National Geographic Endeavour Calls at Las Bachas, Galapagos

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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.

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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.

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Our group watching the lone flamingo wading in a mangrove pond behind the beach

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

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Sally Lightfoot crab in a tidal pool; tracks made by a sea turtle nesting above high tide

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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

Lindblad Galapagos Adventure Cruise On The Horizon

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Lindblad Expedition’s “National Geographic Endeavour”

Normally it’s impossible on the same day to snorkel with such cold water animals as penguins and fur seals and at the same time encounter typically warm water reef fish like Moorish idols and the red-colored squirrelfish and soldierfish. Cold and warm water marine animals usually are found thousands of miles (and thousands of dollars) apart … except in the fabled Galapagos Islands.

Even more intriguing are the Galapagos’ fascinating land animals, particularly the giant tortoises, marine and land iguanas and the blue-footed boobies. Overall, at least one‑third of the land species inhabiting the Galapagos Islands are found nowhere else in the world.

Linda and I are about to see them all, up close, on a 7-day cruise aboard Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour. This cruise fulfills a photographic wish we’ve shared for some time. Although I was fortunate enough to cross off the Galapagos from my bucket list a number of years ago, I’ve wanted for a long time to return and replace my deteriorating film slides with digital images. And, to be honest, I’ve forgotten so much about the trip that a second time for me should feel more like a first visit.

More than most cruise destinations, the Galapagos require some background information before departure. Not only to help you plan in advance on what precisely to bring (you won’t have time or the opportunity for anything but souvenir shopping) but to make sure you’ve chosen a time of year that you can be happy with.
  Young Seal lions Playing-blog                                                        Sea lion pups playing only yards from the shoreline.

The Galapagos, harsh volcanic islands located on the equator 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, were named the “Mysterious Isles” by the first Spanish explorers. The archipelago is far more than “mysterious;” they are like nowhere else on earth. Many of the land animals‑‑like the 3‑foot long, dinosaur‑like iguanas and huge land tortoises‑‑were so isolated from the South American mainland that they and others developed in ways distinctly apart from their nearby cousins.

The Galapagos climate is largely determined by Pacific Ocean currents that cut through the archipelago, made up of 13 main islands along with numerous islets and rocks. The colder, dominating Humboldt Current (also called the Peru Current) streams in from Antarctica, following north toward the equator from the southern tip of Chile to northern Peru. The Humboldt current, which upwells deep water to the surface, is responsible for making the water as chilly as 63 F during the June-December months. The cold, nutrient-rich water also supports one of the world’s most productive fisheries, primarily pelagics, jack mackerel, anchovies and sardines.

The cold Humboldt stream keeps the air temperatures surprisingly moderate year-round, from 69F (21C) to 84F (30C). It also helps create the annual rainy season (January through May). The rains, however, are brief and the sun shines most of the time. Sounds ideal, except the rain brings out the mosquitoes and flies, which can be fierce. In addition, the rains also make the water murkier for snorkeling and may also produce a sea mist.

During the remainder of the year, the skies are often overcast until midmorning, sometimes all day, under the influence of what is called the garua. You’ll actually see more sunlight during the rainy period, but that is the least strange element in this land overlooked by time.

This cold water upwelling of the Humboldt Current periodically is disrupted by an El Nino event, which brings a rush of warm, nutrient-poor tropical water, sometimes pushing the water temperatures as high as 86F.  The Galapagos is strongly influenced by the El Niño events that occur every 2-7 years with either a warm (El Niño) or a cool (La Niña). Strong El Niño events cause higher than normal sea surface and air temperatures in the January-May hot season along with an increase in rainfall; these months also make up the rainy season. Biological productivity increases on land during such periods but high water temperatures cause a 50% mortality among the seal and marine iguana populations, which survive on the plants, fish and invertebrates found in shallow water. The La Niña events cause lower than normal sea surface and air temperatures and reduce the rainfall amount in the normally wet, hot season of January through May. Reduced rainfall can also lead to drought, severe food shortages and mortality among the land animals.

As an example, Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island records that the median rainfall there is 7.62 inches (196 mm) in the rainy season and only 3.2 inches (81mm)in the cool season (June through December). In an extreme El Nino event, the rainfall has increased to 109 inches (2769 mm); during a La Nina extreme, it has fallen to just 2.4 inches.

Galapagos Seasonal Weather

Months Low Temp High Temp Season Water Temp
Jan – May 65 – 70°F 85 – 90°F wet 75 – 82°F
June – Dec 65 – 70°F 85 – 90°F dry 62- 68°F

Our October cruise is during the cloudy garua season and a time of cold water; we’re relying on the digital cameras to compensate for the cloudy weather. Hopefully, they will do the job since it is no longer possible to use flash on the animals. About the cold water, though, we’re not so sure. As Floridians, Linda and I try to avoid it. We expect to tough it out, though, even investing in a couple of the new Nikon Coolpix AW100 point-and-shoot digitals capable of going down to 33 feet. That’s deeper than we expect to snorkel.

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