Category Archives: News

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

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


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


          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.

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.

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




Lindblad Endeavour Calls at Fernandina and Isabela Islands


Fernandina iguana party-1

Fernandina, Island of Iguanas

During the night, Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour crosses the equator to take us into the westernmost section of the Galapagos where the undersea upwelling creates cool water temperatures as low as the mid-50’s F. This cold water provides a rich marine smorgasbord for the sea lions, marine iguanas and flightless cormorants residing in the region.

Our first landing of the day is on Fernandina Island, at one of the Galapagos’ best-known sites: Punta Espinosa, a narrow stretch of land and lava rock almost guaranteed to have a large concentration of animals, particularly marine iguanas. Darwin may have considered them hideous, but seen close-up, through a camera lens, their faces become captivating, almost appealing in a grotesque way; they certainly have character .

Fernandina Island, considered the youngest of all the Galapagos Islands, is still lively with volcanic activity. The last eruption here was in 2009, when the southern flank of the La Cumbre volcano had a fissure eruption that generated flows lasting for several hours. La Cumbre is considered among the Galapagos’ most active volcanoes, with eruptions in 2005 as well as 2009. Successive lava flows from the volcano have streaked the island in black, making this one of the most inhospitable islands for animal life living away from the shore. Because no animals were ever introduced, some consider Fernandina to be the largest, most pristine island remaining in the world.

Le_Cumbre_volcanic _plune_2009          This NASA satellite photo shows the volcanic plume from the 2009 eruption
of La Cumbre on Fernandina Island. The tiny section marked in red shows    where unusually hot surface temperatures were detected.

From the Endeavour, Fernandina and its 5,000-foot volcano are an imposing sight. They become even more impressive as our Zodiac draws close, winding through a lava canal that leads to another over the bow scramble to stand on lava rock. This time I realize the Zodiac’s netting is not only to protect the rubber boat but also to provide us better traction when wave splashes slicken the bow.

Despite the thick lava crust bordering the shoreline, the National Park Service has managed to place posts in the rock to mark off a nature trail. We need the trail to guide us, too, because the dark lava rock is littered with black marine iguanas almost everywhere. When the animals are bunched up in groups of 20-50 animals, they’re easy to step around. It’s the stray animals (seeking solitude?) that demand careful attention while walking the path. Anyone who stops spotting to view what’s ahead–or where they intend to step next–is likely to find a marine iguana underfoot.

Fernandina Island iguanas everywhere-1

Our naturalist, Jeffo Marquez, says all these iguanas are males which are hanging together like best friends, partly to increase their body warmth. But when the mating season begins, he says all the buddy-buddy get-togethers abruptly end and it’s every male for itself as they compete for a female. Sounds like a familiar ritual.

We come upon a female sea lion reclining on the hard lava rock as her pup suckles. It’s a surprisingly noisy process that we can hear over the waves. Jeffo z points out how a sea lion mother will never nurse another pup, even one that’s been abandoned and starving. It’s already hard enough for a mother to find enough food to nourish her own, which she nurses from six to 12 months.

Fernandina Island pup being chased away-1

This is not puppy love.  This is war.

Just as Jeffo ends sharing this tidbit of knowledge, two sleek and healthy sea lion pups, apparently drawn by all the nursing pup’s slurping sounds, suddenly appear from behind some rocks and quickly flipper-walk toward the nursing mother. She raises her head to issue a loud roar at them. That alerts her pup, which scrambles around to face the first aggressor. To protect his own feeding rights, the pup barks at the newcomer and aggressively nudges at it, attempting to drive away. The second interloper keeps its distance, seemingly unsure what to do. Finally the intruder sees this claim jumping isn’t going to succeed. It turns away and retreats, with its buddy close behind. The two come in our direction, realize we have nothing to offer, then plop down on the lava rocks. Excitement over.

