Erupting with Fun

May 29th, 2015 by kono

Hello Galapagos Blog Readers,

We made it to WIFI!!! YES! Granted we are now in Atlanta but… Quick update for you, water is still wet, sun is still hot and the wildlife is incredible. On last Thursday we arrived on board the Floreana and after getting settled, we set out in search of the Galapagos Land Tortoise. We walked through lava tunnels and the lush greenery of Santa Cruz. Of course it rained, but not a light drizzle, it poured. This made for an awesome experience full of puddles, mud and tortoises. We saw a total of five, which is a large quantity for those who have not experienced turtle tracking.

That evening we navigated to Genovesa and Katie discovered seasickness, to the max. Many a conversation was had that night that Katie doesn’t remember but don’t worry Katie survived and is now enjoying the trip and the incessant jokes regarding her weak stomach. Genovesa provides us intrepid explorers with the bird watching experience of a lifetime. There were boobies everywhere!!! Along with the Nazca and Red-footed boobies we saw lava gulls, swallow tailed gulls and the Galapagos Mockingbird. Frigate birds were also present displaying their vibrant red pouches for the ladies. The afternoon consisted of a snorkel in Darwin’s Bay. We got to see numerous reef fish and a quick glimpse of a sea lion as it sped by. Later on we climbed the steps on to the bluff of Genovesa, there we searched for a short-eared owl trying to prey upon the storm petrel bird. The owls blend into the landscape of the bluff and are very difficult to spot. In the end, our spectacular guide, Victor, identified an owl approximately 300 yards away. The rest of us required binoculars to even find the little specimen.

From Genovesa we moved to a channel between Santiago and Bartalome. Who knew you could take so many pictures of rocks on a rainy morning. But they weren’t just any rocks, these rocks had descriptive names like pahoehoe (which apparently means rope in Hawaiian) and Ahah (which coincidentally means pain in Hawaiian) Parts of Santiago are relatively newly formed in the late 1800’s, they have little to no vegetation on them. This gave us all an opportunity to observe the land formation in its truest form. Only a few brave lava lizards ventured out onto the rocks. There were also a few doves hoping to and fro around the pioneer plants that scattered the landscape. Our snorkels for the day gave us a chance to swim with white tipped sharks, schooling fish and a variety of rays. In the afternoon we had the experience of a lifetime. We ventured out to Baralome where we encountered a female sea lion on the steps leading to the trail. After leaving the sea lion to her nap we hiked to the top of Bartalome closely followed by an adult Galapagos Hawk. The hawks have a bright yellow beak and yellow talons. Once at the top we got to view the incredible vista accompanied by our hawk friend. The adult hawk was quickly joined by a juvenile, both of whom were in extremely photogenic moods. We spent a while with the hawks before climbing back down and preparing for the next day.

That evening we traveled to Chinese hat…yes it actually looks like a Chinese hat. On Chinese hat we saw lava lizards, marine iguanas, a great blue heron and baby sea lions. The baby sea lions were especially curious of us. They were eager to come close to us, smelling us to determine if we were their mothers. Many pictures were had before we moved on to the marine iguanas and the rocky shoreline around the corner. The marine iguanas blended in very well to the black rock that made up the shoreline. This made for a prime hazard as we walked along. One had to be very careful not to trip on the iguanas as they slept. Thomas thought it would be a good idea to inspect the edge of the shoreline and was promptly greeted by an enormous wave that nearly nocked him on his back. Thankfully he withstood the on slot and only came out looking like a drowned rat.

6am! Up and in the boats. We traveled for an early island visit and snorkel all before 8:30am. We were greeted by a spectacular show from the boobies. A giant flock of blue-footed boobies was feeding in incredible fashion as they performed simultaneous plunge dives over and over again. After watching the boobies for a while we landed on Tintoreras and walked around surveying the land as all the animals awoke from their night’s sleep. The marine iguanas were soaking in the early rays of the sun before some began to head for the water and sun. A few sea lions were seen sleeping the morning away in the sun. The snorkel gave us all an opportunity to get up close and personal with juvenile Galapagos Sea Lions who were eager to play with us intrepid travellers. In the afternoon we travelled to the mainland of Isabella. We visited a turtle rehabilitation and breeding facility where the giant tortoise is being bred for reintroduction and repopulation on major islands. While at a breeding facility we confirmed reports of an active volcanic eruption on Wolf Volcano in the northeast corner of Isabella. Plans were immediately set in motion to see the active lava flow provided nature did her part.

