massage table’s head cradle.  The idea is to have a massage while watching sea life swim underneath the boat.  Instead of a massage on the beach, it’s a great rub on an ocean tub.

Scheduling any kind of spa treatment on the Endeavour is difficult because it usually means having to give up something: a shore landing, snorkeling or kayaking. Also, the opportunities for a floating massage are limited to certain locations where sea conditions are calm enough that Alexandra can stay on her feet and the massagee doesn’t slide off the table.

While kayaking Tim and I had seen the floating spa bouncing around in Tagus Cove where a Zodiac tried to keep it from crashing on shore. The waves and current were much too strong for any sort of stability. The Zodiac with its rubber hull acted like a seaborne bumper car to keep the spa boat away from land but there was no way the Zodiac could do it gently. In fact, we heard lots of crashing aboard the spa boat as we paddled pass but no shouts of alarm. Can’t imagine how Alexandra managed to stay on her feet that day.

Lindblad Floating Spa-2  Lindblad Floating Spa-3

Remembering that spectacle, I wonder how real this floating massage is and how much of it is a gimmick. So the night before my scheduled tub rub when I pick up a robe and slippers from Alexandra, I ask her what I should wear the next day with the robe.  Her response is quick and firm, “Nothing. This is a professional massage.”

The next morning, clad only in my spa robe and slippers, I wait at the reception area for Alexandra to fetch me.  I know in the back of my mind the glass bottom boat is away from the ship but for some reason it hasn’t yet occurred to me I’ll need to ride in a Zodiac to reach it. Just normally getting into a Zodiac when the waves bob it up and down is not the easiest maneuver even in normal attire. With a robe and nothing underneath, it’s really tricky. Fortunately, I make it on and off without any wardrobe malfunctions.

I take the Zodiac about half a mile from the ship to find the spa boat anchored in an isolated cove near shore. In the cloudy “garua” weather, the cliffs and a small island rock formation close by is both mystical and relaxing. After disembarking the Zodiac trip, I climb onboard the “floating massage” table.

As I lay face down and Alexandra works wonders on my back, the view through the three-foot wide glass circle is disappointing.  There isn’t a great view due to the reflections of the boat and sky. I spot only a few fish that wander by.

Despite the lack of underwater activity, I love this experience. The sound of the waves drumming the boat is more soothing than any new age music . Inhaling the salty sea air is natural aromatherapy. Occasionally the relaxation is broken as the wind sweeps the sheet off my body and there’s a quick scramble to grab it back.

Lindblad Floating Spa-4

After my massage and I wait for the Zodiac to return, Alexandra points out a large sea turtle swimming on the surface with several other turtles surrounding it. As the turtles approach our boat, I realize something seems rather odd about what I thought was a single large turtle.

I ask Alexandra , “Are those two turtles–not just one?”

“Yes,” she replies with a sly grin on her face.

I wonder aloud, “Are they doing what I think they’re doing?”

Her smiling face answers my question before she answers “Yes” and bursts into laughter. She confesses she has been watching them for a while. And we continue to watch the turtles float obliviously toward the boat.

My already R-rated adventure pushes the limit as the two mating turtles drift closer and closer to the boat. Eventually they bump into us, separate, swim away. At this point, Alexandra and I are close to hysteria laughing at them. (Though they probably don’t understand our idea of humor.)

Alexandra and I are still laughing when the Zodiac arrives to carry us both back to the Endeavour. All in all, this is an experience I won’t soon forget.

Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Cruise Links 

The Galapagos Experience                               Endeavour Dining Galapagos Adventure Upcoming                                    Sustainable Dining Policy
How Darwin Saved The Galapagos                                 Saturday Dining Menus
Galapagos Photo Tips                                                          Sunday Dining Menus
What To Pack For Cruise                                                    Monday Dining Menus
Getting to Guayaquil                                                            Tuesday Dining Menus
Las Bachas Shore Landing                                                 Wednesday Dining Menus
North Seymour Shore Landing                                         Thursday Dining Menus
Fernandina & Isabela Islands                                           Friday Finale Menus
Urbina Bay Shore Landing                                                  Endeavour Recipes
Life Aboard The Endeavour
More About Life On Board
Puerto Egas Shore Landing
Endeavour’s Floating SPA
Meeting One of World’s Rarest Animals
Puerto Ayoro Walking Tour
Santa Cruz Highlands Tour
Hunting Tortoises in the Santa Cruz Highlands
San Cristobal, Endeavour’s final stop

 

 

Lindblad Endeavour Arrives at Puerto Egas

Puerto Egas beach animals-1

One perfect afternoon at Puerto Egas, where wildlife offer warm welcome

Everyone who takes a Galapagos cruise usually has a favorite shore landing. Mine comes unexpectedly almost midway through the trip when Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour, at a place called Puerto Egas on Isla Santiago (also known as James Island and Isla San Salvador). On our afternoon stop there, everything comes together: the sunlight is gorgeous, we encounter a good variety of birds and mammals and also witness lots of lively animal interaction, including a large bellowing male Galapagos fur seal. Best of all, this is one of the most leisurely walks, without the usual and constant push to keep moving.

