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BieneMaja last won the day on September 2 2017

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  1. On the way back to the Samba, my snorkeling buddy and I were both so excited about the sea lion pups that we decided to have a very quick breakfast and then leave again as soon as possible for snorkeling around Champion Islet instead of having a full hour on the boat before venturing out again as planned for the schedule of the day. We then talked to the others who might be snorkeling as well, had a quick 10min breakfast, let the crew know about our wishes (of course if could be arranged...), changed into our wetsuits and left again 15min after arrival So we had more time with the sea lions, 1:45h instead of the planned hour! And it was so much fun!!! The sea lions were incredibly playful and loved to dive with us. I enjoyed it at least as much as they did! How could you not?! And amazing tropical fishes as well.
  2. Thank you, @Alexander33! Glad you're enjoying it!
  3. Day 9: Floreana During the early morning, we navigated back to Floreana and woke up to another part of the island. Before breakfast, we went on a panga ride around Champion Islet. This small piece of land is one of two places were the Floreana mockingbird survived after its extinction on the big island. And we saw a few of them, big success! The landscape is comprised of cacti and terracotta. The mockingbirds loved sitting on and flying from one to another cactus. Driving around the island, we came into a sheltered area where a lot of sea lion pups played. It was so much fun to watch them, they were really curious and loved playing with us too! They came really close to our pangas, we just waited and got the motors out of the water so they couldn't hurt themselves. I would have loved to get into the water right then and there to not only watch, but take part in the action A little further, there were more adult and baby sea lions ashore.
  4. After a very good lunch back in town, we went to the Charles Darwin Research Center and got some explanation about everything we saw on the way. Once there, we started reading everything that was on the billboards there, very interesting and tons of information! They also have a few displays there - ranging from huge (a big whale skeleton) to tiny (sand samples of different colors from different islands). There are also photographs from a resident photographer. Then we went on a walk around the station and the tortoise breeding center where again Juan explained everything in detail to us. We saw Diego, an old male tortoise that helped to save his species. He is called Diego because he used to live in the San Diego Zoo before he came back to his origin. Apparently, he does love to reproduce (unlike Lonesome George) and has fathered hundereds of small tortoises. Usually, they keep one male and one female to reproduce together, but Diego has so much fun with the ladies that he stays with five of them and keeps them occupied... There were also a couple of land iguanas. We also got to see the remains of "Lonesome George". And of course the baby tortoises! They are bred in the Research Station - who would have thought that such trivial things as hair dryers could be used for the conservation of tortoises? The eggs need warmth and hair dryers are used for that in the "cabinets" where the eggs are incubated. There, we learned a lot about the whole process from mating to eggs to hatchlings. The baby tortoises are kept in the Research Station for about two years before they are reintroduced into nature because many of the babies would have died in nature within those first two years. That way, their numbers can be increased. In the late afternoon, we had some free time in Puerto Ayora so could buy postcards and souvenirs or just spend some time people watching. The "fish market" was very interesting. People played volleyball close to the pier in the evening which seemed to attract a lot of locals, great fun to watch. And in the evening, the black tipped reef sharks come closer and can be seen from the pier.
  5. Day 8: Santa Cruz Before breakfast, I went outside with one of my fellow shipmates and two cups of coffee to just enjoy the early morning and talk a bit. Then we saw movement in the water, but the "something" disappeared again quickly. Then, there it was again - a shark?! In the harbour?! But yes, then there were two, and they were definitely black tipped reef sharks. Then they became 3 and 4 and 5 and 7 - wow! Later, the crew told us that there are indeed a lot of sharks around the harbour as they come to get the fish scraps from the people selling fish close to the pier. The first sighting even before breakfast! After breakfast, we went ashore - and recognized a familiar face from the documentary about Floreana we watched the day before. And indeed, it was one of the descendents of the main characters of the movie. At the pier, sea lions awaited us, lying on the pier, on banks, everywhere! From there, we went on a small bus that brought us into the highlands. On the way, Juan told us a lot about the area. First, we went to a tortoise reserve where we first learned some more things about the tortoises and could see and touch the casts of three turtles (that had previously died) that were displayed. Then we went for a walk in the reserve and saw lots of the giant tortoises! Some of them were resting in the mud, some were having breakfast (yummy, guavas!) and some just sitting somewhere in the grass or below a tree. Moreover, we saw a lot of finches and other birds. Then we went to see "Los Gemelos", two collapsed craters in the highlands of Santa Cruz that are home to more finches, mockingbirds and a diversity of indigenuous plants. We also saw a lot of Scalesia trees there. After a walk along the two craters, we ventured a bit into the mature forest - it again looked completely different from everything we had seen before.
