Anchored off Cristobal, Galapagos
After one week of settling in and seeing a bit of San Cristobal, we headed off to see more of the Galapagos Islands. Private boats can't move freely through the archipelago so the best way (actually the only way) to see the top wildlife sights is to join a tour. Nana and Nicky found a great last minute deal on a four day tour aboard the Darwin that visited the central islands (Santa Cruz, Santiago, Bartolome, and Seymour Islands). What a fantastic experience! We saw every species one can hope to see on the islands we visited, even the more elusive ones, like Galapagos hawks, fur seals, and penguins (which are numerous over in the colder water of the westernmost islands, but harder to find in the slightly warmer central islands), in addition to the usual - prehistoric-looking marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, cavorting sea lions, colorful red Sally Lightfoot crabs, and of course the finches. The trip kept us busy with two or three hikes and two snorkel trips each day. Nicky made a huge leap forward, covering long distances and learning to clear his snorkel and mask alone while treading water. The reward was spotting sharks (white tipped, black tipped, and Galapagos sharks, up to 5-6 feet in length) and sea turtles, in addition to lots of colorful fish. We were lucky to have a nice, international group of people on board, and several of them played round after round of cards with Nicky in the evenings. On our last day, we saw blue footed boobies perform their mating dance and male frigate birds puffing out their red chests to attract females all just a step away from us! Markus was back in Cristobal keeping an eye on Namani during that time, but then he took a ferry to meet us in Santa Cruz and did a long day trip from there to Isla Isabela with Nicky. (Meanwhile, Nana headed back to Namani; it would be a little risky to leave the boat completely unattended.) Isabela is in some ways the most scenic island, and they saw lots of tortoises, penguins, and sharks there. The Galapagos Islands certainly live up to their reputation as a fantastic place for wildlife viewing, a sort of open air biology lesson everywhere you turn. Stay tuned for Nicky's report on his blog page!