Ironically, when Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour arrives and anchors off Isla Santiago, there is no hint this will be a special afternoon. Instead, once our Zodiac lands on a narrow rocky beach, the scenery is almost depressing. A dilapidated house sits on a small cliff above where we stand. Then, after we exit the beach and get a better view of the old deserted homestead and its empty, fenced-in fields, the spot seems even more dismal.

galapagos santiago puerto egas mountain fence-1  galapagos santiago puerto egas old road-1
Jarring reminders of the humans who once lived here

There may be 30,000 people living in the Galapagos, but this is the first evidence of human occupation we’ve seen since sailing from Baltra on Saturday morning. This unexpected detritus of human intrusion is an irritating reminder of past efforts to harvest salt here, first between 1928 and 1930, then much later in 1964. Both attempts invariably caused environmental damage by using native and endemic trees for firewood and also introducing new plants and animals. The Puerto Egas name, in fact, refers to the last salt company operation, run by Hector Egas whose venture failed when the price of salt in South America became so cheap that operating in the Galapagos was impractical.

Thankfully, we quickly leave the settlement area and make the short walk across the island’s narrow point to the other side, which is surprisingly different. It’s long black lava coastline that seems to extend endlessly along James Bay, where Charles Darwin’s ship anchored and he explored the interior of Santiago Island. The shore, comprised of an old lava flow that poured into the ocean, has many large inlets and tidal pools created by the erosive force of the rough wave action. One of these inlets, a vertical chute where the water rises and ebbs as waves regularly crash against the rock, carries the appropriate if undignified name of “Darwin’s toilet.”

This lava shoreline is a favorite haunt of fur seals, the smallest of the pinnipeds and creatures we really haven’t encountered closely before. Endemic to the Galápagos Islands, an estimated 40,000 fur seals are spread throughout the islands, apparently much smaller than just a few decades ago. Scientists say the fur seal population was reduced significantly in the 1980s due to the effects of El Nino, which also reduced the local fish populations.

The best known place to see fur seals is Gruta de las Focas, which has a natural bridge above the inlets where fur seals are normally found. They’re present today because, thankfully for us, Galápagos fur seals are the most land-based of all the fur seals, spending at least 30% of their time out of the water. Fortunately, they also do most of their fishing at night since they prefer to spend as many days as possible warming themselves on the lava rocks and only occasionally sunbathing on sandy beaches.

Galapagos Islands SantiagoPuerto Egas American oyster catcher-1American oyster catchers were common place at Puerto Egas

Hopefully, they will be as prevalent here and throughout the Galapagos in coming years since the current climate change seems to have prompted an ambitious group of Galapagos fur seals to look for better fishing waters in Peru. No one is sure why, perhaps because there are more fish there. This migration happened in 2010 when a group of Galapagos fur seals traveled 900 miles (1,500 km) to the northern waters of Peru and established a colony there, the first recorded instance of Galapagos seals migrating from their homeland. Rising water temperatures have been credited as the motivation but the water still averages warmer in the Galapagos.  Water temperatures off northern Peru have increased from 62F (17C) to 73F (23C) in the past 10 years; Galapagos water temps average 77F (25C). It’s speculated more such colonies might be established in northern Peru. Still think it’s due to better fish populations in Peru and not the water temperature.

Darwin paid scant attention to the fur seals during his visit, perhaps because fur hunters had almost hunted the animals to extinction. On this day fur seals are prominent at Puerto Egas, along with Sally Lightfoot crabs, marine iguanas, American oyster catchers, a Galapagos hawk and more. Two fur seals are in a contest with a sea lion to dislodge the sea lion from its flat rock perch just above the waves. The sea lion ignores the fur seals’ loud noises and aggressive threats, holding its head high with an expression we interpret to mean something like “Well, here goes the neighborhood!”

Galapagos Islands Santiago Puerto Egas lava gull-1Lava gull stalking the Puerto Egas tidal pools

The matter is semi-resolved when one of the fur seals jumps on an adjoining rock and gradually nudges its way into sharing part of the platform. The sea lion refuses to retreat and both animals end up appearing to have reached a compromise for the space. The second fur seal stays in the water, preferring to swim around and keep out of the way. Once the action subsides, we wander away, careful not to trip over or step on the marine iguanas littering the craggy lava surface like washed-up seaweed.

As we walk the shoreline in the direction of the ship, it’s obvious the Puerto Egas tidal pools are attracting the largest variety of birds we’ve ever seen in one location. Even several Darwin finches land in the trees bordering the shoreline only a few yards behind the beach. I lag behind the others for the unusually prime photo ops. It’s what photographers call the “golden” or “magic” hour, very close to sunset, and the colors are amazing. This one afternoon almost makes up for the  cloudy days we’ve had to work around most of the trip.

When I finish photographing the birds in the tidal pools, I catch up with my group and see they are watching a Galapagos hawk dine on a sizable marine iguana. We are perhaps 20 yards from the hawk, which is well aware of our presence but continues to feed while keeping an obvious watch on us. We’ve seen numerous marine iguanas along the coast, more than in most places, and it’s not surprising there would be a natural death the hawk would take advantage of. The hawk carefully watches on us as we photograph/view it.

We’ve seen numerous marine iguanas along the coast, more than in most places, and it’s not surprising there would be a natural death the hawk would take advantage of.  It certainly couldn’t have carried here something this size. The iguana seems as large as the hawk, so the bird shouldn’t have to scavenge for several more days.

galapagos santiago puerto egas galapagos hawk-1  galapagos santiago puerto egas seal pup-1
                              Galapagos hawk feeds on its prize meal; a fur seal pup.

My day’s highlight comes near the end of our walk where we encounter a huge male fur seal with his harem.  The males are supposed to grow no larger than 5 feet (1.5m) in length and weigh no more than about 145 pounds. This fellow not only looks much larger and scarily impressive because he sits on a rock plateau just a few feet above us.

