Tag Archives: lindblad national geographic endeavour galapagos cruise

Dining on the Lindblad Endeavour

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                      Classic Spanish paella with shellfish but no shrimp

Sustainability guides the ship’s dining choices—yum!

Lindblad Expeditions takes its dedication to conservation seriously, extending it even to the Endeavour’s dining room. Although seafood is a staple on the ship’s menus, you’ll never find a shrimp cocktail, fried shrimp or shrimp of any sort on the ship. Lindblad banned shrimp from its kitchens more than a decade ago, in the summer of 2001 as part of its sustainable dining program to help preserve fish stocks world-wide.

Lindblad says it could not find any shrimp suppliers who could prove that their shrimp harvesting methods did not damage the marine environment. One of the serious problem shrimp trawlers create is the “bycatch” of unwanted fish species that end up being killed and disposed of. In addition, in some areas the trawlers may sweep the same section of sea bottom several times a year, which leaves no time for re-growth or recovery of the marine habitat.

Shrimp farming also has serious negative impact because shrimp growers have made their pond water poisonous due to the large amounts of artificial feed, pesticides, chemical additives and antibiotics used for the highest possible production rate. Typically, the ponds are located in coastal areas to provide easy access to new fresh water sources to refill them. Unfortunately, instead of reducing pressure on overharvesting, shrimp aquaculture’s toxic  effluent is blamed for reducing local shrimp and fish populations in some regions

When it comes to the fish served on board the Endeavour and other Lindblad ships, they are species considered not to be over-fished or caught by environmentally destructive practices. Lindblad Expeditions is not being extremist in its sustainability approach. According to Ocean Wise, a Canadian non-profit education and conservation association, an estimated 90-percent of all large, predatory fish have disappeared from the world’s oceans and it states that one recent scientific study predicts a world-wide fisheries collapse by the year 2048.  Obviously, this is a topic that impacts all of us and one we all should be concerned about.

Placing the serious aspects of the Lindblad Endeavour’s menu aside, as you’ll see from the accompanying photos and the week’s menus on accompanying pages, no one starves and there is a serious emphasis flavorful food, although the preparations are not always ones we have every day or perhaps ever have had before. But trying new foods always has been an essential part of travel. The menu emphasizes Ecuadorian cuisine, as you would expect.

Here are some sample signs that are posted to explain unfamiliar dishes:

food montepillo sign-1 food potato patty-1

Here’s how seriously Lindblad Expeditions takes its commitment to cater to the diverse tastes of its passengers.  The photo at the top of this post shows paella served once a week at lunch that definitely would not suit vegetarians.  So, a vegetarian paella is served at the same time. 

This kind of catering is routine on large cruise ships. But the Endeavour carries fewer than100 passengers. Here is a photo of the vegetarian paella served at the same lunch.

food veg paella-1Vegetarian paella, a rice dish from Valencia, Spain

See for yourself what the dining on the Lindblad National Geographic Endeavor is like. You won’t be disappointed, I promise you. If I didn’t like it, I would tell you. But I do wish there was just one time during the week for plain old hamburgers with buns and all the trimmings.  But that may be just me.

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

Getting to Guayaquil & The Galapagos

I_Love_Boobies_Souvenir_Cap-1

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.

AeroGal-1

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

Galapagos Photo Tips, What Works & What Doesn’t

Marine Iguana-1 blog

Although our blogs are written in present tense, our trip was Oct.7-16. We’re posting afterwards because there simply was no time to write during the cruise. These tips are based on the conditions we encountered.

Most of the naturalist-guides on Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour are also expert photographers.  Two photography sessions are held on board, one on techniques early in the trip and one on how to share your photos with friends at the end. On the land excursions, you may be asked the first day if you have any camera questions but after that it is up to you.

Although I have been selling my photographs internationally for several decades,  I know the local photo pros know more than I can possibly anticipate for the landings and what lenses I should have ready. If you’re serious about your photos, let the guides know. On our trip, naturalist Jason Heilman was outstanding but I only did one landing with him.  Jason also was in charge of the two evening photo sessions and always was willing to answer questions.