  6. In the afternoon, we went snorkeling at a really nice place close to a sea lion rockery. Again, lots and lots of beautiful tropical fishes and reef sharks. Later, we navigated to Santa Cruz. On the way, we watched a movie about the human history of Floreana. It's called "The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden" and was very educating and entertaining at the same time. And the chef made lots of popcorn for us In the evening, we arrived in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, the primary population center of the islands. Anchoring in Academy Bay, we had the most amazing dinner of all nights. The tables were even prepared with white table cloths etc. for the special occasion and we were served as much fresh and very tasty lobster as we could possibly eat! So yummy! After dinner, we were offered to go ashore to visit a bar and get a taste for the nightlife of Puerto Ayora, but we all opted to stay on board, had a glass of wine after dinner and went star gazing after dinner before going to sleep.
  7. Day 7: Floreana After another open ocean passage on the way to Floreana, we woke up in another habitat again. Floreana is a very green island, covered with trees, lichens and epiphytes. We went to the highlands first. After walking for about 100 meters, we spotted an owl not too far away - a rare sight here, a good start of the day! We visited the freshwater spring and Pirates' Cove where the compelling human history of Floreana started in the 1800's. At Asilo de Paz we heard the fascinating story of the Wittmers, Doctor Ritter and Dora, and the famous Baroness and her three lovers - a story with all good ingredients of a crime story: love, fights, murder! In an enclosure, we were able to see giant tortoises again - both juvenile and adult ones. On the way back down, we climbed Cerro Alieri. From the top, we had great views both of the highland and down to the harbor and the small settlement. And before going back on the boat, we saw two very cute sea lion pups! One of them was suckling and an even smaller one rested on the steps down to the water.
  8. After the second snorkeling activity of the day, we went ashore at Punta Moreno and did a bit of dhingy riding after. When a Spanish Bishop who discovered the island set foot on Isabela, he struggled to find fresh water to drink and finally was forced to chew on cactus pats to quench his thirst. Cacti and mangroves do not need much to survive - and those and lava shape the scenery. However, in some lagoons, flamingoes have settled. But the habitat is still quite hostile. The lava formations are extraordinary - we could see different kinds of surfaces, tunnels, collapsed tunnels, etc. The were formed depending on the speed of the lava flow. On the way back to the Samba, we had a closer look at some lava rocks from the sea. There were lots of iguanas and penguins and we were able to watch them until the sun set. Amazing light and a great end to a fantastic day!
  9. After lunch, we went snorkeling again. About a minute after we got into the water, the captain found a sea horse for us! What a great sight! This was the only one we saw during the whole trip. Moreover, we saw lots of amazing fishes as well. Among them was a very funny looking one. Also here, we saw quite a few turles. Some of them swimming, some of them feeding. No matter what they do, they are always a great sight! And last but not least, an octopus! This one even decided to put on a show for us. It sprayed its ink into the water which turned completely black! I took two photos right after each other - here you can see the octopus and a bit of the ink, the next one was completely black.