“I love it when nature proves my point!” Jeffo exclaims.

whale skeleton Fernandina-1  lava cactus -1
Whale bones on display at Fernandina Island; lava cactus

Isabela Island Zodiac Ride

Isabela Endeavour-1

In the afternoon, we cross the Bolivar Channel to anchor near Punta Vincente Roca at the southern end of Isabela Island. A mid-afternoon Zodiac tour passing close to Isabela’s high rocky cliffs should show us the famous Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants, sea turtles and the ubiquitous marine iguanas. However, the rough seas make this an unusually exciting outing and a challenging one for photography. That’s unfortunate because all the critters are present, including numerous sea turtles and several penguins that swim within yards of us. The motion of the bouncing boat is compounded by the deeply shaded area where most of the animals are hanging out; the angle of the sun would have been much better in the morning but the Endeavour has to follow the schedule given to it by the National Park. It’s disappointing to imagine the images that might have been.

Isabela Zodiac ride-1
Having an action-packed time in the waves off Isabela.

Later this afternoon, just before sunset, we’re scheduled to recross the equator. This time we’ll be able to celebrate the occasion, unlike last night when we slept through it. To mark the event, a bar with snacks is set up on the foredeck in front of the bridge.

Many of us assemble there or on the Endeavour’s bow to view Isabela’s amazing geologic formations. Isabela, at 62 miles (100 km) long, is the largest island in the Galapagos. It also is located near the “Galapagos hot spot,” an area where magma pushes through the ocean floor crust but quickly cools underwater to form a gentle sloping formation. As more magma is propelled from the hot spot, the slope keeps building until it reaches sea level and creates an island.

Isabela, considered among the youngest islands here at only one million years old, was formed by the merger of six “shield volcanoes,” so-named because of their large size and their low profile. Those two characteristics combine to resemble a classic warrior’s shield. The last eruption on Isabela took place in October, 2005; the eruption on Fernandina that same year was in May. An estimated 60 eruptions have occurred in the Galapagos over the past 200 years.

Isabela volcanic cone c-1
The cone of a shield volcano at Isabela Island.

As we continue to enjoy spectacular views of Isabela’s dramatic coastline, Endeavour expedition leader, Carlos Romero, announces all passengers should come on deck if they want to see the line when we cross the equator. Linda and I look at each other, wondering what is planned to create the famed but invisible equatorial line. We move to the ship’s upper deck for a better view.

Two naturalists, one wearing an Egyptian headdress, appear on the foredeck to unfurl a wide ribbon carrying yellow, red and blue stripes that match those of the Ecuadorian flag. Carlos starts a count-down to the moment the ship reaches the proper coordinates, then invites everyone “to cross the equatorial line.” People hesitate, wondering if the naturalists will decide to lower their equatorial line from shoulder level to knee level, which would demand some limbo action to squeeze under it. But the equatorial line stays stable at shoulder-height.

Isabela crossing the equator line-1
Crossing the line at the equator.

I decide to bolt from the upper deck to join in the line crossing. Linda follows but, being more petite and less pushy, falls behind. It’s a good thing one of us is at the equatorial line because Carlos is waving a single certificate marking this historic passage–and the certificate has Linda’s name on it.

Carlos calls me over to take her place. As he hands me the official-looking document signed by the ship’s captain, he tells everyone “And all of you will receive one!” His announcement prompts cheering and applause from all the passengers. Linda then shows up, just in time to take a photo of me holding her certificate.

This “ceremony” was unexpected and it was fun. But soon everyone’s attention moves to the horizon where the sun is about to set. And it’s going to be a pretty one.

Tonight, the Endeavour will almost circumnavigate Isabella to take us to locations many smaller ships don’t have the speed to reach for a normal seven-day Galapagos cruise. We’re especially looking forward to the first stop at Urbina Bay. We’ve been told about a section of coral reef that was moved almost a half-mile inland following a major upheaval in 1954. Just so something similar doesn’t happen tomorrow while we’re on land.

Galapagos Full Moon Lindblad National Geographic Endeavour
The moon rises over Isabela Island.

