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The Nemo I anchored in the crystal waters

After several days of searching and bargaining with travel agents on Santa Cruz (one of the larger islands in the Galapagos) we finally decided on an 8-day cruise aboard Nemo I, a 25-meter catamaran. Waiting until the last minute gave us a substantial savings over the regular price of the cruise. The boat was composed of 3 levels. The below deck level was where the sleeping compartments, bathrooms, and engine room where located. The main deck level had a dining area on the aft, a indoor lounge area and kitchen in the middle of the boat, and netting with mattresses to relax on between the pontoons at the front of the boat. The third level was above the back third of the boat and had a space for the captain (and Lisa) to drive the boat as well as a sundeck with couches to relax on. The boat was very comfortable though it had a few service issues such as it only had hot water on one side of the boat (of course not our side) and the ventilation system had a strong musty odor to it.image

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A few photos showing off various sections of the boat

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Captains Lisa and William sailing us around the various islands.  William was so impressed with Lisa’s abilities that he offered her a job on his boat (we think he was only half joking).

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Preparing to disembark

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Cactus are the main vegetation of Moreno Point

During the 8 day trip we had vast amounts of time to get to know the other passengers on the cruise. We were lucky to have a wide variety of ages and personalities on our trip. The youngest passengers were Maya and Vivienne (who were 9 and 11 respectively) and the oldest were 3 passengers in their 70s. The large gaps in age weren’t barriers in conversations or participation in the daily activities. Vivienne was able to hold her own at dinner conversations even as topics delved into the future of medical research, the ethics of ecotourism, and rational versus emotional charitable giving and Maya became our tour guide’s favorite passenger to quiz on the information that he taught us each day. “Maya, what kind of bird is that?” or “Maya, how many eggs do marine iguanas lay?”. Many times the adults had no idea so we were glad Maya was there to field all of the questions for us. The more veteran members of the cruise didn’t shy away from hikes up volcanos or snorkeling in strong currents. We enjoyed all of the passengers and crew that we shared the boat with, and we were incredibly grateful to have shared this amazing experience with our friends Anthony and Sarah (the British/Irish couple who have been our travel partners for the past 5 weeks).  A thanks again to Anthony for sharing his photos with us, many of the close-up shots of animals in this blog are his. Of the people that we befriended on the cruise, we especially enjoyed our time with Vivienne, Maya, and their parents Frank and Ana. We were so amazed and impressed that these parents were traveling with two relatively young children for several months through central and south america. The kids were extremely well behaved throughout the entire trip. This may be in part because they were on their best behavior or because they had so many people other than each other with whom they could interact.

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A group photo

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One of our zodiak excursions to the mangrove forest in search of wildlife

All of our days on the boat were split into 2 sessions, morning and afternoon. The morning session always began with hiking on the island where we had anchored for the night. Sometimes the hike would take hours sumitting a volcano to see its crater and sometimes it would be a 2 hour nature walk. On the days with the shorter walks we would rush back to the boat, change into our snorkeling gear, and then go snorkerling along the side of the nearby island. After the morning sessions we would return to the boat for lunch and the captain would sail us to our next location. In the afternoon we would either hike or have a floating tour of the nearby coastline in the zodiak (a small inflated raft with outboard motor) if that area of island was protected and off-limits for tourists.

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Our excursions snorkeling were something to look forward to every day.  Sea turtles, marine iguanas, and sea lions were among our favorite swimming companions.

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A look at the mangroves from our zodiak tour

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Just two of the 487 sunset photos our amazing photographer Kevin documented during our trip

Touring the Galapagos is a truly unique experience. Animals treat the humans as if they were any other non-predatory animal. By this I mean that the birds, lizards, sea lions, and other animals don’t run when humans approach and sometimes even make a point to approach the humans. To protect the animals and prevent domestication or reliance on the human presence, the islands enforce a rule that tourists must remain at least 2 meters from the animals as much as possible. On many occasions this was impossible as iguanas that had found a great sunning spots in the middle of the trail and couldn’t be bothered to move, birds built nests above the trail, and the sea lion pups are like baby labradors and think people look like great fun to play with. It didn’t matter how many times it happened, watching people run as baby sea lions chased them along the beach always made the group laugh. The biodiversity of the Galapagos was stunning and continued to impress even on day 8 of the tour. The variety of birds, reptiles, and marine life is unparelled anywhere in the world.

