Our driver didn’t show up Wednesday morning… we hailed a cab but had a long, worrying trip through Quito traffic to the airport. Fortunately Sue had the transition well planned, and Quito’s big new airport is well managed, so we sped through the special Galapagos tourist desk $400 lighter, checked-in, breezed security and immigration smoothly and boarded our flight on time. They check bags carefully here – more worried about introduction of invasive species and smuggling of endemic species than contraband.
By 11AM we’d landed in Baltra and by noon the competent tour crew led us and 90 other passengers via bus and zodiac to ourhome for the week, the Santa Cruz II. Its an international crowd; the biggest batches hail from California and Russia, but there are also Brits, Aussies, Japonese, Canadians, Dutch, and a family from Guayaquil.
I’m pleased to learn that most of the guides are Galapagoans. After settling in to our spacious connected rooms – even the bathrooms were big – the crew led us through ship and activity orientation. Our jovial head guide Ramiro introduced us to ship etiquitte… check in/out procedures to ensure noone’s left behind, lifejackets, evacuation drills, and how to safely board a zodiac using the “galapagos grab”.
Following orientation we lunched with Russ and Jodi from Los Gatos. The nurse and engineer just returned from Peru so we picked their brains about our upcoming travels there. It was good for our boys to lear they have two engineering-degreed daughters with CalTech, Harvard and Google pedigrees… after the boys left the table we devised strategies to get Max interested in engineering.
With the afternoon available we had a dry landing on North Seymour island then a walk through the rocky lava interior among colonies of comical blue-footed boobies, puff-chested magnificent frigate birds,
and orange lazy land iguanas. While the wildlife is unique and abundant here, the real charm lies in the animals’ innocence – with few natural predators, they are fearless and approachable… and the guidesare careful to remind us to keep back 2 meters. We keep to trails to avoid stepping on nests and eggs; even so at times we have to tread carefully and hop-scotch pervasive marine iguanas. As always Sue’s pictures best tell tales, you’ll see a lot of them in the upcoming posts.
Back aboard the ship we were treated to a crew intro and cocktail hour, then managed a game of cards with the boys on the back deck before a fine dinner with a Dutch-Peruvian couple… and after a full day of travel and touring we hit our soft pillows hard. Small swells rocked our large ship to sleep.