 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 Visits North Seymour

N Seymour Magnificent Frigatebird-1

Journey Log: Day 2

Although in the Galapagos the same endemic animals are present year-round, their mating and nesting are seasonal. The one bird I want most to photograph is the male magnificent frigatebird, which in the breeding season looks like it’s swallowed a bright red balloon. The bird inflates its red throat pouch as part of its courtship to attract a mate while perched on small plants with their heads bent back. It also uses the sac for sound effects, too, by creating a clattering sound as it drums its sac with its bill. Not exactly sure why this attracts a mate; maybe size does matter. In any case, a female signals her choice by landing next to the male, who then wraps his massive wings around her to protect her from other males.

Unfortunately, the mating and nesting season occurs only from spring to summer. I express my disappointment to naturalist Jason Heilmann, who leads the two photo sessions held on Lindblad’s National Geographic  Endeavour and will be our guide for our forthcoming shore landing. He says not to worry, that there is one island where the male frigates are in display and nesting occurs year-round. It happens to be North Seymour Island.

“You’ll see plenty of male frigates and their bright red sacs, and they’ll all be close to the path,” Jason assures me. The birds’ proximity to the trails created across the island by the National Park Service is crucial since we’re not supposed to step off it. While the crews of some other ships may allow it, the Lindblad naturalists are adamant about following the rules and keeping to the marked path; as they should be.

The bows of all the Endeavour’s Zodiacs are covered with heavy netting. Our landing method at North Seymour demonstrates why they need such protection. Despite the popularity of the island, there is no permanent docking facility. So, once we are a few yards from a large black lava rock, we remove our life jackets and toss them into the center of the boat. Then our boatman slowly propels the Zodiac’s nose against a flat, wet lava rock and keeps the engine engaged as we scramble to step onto a rock just above the bow. I’m thankful I’m wearing the Keen sandals because I don’t think my tennis shoes would have had enough traction on the wet surface.

N Seymour landing site -2
The landing site on North Seymour Island

Once on shore, we have several large black frigatebirds effortlessly soaring over us. Besides being almost primal looking, the birds are huge, up to three feet in length and a wing span of seven feet or more. The silhouetted frigates flying above us, with their sharply forked tails and long narrow wings, appear powerful and menacing. They would make the perfect visual introduction to a movie named “Island Lost in Time” or “Island of the Damned.”

We don’t walk far before spotting male frigates on the nest, though they are far enough away that the numerous bare tree limbs separating us mask the birds like a thick cobweb. Jason assures us all we’ll soon encounter other birds much closer to us. He is absolutely right. We come upon several nests located just yards from the path. Several males are on the nest, their ballooning red sacs making it look like a small gathering of gigantically red-nosed clowns. One nesting female is so close I could reach out and touch her hooked beak.

N Seymourfemale magnificent frigatebird-2
Female magnificent frigatebird on the nest

Telling the sexes apart is surprisingly easy. Frigatebirds–which include the great frigatebird as well as the magnificent frigatebird–are the only seabirds where the male and female are simple to differentiate. The female is brown with a white breast where the magnificent male frigatebird has black feathers with a purple gloss and, of course, its distinctive famous red sac. (The male great frigatebird also has a red sac but its black feathers have more of a greenish sheen.)

I’m so distracted by the ballooning male frigatebirds I’m ignoring what’s on the ground around me and I almost step on a large yellow sleepy land iguana resting flat on its belly and with its legs and tail extended. It’s positioned itself inside the path near the edge. This is the first land iguana I’ve seen, so I crouch down to its eye level and begin snapping away. Not until later do I realize that this land iguana is far more noteworthy than the flamboyant male frigatebirds.

These land iguanas shouldn’t be here. They are not native to North Seymour; in fact no land iguanas at all lived on the island before the 1930s. Land iguanas were transported here in 1932-1934 from Baltra, a short distanced from North Seymour and which at one time was called South Seymour. The iguanas were transplanted under the direction of a Capt. Allan Hancock who considered the land iguanas on Baltra to be undernourished and suffering, perhaps due to a prolonged drought. This wealthy California industrialist  was not scientifically qualified to make such a decision and today he would probably be locked up. Capt. Hancock’s crew is believed to have transferred some 72 iguanas to North Seymour where he deemed the vegetation far better for their survival. Additional iguanas were transferred periodically until 1934.

