Tag Archives: national geographic endeavor

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

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

How Charles Darwin Saved The Galapagos Islands

Galapagos NASA satellite image
Charles Darwin’s Fame Saves the Galapagos

The naturalist-guides on the Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour will go into  Charles Darwin in far more detail than I can here, though none of them—in fact, no one anywhere that I can find—has appreciated the legacy of Charles Darwin in this same manner.  Yet it seems so strikingly obvious. Charles Darwin’s fame saved the Galapagos Islands.

With the 1859 publication of The Origin of Species and its revolutionary concept of evolution through natural selection, Charles Darwin made the Galapagos archipelago world famous. And in doing so, this fame eventually helped save the islands from further exploitation and devastation of the landscape by introduced animals, particularly goats. The first protective legislation for the Galapagos was enacted by the government of Ecuador in 1930 and supplemented in 1936. However, there was no real enforcement or protection until the islands were declared a national park in 1959, on the centenary of Darwin’s publication of his still controversial book.

Without such world focus on them by Darwin, there’s a good chance none of us would be interested in visiting the Galapagos because none of its wildlife would remain. As it is, some endemic species have disappeared and the tortoise populations drastically reduced by wholesale plundering of the island by its earliest visitors.

Discovered in 1535 by the Spanish who had no interest in claiming them, the Galapagos first became a haven for pirates in the late 1500’s who preyed on the huge tortoises for their meat over the next 200 years. Realizing the tortoises would stay alive for a year or more without food or water, pirates also sailed away with thousands of the animals which were unable to right themselves once they had been turned on their backs.

Whalers made up the next wave of visitors, lured by the unimaginable number of sperm whales that were said to pass the islands in a line from dawn to dusk. By the time Darwin’s visited the Galapagos in 1835 as part of a 5-year around the world mapping expedition, the number of tortoises were already being depleted. He reports in his book Voyage of the Beagle that for the 300 residents on Floreana Island  “the staple article of animal food is supplied by the tortoises. Their numbers have of course been greatly reduced in this island, but the people yet count on two days’ hunting giving them food for the rest of the week. It is said that formerly single vessels have taken away as many as seven hundred, and that the ship’s company of a frigate some years since brought down in one day two hundred tortoises to the beach.”

Fur seals were also killed off in great numbers because of their thick, luxurious fur. By the beginning of the 20th century, fur seals were almost extinct. Birds were shot in great numbers for their feathery decorations. In addition, introduced animals–goats, pigs, feral cats and dogs, rats, burros and cattle– severely impacted the natural environment.  Particularly devastating were the goats which  consumed and destroyed the vegetation the tortoises relied upon  to survive. Just a tiny colony of only four goats on one island multiplied to a population of over 100,000 in just a few decades.

Whaling ended by the 1860s but ships continued to stop to take on meat and water. By 1900, the tortoise populations of Floreana, Santa Fe and Rabida had vanished.

Galapagos Tortoise-1 blog

The world’s scientific community became interested in the Galapagos, though that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Scientists started collecting the animals–not to ensure their survival–but to put them in formaldehyde or stuff them for display. The California Academy of Scientists in 1905-1906 took 70,000 biological specimens, more than any Galapagos expedition in history; some might call that wholesale carnage. In addition, living animals began leaving the islands in significant numbers to be added to zoos and sold to private collectors. It turned out that all this cultured interest–just like the wandering goat herds and feral cats–did nothing but bring more harm to the islands.

In a strange way, it was Charles Darwin’s enduring fame that helped stop the destruction. The year 1935 marked the 100th anniversary of Darwin’s visit to the Galapagos, and the Ecuadorian government celebrated it by turning parts of some islands into wildlife preserves. Finally there was official acknowledgment that the Galapagos indeed were something special, worth preserving, but nothing was done to cull the out-of-control goats and other introduced animals. Nothing really changed, except on paper.

Although the Galapagos were made a national park in 1959, it wasn’t until 1968 that the park service itself began. Of more immediate importance was the 1959 founding of Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands, incorporated in Belgium. It started work in the islands in 1960 and opened the Charles Darwin Research Station in 1964. At last, something was being done to reverse the decades of damage. The research station began collecting tortoise eggs and hatching them at their facility. Only when the turtles were large enough to have a realistic chance to survive were they returned to island where they were collected.

Fortunately, this rescue program started in time to save the species of tortoise on Espanola, which had just 11 females and 2 males remaining. Tortoise populations on other islands also were increased. Once it got going, the National Park Service started eradicating goats from the islands, a program that still continues today.

Why Charles Darwin was so influential

Darwin visited the Galapagos briefly in September, 1835, visiting only 4 islands during his 5 week stay. He did not, as many movies and books have indicated, have a “Eureka!” moment here and spring forth with his theory of evolution. Nor at the time was Darwin all that impressed by the differences in the 13 species of finches which have come to be known as “Darwin’s finches.” His theory developed slowly over a period of time, with the Galapagos providing fundamental elements for his argument supporting the ongoing process of natural selection.

Like most of the people of his time, Darwin initially accepted the belief that an animal species was something fixed and unalterable, made perfect at Creation with no need for change. But in the isolated volcanic mounds that make up the Galapagos there are a remarkable number of species that not only differed from those on the South American mainland, they also differ from island to island. Each island, in fact, often has its own peculiar type of tortoises, plants and birds.

Darwin reasoned that animals brought to the islands from South America by the winds, on driftwood or other means adapted to the special conditions on each island, and evolved into new species. The most striking example of this adaptation was in the 13 different species of finches which varied from island to island, All the finches have a beak of a peculiar form and use this beak in a special manner for getting food: one kind of finch pecks on trees, as woodpeckers do, while another has developed the beak of a parrot.

Charles_Darwin  Charles_Darwin_1855  Charles_Robert_Darwin_1881  Charles Darwin from L-R: about the the time he was on his “Beagle” voyage; several years before publication of his landmark book; a year before his death in 1882. Images from Wikipedia.

It was through such evolution that the Galapagos became home to so many one‑of‑a‑kind animals. All of the reptiles, except for 2 marine tortoises, are endemic. Most famous is the Galápagos giant tortoise, which has 11 subspecies on different islands, all of them endangered. Also endemic are the land iguanas, marine iguana, 3 snake species, numerous lizards and geckos. Birds include 57 species, of which 26 are endemic and the others migratory visitors. Endemic birds are the 13 species of Darwin’s finches, dark-rumped petrel, Galápagos flightless cormorant, Galápagos penguin, lava gull, Floreana mockingbird, Galápagos hawk, lava heron, nocturnal swallow-tailed gull, Galápagos rail, thick-billed flycatcher, Galápagos martin and Galápagos dove. The native mammals number only 6: Galápagos fur seal, Galápagos sea lion, two species of rice rat, bat and hoary bat.

However, it is more than the uniqueness of the animals that is so striking. It is their fearlessness of humans. They often regard us with curiosity but most often they ignore human presence.  A major reason for this is the lack of land predators with the exception of the Galapagos hawk. Amazingly, even underwater, the sea lions, penguins and fish act the same way despite the fact there are quite a few predators around, including hammerhead sharks.

This overwhelming sense of compatibility and harmony has even non‑religious people making Biblical references almost constantly the first few days of their visit. Nowhere else on earth is it possible to walk amidst nesting birds, legions of iguanas and herds of sea lions and fur seals and not have the animals flee almost from the first sight of you. The Galapagos are no lush Garden of Eden, but deep inside you know this is the way the world must have been when God first created it.

Without Charles Darwin to bring world attention–and appreciation–to this rare ecosystem, it might all have been irretrievably destroyed.

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