The next day started even earlier than the last as our guide Victor woke the entire boat at 12am. Lava flows had been spotted in the distance. Most awoke and with sleepy eyes to see their first volcano. Shortly after that most went back to sleep with hopes that the lava would continue flowing for a closer show the following evening. The day then continued as normal with a morning visit and snorkel all with one eye closely watching the volcano to the northeast. The morning visits centralized around the island of Fernandina. Fernandina gave us our first chance to see the flightless cormorants. We were also given more chances to see marine iguanas, lava lizards and Galapagos Sea Lions. The snorkel gave us a very intimate visit with green sea turtles. The turtles grazed on green algae and would basically swim straight into us as we snorkeled by to get to their desired piece of algae. The real fun began in the afternoon. After lunch we toured the side of Isabela in the zodiacs before heading around to the northern side for the lava flow. On the way we were treated to an impromptu whale watch as we saw blows from a blowhole off in the distance. It turns out what we were seeing was a sperm whale. The whales stuck around for a while before diving in search of food. We were also able to see a few Mola mola fish and some common dolphins along the way. After dinner the colors of the volcano came into view. The entire boat watched as the lava came into full view. It was spectacular!! Certainly something we can all check off our bucket list.

This morning we took the zodiacs to Santiago, where we disembarked on the beautiful black sand beach. As we started our hike, Victor pointed out some giant tortoise tracks etched in the sand. This was exciting, as the whalers in the early 1900s harshly affected the population. As we hiked along the ‘Aa’ lava flows, we came across lava lizards and a variety of birds. When we reached the calm lagoons on the other side of the island, we encountered the Galápagos fur seals for the first time on our trip. They lounged about in the water and on the lava ledges rimming the still water along with a few Galápagos sea lions, marine iguanas, and Sally Lightfoot Crabs. As we continued to explore the coastal region, we saw a dwarf octopus slip beneath the water and camouflage itself against the sand. After a quick change back on Floreana, we snorkeled in the area. We spotted a white tip shark, fur seals, and sea lions. We then set off for Rábida, the red island. On our hike, we spotted small ground finches, mockingbirds, and many prickly pear cacti. We were all happy to jump in the water again and escape the extremely hot sunshine for a bit. On this snorkel we came across needle sea urchins, orange cup corals with their polyps out, whiptail stingrays, and many schooling fishes. That evening, to cap our experience, we received diplomas certifying that we crossed the equator during our trip and thanked the crew for making this truly the trip of a lifetime.

And now we are back in Atlanta, Georgia, all have been awake since 6am yesterday, and are eagerly waiting to make it back to Boston to be home. All are excited to share the stories of the adventure we had and many photos taken throughout the week. See you all soon!

UNE Galapagos traveling seniors signing out.

Straddling the Line

May 21st, 2015 by kono

Wednesday May 20th 2015

Today was our first and only full day in Quito, Ecuador. All of us were very excited after what amounted to several planes; a train and bus ride to the hotel last night. We arrived at 1:00 am Maine time but thanks to the Ecuadorians not adopting Day Light Savings Time it was only midnight here. A few short hours of sleep and we hit the ground running at 8 am. After a quick breakfast this morning we met our guide Eduardo and Marco who took us out of Quito towards the equator and northern hemisphere where we would be spending the day. Our ride was an adventure in and of itself. The area around Quito is literally carved into the mountain side; making for a ride full of twists and turns, ups and downs and narrow roadways. Our first stop of the day lead us to the equator, everyone had an opportunity to straddle, stand on and parade around the equatorial line marking 0°0’0”. The site included a compass similar to those found in ancient indigenous tribal areas, alluding to the rich historic traditions of the country. Later on in our journey we arrived in the town of Otavalo where we were able to venture through a local market full of Ecuadorian merchants selling anything from hats and paintings to jewelry and small trinkets. This gave us all an opportunity to barter for goods… some of us were better at that than others. We also had a chance to explore the food market and town square both of which were unique cultural experiences. Our exploration ended at a traditional indigenous house where we were served a traditional four course Ecuadorian meal. After our meal our host gave us a look into the cultural past of the indigenous Ecuadorian people. We then loaded back onto the bus and headed back to our hotel in Quito to prepare for our 4:30 am departure to the airport and 7 am Flight to the Galapagos. There we will follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and keep you all updated along the way (provided we can find wifi). CHAO for now!

May 30th and 31st: Wait, what day is it?

May 31st, 2013 by kono

I’m sure by this point in time many of those who have been reading this have been reunited with their loved ones or have gotten a phone call telling you all of the wonderful experiences from the last 10 days. Currently, Hayley and I (Royale) are the only two that remain at the airport trying to get the internet to work with us so we can post our last few thoughts. (As a secondary note, Logan wifi is terrible but South Station has excellent wifi.) However, this is a bit of a struggle since neither of us consider plane sleeping real sleep and we made it up for the sunrise yesterday. I have already scampered off down the airport to locate the closest Dunkin’ (never too far away in New England) and am doing one last caffeine fueled post. Let’s do this people!

