Thursday, July 31, 2008

Blogging Time

There must be a rhythm to blogging – a wonderful system of organizing photos, writing posts, and even editing, that will allow me to post on a daily basis. There must be a rhythm. So far it eludes me, but I am confident that it is here, or is it over there? It is somewhere...

Thursday, July 24, 2008


It was unexpected. I realized I had never seen a flamingo in the wild. There have been many occasions when I admired their elegance, grace, long legs and HOT pink color, but only in zoos and parks - mostly in Florida. Wow! Another life bird!

There could not have been a better location for me to see my first wild Greater Flamingo. We were on Floreana Island in the Galapagos at a lava lagoon named Punta Cormorant, where, by the way, I did not see a cormorant. The landscape of the island looked like a set for some distant planet in a Star Wars movie. My mind wandered to a vision of Charles Darwin exploring the island lagoon and collecting, not beetles, but specimens of the wasps we found so bothersome.

The sunlight was magical and created a stunning reflection. I cherish the blessing of being in the right place at the right time to see this.

Looking down on the lagoon from a nearby hill, probably another volcano, I was reminded how close we were to the ocean. I felt as if I was in a far-off land, when, in reality, the ocean and our zodiacs were just over the large dunes. Barely visable in the photo, is a small fenced area on the far right of the mud flat. The reflection photos were taken from that spot.

From above, it was also easy to see how flamingos make a trail in the mud when feeding off the bottom.

Because I think it beautiful, I will close today's post with a stereotypical shot of a flamingo. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Kicker Rock, Galapagos Islands

Monday, July 21, 2008


Espanola, of all the Enchanted Islands,is the most wondrous. Words can not describe the beauty and wildlife of this magical island. It is sacred.

The surf was beautiful and a bit rough when landing at Suarez Point,

but only a few hundred feet away we came upon a much calmer inlet where sea lions lounged and we were greeted by a Galapagos Hawk.

Mockingbirds arrived within minutes. These friendly birds have learned that humans carry water. Since there is no fresh water on Espanola they hope to beg or steal a few precious drops. Unfortunatety, for the mockingbirds, we obeyed the "no interference rule" like the Prime Directive and all they could do was complain to each other about the mean tourists.

The hike started along the beach then looped around the island for almost two rough, rocky, challenging, spectacular miles.

Sally Lightfoot Crabs decorated the lava coast.

The wildlife was incredible. It seemed like the birds danced aroud us. There were many of Darwin's Finches,

Galapagos Warblers,

and, soon, Waved Albatoss were flying overhead.

Seeing the first albatross was exciting! These are very large birds! Their wing span is about 7 feet and they are quite impressive! Little did we know that being buzzed by an albatross was only a hint of the spectacular sites to come.

After hiking a few more minutes we came across a pair of albatross cuddled on the edge of the trail.

They began a courtship dance as we approached. We stood or sat on the trail, approximately 3 or 4 feet from the pair and watched, enthralled, with every movement. It was as if the birds were fencing with their long beaks. A loud, "clack" echoed with each hit. Occassionaly, one or the other would stretch or nip at the neck of it's mate before going back to the fencing. Our guide told us we were behind schedule as she tried, unsuccessfully, to move us along. We weren't her normal group of tourists. We traveled to The Galapagos to see the birds and we were not about to budge. She laughed, knowing that she had no hope of getting us to move down the trail until the "show" ended.

When the birds finished their dance, they both turned to look at us as if to say, "How was the show?"

Great! The show was great! Thank you!

However, we soon learned that seeing albatross "perform" was not uncommon. As we reached the opposite coast, there were albatross and other birds everywhere!

The above pairs were within 75 feet of the stunning cliffs.

A blowhole gushed over 50 feet high.

Our guide became very serious about rushing us along as the sky began to glow with pinks and golds.

We stayed too long watching the albatross and now we were the last group on the island. We had to make it back to the ship before dark. The trail was difficult enough to navigate in the daylight! None of us wanted to try the hike in the dark!