Seen in profile, this huge male should emphasize why the Galapagos fur seal’s scientific name is Arctocephalus galapagoensis, from Greek words meaning “bear headed.” to my, it doesn’t. Although this fur seal does have a short, pointed muzzle, along with a small, button nose and large eyes, the muzzle of most bears I’ve seen are considerably longer and the noses hardly button-size. Think hound dog, instead. But when the male fur seal starts bellowing at one of his concubines, he draws his lips back and flashed sharp, triangular teeth that did make me think of something as deadly as a bear.

Galapagos Santiago Island Puerto Egas male fur seal-1Male fur sea offering us some advice: “Stay away!”

Dominant male fur seals are enormously protective of their breeding territory, often required to challenge and chase away challengers. This fellow also obviously expends a lot of effort trying to keep his women in line, though he doesn’t seem to have much success. He seems to be loudly coaxing, or whatever—with hands, he might act like a gorilla beating its chest–to impress the only female on the platform with him. She acknowledges his “whatever,” occasionally swaying her head like a boxer in the ring, but eventually just turns and descends to join the other girls below him.

Our guide (a woman) explains, “She’s out to prove she wants more than a one-night stand. He needs to step up his game and romance her.”

It seems absurd that a creature this size and fearsome could ever court (date?) a mate. But male whales do it. Male sharks do it. Male magnificent frigate birds do it (remember those big red sacs?). Male blue-Footed Bobbies do it (by building impressive nests and their dancing). Uh, even human males do it. But instead of impressive nest building, we’ve evolved to dinner, a show, a sports event or not even acting in person, just text messaging.

In the Galapagos, you realize a lot about life and love.

Galapagos Santiago Island Lindblad Endeavour cruise shipLindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour off Puerto Egas

Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Cruise Links

The Galapagos Experience                                             Endeavour Dining
Galapagos Adventure Upcoming                                 Sustainable Dining Policy
How Darwin Saved The Galapagos                              Saturday Dining Menus
Galapagos Photo Tips                                                       Sunday Dining Menus
What To Pack For Cruise                                                 Monday Dining Menus
Getting to Guayaquil                                                         Tuesday Dining Menus
Las Bachas Shore Landing                                              Wednesday Dining Menus
North Seymour Shore Landing                                      Thursday Dining Menus
Fernandina & Isabela Islands                                        Friday Finale Menus
Urbina Bay Shore Landing                                               Endeavour Recipes
Life Aboard The Endeavour
More About Life On Board
Puerto Egas Shore Landing
Endeavour’s Floating SPA
Meeting One of World’s Rarest Animals
Puerto Ayoro Walking Tour
Santa Cruz Highlands Tour
Hunting Tortoises in the Santa Cruz Highlands
San Cristobal, Endeavour’s final stop

Grazing New Zealand at SKYCITY Auckland – Restaurants & Menus


SKYCITY Restaurants dine by Peter Gordon and The Grill by Sean Connolly both are world-class dining experiences.  See their menus in photos.

NZ Auckland Sky Tower-1   glass of wine-1

At precisely 1076 feet and 1.38 inches (328 m), the Sky Tower is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand and serves as one of Auckland’s signature attractions. The Sky Tower also marked the location of SKYCITY Auckland, a casino-hotel complex with 25 cafes, restaurants and bars.

This visual menu is from the SKYCITY Grand Hotel’s restaurant called “dine by Peter Gordon.” The word dine certainly deserves to be in all caps at this award-winning restaurant featuring a mix of Asian, Pacific and traditional European cuisine.  This is a true fine dining experience and one not to be rushed.

dine by Peter Gordon Visual Menu

Appetizers (or “entrees” as they’re called in NZ)

tuna-1Seared yellowfin tuna with nori sauce, crispy squid, wakame salad and wasabi jelly

pork belly-1Crispy free-farmed pork belly and smoked mackerel fritter accompanied by lemon,
coriander, bean sprout, cherry tomato, macadamia salad and lime dressing

salad-1Roast Cambridge duck breast accompanied by green beans, caramelized
shallots, smoked eggplant, beetroot relish, pastille of five-spiced confit
duck leg and chestnuts

Main Course

beef-1
7-hour braised Firstlight grass-fed wagyu short rib accompanied by
eggplant, shitake mushroom, salad and toasted almonds

Dessert

dessert-1Valrhona Guanaja 70% chocolate terrine topped by lemongrass ice cream
with pistachio white chocolate mousse, popping candy, manuka honey crisp

The Grill by Sean Connolly Visual Photo Menu

Another excellent restaurant at the SKYCITY Grand Hotel, The Grill by Sean Connolly is more casual than dine but the menu is just as delicious and memorable. The emphasis here is on fresh local foods with the natural flavors allowed to shine through.

Seafood Entrees

seafood platter-1This seafood appetizer for 4 is a meal in itself: Queensland prawns,
Cloudy Bay clams, king crab claws, scampi and oysters. Single servings
also available.

prawns with garlic and pesto-1Queensland prawns with garlic butter and pesto.  We should have stopped
right here.

Main Course

XXX

          There should be a picture above of a 1-1/2 inch dry aged savannah Angus rib        eye on the bone.  I was trying to arrange this great piece of cow into a more
photogenic position but made the mistake of cutting into and tasting the rib eye
while doing this. The results were not pretty or suitable for public viewing.  The rib eye,
however, was magnificent and you have my word –if not my photo—attesting to that.

