Sunday, July 09, 2017

Day 7 (29 June 2017) – Prince Phillip’s Steps and Darwin’s Bay, Genovesa Island, Galapagos - Adventures by Disney Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Tour (23 Jun – 2 July 2017)

Like clock work, I woke up at 5:30 am. The boat was really rocking overnight and most everyone today said it had woken them up at some point. They had told us last night that we would be moving into Darwin’s Bay at around 5:45 am but when I went up top to watch, it took until well past 6 am for us to pull into the Bay. I uploaded the pictures from the day before on to Facebook and watched as we  pulled into the bay alongside the other ship in the same fleet – La Pinta.

As soon as we got close to the island and the bay, I could already see the birds circling overhead and around the island. As we got further into the bay, I could hear all the chirping and bird sounds. The breakfast buffet was good – a bit of variety each morning.

Today we were going to have a dry landing to do some hiking on Genovesa Island climbing up the Prince Phillip’s Steps which were pretty uneven but there were hand rails. It was cool and the wind was blowing on the island so I was glad that I had a long sleeved shirt with me to slip on.

This island is absolutely amazing. When we reached the top of the steps, birds were everywhere: Nazca boobies, red footed boobies in the trees, frigates, and nests everywhere with young and juvenile birds. The noise was amazing….as well as the odor of bird poop. As we moved to the other side of the island, we saw so many white fluffy balls of feathers that were the boobie babies still in the nest with the mother having to guard them. What’s so remarkable about this place is the fact that the birds had no natural predators- they had zero fear of us. We walked right up to them (as many were sitting right in the middle of the trail) and they didn’t scurry away or act scared at all.

Indi gave us 2 assignments: (1) to see if we could find any lava lizards; and (2) to see if we could find any owls. There was 1 species of owl on this island but it’s feathers are a brown and black color which make them very difficult to see from a distance. We spent the next hour or so finding 7 of these owls and helping each other to see them by pointing them out. Once you saw a couple, they got just a bit easier to find.

There's actually an owl in this picture
We headed back along the same path we had taken to get out there. Total number of lava lizards we saw: zero. There really weren’t any land animals on this island. We climbed back down the steps, donned our red PFDs, and got on the panga for a quick tour to see the seals that were just lounging around on the rock. Seals are nocturnal so they were all snoozing away.

We got back on the ship for a quick change into our swim suits for our snorkeling excursion and boarded another panga to get out into our 2 man kayaks. We paddled for about 45 minutes or so and saw more birds and a sea lion sitting by the steps we were just using earlier that morning.

We returned back to the ship and had a bit of time before lunch at 12:30 so we hung out on the panorama deck talking with fellow Adventurers. We then headed downstairs to the Ecuadorian buffet lunch which wasn’t my favorite as most of the meats had cilantro in them.

After lunch, we were invited to tour the bridge but I decided to skip it in favor of catching up on my blog.

At 3 pm, we headed over to the library to await our turn to board the panga for a wet landing at the beach to take a walking tour followed by some swim/snorkel time in Darwin’s Bay. We were divided into 2 large groups where the first group would be swimming/snorkeling first followed by the walking tour and our groups which would be going in the opposite order. One thing I had been doing was taking one of the cabin towels (the blue towels were for the cabin and the white were for the excursions) – just a small washcloth so that when we had a wet landing, I could use it to wipe the water and sand off my feet to put on socks and my shoes – this was far more comfortable walking on the uneven surfaces, lava, and rocks on these islands. In the panga on the way to the beach, Rhys spotted our first male frigate with its large red chested balloon puffed up waiting for a female to come by. We saw several more of these on the walk.