We just made it to the zodiac as the sun was setting on what was truely a glorious day!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Kicker Rock

Day two in the Galapagos started with a zodiac ride around Kicker Rock. We felt like characters in an Indiana Jones movie! As our zodiac captain maneuvered in the narrow crevice between the cliffs, some of us tried to sing the theme music, “Da, Da, Da, Daaaa…..Da, Da, Daa..” My friend, David, remarked that the cliffs would be closing in on us if we were in a film scene! It was great fun! We did see a few birds, but the geology of these volcanic islands and beautiful sunrise where what we will all remember.

Yes. We went into this narrow crevice...

and saw this on the other side.

Kicker Rock is HUGH!

That small black dot in the water is a zodiac filled with adventurers!

Kicker Rock is technically known as a Tuff structure because of the cememnt-like finish. Tuff is formed when the rocks and ash from a volcanic explosion mix with water vapor. I might not be an expert in geology, but I know that Kicker Rock is stunningly beautiful!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Back to the Beginning – Arrival in the Galapagos

It is impossible to describe the eagerness and excitement I felt seeing Baltra Island from the air before landing at the Baltra Airport. A dream was becoming reality. I was actually in the Galapagos? Please, someone pinch me. Is this real?

Wow! It was more than real. Each day, each experience, each moment seemed more amazing than the last! Each close encounter and I do mean CLOSE, with a bird or animal created a special memory. There are many stories to share…


The Baltra Airport is really an airstrip, a former U.S. Air Base used during World War II, with several small buildings and a larger one where everyone must go through customs.

The place is surprisingly sparse. With the exception of the VIP lounge, the main building doesn’t even have walls. Travelers are whisked in on one side and out the other where souvenir shops and buses wait.

Each travel company is very good at rounding up their guests to get them on buses, to waiting zodiacs and onboard the ships as soon as possible. We were with Celebrity on the Xpedition, but we also saw some travelers with National Geographic. The chaos is very well organized. When we landed, those who had disembarked from the ship were waiting to leave on the same plane in which we arrived. It was very interesting to be the ones waiting for the plane at the end of our trip. We watched new arrivals walking down the airstrip, taking numerous photos, the same we had done only ten days earlier. The Ecuadorian government and the cruise lines have the system working like a well made Rube Goldberg machine!

Celebrity could not have treated us better. Everything, everyone, was first-class ALL the time. The Xpedition was beautiful. This is my first view of the ship as we approached in the zodiac.

As we boarded our floating hotel we were greeted with champagne and soon we were excited for our first adventure - a hike on North Seymour Island.

The zodiacs landed on a rocky shore and within a few feet we saw a Swallow-Tailed Gull and chick just off of the trail. This was my first, of many, life birds of the trip.

Within minutes we were watching Frigatgebirds, Blue Footed Boobies,Iguanas, Sea Lions and Sally Lightfoot Crabs.

I felt like dancing with the Blue Footed Boobies! They were dancing and nesting everywhere and we were standing in the middle of all the joy! (Read about the Boobies in my July 1 post.)

We left North Seymour Island as the moon rose

and we were back on the Xpedition for a beautiful senset and a wonderful dinner.

It was the end of a glorious day in the Galapagos!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Iguanas and Lizzards of the Galapagos

Reptilian creatures were EVERYWHERE in the Galapagos! From the first island to the last, Land and Marine Iguanas and Lava Lizards were very easy to find. In fact, hikers had to be careful not to accidentally step on lava lizards. They are well camouflaged and do not hurry away when humans show up.

They hang out long enough to pose for a photo before scurrying into the brush.

Iguanas, on the other hand, do not scurry. They might be resting in the middle of the trail and you, dear human, must go around. The colorful Land Iguana in the photo below decided he liked my friends blue shoes.

The Land Iguana matures at about 3 feet in length. The males are more colorful and have more ridges along the back than the female.

The male pictured above was sunning near the hiking trail, while the female, shown in the photo below, was about 15 feet away in a clearing.

I learned from our guide that Land Iguana borrow underground, much like groundhogs, and that their favorite food is Prickly Pear Catus.

Marine Iguanas spend most of their time sunning on the lava coastlines or sandy beaches of the many islands. It was a Marine Iguana Orgy!

This group liked the shade provided by the small shrub.

Well, my friends I've touched base on the reptiles of the Galapagos.

I am very grateful to have been able see them in person. I love their colors and the texture of their skin, but I must admit that I have seen enough iguanas to last my lifetime! I went to the Galapagos for the birds and tortoises! More on my passions tomorrow…