Grazing in New Zealand – Kiwi Food Terms

Museum Hotel Gourmet Hamburger-1
This is a hamburger, partially eaten, to show its unusual ingredients 

New Zealand (NZ) has some wonderful cuisine, but don’t feel embarrassed to ask for clarification about what you’re ordering.  Kiwi food terms may refer to very different items than someone from North American would expect. For instance, what American ordering in a 4 + star hotel would expect their hamburger to be made up of small chunks of tender steak, ham slices, beets, lettuce and tomato slices and a fried egg?  Yet still lacking the essential and  customary mustard, onion, ketchup or a pickle?

Museum Hotel Gourmet Hamburger-2This is the same burger, fully revealed, showing its distinctive and surprising contents

I admit making this mistake, not verifying  that something as simple as a hamburger could be so different, so unexpected –especially when there is a 24-hour McDonald’s (yes, the one with the famed golden arches) just a few blocks away from the hotel. Although this NZ burger is quite good, it is not what I anticipate, or the taste I really want.

To  help other visitors from making the same type of mistake, I’m starting with Kiwi food terms every visitor should know as the first topic in my series of NZ food blogs.

Kiwi Food Terms You Need to Know

Surprise! Cheerios are not just a breakfast cereal.

Afghan – chocolate flavored biscuit, typically made from cornflakes and covered in chocolate icing

Banger – sausage, as in bangers and mash

Bickies – biscuits

Biscuits – cookies

Brekkie – breakfast

Bring a plate – bring a dish of food to be shared

Buttie – Sandwich made from buttered bread

BYO (Bring Your Own) – A BYO restaurant is a one that allows you to bring your own wine to drink with your meal.

Candy floss – cotton candy

Cervena – farmed deer meat; venison is from a hunted deer

Cheerios – cocktail sausages

Chip – small box of berries

Chips – crisps

Chips – deep fried slices of potato but much thicker than a french fry

Chippie – potatoes chip

Chocolate fish
– chocolate coated marshmallow candy fish

Chook – chicken

Cordial – syrup that is diluted to make a fruit flavored drink

Courgette – zucchini

Eye filletbeef tenderloin

Fat Chips – fried in fat, such as duck fat

Cuppa – cup of tea, as in cuppa tea. Not coffee.

Dunny – toilet

Entree – appetizer, hors d’oeurve

Feed – A meal

Fizzy drink – soda pop

Greasies – fish and chips, popular takeaway meal

Handle – pint of beer

Hen fruit – eggs

Hotdog – corndog in local fast food shops

Iceblock – popsicle, Ice Stick

Jafa – popular sort of small orange flavored candy with a chocolate center

Jar – glass of beer

Kai – food (Maori origin)

Kai moana – sea food (Maori origin)

Knuckle sandwhich – a fist in the teeth, punch in the mouth

Lamington – sponge cake cube, coated in icing, covered in dried coconut

Lolly – candy

Main – primary dish of a meal

Mince – Ground meat

Maori roast – fish and chips

Narna – banana

Paua – abalone

Pav or pavola – dessert usually topped with kiwifruit and cream

Pikelet – small pancake usually had with jam and whipped cream

Pinky bar – popular chocolate covered pink marshmallow candy bar

Pipi edible shell

Plonk – cheap liquor, cheap wine

Pudding – dessert

Rock melon – cantaloupe

Sammie – sandwich

Scrogin – trail mix of nuts and raisins

Scull – consume, drink quickly

Serviette – paper napkin

Shandy – drink made with lemonade and beer

Shark and taties – fish and chips

Shout To – treat your friends to something such as a drink or a meal

Shout – to treat, to buy something for someone, as in “lunch is my shout”

Smoko – Coffee or tea break

Snarler – sausage

Steinie – bottle of Steinlager, brand lager

Stubby – small glass bottle of beer

Tea – evening meal, dinner

Tomato sauce – Ketchup

Tucker – Food

Vegemite – popular spread, made from yeast extract, imported from Australia

Veges – vegetables

Zed – How Kiwis pronounce the letter “Z”

Next time: witness how many of these terms can wonderfully combine

Dining at SKYCITY, Auckland, New Zealand

More About Daily Life On Board Lindblad’s Endeavour

Lindblad Endeavour kayaking Galapagos-1

More thoughts and observations about daily life on the Lindblad National Geographic Endeavour, a follow-up to yesterday’s post.

Kayaking
According to Carlos Romero, our expedition leader, Lindblad Expeditions is the only cruise company to offer kayaking, That isn’t surprising since, according to the National Park, most other boats carry only 16 passengers. The kayaks serve two purposes: to provide a different activity and to allow passengers to seek out on their own the birds, iguanas and sea lions that reside on steep island cliffs. All kayaks are two-person sit-on-top models, which are quite stable; you’d have to work extremely hard to tip one over.

Lindblad Endeavour kayaking Galapagos-2                                       Paddling at Tagus Cove, Isabela Island

But with two people paddling, it’s vital both paddlers be in synch, each alternating to the same side with every stroke. Paddlers are out of synch when, seen from the front or rear, their paddle blades resemble a windmill in motion, which is not good; the purpose of windmill blades is to spin in a circle.

The only tricky part is getting in and out of the kayak, which is achieved from a Zodiac, not the Endeavour. A kayak is held alongside the inflatable as two paddlers, on at a time, slide onto the center of the kayak. It’s a more delicate exercise to slide back into the Zodiac since the kayak is lower. If anyone is likely to fall into the drink, it’s during the loading and unloading exercises.