N Seymour land iguana-2North Seymour land iguana descended from South Seymour transplants

Although such meddling would not be tolerated today, Capt. Hancock’s iguana transplanting project was the right decision. By 1954, the land iguana on Baltra (South Seymour) was declared extinct. When the Galapagos National Park was established, Baltra was not included within it because of the human population. That meant it was politically correct for some of North Seymour’s land iguanas to be reintroduced into their home island in the 1990s. Today, thanks to Capt. Hancock’s interference, both North and South Seymour Islands have a land iguana population that otherwise would not exist.

If the magnificent frigatebirds fulfilled my photographic wish, I guess I should have hoped for great numbers of blue footed boobies as well. In summer, walking the North Seymour trail normally is challenging because of the numerous nests scattered along it. We did spot a few boobies in the trees but it that was nowhere near what I would have wished for (I’m greedy). But the presence of the nesting magnificent frigates and numerous images of their splendid inflated red balloon sacs make the booby drought a minor disappointment.

However, near the end of our walk, we pass a junction with another path where a blue footed boobie on the ground with a chick are located. I break off from Jason’s group to take a quick look. This is the only nest we’ve seen on the ground. Hurrying back, I ask Jason if we will be taking the same route by the nest and he says “no.” I tell him I’ll catch up with his group and he nods agreement.

N Seymour blue footed boobie -2
I’m going to have to put up with this kid how much longer?

The chick is wandering around the nest so I rush back to take photos. Another Endeavour group already is intent on photographing the boobies, so the open space to see the nest is small, which makes it difficult to squeeze in for photos. At a slide show on the last night, I realize how much action I miss. Well, a lot of good wildlife photography isn’t based on skill. Often, the biggest factor is being in the right place and at the right time. Just plain luck.

And I had my luck with the ballooned-up male frigates, something I never expected.

Although we spend 2.5-hours walking a ring around part of North Seymour, the pace is fast, a definite problem that photographically often results in grab shots and why a tripod isn’t practical. The Endeavour, like every ship, is given a certain amount of time at each island by the National Park Service. In some places, we share a landing with other ships. Such rigid scheduling is a major change since my last visit, when the landings were more relaxed. Increasing popularity of the Galapagos has made this necessary. According to the Galapagos National Park, there were 68,856 Galapagos visitors in 1960; CNN states there were just 2,000 tourists a year in 1960. Regardless, in 2010 there were 173, 296 visitors from more than 140 different countries.  The 2010 numbers are a six percent increase over 2009.

In the 1980’s there weren’t 87 tour boats wanting to land at 97 sites. That’s why today there’s almost always the push to keep moving on the land walks. Who can blame people for wanting to come to the Galapagos? The place is magical.

N Seymour lava lizard-2Lava lizard on North Seymour; it’s the size of a gecko

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 Calls at Las Bachas, Galapagos

Tour_Group_Las_Bachas -1

Journey Log: Day 1

The lifeboat drill is one of the first things that happens on every cruise, and it’s no different on the Lindblad National Geographic Endeavour. Normally, once the drill is over, you stuff your lifejacket away in your cabin and that’s the last you see of it. It doesn’t work that way here, not with repeated Zodiac shuttles to Galapagos landfalls throughout the week, sometimes two and three times a day.

Fortunately, these life jackets aren’t floppy or overly bulky. Size-wise, it’s like buckling two large flattened deli salamis to your chest; yes, that sounds weird but I can’t think of anything else that compares in size, though these salamis are virtually weightless. Between trips, they’re cleverly stowed just inside our cabin door in what would normally be a wooden magazine rack.

Following the lifeboat drill, it’s time for our first visit to the Endeavour’s dining room, which is going to become one of our favorite places. The lunch menu posted at the entryway is an interesting one: Ecuadorian potato & cheese soup with avocado, pasta salad with vegetables, Asian stir-fry with peanut sauce, yellow rice, braised chicken with veggies and fried bananas. Hmmm, I suspect we won’t see a hot dog or a hamburger all week. (I’m right.)

