Galapagos Sea Lions

The sea lions are the #1 inhabitant of the Galapagos and they are EVERYWHERE.

I should have started with them, but I wanted to share the full experience and some of the greater videos that I captured which took much more bandwidth than is available on the islands.

They are very playful.

The males, females and young sea lions are all very different.

Some are more friendly than others.

and it is always a delight to find when there is a newborn sea lion is only 1-2 days old!

It was pretty amazing to see the ritual and how long young sea lions rely on nursing with their mothers.

The #1 predator of the sea lions are the sharks. We did not run into any or see any except late at night at the back of our boat.

Unfortunately they do get attacked and the general policy of the oaekyis is to not assist as historically medical assistance by humans causes more harm and infections to the population than good.

The most fun is when you get to swim or snorkle with the sea lions who are very friendly and playful.

It was even more fun when we ran into one who was playing with a discarded piece of plastic and showing off for us when we exploring the reef around the Santa Cruz island.

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Modern Quito

At the beginning of our vacation, we stayed, explored and visited shops/restaurants in the older/historic part of Quito.

At the end of our trip, we decided to spend a day in the newer and more modern Quito. I must say, it is very different and enjoyable to experience both. We stayed at the JW Marriot which has some nice views of the mountains and also close to many shops, restaurants and local hot spots.

It was a hard decision to choose a lunch restaurant because it feels like there are so many tough choices!

The local recommendation for fast food was actually Pollo Campero and it blows away the American KFC. Give it a try. Seriously. $5 combo meal is killer.

We also got to check out some of the local markets and one amazing historic Inca/Indian museum and craft store.

Olga Fisch is restricted and a little hidden, but definitely a place to seek out. They have artifacts that are over four to five thousand years old.

Very quiet and intimate.

and many stories behind each of the artifacts.

I am not sure I have seen such history this old since the last time I visited the National Museum in Taiwan.

They even have some more modern exhibits that help to tie in the current culture of the country to many of the customs and festivities.

What is the way to end a vacation — find a great highly rated restaurant in the city to rave about!

We had the 4 course fixed menu at Somos which was amazing, but…it takes a long time and the service is slow. It was worth it and we are still raving about the flavors and artwork in both the restaurant and in the food.

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Galapagos Bird Watching

Today, we took another long hike on Espanola that is flat, but very rocky!

It is a long hike only because of (a) all the rocks and (b) there are lot of things to see.

We hopped into the Zodiacs and 10 minutes later, guess who greeted us?

a colony of red/black marine Iguanas. They are EVERYWHERE!

They look furious, don’t they? They actually each algae and crawl up and down the cliffs to eat algae from the waves and come back up to bask in the sun.

We also found our first snake in the Galapagos. This one is known as “Runner”. They do not bite, but they are like the anacondas and like to suffocate their prey.

We also found their prey looking around on the low nests on the island. Their nests are basically on top of the highest rocks they can find. Here is the second Galapagos Hawk we found on this trip.

However, our real mission was to find some Galapogian Alabatrosses.

We found that a lot of them were nesting, but unfortunately we found one egg that had been abandoned. They only lay one chick/egg per season and if the spouse does not return in time with food, they will end the mission and leave the egg.

but to make up for that loss, we found a very young chick with her parents!

Surprisingly, we also found a lot of nesting Blue Boobies here too. Here were two young chicks staying in their mandated circle. They were ticking and craving for their parents to bring them some sardines that will help make their feet blue.

Here is a blue boobie up close
A mockingbird hunting for food

Did you miss any of my other postings about the Galapagos? You can find them here:

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Galapagos Tortoise Sightings

Let’s start off this posting with the required answer that many people is asking: did I go running in the Galapagos?

Of course I did! The unofficial Galapagos Beach 5K.

The El Progreso area of San Cristobal is a very scenic and relaxing area to visit, sight see and have a cocktail during sundown.

The local towns in Galapagos are very friendly to visit and stroll around. Just make sure to pack a light rain jacket as the summer months can frequently drizzle and light rain.

Earlier in day we pulled into San Cristobal port and got stopped by customs who thought we were smuggling XBox consoles for the local fire ant colonies.