The Endeavour has no scheduled kayak quick-course since it doesn’t require much instruction to propel the craft. However you may find these tips helpful. Guides accompany kayakers, able to shout directions to anyone needing help.  As with snorkeling, a Zodiac stays close to pick up anyone needing assistance or provide a tow.

Talks by Naturalists

These are one of the high-points of the trip. Frequently the briefings are just after lunch or part of the evening recap. Naturalists change regularly to rotate to other Lindblad ships or take a week or two off, meaning topics may change from week to week Almost all of the naturalists are Ecuadorians, either born in the Galapagos or long time island residents. All have been trained and certified by the National Park Service

Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos penguins-1  Lindblad Endeavour sea turtle Galapagos-1
Possible talk topics include Galapagos penguins and Pacific sea turtles 

Sample talk topics may include a history of early 20th century settlers in the Galapagos (if Galapagos native Aura Cruz gives this talk, you must attend not only for the information but the strange and wonderful video of people dancing with their “adopted child:” a donkey!). Expect an explanation of how Charles Darwin’s visit to the islands helped form his theory of natural selection, perhaps even a separate session or the evolution of fish species. Regardless, all sessions are informative and usually accompanied by films or slides shown on large flat screen TVs scattered around the lounge so everyone has a good view.

Personally, until one of the talks I never knew that Charles Darwin’s family was so wealthy and that it was due to the Darwin family tradition of marrying one of the Wedgwood daughters, as his father and Charles both did. These are the same Wedgwood  as in fine china and whose name has become almost a generic synonym for elegant table ware.

Endeavour Library
The ship’s library offers a small but interesting selection of books about the Galapagos and other expedition regions. Tim was one of the first people in the library after we sail from Baltra and he happened to find a worn copy of the Pulitzer-prize winning The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. He found it a fascinating read, describing a 20-year study recording how the beaks of finches on Daphne Major Island changed over the span of 20 generations. The research proved for the first time the process of evolution not only occurs, it can also be observed. The study is still ongoing.

Lindblad library-1  N Seymour Darwin Finch-2
                 The Endeavour library; a Darwin finch on North Seymour Island

The library is worth visiting even if you don’t intend to read (there isn’t much free time except at night). The small room is a quiet, out-of-the-way place to sit and enjoy a cup of tea or snack on a wafer anytime, around the clock, since everything is provided on a self-serve basis. This is one of the ship’s less frequented areas.

The Computer Lab                          
A small computer lab located next to the reception area offers three  computers. All are linked to a printer, which can be used to make a hard copy of any important documents, such as airline online check-in. Satellite internet time is sold in various units, with the system working best when the Endeavour is stationary.
Lindblad Endeavour computer room-1

The Main Lounge
The social hub of the Endeavour is located on the deck just above the 100 cabins. The lounge is open around the clock for tea and free soda fountain (Diet Coke, Coke, Spite). A small glass-fronted cooler offers Ecuadorian beers with an honor system signup sheet for a person’s room number and the number of items taken. In early evening, just before the daily recaps, appetizers are served with treats like chicken lettuce wraps, chips, salsa, and veggies with dip. And the full bar here also is open at that time.

Lindblad lounge-1

The lounge provides the only the nightly entertainment, which normally consists of TV specials by (surprise!) National Geographic about different aspects of the Galapagos. Toward the end of the cruise, a group of local musicians and dancers from Santa Cruz Island entertained us with music and dance not only from Ecuador but Bolivia and Peru. Called Eco Arte, they were so impressive we bought all four of their CD’s, a perfect memory of the Galapagos. If you like their playing, buy the CD’s from them when they are on the ship. It’s the only opportunity you’ll have.

Galapagos Eduacorian dancer Lindblad National Geographic Endeavour

The Outside Decks
The stern has have a mix of tables and chairs and loungers, usually occupied by people reading or dozing between shore landings. A tiny swimming pool located near the stern is more like the size of a plunge pool and it seems universally ignored by everyone. It might appeal to young children, but none were on our trip.

Lindblad Endeavour sun deck-1  Lindblad Endeavour swimming pool-1

Tip: Wet bathing suits can really start smelling after a couple of days. Use the complimentary clothes dryer in the spa wellness area for anything that gets wet. Or take advantage of the Endeavour’s one-day laundry service.

Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Cruise Links

The Galapagos Experience                                       Endeavor Dining
Galapagos Adventure Upcoming                            Sustainable Dining Policy
How Darwin Saved The Galapagos                         Saturday Dining Menus
Galapagos Photo Tips                                                  Sunday Dining Menus
What To Pack For Cruise                                            Monday Dining Menus
Getting to Guayaquil                                                    Tuesday Dining Menus
Las Bachas Shore Landing                                         Wednesday Dining Menus
North Seymour Shore Landing                                Thursday Dining Menus
Fernandina & Isabela Islands                                  Friday Finale Menus
Urbina Bay Shore Landing                                         Endeavour Recipes
Life Aboard The Endeavour
More About Life On Board
Puerto Egas Shore Landing
Endeavour’s Floating SPA
Meeting One of World’s Rarest Animals
Puerto Ayoro Walking Tour
Santa Cruz Highlands Tour
Hunting Tortoises in the Santa Cruz Highlands
San Cristobal, Endeavour’s final stop

Life On Board Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour


Lindblad endavour off Rabida-1

Who’s In Charge
Every Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos cruise has three supervisors:

The Captain, who hopefully you won’t see except at social functions. You don’t want to see him in a public area with a megaphone in hand or hear his voice over your cabin speaker during the distress signal while someone is pounding on your door.