In the afternoon we make our first shore excursion at a location many ships use as a first stop after picking up passengers in Baltra: Las Bachas on Santa Cruz Island, an island we’ll return to toward the end of the voyage. Las Bachas is bad Spanish pronunciation of  “barges,” whose rusty metal posts stick out of the sand here.  These World War II relics are reminders of the U.S. presence here when Ecuador authorized the US to establish a naval base at Baltra Island. The U.S. also built Baltra’s airstrip, the same one where we landed. The runway allowed the U.S. Army Air Force to patrol the Pacific for German submarines and also have the capability of defending the Panama Canal from attack.

Las Bachas’ white sandy beach is known as an important nesting site for Pacific green sea turtles, though we’re not present in the height of the egg-laying season. The one bird we might see at Las Bachas but not elsewhere is the pink flamingo.

As our Zodiac lands, we spot two birds I can just as easily find back in Florida: a great blue heron and a brown pelican. However, the species that reside in the Galapagos are considered different enough from their mainland cousins to be endemic and unique to this region.  The great blue heron does its usual shoreline stalking, looking for fish. The antics of the brown pelican are hilarious. For between 10 and 15 minutes, it vigorously grooms itself, going through contortions I didn’t know were possible and have never seen any pelican perform before.

Brown_Pelican_Las_Bachas -1
The brown pelican going through contortions

The heavy clouds of the garua look as if they might move out of the way and allow the setting sun to appear today for the first time. From the beach where we landed, we  hike a brief distance past several  large cactus to reach the striking white sand beach on the northern end of Santa Cruz. The sun finally slips from behind the clouds during its final hour of the day. It’s the wonderful “golden hour” where everything is bathed in a soft, warm color. And it’s because of those wonderful colors I’m turning the rest of this post  over to the photos.

Bachas watching flamingo-1   Bachas flamingo-1 blog
Our group watching the lone flamingo wading in a mangrove pond behind the beach

Bachas beach-1   Cactus_Las_Bachas -1
Walking the beautiful sandy beach at Las Bachas on the northern end of Santa Cruz

Bachas sally lightfoot-1  Turtle_Tracks_Las_Bachas -1 blog
Sally Lightfoot crab in a tidal pool; tracks made by a sea turtle nesting above high tide

Zodiac_Las_Bachas -1
A good end to a good day as the Zodiacs head back to the Endeavour


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

Getting to Guayaquil & The Galapagos


By Linda O’Keefe

Numerous options for flying to Guayaquil

Many Since we didn’t get to sleep until around 1 a.m., the sound of the alarm two and half hours later was met by loud groans of protest from both Tim and me. Knowing we were finally on the way to the Galapagos made the early rising a bit easier to handle.

We were enjoying such early morning misery because we’d opted not to take Lindblad Expeditions recommended American Airlines non-stop flight from Miami to Guayaquil that wouldn’t land in Ecuador until after 10 p.m. That was too last minute for out taste since the Endeavour would start its weekly expedition the following morning. Tim still remembers how his luggage did not arrive in Guayaquil last time and that it barely made it on his Galapagos flight. And that was back when there were a lot more flights from Miami to Guayaquil.

We chose instead an 8 a.m. flight on Copa Airlines to Panama City (the real one, not in Florida) and then on to Guayaquil where we’d arrive around 2 p.m. We’d informed Lindblad of our air arrangements soon after booking. Since we aren’t part of the group, we’re to take the shuttle to the Hilton Colon just a short distance from the airport; Lindblad advised against taking street taxis in Guayaquil.

After clearing customs, Tim and I begin to look for the shuttle bus station. After only a few steps, we see a man dressed in a suit and wearing a Hilton Colon badge holding a placard with our name on it. This is a pleasant surprise; we figured we were on our own in getting to the hotel. Our driver quickly relieves us of our luggage and we follow him to the Hilton shuttle bus for the quick ride to the hotel. It turns out to be a private shuttle bus. We are the only passengers on it.