By chance, Galapagos-born Aura Banda Cruz was my guide most of the time toward the end of the trip. I happened to ask her about the lighting conditions for an upcoming landing. She advised me not only that but what lenses to carry for that landing but on later landings without my asking.

The Endeavour  guides will give you as much help as you want, but they won’t push their knowledge on you. You have to ask.

If naturalist Walter Perez happens to be your guide, Linda advises following him for the good shots. He always has his camera ready and after many years of guiding knows precisely where to go. Linda’s upcoming photos in later blogs will prove Walter’s knowledge.  

Galapagos Photo Tips—Finally!

You can always count on finding El Capitan in Yosemite or a fishing village in Maine. The Galapagos guarantees only one thing: lava rock, and loads of it. Yet even some of those landscapes are amazingly photogenic. The animals, however, are on their own schedule based on time of the year and time of day. There are no guarantees of how many animals you will encounter or what they will be doing unless you do prior research on their nesting or mating season and travel accordingly.

Lindblad_Endeavour_Zodiac (1 of 1)Setting off for another land excursion  and more animal encounters from Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour

Animals, of course, are what every photographer usually concentrates on. Their amazing tolerance and universal acceptance of our presence is why it’s so easy to capture such good photographs of them. Although Galapagos wildlife allow us to approach them closely, respecting their personal space is essential. When we cross a boundary, they react by leaving or changing their behavior, such as ending their feeding and staring at us. That’s one reason why the National Park Service doesn’t allow visitors to get too close or to touch any of the creatures.

Expect the Lindblad naturalists on the Endeavour to emphasize this over and over again. They take respect for the animals seriously. It’s too bad the staffs of other tour groups haven’t. In late August of this year, the Galapagos National Park Service closed visitor access to the two giant tortoise corrals in the Tortoise Center on Santa Cruz where visitors were able previously to walk among the tortoises. This was done because of littering and repeated violations of the two meter rule (6.5 feet) in approaching the tortoises. The National Park Service criticized the conduct of both naturalist guides and tourists. Say
good-bye to one of the prime locations for Galapagos tortoise pictures on a face-to-face basis.

How To Photograph In the Galapagos
These tips should work for stills or videos

Types of animal photos to take:
Establishing shot of the animal’s environment
Portraits, including both the complete animal and face close-ups
Behavior
Action/motion
Interaction with other animals and visitors
Humor—some animals do some very funny things

Choose a subject:
Find the best looking animal–or one that represents the point you are trying to make with your photo, such as an animal in distress.

Observe the animal’s behavior.
Many animals repeat their actions, which allows you to anticipate what may happen. Patience is the key. If the animal moves its head frequently, test your camera’s speed and take as many sequence photos as rapidly as you can. Use the fastest speed the light conditions allows. You may end up throwing most of the images away but you should have several good shots.

Use a natural background.
Show that the photos really were taken in the Galapagos and not in a zoo. Definitely take the tight portrait shots but also show the animal’s background from all angles. That usually means getting on the ground, at eye level with the animal. If you take all your photos by looking down on animals, the photos can appear condescending because the camera is tilted down on all the subjects. Still, in some circumstances, looking down is the only position to take. To be on the safe side, take the look-down angle first so you at least have a photo of your subject in case it moves away once you’re at it’s level.

The eyes have it!
Before pressing the shutter for an animal portrait, make sure the you can see the animal’s eye. If the eye isn’t bright and brilliant, wait until your subject changes its position. If it start shaking its head and isn’t likely to calm down, shoot that burst of images and hope for the best.

galapagos_hawk_tree (1 of 1)                    Fill flash would remove the shadowing from this Galapagos hawk’s eye
                    but flash is not permitted when photographing animals.
 
No flashing allowed
Using a flash is the most reliable way to make sure the close-up portraits are colorful and that the eye is sparkling. A flash is forbidden in the Galapagos. The animals react to it badly, often running away. If you have a point-and-shoot camera where the flash won’t turn off, get another camera for your trip. If your camera’s flash won’t turn off, you may not be allowed to use it. Not because the naturalist guides tell you not to: the other photographers will stop you because you’re messing up their photos. On one excursion, a woman’s flash went off and so did the land iguana she photographed–quickly–leaving everyone else with a blur of the iguana’s backside. Words of instruction were exchanged.


