There's just so much to report (and no wi-fi for instantaeously doing so) here in the Galapago Islands that I thought I'd segment this part of our journey.

The goddess Maureen, the good-natured Monica, and got-it-together Wendy arrived on Saturday and were joined by gutsy Marita, gracious Irene, and the good-sport Betsy on Sunday afternoon after an ("you had to be there to believe it") adventure involving about 36 hours of sleepless flight re-arranging and including -- but not limited to -- a one hour speed boat ride through the Galapagos National Park to meet up with our yacht, the Eclipse, 24 hours into our voyage. Needless to say, they were a sight for sore eyes!
The cruise has been outstanding.  The food is superb -- more details on Ecuadorian cuisine in a future post -- but here are some tasty treats from the ship's buffet.

(al fresco lunch)

The cabins are decent and well-equipped. The yacht itself is nice (accommodates approximately 75 with staff and guests). The staff is super accommodating and the four naturalists are incredible and bend over backwards to ensure we have the photos we want, the right gear, and all the right moves (whether it be in snorkeling, negotiating a disembarkment from the " panga" (the Zodiac dinghies we use to get from the yacht to the islands) or engaging in pleasant conversation.
We arrived at the Baltra airport ( a remote military base) mid-day Sunday and were greeted by several of the Eclipse naturalists. After a short bus ride to a small dock, we suited up in life-vests (always) and sped away in our motorized raft (panga). We were welcomed on the yacht by the cruise director and staff, got settled in our cabins, had a brief orientation and safety drill, then a huge lunch. After lunch... our first excursion to the mangroves and Black Turtle Cove. Twelve of us filled up a panga with our Galapagos resident naturalist Sandie and our driver and away we went-- floppy hats, insect repellant, sunscreen and all. This is all about the amazing sights, so I am including lots of pictures with very little text.

The mangroves were fascinating (though we got stuck once or twice )....
... and finally we made it to the Cove. Very peaceful; before we knew it, a grand and magical sea creature display materialized before our eyes-- green sea turtles mating, pelicans, frigates, flying fish, a school of stingrays, and Galapagos sharks. The turtles, in particular were fascinating and tenacious.

We returned to the yacht about 7, heard an overview of the next day's activities, ate dinner, and called it a night.
After an early breakfast, we prepared for our first wet landing at Rabida--a small island with red volcanic rocks encircling a red, sandy beach with plenty of opportunities for sea lion, pelicans, land iguana, Galapagos hawk, and flora sighting.  The hike was hot (we're at the equator) but really interesting-- our guide Wilson assured us it would be so.

After the hike, it was snorkeling time. There were beautiful fish and even sea lions swimming by.

Back for a lovely Italian lunch on deck, a siesta, then off for excursion two of the day to Puerto Egas on Santiago where we hiked to tidal pools featuring dozens of fur sea lions. This is not like a zoo-- the sea lions were right there for easy picture taking. As long as you back off when / if the males get aggressive, you can get incredible photos;  not just the sea lions, but iguanas too. We will have seen thousands by the time the trip is over!

After two hours of hiking....

...back to the boat for a preview of Monday, dinner, and bed.   The sea air, hiking, animals, and sun, combined, were wearing us out. Plus no "Words With Friends" temptations as there's no wireless. (Too pre-occupied to miss it.).

I'll blog separately about Monday,  Tuesday, and Wednesday. In the meantime, in regards to Galapagos...

What's grand:  cruising in the middle of the Pacific toward absolutely primeval islands. Who could imagine the wonders that are here.

What's gorgeous: each island, in its own way, is more gorgeous than the next.

What's goofy:  seeing our 3 friends speed up to our yacht (literally In the middle of  nowhere) was implausible and somewhat goofy .  So were the turtles rolling around in the cove.

Hasta la vista with hugs,


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