The walking trail wasn’t far at all and gave us a chance to see the same birds but even more up close. There was a huge mangrove tree/bush that many of the red footed boobies and some of the frigates used for their nests. On this trip we had seen the matured birds, the ones sitting on nests with eggs, boobies and frigates with very young chicks that were like little fluffy white snowballs with eyes and beaks, to much larger fluffy white older chicks (many times they were bigger than the parent), to juveniles who were either shedding all the fluffy white feathers or had mostly shed them except for a few fluffy tufts here and there (these were the ugliest stages imo). This mangrove was like a baby bird nursery. The variety of life stages on this part of the island was amazing to see up close. And, as always, the birds were all fearless – just eyeing us with kind of a bored air with nothing close to fear at all. The only things that scurried away from us were the teeny tiniest crabs we had ever seen – they were like ants on the ground and ran off into their teeny holes whenever anyone went by.

After our walk around beach, we got ready to snorkel and this was the first time when Seth said we didn’t really need to snorkel if I didn’t want to but this was actually one time I did want to as it was our last chance to do it. The largest things we had seen in the water was a stingray and a sea lion. We didn’t ever get to see the penguins in the water the other day so I was hoping to see something bigger today.

The water was a lot warmer here but was very murky and hard to see anything. We swam for just a little bit and almost threw in the towel but then decided to go closer to the rocks and we did see some of the same fish again. As we turned toward the beach and headed back, a moving dark mass to my left made me look over and I saw a shark swimming around, yanked on Seth’s hand and pointed and he got to see the shark as well. It was a black one and Seth thought it was only around 3 or 4 feet long but to me, it might as well have been 10 feet long. I was pretty much done snorkeling at this point. Rhys tried to find the shark again but never did get to see it.

We returned to the ship and the procedure was a little different this time. We just piled our wet suits, fins, and bags on the deck in sorted groups as they were all being washed tonight. We cleaned up and threw some stuff in the dryers. Most of the time, people were very nice about sharing dryers. We decided to go and get a drink at the bar before the Crazy Cui (cui = guinea pig – a local delicacy in Ecuador) party at 6:15 pm. This time, I got a Sangria Isabela which was pretty good. There was actually a cocktail menu that we hadn’t ever looked at all week.

We went downstairs to the library where Lauren had wrapped all of our Otavalo Market $5 purchases and had them laid out on the table. Robby handed out numbers to everyone and the rules were pretty much the same as Dirty Santa (steal or choose, 2nd steal was the owner, 1st person would have opportunity to trade at the end anything not already owned) including that if you picked something wearable, you had to put it on. The whole game took less than 40 minutes for our group of 27 or so people. It was a lot of fun seeing who got what bargain on which items. Seth had chosen an Ecuador apron which I stole from him. He then turned around and stole a pair of Eucadorian striped pants which surprised me a lot. Rhys got the painted coffee mug that we had bought at the market. My apron got stolen so I stole a cute llama figure from Michael, one of the older boys in the group.

After our game, we had cake and received our pins of the day then headed upstairs to the last briefing on the ship which was going to include a slide show.

The ship photographer was with us on every excursion and I saw him snorkeling with us frequently diving down and shooting pictures and footage of the wildlife. His pictures in the slide show were nothing short of amazing. He captured some of us as well as a picture of Rhys with his birthday cake. What was really cool was that the tour company who ran this expedition was providing us with this video for free – we just had to get our email addresses to the photographer. That was a nice bonus.  *edited to say:  I've now uploaded the Santa Cruz II video slide show to my YouTube channel.

Being our last night on the ship, we got our marching orders. Wake up call at 6:45 am, breakfast at 7 am, and then our luggage outside our doors so we could be ready to leave at 8 am. Dinner this evening was an appetizer of roasted octopus which was really good, the Ecuadorian vegetable soup was also excellent, but the entree was fish with a chimichurri sauce that tasted like it had some cilantro in it so I didn’t really care for it. The walnut cream dessert was very good.

We headed off to our cabins but I did go back up to reception to settle our final bill which ended up being about $370. We finished packing up our things, and I slept like a rock that evening even though we had been warned that the ship motion may be just as bad or worse than last night’s rocking.

Next post:  Day 8, 30 June 2017 - San Cristobal to Guayaquil, Ecuador

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