The need for speed

The most dramatic photos tend to happen in the blink of an eye, faster than you can imagine. If you don’t respond rapidly, you’ll miss the action entirely. That means staying mobile, instantly alert, with the ability instantly to point your camera anywhere.

With a telephoto lens, you will need to shoot the fast action at least at 1/500 second, preferably 1/1000 second. A 300mm lens is about as large as most people can handle without the aid of a tripod. Above 300mm, camera shake will blur the image, putting everything out of focus, despite the ever increasing advances in digital lenses and cameras. Don’t depend on any anti-shake, stabilizing device. I use a Nikon 80-400mm lens and try to shoot everything at least at 1/1000 second because it’s a heavy lens. Even if all my photos are in focus, the subject tends to change its location because it’s difficult to keep the lens stationary without a tripod/unipod, which is impractical. I’m happier if I can shoot at 1/2000 second, which often happens at 400 ISO even with the usual light cloudy overcast.

dolphin_beside_Zodiac (1 of 1)
This is why you always need to be prepared. These dolphin suddenly appeared beside our Zodiac and were this close for only a brief period. 

Tripod vs. Unipod
The National Park Service regulates where and when all the Galapagos cruise ships go. Depending on the other activities planned for the visit to a particular visitor site, the pace of the walk usually is too brisk for a tripod. Even the Endeavour videographer had to rush to catch up with us because he frequently relied on a tripod. A unipod works better as long as it and your camera have a matching quick release plate. However, a unipod can get in the way for ground level shooting. Most of the photographers who took tripods stopped using them after the first couple of walks. I didn’t bother to take my unipod off the ship.

The camera equipment
I carry two Nikon 7000 digital SLR cameras capable of shooting seven frames a second. That usually captures the fastest action if I have the ISO high enough. With two cameras, I rarely  change lenses. With a digital camera, changing lenses invites dust into your photos unless your camera is able to clean the sensor. In addition to a good telephoto lens, a wide angle lens is also excellent for landscapes and plant/flower close-ups; I use a 12-24mm zoom lens.

My favorite lens is a Nikon 18-200mm zoom because of its amazing versatility. It works well for the majority of wildlife subjects unless you want eyeball close-ups. I also carry a fisheye lens that I never had time to use on most landings. However, it was the only lens that could fully capture the huge pit craters (Los Gemelos) in the Santa Cruz highlands.  For telephoto images, my workhorse lens is a Nikon 80-400mm zoom.

The essential backpack
All island visits are with Zodiacs (pangas). Most landings are called “wet landings” where you have to scramble out of the boat and step into shallow water. You need both hands to do that safely, and that means putting your camera(s) in a backpack where they won’t get wet. You can waterproof your backpack by placing your cameras in a thick plastic bag and then placing them inside the pack.

The garua effect on photography
We encountered the cloud layers many times during the first part of our cruise. Despite the clouds, the amount of light was surprisingly bright, allowing the use of my 400mm lens most of the time. The cloud cover meant that although nothing was as bright as it might be, the clouds did prevent any harsh contrast or animal eye shadows. In these conditions, put your digital camera’s white balance on cloudy. If you don’t know how to do that, you’ll learn during one of the first after dinner photo sessions on board the Endeavour. Or ask your naturalist.Airplane_Landing_ Baltra (1 of 1)                       Our plane landing at Baltra; this is typical “garua: weather. Yuck

Photographing during the rainy season
Nothing can withstand rain except a waterproof camera. One guide advised me that  Olympus water-resistant cameras had failed during the rainy season. Olympus sells waterproof housings for such cameras. So, if you own an Olympus, be aware. There is a big difference between water-resistance and waterproof.   Olympus, Nikon and others sell waterproof cameras, some of them point-and shoots.

 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

Galapagos Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic  Endeavour-2
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
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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