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Lindblad National Geographic Endeavour Friday Menu Finale

Galapagos cruise food

Tonight’s dessert menu features what many consider the best of the week: the chocolate decadence. You can enjoy the taste of it at home with a recipe from Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour.  Both meals today feature different presentations of amberjack but don’t overlook the beef filet with caramelized onions and wine sauce.

Lindblad National Geographic Endeavour Friday Lunch Menu

Lindblad National Geographic Endeavour Friday Dinner Menu

 Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Cruise Links

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

National Geographic Endeavour Visits Urbina Bay

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

Urbina Bay Hikes, The Long and The Short of Them

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Long, Long, Long Beach Walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Urbina giant tortoise                                  Galapagos tortoise seeks seclusion from sun.

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

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

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

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

Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Cruise Links

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

 

 

 

Lindblad Endeavour Visits North Seymour

N Seymour Magnificent Frigatebird-1

Journey Log: Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Cruise Links 

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

National Geographic Endeavour Calls at Las Bachas, Galapagos

Tour_Group_Las_Bachas -1

Journey Log: Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brown_Pelican_Las_Bachas -1
The brown pelican going through contortions

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Cruise Links

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

Getting to Guayaquil & The Galapagos

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

What To Pack For A Galapagos Cruise

 

Natl_Geo_Endeavour-1

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

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

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

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

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

Endeavour_informal_dress-1
             As you can see, this isn’t a very formal crowd

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

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

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

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

walking_terrain-1
The volcanic islands offer little even foot except on the beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other suggestions

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Cruise Links

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

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