Most of us got up bright and early yesterday to tie up some loose ends packing and then head upstairs to watch the sunrise with Choco Listo in hand. We then circled Daphne Island on the Floreana in order to get one last glance at some Nazca boobies, red-billed tropic birds, and the crowd favorite, the Sally lightfoot crab. The boat then took us back to Baltra where I was pleased to get a few last glances at some nice sized Galapagos sharks. As we left the boat and waved goodbye to the crew, we all took one last glance of an area that we were not ready to leave. When we boarded the bus, we finally got a fleeting glance at a land iguana, something at least I had been looking forward to seeing.  This is because apparently they sometimes attack people. I had really hoped to see a pastel clad adventurer in a pith helmet getting chased down by an iguana, but alas I must settle for not seeing that dream come true.  After arriving at the airport and struggling to check our bags, we did some last minute gift shopping, since it’s hard to buy people gifts on uninhabited islands.  We then bid farewell to Victor and patiently waited for our flight.

After a brief stop in Guayaquil to pick up more passengers, and cue up Bridesmaids on Hayley’s iPad, we were back on our way to Quito. Upon arrival, we gathered our bags and headed to a day room for much needed showers and a massively impressive dinner. At 9 we returned to the airport to wait for our midnight flight to Houston. The flight was long and boring of course, but a few of us still had to finish up our journals that are included as part of the class, so the time was much appreciated. We quickly boogied through Houston, although the customs line took forever and there was a music loop only about 2 minutes long playing, to get on our flight to Boston. After discovering that not all of the bags made it to Boston we bid farewell to our friends new and old. (Personally I’m glad my bag is getting shipped to my house, because now I don’t have to carry it on the train.)

So that’s it, the end of our marvelous trip to South America and the wonderful world of the Galapagos. We hope that you have enjoyed reading about our times and can’t wait to share all of our pictures with you!

Quote of the day: “I can’t believe no one got arrested!”- Dr. Ono


May 29th: Lotioning and oiling, oiling and lotioning… I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!

May 31st, 2013 by kono

Hola from Rabida! Today has been a fun day for island hopping, don’t ya think? We awoke this morning to the view of our very familiar island friend, Santiago, where we have visited twice already. We hiked this morning on Puerto Egas, located on the western coast of the island. We had a possible lesson in the web of life when we saw a young sea lion pup enter the water unattended and, moments later, a shark appeared unannounced. While we are not sure what the fate of the young pup was, we as young wilderness explorers/scientists understand that a fish has gotta eat. We were able to observe some playful behaviors from other sea lions in collapsed lava tubes leading to the ocean, and we saw several species already sighted. This includes the crowd favorite, the sally lightfoot crab. Our last few snorkel adventures were bittersweet, as I know none of us want to admit the truth: our time here is winding down.

We now write from Rabida, a very tiny volcanic island off the southern tip of Santiago. Rabida is famous for its playa de rojo, or red beach. The sand on this beach is a deep burgundy in coloration and it was so exciting to see. Although our hike and time spent here was short, we were able to admire some spectacular views, enjoy the wildlife, and even manage to not get sunburned! We then ventured back to the M/Y Floreana for our last night. The crew of the boat was present at dinner to give certificates declaring our crossing of the equatorial line. Everyone was very touched by the gesture, especially when we noticed that our tour guide, Victor, even wore shoes to this special occasion. Tomorrow, many of us will wake to watch the sunrise for the last time in the Galapagos before departing these amazing islands.

Quote of the day: (singing to the Folgers theme) ” The best part of waking up is Choco Listo in your cup!”

Two quick notes: Choco Listo is like hot chocolate/Ovaltine. The title is a Sandlot reference, that just ended up being said quite a bit due to the amount of sunscreen used on this trip.

May 28th: Turt watch 2013… a success!

May 31st, 2013 by kono

Today was a day for the wilderness explorer in all of us! We began by eating another wonderfully prepared and served breakfast, and then traveled to Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island, which is off the coast of Isabela. On our first hike of the day we saw several new species, such as flightless cormorants, and we even got to see nature take its course when we witnessed a newly born marine iguana being eaten by a great blue heron.

After this exciting adventure we were treated to another snorkel that appealed to the kid in all of us. We were able to observe green sea turtles feeding extremely close by, and even spotted an octopus! After a well deserved lunch, we were off again, this time to Isabela, where we hiked to a glorious, albeit warm, view of Darwin Lake, which is a huge salt crater lake. The crew was then kind enough to take us on a small boat tour of the surrounding area, where we viewed penguins, frigate birds, and far too many other species to name! Each day we wake up not knowing what to expect, but our expectations are always surpassed and we love the islands more and more. Tomorrow we will be writing from Santiago again, where we will have our last full day touring the island. Adios amigos!

Quote of the day: “I guess it’s time for me to go drink my fruity sweat!”