The Expedition Leader, the most visible person of the three since this person usually oversees all departures and returns and emcees the nightly recaps in the lounge.

The Hotel Manager, someone who only occasionally is recognized at the lounge meetings but is usually present in the dining room at every meal. Other than the captain, this is the most important person on the ship. The hotel manger is in charge of the cabins, the dining room, pretty much everything on the ship that doesn’t include the bridge or any of the mechanical/technical operations.

Montserrat Rodriquez, Endeavour hotel manager                               Montserrat Rodriquez, the Endeavour’s hotel manger

Finding Your Way Around The Ship
Although the Lindblad National Geographic Endeavour is one of the largest ships stationed year-round in the Galapagos, it carries a maximum of 96 passengers. At the beginning of the cruise, you may find yourself going to the wrong decks because they have an unusual numbering system. Cabins with a 300 number are at the ship’s lowest level, while those with a 100 number are located two decks above, just the opposite of most cruise ships..

The Stateroom
Either the Endeavour has more spacious cabins than any other cruise line or Linda did a really good packing job. For a change, we don’t have camera equipment and other gear scattered around our stateroom. Square-foot wise, our cabin isn’t all that large but it has really good storage space.

Our stateroom room is basic: two twin beds against opposite walls with a nightstand in between. Together, the three items probably don’t cover much more space than a single king-size bed. However, under the beds we can hide the suitcases, shoes, dry bags and other gear. A flat area between the bed headboards and the cabin’s window makes a convenient shelf for our Kindles, books borrowed from the ship’s library, the daily activity sheets and our sunglasses. We each have a lamp over our beds with the added feature of a built-in reading light, one of the cabin’s best features.

    Lindblad Endeavour cabin-1                           Some cabins on the Endeavour have a large single bed

At the foot of one bed is an easy chair and a small work desk with chair and mirror. Amazingly, there are three electrical outlets above the desk instead of a single one on most cruise ships. Two of the outlets are 110, the other 220 for a European-style plug. We always pack a power strip to have enough outlets for our computers and for recharging camera batteries. Before Tim sets up his computer on the desk, most of the desk space was occupied by a large container for water and two drinking glasses. He transferred them to the top of a wooden coat rack, which acts like an additional shelf. They fit perfectly.

Behind the desk are two roomy closets with several large drawers for folded clothing plus plenty of space for hanging them. Everything fits perfect even with all of our computer and photography equipment. One item absent from the cabin is a TV, which we’re too busy to miss.

The cabin stewards are surprisingly attentive. In addition to their usual morning clean-up and towel change, they return during the day while we’re out to straighten up the room.

The Day Begins
Our mornings always start early, sometimes at 6:15 a.m. but never later than 6:45 with a wakeup call on “Radio Carlos,” the name for our room speaker. Carlos Romero, our expedition leader, always greets us with a cheery, “Good morning, breakfast will be served in 15 minutes.”  This speaker system has its pros and cons.  It’s a real convenience since you don’t have to worry about setting an alarm clock or being late for any activity because the departures are always announced well in advance.  And one of the two channels also broadcasts the nightly recaps and any afternoon talks by the naturalists held in the ship’s lounge. That makes it possible for us to stay in our cabin to download images from our cameras and not miss anything important.

Lindblad Endeavour sunset-2                                            Relaxing on deck for sunset watching.

The one bad part of the speaker system is that if you decide to sleep late and miss an excursion, you can’t turn down the volume. On the one morning Linda decides to take a break, she is regularly bombarded by Carlos’ announcements as he continually reports the departure times for kayaking and glass bottom boats throughout the morning. Normally you can turn down the volume or turn off the speaker. Not when “Radio Carlos” broadcasts. No way to avoid it.

The Shore Landings
Morning shore excursions usually depart at 8 a.m. and arrive back between 10:30 and 11:30 for lunch, which is at 12:30. Typically, the ship moves to a new location during lunch for a second shore landing. Our blogs occasionally cover both landings but most often concentrate on only one. Why? Because the walks may be so similar that describing one is enough. A more pressing reason: as we write these posts, we’re preparing to leave for New Zealand.

Snorkeling
At the beginning of the week, the naturalists help everyone select a properly-sized shortie wetsuit, a pair of fins and a correctly-fitted mask with snorkel. If you’ve never snorkeled much before, take advantage of the offered training before tackling the deep water snorkel outings. For deep water snorkeling, getting back in the boat is easy. The Zodiacs mount a removable set of stairs on their bows, a trouble-free way for getting in and out of the water. If you prefer, you can always leave the boat using a traditional backflip.

Lindblad snorkel boat-1            Snorkelers in a Zodiac outfitted with stairs to make getting in and out easy.

Galapagos water temperatures are chilly much of the year, sometimes plunging as low as the mid-50’s. The coldest water temperatures on our trip range from a low of 68 F to a high of 72 F. The water temperatures of each location usually are announced ahead of time so snorkelers can back out before getting wet. Even 72 F is a bit brisk for some of us with only a shortie. Back home, Florida’s fresh water springs average 72 F year-round, temps that require a full wet suit for scuba divers.

Those nippy water temperatures can be a relief when air temperatures reach 90 F and above, something you’re not apt to experiences in the Galapagos. On the other hand, those who were raised in colder climates consider the water temps to be “just like back home.” It’s a matter of personal fortitude; or an individual’s background and how close to the Arctic Circle they were raised.

Perhaps the comments at dinner by one woman snorkeler summed it up well for those accustomed to warmer conditions: “I turned on the shower as hot as it would go and I still couldn’t stop shaking.” That’s someone who hung in there too long, possibly risking hypothermia.