Hotel Colon -1

At the hotel, we’re met by Rodney Bravo, a Lindblad Expeditions representative, who greets us warmly. He has an envelope with printed instructions and all the information we need for the next morning’s flight to Baltra in the Galapagos, luggage tags, breakfast vouchers and welcome drinks in the hotel bar. Tim gives the check-in clerk a credit card number for any incidentals; the hotel stay is included in the tour. It takes only a few more minutes before we’re settling in our room, which is larger than normal with a king bed, large work desk and a side table with two arm chairs. Very nice for a one night stay.

We decide to take advantage of the free afternoon and soon are sound asleep. After our nap, the two free drink tickets are calling to be used so the bar in the lobby seems the logical next stop. A large wide-screen TV at one end out the lounge displays a soccer match between Ecuador and Venezuela. Ecuador is two goals ahead. This audience certainly is intent on the game but stays amazingly reserved and fairly quiet, not at all boisterous like typical soccer or NFL fans. It is actually possible to carry on a conversation and not shout to be heard. A few times muted cheers erupt from the crowd, yet it’s all strangely . . . civilized.

     Guayquil view-1 blog  Hotel Colon chicken dish-1  Brahma beer-1

We have an early dinner in the hotel café where we each sample a Brahma, a local beer that’s quite good. The food is, too. Tim manages to consume a huge plate of nasi goreng, an Indonesian dish of fried rice with shrimp, chicken and an assortment of peppers and onions. I select chicken stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella. It’s delicious, but the portion is far more than I can eat.

Then it’s off to bed for some more needed sleep. Wake-up will be early: 5:45, with suitcases outside the door by 6, check at 6:30 that our bags are in the lobby and have any luggage to be left behind properly tagged. Also turn in our return flight information, have breakfast and leave the hotel by 7:20 for our 8:30 departure to Baltra. Lindblad obviously does not believe in wasting any time.

Those who flew in on American are all very sleepy; most didn’t get to bed until around midnight. Guess it was worth getting only a few hours sleep two nights ago since we’re more rested than most.

AeroGal is the name of our Galapagos carrier. It sounds like a new version of the defunct Hooters Air (yes, the Hooters of chicken wing fame did have an airline from 2003-2006) but the iguanas and birds on the colorful fuselage indicate there’s no kinship. AeroGal is the shorthand version of Aerogal Aerolinea Galapagos, which has been shuttling people to the Galapagos since 1985.


The plane for our 637-mile, 90-minute flight was a new Airbus A320 (or Airbus 319, didn’t write it down)  with all the frills including plenty of overhead storage for our camera bags and laptops, wide seats and individual entertainment consoles. They even fed us breakfast again, though we didn’t have much of an appetite after the Hilton Colon’s huge buffet.

The weather is bright and sunny as we leave Guayaquil. That changes dramatically. The clouds are so thick we can’t see anything of the Galapagos until the plane is on its final landing approach to the Baltra airport, located on a small flat island near the center of the Galapagos.

Tim and I look at each other. “Well, the garua looks grim today,” he says. “Going to be lots of close-ups and animal portraits.”

I wonder, “Assuming we can get close to the animals.” Despite everything I’ve read and heard, I really doubt the wildlife is as accommodating as it’s supposed to be. According to one source, there are supposed to be something like 87 ships visiting 97 landing sites. How can the animals not have adapted and become more wary of us? And not want to move away from us when they notice our presence? It has to have changed since Tim was here 25 years ago.

(Tim here. At this point, Linda hasn’t waded far enough through The Voyage of the Beagle to read how resilient marine iguanas are when it comes to human presence; the other animals are much the same. And Darwin was iguana tossing almost 150 years before my last (and only) visit.

Darwin had little regard for marine iguanas, calling it “a hideous creature of a dirty black colour, stupid, and sluggish in movements.” He recounts this experiment, trying to understand why when frightened the iguanas will go to the edge of the sea but rather allow a human to grab its tail than jump in the water:

         Marina Iguana Fernandina-1
                                       Darwin said I’m hideous? Dude, I’m just partying!

