Galapagos Islands 2015 Vacation (INCA Tours)

Day 3

May 8, 2015

Our day in (almost) painful detail

6:40am This is our first whole day in the Galapagos Islands.  I still have a hard time believing that I am finally here.  This has been a dream of mine since I was about 13 years old.  At 59 I am here! Sitting out on this early morning we are seeing Darwin’s Finches and Galapagos Mockingbirds.  They don’t seem to have any fear of us at all.  I guess it is time to get ready for our day’s adventure. 8:00am Another very nice breakfast is done.  We are eating way too well on this trip.  I took more photos of the doors to the main lodge.  Seems they were a wedding gift to the owners of the lodge from the grooms parents, salvaged from a temple in India. 8:35am We are now in a van headed for Puerto Ayora.  Before we left the resort’s property we saw two smallish Giant Tortoises.  Pretty amazing that they just wander around the island.  In Puerto Ayora we are scheduled to pick up a boat and then be shuttled to Tortuga Bay Beach.  There is walking trail from town to the beach but it takes about an hour and can be really, really hot in the afternoon sun so we opted for a boat ride. 8:50am We are on the docks of Puerto Ayora waiting for a boat ride to the beach.  We see our first Galapagos Sea Lion and watch a few Blue-footed Boobies diving for fish near the dock while waiting for our ride. 9:20am We climbed onto a water taxi (cost 50¢) that took us to a slightly larger boat.  The boat we ended up taking is not the one we were supposed to take.  The one Maria had arranged for us left early and she managed to make other arrangements for us.  I think it was actually a very good thing.  The boat we were supposed to take was an open flat bottom boat.  Think large Boston Whaler with a canopy.  The boat we did take was more cabin cruiser style, and we did get tossed around quite a bit as it was.  The ocean was pretty rough for a small boat. 10:00am We are now on the beach at Tortuga Bay. Once at Tortuga Bay the boat backed up towards a nice sandy beach.  When the water was about thigh deep the captain jumped in and helped us all into the water and we had to walk ashore.  Our first of many wet landings and it was uneventful. The beach we landed on is a small beach separated from the larger beach by a peninsula.  The small beach is much more protected and makes for an easier wet landing. Maria led us across the peninsula to the larger beach.  We are standing at a small tidal pool with 5 Marine Iguanas nearby.  Very neat!!!  There are other Marine Iguanas around and a Great Blue Heron that doesn’t seem to mind people.  We saw our first Striated Heron and watched it catch a small fish.  Also a couple of Brown Pelicans sitting/standing on the beach. Vi 10:15am Maria wanted to show us around before we had beach time.  We are walking on a lava field surrounded by Opuntia Cactus plants.  Many.  From small to very large.  Barbara found one that looks like a bird.  We have seen our first, of many, Lava Lizards.  I keep wanting to use words like ‘amazing’, ‘fantastic’ or ‘wonderful’ to try and express my emotions, but I will try to resist and not over use them. Note: On the Opuntia Cactus.  When young, short and vulnerable to grazing by Land Iguanas the Opuntia trunks are completely covered with spines.  Once the plant is taller and the Iguanas can’t reach the individual paddles or lobes (I looked it up and they are called Cladodes or Pads) the plant loses its spines on the trunk and they are replaced with what looks like tree bark. 10:40am We witnessed a Frigatebird harassing another bird (I think it was a Lava Gull).  The Frigatebird kept attacking the bird in an attempt to get it to drop its fish.  The bird did drop the fish and the Frigatebird got it before it hit the beach. 10:45am Our guided walk is over and Maria is heading for the smaller, more protected beach for a swim while we explore the larger beach.  While walking the beach we saw:  Frigate Birds, Brown Pelicans, Ghost Crabs, Lava Gull, a Hermit Crab and dead very small Portuguese Man-of-War Jellyfish. 11:15am We are back on the smaller beach where we first arrived.  We (and most people) are sitting in the shade of some trees.  Barbara went for a swim and I tried to get some photos of people and wildlife.  The boat captain dove in the water, picked up the anchor and walked the boat to a good position for us to get back on board. 11:50am We are back on the Spondylus (looking it up all I find is: bivalve mollusks, aka thorny oysters or spiny oysters) headed back to Puerto Ayora. 1:10pm We are back in the Galapagos Safari Camp.  We were a little late for lunch but not much we could do.  On the beach we had to wait for the other people that rode the boat over from Puerto Ayora.  There was an elderly man that had some trouble walking but I have to give him credit for coming.  