The combination of cold water with rough water can become unpleasant after a time. Not to worry. Zodiacs with their special stairs are available to pick up anyone who’s had more fun than they can stand.
  Lindblad sea lion making a shark fin-1                          Here’s a sight to catch snorkelers’ attention: a shark fin!!? 
                          No, a  swimming sea lion just having fun.

Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Cruise Links

The Galapagos Experience                                       Endeavour Dining 
Galapagos Adventure Upcoming                            Sustainable Dining Policy
How Darwin Saved The Galapagos                         Saturday Dining Menus
Galapagos Photo Tips                                                  Sunday Dining Menus
What To Pack For Cruise                                           Monday Dining Menus
Getting to Guayaquil                                                    Tuesday Dining Menus
Las Bachas Shore Landing                                         Wednesday Dining Menus
North Seymour Shore Landing                                Thursday Dining Menus
Fernandina & Isabela Islands                                  Friday Finale Menus
Urbina Bay Shore Landing                                         Endeavour Recipes
Life Aboard The Endeavour
More About Life On Board
Puerto Egas Shore Landing
Endeavour’s Floating SPA
Meeting One of World’s Rarest Animals
Puerto Ayoro Walking Tour
Santa Cruz Highlands Tour
Hunting Tortoises in the Santa Cruz Highlands
San Cristobal, Endeavour’s final stop

National Geographic Endeavour Visits Urbina Bay

Urbina Isabela Island-2
              Isabela Island from the Endeavour en route to Urbina Bay

Urbina Bay Hikes, The Long and The Short of Them

Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour will spend the entire day at Isabela, largest island in the Galapagos Archipelago. Less than a decade ago, this island was overrun with feral goats and pigs brought in by settlers. Their continued destruction of the endemic flora and fauna threatened the survival of the land iguanas and giant tortoises, prompting the National Park Service to undertake the world’s largest ever ecosystem restoration mission in a protected area.

Known as Project Isabela, the eradication actually involved eliminating the goat populations not only on Isabel but also Santiago and Pinta Islands.  On northern Isabela alone, the goat population numbered 100,000 animals when the eradication project began in 1997. It was a costly, high-tech endeavor that included using helicopters for aerial hunting and GIS tracking with radio collars placed on sterilized “Judas goats” released on the islands to seek and pinpoint any existing herds of feral goats. The project was a complete success, ending in 2005. Land iguanas and giant tortoises are no longer threatened with extinction.

Linda’s Hike: Our day begins at Urbina Bay (also known as Urvina Bay) on the western shore of Isabela.  This is a famous location where in 1954 almost one square mile( 1.5 km) of sea bottom including a section of coral reef was instantly lifted 15 feet (4 m) above water by a geological uplift. Records indicate that sharks, lobsters and fish were left on land–some even found in the trees–by local fishermen who noticed the strong stench coming from the area. Uplifts occur in the Galapagos frequently, but this is one of the most dramatic ever witnessed. Almost 60 years later, ocean bottom has blended with the landscape and everything looks normal, but I can’t help but wonder if another sudden uplifting could be on the calendar for today.

I quickly remove that thought and start feeling excited about the possibility of seeing huge tortoises in the wild, our first chance for such an encounter. The Endeavour is offering two morning hikes, a longer one along the beach over large boulders that goes inland and covers almost 2 miles (3 km). A shorter, half-mile version covers only the inland portion.

I choose the shorter walk because climbing doesn’t over boulders doesn’t seem like the thing to do since I have a touch of motion sickness. It’s not that the Endeavour rocks and rolls that much; I have an inner ear problem that makes me especially susceptible to the motion of a rough Zodiac ride. The high waves yesterday at Isabela were too much like a roller-coaster ride and I’m still recovering..

The long hikers leave at 8 a.m. and we follow at 8:30. As the departure times grow closer, I become hesitant about doing the short walk because I don’t want to miss any great photo opportunity but the guides have assured me we will see the same wildlife.

Galapagos Bottlenose Dolphins Lindblad National Geographic EndeavourDolphins escort our Zodiac to shore.

The Zodiac trip over has an awesome surprise.  A group of bottlenose dolphins escort us from the ship to our wet landing site on the beach. Because our hike is short, naturalist Walter has the Zodiac driver follow the dolphins for 15 or 20 minutes.  Once on the beach, we are greeted by five juvenile Galapagos hawks.  One hawk tries to tear open a bright yellow mesh dive bag that a hiker left on the beach. What a terrific photo opportunity! I am thrilled with my short hike decision so far.

Galapagos Hawk            Ambitious Galapagos hawk trying to figure out how to fly off with gear bag.

As we depart the beach and head inland, we split into different groups (a maximum of 16 persons in a group). My naturalist today is Jeffo again, our guide yesterday on Fernandina Island. The first thing Jeffo shows us is a species of cotton that is, oddly enough, called Darwin’s cotton.  Although its an endemic species, it still seems out of place to find something as common and ordinary as cotton in the Galapagos. Closely related to cotton found on the American continent, scientists believe a cotton seed arrived here from South America either blown by the wind, washed in by the sea or dropped by a bird.

Galapagos Darwin Cotton Lindblad National Geographic Endeavour                                       Darwin cotton; it also bears a yellow flower.

Jeffo slows down to point out several large iguanas hiding under the trees. It’s a clear day and everything seems to be hiding from the sun. We do spot two giant tortoises: a young one hiding in a hole with only part of its shell visible and a fully grown one sandwiched under thick tree limbs to keep cool.