  10. Before lunch, we went snorkeling. This turned out to be probably my facorite snorkel location and one of my favorite moments of the whole trip. We snorkeled through an underwater landscape of lava with brackish water. Really interesting - where salt water and sweet water mix, there is low visibility and also the temperature changes a bit. We saw lots of beautiful fishes and also one cormorant went diving next to us. They are so fast! At one point, Juan told us to be very quiet and not move quickly after we cross over the next shallow stretch of lava. Imagine an underwater amphitheater filled with water and lots and lots of turtles - this is exactly what it looked like. I didn't even know where to look first, there were turtles all around us! Literally everywhere. Right, left, in front of us, below us. Absolutely stunning. It felt like being in paradise. And the icing on the cake was a penguin that swam with us and then decided to jump on a small lava rock. I love penguins and one swimming with us was another highlight. That's the penguin and me!
  11. @Atravelynn Thank you! We did talk about species a lot and also got a lot of information about which animals and plants suffered from introduced species of animals and plants as well as the programmes started by the national park and other conservancies (e.g. tortoise captive breeding programmes, goat extinction programme,...). And sadly most of the endangered or extinct species suffer due to the human - starting already with the early settlers and sailors who loved to capture lots of turtles as they could survive for a year without having food or water before being killed for food and oil. t is really also really interesting to find out how everything is connected - e.g. that on a certain island there would be no Galapagos hawks because their favorite food, the Galapagos lizard, doesn't live there, which again results in the red-footed boobies to live there. Illegal fishing does happen, but much less frequently than years ago. Two months ago, a Chinese boat with more than 6,000 sharks was captured: @AmyT Strange re the Galapagos hawk. We saw so many on different islands... but this one on Isabela was by far the closest encounter. I used an underwater camera for the first time but absolutely love the photos! So worth buying the underwater housing...
  12. Day 6: Isabela The next morning started with a panga ride along the coast of Isabela in a beautiful area. There are lots of mangroves, and it is the only place on earth where you can see mangroves and penguins in the same place. We started early again and the weather was perfect. We started to cruise along the coast where we saw lots of boobies on lava rocks and pelicans both in the water and in the mangrove trees. Look at those huge feet of the boobie! Then we headed into the "alleys" of mangrove forest on lava and continued often without using the outboard motor, but only the oars. It was so nice and quiet, nobody around us. We saw many schools of fishes in the clear water and some turtles. Lots of boobies and pelicans tried to get some breakfast. And there were lots of penguins! They were very curious and enjoyed swimming around our pangas. This pelican was successful. A Galapagos hawk posed for us - and let us get quite close. This was the closest encounter we had. Another successful pelican. It was great to watch the pelicans diving for fish. When they catch one, they can't eat it right away but need to get rid of the excess water in their bill. So they bow, open the bill just a little bit and wait until the water has drained. But through the opening, also smaller fishes get out - and the penguins wait exactly for that kind of food. It was so much fun to watch the pelicans and boobies diving for their food and the teamwork of the pelicans and the penguins. Some more pelicans and penguins: We also saw some rays. One time I just dipped my unterwater camera into the water from the panga and took some pictures blindly. Some turned out to be really nice and you can see so much more this way than by trying to photograph them through the water. And even a turtle made her way into the picture
  13. After lunch, we had another landing at Urbina Bay on Isabela. Urbina Bay is located on the Western shoreline of Alcedo Volcano. In contrast to Fernandina, there is a lot of vegetation. And there, we saw our first giant tortoises and land iguanas! A minute after we landed, we saw the first giant tortoise relaxing below a tree. The land iguanas are larger than the marine iguanas and depending on the location have a yellow-orange-brown color. They like to eat cactus flowers and fruits - and if there are none available they also eat parts of the cactus itself because they need the moisture. We actually saw two land iguanas about 5min apart from each other. Then the next giant tortoise: this one was on the move. And he couldn't have cared less about those humans who were so curious. If you just sat down, didn't move any didn't make much noise, he would just walk right past you.
  14. After the landing, we did a panga ride along the coast - and saw our first penguins! I love penguins and enjoyed watching them a lot. There was even a mating pair. Among other animals, we also saw more cormorants and brown pelicans. Upon return to the Samba, we changed into our wetsuits and went snorkeling. In addition to colourful fishes and more turtles, we saw many colorful sea stars.

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