“I threw one several times as far as I could, into a deep pool left by the returning tide; but it invariably returned in a direct line to the spot where I stood . . . Perhaps this singular piece of apparent stupidity may be accounted for by the circumstance that this reptile has no enemy whatever on shore, whereas at sea it must often fall a prey to the numerous sharks. Hence, probably urged by a fixed and hereditary instinct that the shore is the place of safety, whatever the emergency might be, it there takes refuge.”

Darwin also recounts how a seaman tried to kill an iguana by attaching a heavy weight to it and sinking it: “…but when an hour afterwards, he drew up the line, it was quite active.”

Instead of having iguanas running away from her, I can almost guarantee Linda’s biggest concern will be not stepping on them. Their “dirty black colour” makes them blend into with the lava rock so well it’s a problem everyone has. But you do have to experience this phenomenon to believe it.)

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

What To Pack For A Galapagos Cruise



What should you bring for your Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour cruise? (Or any other Galapagos cruise?)

Suitcase Restrictions
Depending on airline, you may be able to take two bags weighing 50-pounds each to Guayaquil or Quito but you can’t take both to the Galapagos. You’re limited to a single 40-pound checked bag to the Galapagos, which means you must pack carefully.  Leave any extra bags at your Hilton hotel, which you can pick on when you return.

The reason for a single 40-pound bag on the Galapagos segment is that many supplies are sent by plane to the 30,000 people who live in the islands; the cruise ships also rely on their deliveries. On your return to the mainland, the planes carry no supplies and the weight limit is not strictly enforced. That makes it easy to bring souvenirs and gifts back home, though there doesn’t seem to be a lot to shop for except t-shirts, refrigerator magnets and other small souvenirs. But if you see a wall hanging or carpet you just have to take back, you can.

Endeavour dress code
Since this was our first Lindblad cruise, we weren’t sure what clothes to take. The Endeavour is not like most cruises.  The atmosphere is casual every day and night.  In fact, after a few days women in at the evening meal have no make-up and many pull their hair back into a ponytail.  The daily activities sometimes end too close to the 7:30 p.m. dinner hour for the usual evening grooming habits. After a full day with little time between numerous activities, most people are tired and hungry. The nightly ritual usually is eat, go to the final night’s presentation, then bed. Wake-up is early, 6:45 a.m. or earlier.

Shorts, shirts and sandals were entirely appropriate for breakfast and lunch. Sometimes even at dinner when there was a tight day time activity schedule, though on more relaxed nights many people wore slacks and did the usual casual smart.

             As you can see, this isn’t a very formal crowd

Footwear for going ashore
Your main transportation during for Galapagos shore excursions are the inflatable Zodiac, known locally as a “panga,” The Endeavour staff terms them a “black Cadillac,” your floating taxi from the Endeavour to the island where you will be bunched with 11 of your best new friends.  Most island landings are “wet landings,” called that for a good reason.  You must swing your legs over the side and gently slide into the water.  If you’re short like Linda, the water can be knee high; sometimes the waves make it necessary to use two hands to steady yourself.  Thus the need for good water shoes (as well as a backpack).

Footwear is probably the most important packing item to consider. We both make the trip with only two pairs of shoes (a first for Linda: tennis shoes and a pair of Keen water sandals.

After researching different types of water shoes for the best traction and comfort, the online reviews for Keen closed-toe water sandals convinced use they would be our best bet. They turned out to be invaluable.  They made maneuvering on lava rocks and over slick boulders much easier without the risk of slips or falls likely with many types of tennis shoes. We highly recommend the Keen water shoes; some of the naturalists wear them. Keen water sandals are a small investment for help ensure your safety and comfort both in the water and while hiking. Flip flops don’t work here, except on the beach. Hiking boots are also recommended for some of the more strenuous hikes although the Keen sandals gripping power seems just as good.

This is why you want to be selective about your footwear: on the first day, one woman slipped and fell on the sharp lava rock, gashing her face in several places. Fortunately, she was not seriously hurt but did have to smear her face with anti-bacterial ointments for the rest of the week.