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We tried at all times to maintain the required 2 meters, the sea lions tried to infringe on our space

The itinerary on Nemo I gave us a chance to see islands that were only accesable on a cruise and well regulated by the Galapagos authorities:

  • Day 1: Monday AM – Transfer to Nemo I
    • PM – North Seymour
  • Day 2: Tuesday AM – Darwin Bay (Genovesa)
    • PM – Prince Philips Steps (Genovesa)
  • Day 3: Wednesday AM – Bartolome
    • PM – Chinese Hat
  • Day 4: Thursday AM – Sierra Negra Volcano (Isabela)
    • PM – Centro de Crianza Arnaldo Tupiza
  • Day 5: Friday AM – Moreno Point (Isabela)
    • PM – Elizabeth Bay (Isabela)
  • Day 6: Saturday AM – Punta Espinoza (Fernandina)
    • PM – Urbina Bay (Isabela)
  • Day 7: Sunday AM – Puerto Egas (Santiago)
    • PM – Espumilla Beach & Buccaneer Cove (Santiago)
  • Day 8: Monday AM – Daphne
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The iconic blue footed booby, one of the most quintessential mascots of the Galapagos

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A collection of boobies.  Clockwise from upper left: a blue footed booby, a red footed booby, two nazca boobies, and another red footed booby

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A male frigate showing off for his frigate lady friend

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Female and male frigate in flight (top and bottom respectively) and some boobies hanging out

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Clockwise from upper left: Galapagos sand piper, Galapagos red-tailed hawk, flightless cormorant, and the Galapagos Whimbrel

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A juvenile booby coming in for a landing

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The Galapagos gull, also known as the swallow tailed-gull, is easily identified by its bright red eyes

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Our nature guide Ivan repeated many times that he would try to show us the Galapagos short-eared owl while we were hiking at Prince Philips Steps, but that they are often elusive.  As he was explaining how the crevices were formed in the rocks, an owl appeared and sat posing for 15 minutes.  Ivan was so excited he took a picture of himself to document the location of the siting.

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Ready! Set! Go! The Galapagos tortoise leaves Lisa and the other passengers in the dust!

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A closeup view of the Galapagos tortoise

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The tortoise didn’t win the race because it was the quickest, it won because it was the one who survived! Galapagos tortoises can live up to 200 years

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Having a durable shell affords amazing protection from predators, however, it makes the process of mating extremely awkward and challenging

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Heading back out to sea after a rest on the beach

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Who doesn’t love to cuddle on the beach?

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We spent a good deal of one of our morning excursions watching a new born sea lion and it’s mother.  We were able to watch it go for one of its first swims and delight in the water.

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Baby sea lions may be the cutest animals on the planet

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Sometimes the smaller lizards can’t get a piece of prime real estate on the rocks to sunbathe and have to make due where they can

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We sat down first, the sea lion slowly encroached upon our two meters of personal space

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It’s tough being a sea lion in the Galapagos, drink a few too many cocktails and you end up passed out on a park bench

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Some photos of our hike to the top of Bartolome

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A couple shots of Sombrero Chino (Chinese hat), one from the boat and the other from the beach on our hike

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Land iguanas generally feed on cactus, but evidently, they also lick rocks from time to time

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We were constantly amazed by the texture of the iguana’s skin

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Enjoying the view along our hike at Puerto Egas

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Whether basking on the rocks with waves crashing behind or hanging out with their crew, the marine iguanas have a flair for the dramatic

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The three amigos hanging out

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Penguins and marine iguanas living in harmony (and enjoying the warmth of the dark volcanic rock)

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Though the volcanic islands are rich in nutrients it takes hundreds of years after an eruption for plant life to take root.  This barren landscape looking down on Bartolome is similar on many of the islands of the Galapagos.

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Some of the cactus vegetation at Moreno Point on Isabela Island

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On the cliffs of Darwin’s Bay

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Sally lightfooted crabs were present on many of the islands we visited.  The crabs have a vibrant red coloring and the females have a bright blue underside.

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The Galapagos has some of the most amazing rock formations, this is a photo of Puerto Egas

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Our guide Ivan would explain details about the flora and fauna of each island when he wasn’t reprimanding us (in the words of our friend Ana: it alternated between feeling like being in the army and in a kindergarten class).  The second photo is of the crater at Sierra Negra, which we spent part of one morning hiking to the top of.

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Walking along parts of Isabela felt like walking on the moon, with the exception of a few ponds with vegetation, marine life, and flamingos (though the flamingos happened not to be there as we passed)

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On the a rock bridge of Puerto Egas with fur seals swimming below.  In the past visitors were able to jump from the rocks and swim in the crystal clear waters below, but unfortunately this invasive activity scared the fur seals from their home.  Since swimming has been restricted the fur seals have returned to their former homes.

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An orca skeleton that we encountered on the beach of Darwin’s Bay

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Sometimes we would get so caught up in the animals we were seeing that we would forget to stop and take notice of the beauty surrounding us

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A penguin gliding through the water and posing nicely for the camera

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Enjoying time together with each other and our friends during our day trips

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Kevin on the rocky beach of Punto Espinoza

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Looking down at the underwater crater as well as a panoramic view from the top of Bartolome Island

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Posing for a shot on the beach of Sombrero Chino

 

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