Since the fire ants are so damaging and attack the young turtles, they are off limits for arriving guests. Be careful, they bite when they lose their Xbox FPS games.

and also do not let them convince you that the local apples are yummy as an afternoon snack. To humans, they are poisonous and you will be very sorry tomorrow.

Our true mission was to find some giant tortoises.

They are not very active, but they are amazing to see in person. But if you are patient and have a sharp eye, you can find many in the conservatory.

Here is a 100 year old turtle in Santa Cruz

Here are two males fighting like old American boxers. The highest neck is the winner.

Did you know you can also swim/dive/snorkle with the turtles as well?

The young turtles are raised and protected for 5 years before being released in the wild. This one is only a year old.

And this XBox gaming clan are reaching their age to attend their first gaming convention and live eSports competition next year.

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La Pinta Review

After a trip to the Galapagos, many people ask me for a review of the ship and if it was a good choice,

The tour company made the choice, but many may decide on the tour based on the ship quality. La Pinta is a medium sized ship and holds about 45 people.

Logistically, it does take some patience to take the bus from the airport to the docks and then get a ferry or zodiac scheduled to take you to the boat and back. If you have carry on bags, be ready to carry them on and off the zodiacs. They do not help you with these very much.

Overall, I found the quality and amenities quite comparable to most cruises. The dining room holds everyone at once – where most lunches and dinners are pre-ordered choices of your meals that are served at your table and most breakfast days are buffet only. No complaints. Nice blend of standard western fare and local cuisine.

There is a tiny gym on board, but your days are so active and busy, there really is not a need or desire for gym time.

It has both an open deck lounge as well as an internally seated lounge of almost equal sizes. You can see there is an outdoor hot tub off to the side which can be reserved by guests with a signup sheet. It holds only 4 or 5 people max.

The internal lounge is where the main bar exists and is where most briefing, lectures or talks are held. Comfortable and not cramped.

The wine list is OK. It is not horrible, but not great either. Mainly Chilean and Argentinian wines.

One nice hidden room is the library which has some books, games and cards which many like to use the evenings when they do not want to just sit around in the cramped cabins which do not have televisions, etc.

One complaint is the complimentary dryers, They are horrible and barely work to dry your bathing suits, etc. You have to run them like 10 times to get the water out.

Overall, the crew is quite good, very helpful and always looking to assist customers with their needs. Their English is not perfect, but it is quite reasonable and never a blocker for getting help or solving a need that you might have. The Zodiac drivers and guides are very professional and top notch. They are never too strict or controlling — they just want to ensure everyone has a safe and fun time,

And here is how every day ends on LA Pinta
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Finding Boobies

Today we went on a challenging hike first in the morning.

A true hike and not just a beach walk along a trail.

Our mission was to not only explore the beautiful scenery.

But to explore and seek out the famous boobies in Galapagos. Believe it or not, these rocky trails are better for flexible water shoes compared to stiff and thick hiking boots.

After some climbing to the higher elevations, we found our first red footed boobie.

and once we reached the plateau, we found a blue footed boobie.

Believe it or not, they are very different. The red footed are very independent and do not care for the young. The blue footed boobie create a circle that the young must stay within…and if they leave, they are no longer welcome and no longer cared for. The red have only 1egg and the blue always have 2.

Here is what they look like when they are less than 1 year old and cannot fly yet and stay with their parents. The male in the blue footed boobie is the only one that stays with the young.

This was a funny, but also sad, when two boobies had just came back with a fish and a frigate (bird) flew right in and took away their recent catch.

The local political blue boobie graffiti in Santa Cruz
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Exploring the Galapagos

The Galapagos is a collection of islands and the best way to visit and explore is by ship.

The waters are not rough, but in transit from island to island, the water can get a little choppy and motion sickness pills are recommended.

All stops are made via Zodiac transfer that can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes max. Here you see a snorkeling expert providing some tips to other passengers in advance of our expedition.

But the real highlights are the fauna and flora you can discover on some of the hikes. We were lucky one morning to come across a Galapagos hawk.