Galapagos Land Iguana Lindblad National Geographic Endeavour        Urbina Bay on Isabela Island has some of the Galapagos’ largest land iguanas.

When we arrive back at the beach, the hawks are still patrolling and taking their photo is easier than taking candy from a baby. Several people in our group brave swimming in the cold water as sea lions watch them from the rocks.  I decide to just sit on the beach and watch a couple of eagle rays glide through the water as sea turtles bob their heads above the water for a quick gulp of air. Only in the Galapagos can I have this kind of experience. It’s extremely pleasant.

The best part of this morning’s walk: we were never rushed in the least; unlike some other hikes. I wonder how Tim is doing photo-wise on the longer walk.

The Long, Long, Long Beach Walk

Tim’s Hike: You would think the first groups ashore for the long walk would see more critters than those who come later. Not necessarily so. Our Zodiac is the first to encounter the bottlenose dolphin and they are close, just yards away from us. They are having fun, porpoising first on one side and then the other. No one is sitting in the bow, which would allow photographing them from both sides, so I claim it and begin firing away.

Because we’re on a schedule–our panga drivers need to go back to get the late-comers–we don’t spend much time with the dolphin but go directly to the black sand beach where a Galapagos hawk is sitting high in a tree, watching us. The bird seems as curious about us as we are about it, so I’m able to move as close as I need to for my telephoto lens. Any closer and there would be branches in the way because I would be looking straight up at the hawk.

Urbina long beach walk-1
In addition to its length, having to climb lava rocks on the beach deterred
many from this hike.

I’m so intent on taking hawk pictures I don’t realize how long we’re spending on the beach to begin our long hike. No one else is taking hawk photos. I’m surprised to notice it’s 8:30 a.m. before we start our walk. Hikers for the short walk already are starting to arrive.

There are two directions for the long hikes to take. From the beach, most hikers going right are starting by walking inland. Ours is one of two groups walking the lava rock beach. I notice that as we’re starting, the only other group to take this direction is very far ahead of us. I’m about to understand why. Our naturalist leader is an excellent naturalist but is a little too obsessed about telling us about everything we see; some of which we’ve seen before.

Urbina steep beach-2
The steep beach slope at Urbina Bay.

We do see many interesting things on the walk, especially observing clearly the steep incline of the beach where the shoreline was suddenly extended a half-mile due to the uplift. We also come upon a remarkably colored male iguana starting to glow with his mating colors.

However, we are just leaving the beach when we start encountering hikers who have spent almost two hours exploring and photographing the shorter inland area where most of the animals are said to be located. It’s already 10:15 and we’re supposed to be back on board at 11:15. Several of us hope we can pick up the pace if we leave the beach and begin the marked trail inland.

Almost immediately we encounter the cluster of boulder-sized coral heads located several hundred yards from the coastline. Corals generally grow only about an inch a year. Some of the coral boulders are shoulder to chin high or even well above our heads, monuments to decades, if not centuries, of development.

Urbina coral moved inland-2
Some of the coral heads moved inland by 1954’s uplift of the sea bottom.

I would like to spend more time at this location but the remainder of the trail beckons, which several of us continue to pioneer for our group. The pathway here is more overgrown than any other we’ve ever traveled, an indication of how infrequently it is used.

Urbina overgrown trail-1  Urbina goat head-1
The overgrown trail at Urbina Cove; a trail marker—the last goat on Isabela Island?

Some of the Galapagos’ largest land iguanas are supposed to live here and we find many of them resting under tree braches as well as the burrows where they retreat to from the sun. We also encounter a large tortoise that has pushed itself well back into a dense thicket to escape the sun. The only photo angle available: turtle butt.

Urbina giant tortoise                                  Galapagos tortoise seeks seclusion from sun.

The inland path emerges at our landing point. Not surprisingly, the other groups left well ahead of us. We finally reboard the Endeavour a half-hour behind schedule.

A story is circulating about how the efficiency of our life jackets. The waves were strong at the landing site and it seems one Zodiac was partially flooded by a wave, which caused all the life jackets resting on the Zodiac’s wooden floor to inflate. That’s a sight I’m sorry I missed.

The moral of this tale: the naturalist guides can enhance or hinder your shore excursions. All of the other naturalists have been excellent, and I find it surprising to encounter one so out of step with the rest. But that’s easily remedied: I’ll pay more attention to which guide is in charge of a particular Zodiac. And act accordingly.

I certainly saw more than Linda did on her shorter walk; but she enjoyed hers.

Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Cruise Links

The Galapagos Experience                                       Endeavour Dining
Galapagos Adventure Upcoming                           Sustainable Dining Policy
How Darwin Saved The Galapagos                        Saturday Dining Menus
Galapagos Photo Tips                                                 Sunday Dining Menus
What To Pack For Cruise                                           Monday Dining Menus
Getting to Guayaquil                                                   Tuesday Dining Menus
Las Bachas Shore Landing                                        Wednesday Dining Menus
North Seymour Shore Landing                                Thursday Dining Menus
Fernandina & Isabela Islands                                  Friday Finale Menus
Urbina Bay Shore Landing                                         Endeavour Recipes
Life Aboard The Endeavour
More About Life On Board
Puerto Egas Shore Landing
Endeavour’s Floating SPA
Meeting One of World’s Rarest Animals
Puerto Ayoro Walking Tour
Santa Cruz Highlands Tour
Hunting Tortoises in the Santa Cruz Highlands
San Cristobal, Endeavour’s final stop