Isla San Cristobal, Galapagos, Ecuador, July 7, 2003 — One month into our trip was a sad day…we had to fly away from the Galapagos Islands. Our time in paradise had come to an end. But who can complain, since we still had 11 months of backpacking around the world to go. My last photos of Galapagos were morning shots of the sea lions resting on hammocks (a/k/a boats) in the harbor.
Galapagos, Ecuador, July 6, 2003 — Our final full day in Galapagos was eventful, starting with a long hike/climb up stairs in Bartolome Island to the lookout over Pinnacle Rock. We saw tons of nesting blue footed boobies and young chicks that day along with amazing frigate birds showing off their glorious red throats to prospective mates. The morning ended with a huge school of bottle-nosed dolphins playing in the wake of our boat as we sailed away.
Galapagos, Ecuador, July 5, 2003 — The wildlife viewing in Galapagos was amazing. I didn’t have underwater photography gear, so I can’t show off any of the snorkeling highlights, but a few of the highlights from land included fairly common animals in a glorious setting, American Oystercatchers eating red rock crabs (sally lightfoot crabs), more marine iguanas and a great view of a Galapagos hawk.
Galapagos, Ecuador, July 4, 2003 — Our 4th of July was spent with another glorious day in the Galapagos, ending with a gorgeous sunset that challenged the Macy’s fireworks show for the night’s supremacy. Along the way, we saw a green sea turtle, more marine iguanas, and myriads of birds, including the awkwardly beautiful brown pelicans and penguins. Yes, penguins. There are in fact penguins living just about on the equator, in the Galapagos Islands. Go figure. I didn’t get great shots of them since we could only see them from a bobbing dingy, but I’ve got a shot here as proof.
Santa Cruz, Galapagos, Ecuador, July 3, 2003 — Day 26 was a fairly quiet day in Galapagos. We landed at Santa Cruz Island to let some of our passengers off and take new ones on. The highlight was at the Darwin Research Station where we “met” Lonesome George, the last known surviving Pinta Island tortoise. When Lonesome George died of old age in June 2012, almost exactly 9 years after we met him, he was thought to be over 100 years old.
Cormorant Bay, Galapagos, Ecuador, July 2, 2003 — We spent much of the day snorkeling and kayaking so there aren’t many pictures. But the memories will last a lifetime of a sea lion jumping up onto Sherri’s kayak to say hi, and others literally swimming face to face with Brett and his dive mask. Did I mention that Galapagos wildlife aren’t afraid of humans? In addition to our adventures with them at sea, Sherri sunbathed with a sea lion at Cormorant Bay, where we also slid our feet in the sand amongst a school of stingrays — which made for some slightly abstract art that probably would have looked better had I not be quivering with fear. Topping off our hike that day was a view of gorgeous, pink flamingos.
Galapagos, Ecuador, July 1, 2003 — Our second day in Galapagos didn’t disappoint. We saw several of the islands’ unique species (marine iguanas, lava gulls, and of course the blue footed booby), and watched mating dances of the albatrosses, blue footed boobies and sea lions. The albatrosses fenced with each other as part of their mating dance, and if you look closely at picture #6, you’ll see their beaks vibrating. Galapagos wildlife have very few natural predators and little or no fear of humans, so we were able to get incredibly close to them, even to a sea lion that had just given birth (as evidenced by the placenta in picture #3 that is making for a fantastic dinner for one bird). We finished the day playing on the beach with sea lions.
Galapagos, Ecuador, June 30, 2003 — Day 23 was the start of one of the year’s highlights: our week touring the Galapagos Islands. We were thrifty travelers for the whole year, and this was quite a splurge. But it was considerably more reasonable than it would have been had we booked from home, since we were able to get a discount rate by shopping around in Quito. Galapagos is part of Ecuador, but 500 miles west from the mainland. So we flew to Isla San Cristobal, and then continued by boat for the entire tour (our boat — a catamaran called the Archipell — was on the small size with only about 10 other tourists plus a guide and crew; some others are cruise ship sized). Every day we made several landfalls on different islands of the archipelago, plus we often took snorkeling and kayaking breaks. Our first hike on day 1 was practically teeming with sea lions, including a few brand new pups, as you can see pictured here.