Zodiac drivers - Talk about an under-appreciated group of people....These guys skillfully navigated us through narrow passageways, spotted impossible to see birds and animals, navigated surging waters to deposit us safely on beaches --- and all in blazing hot sun with a smile on their faces. Thank you!
Galapagos National Park regulations strictly regulate usage of the National Park site. A permit must be obtained before visiting any island, permits are restricted, and visitors must stay within designated boundaries. No food is allowed on any of the islands. Certain islands are entirely off-limits to visitors.
All visitors MUST be accompanied by a licensed naturalist guide. One naturalist is required for every 16 visitors.
There are three levels of licensing. Lindblad/National Geographic only employs level 3 guides (the highest), who are bilingual college graduates in the biological sciences who have also completed an extensive course given by the Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station.
Numerous geographic features associated with the voyage of the Beagle were named for Darwin including:
In addition, more than 120 species and nine genera have been named after him.
He has been commemorated in the UK with his portrait printed on the reverse of 10 pound banknotes along with a hummingbird and the HMS Beagle.
Galapagos fur "seal" - The Galapagos fur seal is actually not a seal at all but is a fur sea lion. They were almost hunted to extinction but are now thought to number around 25,000. Whereas other sea lions prefer sandy beaches, the "fur seal" prefers rocky coastlines adjacent to deep water. They are slightly smaller and tend to be more wary of people.
Panhoehoe and Aa lava - Both are Hawaiian terms describing two different types of lava. Panhoehoe is smooth, ropey lava resulting from magma containing a large amount of gas. Aa (Hawaiian for "hurt") is very rough, sharp lava formed when there is little gas in the magma. It is difficult to walk on.
Day 7 - Genovesa
The previous night Jason had alerted us that we might want to rise early the next morning to witness our entry into the sunken caldera that is Darwin Bay at Genovesa Island. Red-footed boobies frequently hitch a ride on the bow of the boat as it enters the almost completely encircled bay.
We arose at sunrise, a little bit after the ship had anchored in Darwin Bay, to witness thousands of birds circling overhead. Genovesa is apparently aptly nicknamed "Bird Island." Frigatebirds with their red pouches inflated, boobies of all types, and red-billed tropic birds soared overhead. Incredible!
I was mesmerized by the sight and struggled to take pictures, using my zoom, of the birds on the cliff and flying above. Little did I know, I needn't have bothered. Our post breakfast hike gave us an up close and personal view of the birds, as in only a few feet away from them...Here are some of my favorite shots:
The swallow-tailed gull (above) is the only nocturnal feeding gull in the world. The red ring around the eye is thought to assist with night vision and the white spot on her bill helps her chick find the food (in the dark) that she is providing for it.
If you're not already OD'd on pictures of birds, you might enjoy looking at this slide show (below) of other photos taken during our morning walk. It includes some photos of frigatebirds flying above us with their red pouches inflated. So cool!
After returning to the boat and having lunch, we were off to snorkel - our favorite pastime. Of course by then our "waterproof" camera had bitten the dust so I don't have any photos of the amazing things we saw including rays and a scalloped hammerhead shark!
The afternoon included a zodiac wildlife watching ride along the inside ring of the island.
Soon we arrived at Prince Philip's steps and got off the zodiacs for a walk over to the other shore. Following is a slide show of the Nazca boobies and short eared owl that we saw:
Below is a video of "the coffee klatch."
It was one of the most memorable days of the trip, and I urge future visitors to definitely try to get to Genovesa.
That evening on board we viewed the amazing Quicktime video that Aura had assembled from photos that had been taken by passengers. We had some talented photographers in our group. The video was subsequently loaded on the computer kiosk and was available for download by passengers onto memory cards or jump drives. I have loaded it onto my iPad at home and show it to friends who are interested (or pretend to be).
The Captain's toast, a delicious farewell dinner, and a dessert "performance" by the kitchen staff (you had to be there) capped off a fabulous trip. Everyone was snapping pictures and exchanging contact information before we returned to our cabins for the dreaded task of packing.
But continue with me to our final good-byes on Day 8...