He was likely looking for one of these guys. They are careful to hide out when the hawks are around and most actively when it is sunny and hot out.

We did not see any sharks on our hikes along the coast, but you do see many swarms of local fish around the shore quite often.

This is a famous site on Sante Cruz where there is a 100 year old cactus and the local sea lions like to climb up on top its neighboring rocks and take naps on it. I have no idea on how they can climb up these rocks.

In July, the young sea lions are constantly nursing on their mothers. They are all quite noisy…just wait for the upcoming video additions!

The GoPro9 is a great underwater camera choice

In addition to hiking, you can also go snorkeling. The water is SO salty, you can literally float perfectly with just a 5-7mm shorty wet suit,

Our snorkeling expert found this one on a deep snorkeling expedition

and find cool friends like these very large sea turtles. I hope to add a video of the turtle swimming when we return to the mainland as the Internet is very limited here on the boat.

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The Galapagos

Day 1 of exploring the Galapagos

Our first day started with boarding a medium sized ship named La Pinta. I will do a ship review at the end of the trip.

The waters are very blue and quite clear.

We had to take Zodiacs to reach the ship with not only our carry on bags, but also large suitcases. Everything worked out fortunately.

Most of our planned days are a combination of dry and wet landings. Dry is you are close to one natural dock or rocks and wet landings are based on a beach landing where water shoes are best used.

In the first morning, we took a hike around one of the islands.

Two major sightings this day, one is the giant iguanas which are pretty impressive.

The second are all the sea lions. Just wait, there will be many more pictures and videos coming as I good better Internet connectivity which is very limited in the islands.

The third is the various bird species. This one was nesting and many were found covering their eggs. They are the swallow tailed gulls. Here is a good guide.

This married couple put on quite a scene as one was jumping up and down on the other. We told them to get a room!

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Welcome to the Galapagos

It is a restricted national park so you must go through quite a food steps to arrive. Park Rangers check every bag before you leave the airport and once again when you arrive.

There is no terminal with gates, but it is not a problem since the weather is very pleasant.

But it is a fun adventure if you have patience from the very start. The airport is small, but you have connections or a Priority Pass, they have a VIP lounge when you arrive.

The main surprise to me after landing was how (barren) and dry the island was, I guess it should be expected since July is the dry reason, but I incorrectly assumed that an exotic place like the Galapagos would be lush and green. Mistake noted.

What was the first unique creature sighted? The red crabs which are all over the rocks around the shore. They are very fast and they “jump” quite far from rock to rock. I do not have a good shot, but the crabs actually have blue on their bottom side which is unique (IMHO).

What is one additional surprise in Ecuador and Galapagos. A LOT of people where masks indoors and outdoors. Nobody complains. Everyone is comfortable and many just want to try and stay safe. It is not mandatory, but on airplane or airport, 95% of the people wear them!

Follow along here for the next day once we boarded the ship. and some of our findings! We found some boobies and also some turtles!

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The Equator

Today, we headed a little north of Quito Ecuador to go visit a local Indigenous tribe/culture/history museum and actually check in at the Equator of the Earth!

Don’t go to the Middle of the Earth tourist trap: https://www.mitaddelmundo.gob.ec/es/

Check out the better authentic Intiñan Musuem which is low cost and better quality : https://www.life-in-ecuador.com/intinan-museum.html

They had some pretty cool exhibits, statues and history to share. Very similar to Peru (IMHO).

I did not take many pics of the various, huts, tools and totems, but this one caught my attention. It was an actual tomb with a remaining corpse that had been buried hundreds of years ago?

Here was the other shocker : the local tribe shrinks and wears shrunken heads as amulets. They even had real ones on display!

It was pretty cool to actually stand at the equator and be at the official center of the planet of the earth.

It was a pretty popular spot for many tourists to check out. Even some of the local hummingbirds stopped and checked it out!

In closing, we took a break for a late lunch at the Santana brewing company. A popular spot for both locals and tourists. I am not sure the beer scene is as strong as the Seattle area, but I must admit that Ecuadorian wine if just as good as its Chilean and Argentinian neighbors!

Guess what is next? We are headed to the Galapagos! Check out that adventure posting!

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