The volcanic islands offer little even foot except on the beach

Expedition clothing: Since some landings are wetter than others, it’s important to have shorts or slacks that dry quickly. Linda bought convertible slacks that could zip off to shorts, roll to capri, or wear as long pants. The three pairs served as her shorts during the day and slacks at night. Tim, who is taller and didn’t need to worry about stepping in deep water, wore his usual cotton cargo shorts.

Along with the shore landings, you’ll have several opportunities for touring around parts of an island in a panga. The water on these excursions sometimes can be rough.  Bring a windbreaker/rain jacket for such times. There always is the chance that even in the dry season it might rain, so stuff a rain jacket in your backpack.
Although clothing is casual, think layers: t-shirts, shorts and long sleeved shirts for added sun protection. In the cooler garua season, bring a sweater to wear on deck. Or, if the water has chilled you, to wear inside the well air-conditioned Endeavour.

Transporting cameras ashore
Put your camera in a heavy plastic bag and place it on top of the windbreaker in your backpack to cushion it. If you are carrying two SLRs, take a hand towel from your bathroom to act as a cushion if you have to place it on top of the first camera. Camera backpacks that need to be opened when laid flat are too troublesome and awkward to access. Better to use a traditional backpack, which is easier to open and allows you to grab what you need without any worry of things spilling out.  The naturalist guides also favor traditional backpacks, in which they stuff their own cameras, first-aid kits and more.

Sun protection
A good floppy hat with a tie so the wind won’t tear it off if the cord is loose under your chin is a top necessity.. On both the ship and on shore you’ll find the wind often coming from behind you. If the tie cord isn’t tight, you’ll probably lose your hat. Some Endeavour guides keep their hats so tightly secured they can probably withstand a tropical storm. Although Lindblad sends a nice Endeavour baseball cap as part of its documents package, the equator is not the best place to wear it. Wear it as a fond reminder after you get back.

Sun Hats-1                                     Note all the floppy hats for this Zodiac tour

, a broad spectrum UVA & UVB block that is SPF 30 or higher, is an absolute must. The temperatures may be cool when the clouds are blocking the sun. Remember you’re on the equator and need to use sunscreen several times a day to protect your face, arms and especially your feet or you’ll end up with a burn where the sandals are open. Just in case, bring aloe or another favorite remedy for sunburn.

Good sunglasses are another priority. Most people don’t realize it’s possible to get melanoma in the eye, not just on the skin. Melanoma of the eye may even require its surgical removal. Melanoma of the eye lid is another possibility. Even on cloudy days, there is a lot of bright light. And the glare from the water on a sunny day is at least 10,000 times brighter than is comfortable for the eye.

Your sunglasses (look at the tag) should be capable of doing at least these three things:
Block the UV rays that can damage the cornea and the retina.
Block intense light, with no squinting. Intense light can damage the retina.
Block the glare, as polarizing glasses will.

Other suggestions

Water bottles are provided on the Endeavour, one per person. Water stations for refills are located throughout the ship.  But the tap water is just fine.

For snorkeling, the ship provides a shortie wetsuit, mask with snorkel and fins. Don’t bring dive booties; they don’t work with the Endeavour’s fins. If you have a mask you like, bring it but keep a closer eye on it and take it back to your cabin after each trip. Masks too frequently disappear because they sometimes get left behind in a panga or someone picks up the wrong snorkel bag.

First aid: In case you fall and cut yourself, bring Neosporin and Band Aids. The Endeavour has a doctor on board for serious injuries, such as tripping and getting lava rash.

Motion sickness: Bring meclizine or use the Dramamine available for free at the reception desk. Linda needed more than usual due to the sometimes rough Zodiac rides.

Last but not least, bring a good attitude since you have the opportunity to meet many new friends for the week and have lots of fun while seeing one of the world’s singular wonders. .

More info
These two sites have additional information on what to pack.  The first is from the Lindblad Expeditions site, the second is from the Charles Darwin Research Station.

 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