The boat ride back seemed even rougher than the ride over.  I was afraid the roughness would put Barbara over the edge but her motion sickness didn’t flare up that I saw. 2:00pm We are back in tent #5.  Lunch is done.  Pumpkin soup, roast chicken with onions and potatoes, dessert was a fruit sherbet.  All very tasty.  At lunch we met another guide, Mathias, who will be with us this afternoon and tomorrow morning until we board the yacht.  Took a few photos of the lodge door. 2:30pm We are now traveling with the other two couples that will be on the Integrity Yacht.  We are on our way to visit “Los Gemelos” (The Twins), the lava sink holes that Maria took us to.  We are on a larger bus and I am sitting towards the back and I can’t hear what Mathias is saying since the PA system just died.  A beautiful clear day for a drive in the country. 2:40pm We are at Los Gemelos and Mathias is talking about the nature and history of the area.  Invasive Blackberry plants are taking over the sink holes (according to Mathias about 7/10 of the sink holes are covered with it). What we saw: Mathias points out a fern that looks like a christmas tree, sounds like he calls it a ‘Clap Fern’ but I can’t find that anywhere.  Mistletoe on Cat paw tree.  Galapagos Dove on fence post.  Warbler Finch (pale bird, small beak, in tree).  Tournafortia cluster of small white berries.  Yellow Warbler.  Small Tree Finch in tree picking at berries. 3:40pm We are back on the bus leaving Los Gemelos and heading some place to see some of the famous Galapagos Tortoises.  Before we get to the ranch proper (on the access road) we see a “STOP Tortoises Crossing” sign and near it a large Giant Tortoise.  How neat is that? 4:15pm We have just arrived at El Chato 2 Ranch.  Just for the record, the ranch raises other animals but the Giant Tortoises are allowed to roam free.  Upon arrival the first thing we did was go to an open style shed and pick out boots to wear to protect us from the mud.  After the boots we walked to a large covered patio area with many tables and benches.  There were a couple of men singing and playing a guitar.  Very close to the patio was a welcoming committee in the form a very large Tortoise seeming to pose for photos.  Walking on a trail we happened on another, even better, reason for the boots.  Tortoise droppings.  Yikes!  Not much further along the trail we found another Galapagos Tortoise sloppily eating some fruit.  In a nearby tree we saw a Smooth-billed Ani.  Along the trail we also saw a Monarch Butterfly on a large bush.  A few Darwin’s Finches (I think the Large Ground Finch).  A couple of White-cheeked Pintail Ducks in a pond. Further along we spied some odd fungus growing on a downed branch.  Next up was another large Tortoise.  This Tortoise happened to have found a tree dropping fruit.  He/she really seemed to enjoy the fruit.  He was eating Passion Fruit and someone even found a flower from the bush.  After many Tortoise pictures we continued on the trail.  Next find was a Lava Tube.  Lava will flow underground or on the surface, and where exposed to air or the cooler earth, will form a crust that the molten lava continues to flow thru.  When the volcano quiets down and the lava stops flowing it leaves behind a hollow tube.  We also spotted an odd looking spider. As we were sitting around having a drink at the end of the tour, Mathias showed/explained the tortoise shells sitting there.  We saw a few Cattle Egrets foraging in the grass.  Craig climbed into the larger of the two Tortoise shells and, for a short time, became the Human Tortoise.  Very amusing.  As we were waiting to leave some other tourists liked the “Human Tortoise” so much they tried it themselves. While there we saw: Smooth-billed Ani in a tree.  Monarch Butterfly.  Banana plant with very small bananas.  White-cheeked Pintail (Duck) in a small pond.  Several large Tortoises and a lava tube. 5:25pm We just left the Tortoise Ranch and are heading back to the Safari Camp. 6:15pm We are back in our tent #5.  On returning to the Safari Camp Barbara, Jenny, Alison and myself walked straight to the Viewpoint.  We spent some time looking at the view and then headed back to our tents.  Dinner is at 7pm and this is our last night in the Safari Camp. 8:00pm Just finished dinner.  Dinner was: appetizer - traditional Empanada of rice and peas with a corn meal shell, main dish – shrimp in some type of glaze with vegetables, dessert – Oreo ice cream on a chocolate wafer.  Everything is very well done. 8:15pm On the way back to the room we stopped and did some star gazing.  Didn’t see the Southern Cross but the Milky Way was so impressive.  (The camera was hand held, resting on wooden post, so the photos are very shaky) Time to clean up, pack and get ready to move on.
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