Nuzzling sea lions
Where We Be
Eat your hearts out, Leonardo & Kate!
Galapagos Cruise (Days 4-7)
Days 4-7 of our Galapagos cruise took us across the equator -- twice --
and to the islands of Isabela, Fernandina, Santiago, Rabida, and Santa Cruz
Our roomy cabin aboard Treasure of Galapagos included a sitting area with table plus the beds
We came home to this towel-art penguin in our room. The eyes are edible chocolate candies.
Long reddish-sand shoreline at Isla Rabida
We never set foot on Rabida Island (Alex told us the horseflies were intense) but we went on an extended snorkeling trip that
was a true highlight of the entire trip. We saw white-tipped sharks, a marine iguana underwater, five bottlenose dolphins,
and the biggest manta ray we've ever seen in our lives -- bigger than the zodiac, at least 25 feet from tip to tip. Astonishing!
Puerto Egas on Santiago Island was one of our favorite hikes of the trip, offering lots of wildlife and natural beauty
Lazing in the blue grottoes were several fur seals. Boy, talk about living the good life! These guys have it made, drifting back and forth on the current.
Eventually we reached these beautiful blue grottoes near the seashore  [photo by remkonicole.nl]
This Sally lightfoot crab appears to be in imminent danger from this marine iguana -- but actually the iguana is just taking a nap!
This yellow crowned night heron is hiding its head beneath its own wing to get some shade! (Or else it's just disturbed in the head.)
We began with a zodiac ride around several small islets near Fernandina Island
After the hot hike we all threw ourselves into the ocean, and boy did it feel great! This beach is also a modern geologic wonder. In 1954 the shoreline at
Urbina Bay was uplifted 15 feet overnight! Above is the uplifted area (i.e., the current beach). Further inland the land dips down and you find yourself
standing on what was once the beach. The uplift happened so fast that sharks, lobsters, fish, and giant coral heads were stranded high and dry inland.
During our hike at Urbina Bay we saw several large Galapagos land iguanas like this one. Despite their fierce appearance they are harmless vegetarians.
It's good to be silly sometimes!
We all gathered up on the bridge to watch the navigation system count down to latitude 0.000, marking
the exact line of the equator (but the closest we could get was 0.001 before it started counting up again)
The red sac on this frigate bird puffs out hugely during courtship
DAY 4. Fernandina Island (Punta Mangle) & Isabela Island (Urbina Bay)
This was the greatest concentration of marine iguanas we saw anywhere in the Galapagos
This booby looks like he's in big trouble (but he's not)
After lunch on the ship we boarded the zodiacs again, this time for a wet landing at Urbina Bay (on the western side of Isabela Island)
DAY 6. Santiago Island (Chinese Hat) & Santa Cruz (Cerro Dragon)
Near Punta Mangle we snorkeled with a family of sea lions that temporarily "adopted" us into their family -- the highlight of our day!
Sunset just before crossing the equator
We continued along the coastal area at Puerto Egas, marveling at the abundance of life on these relatively desolate-looking shores
A bit blurry but the only photo I managed of a marine iguana swimming
Sally lightfoot crabs are stunningly colorful -- and they are also amazingly agile, capable of jumping from rock to rock.
John Steinbeck wrote of them, "They have remarkable eyes and an extremely fast reaction time....they are exceedingly hard to catch."
Hiding under this rock shelf was a whole community of Sally lightfoot crabs. They all edged deeper within when I peered in at them.
This oystercatcher uses its powerful red bill to smash or pry open molluscs
The lava rock coastal area at Puerto Egas was a great spot for bird watching. This Galapagos lava heron is particularly visible against the black rocks.
Here he is saying hi to me! Maybe the bright yellow color of my swim trunks interested him.
This little fella seemed particularly curious about us. You're not supposed to touch the animals, but what about when they touch you?!
We were lucky to be in the Galapagos in March when there were so many curious and playful sea lion pups
Despite appearances this little sea lion pup is totally safe from the menacing-looking marine iguana (a vegetarian)!
This young sea lion climbed up to this spot and looked for all the world like he was posing for us with the mountain as a backdrop
We frequently spotted yellow warblers like this one flitting about in the Galapagos
Closeup of the natural arch. Note all the Sally lightfoot crabs clinging to the rocks.
At Puerto Egas we made a wet landing by zodiac on a black sand beach with a beautiful natural arch at the far end
Overnight the yacht made its longest journey of the week, going up and around the top of Isabela Island then down the other side,
crossing the equator twice. One of the pleasures of the cruise was waking up each morning to a new view like this one at Santiago Island.
Robin peeks in at the little fella taking a nap. A lot of times they'd waddle a few "steps" then flop down for a sudden nap.
These are both lava lizards. The smaller one (about five or six inches long) with the bright red colors is female, the larger male.
This sea lion was taking a blissful nap right along our path from the beach and wasn't disturbed by us at all
A small pond held two cute little ducklings
We took a brief beach walk in bare feet and saw these stilts in a freshwater lake just behind the beach
We ate our desserts on the floor of the deck just outside the dining room, enjoying each other's company and the cool evening breezes
We passed this dramatic crater lake (with flamingos in it) on our way to our next destination
Our final lunch aboard the ship was served out on deck -- a barbecue feast with fresh shrimp, fish, chicken, sausage, and much more
This is lovely Cerro Dragon on the northwestern corner of Santa Cruz Island
Maybe these marine iguanas are evolving to eat crabs?!
Pockmarked lava rock was everywhere at Puerto Egas
This is pretty Las Bachas beach on the northern side of Santa Cruz Island -- our final stop before continuing on to Baltra Island
We saw these two flamingos courting -- although the one on the left was rebuffed rather sharply by the one on the right!
We saw several large land iguanas at Cerro Dragon including this spectacular one
This is probably the largest land iguana we saw during our time in the Galapagos -- about five feet long
That evening we shared a farewell cocktail with the crew and had fun taking pictures. This is bubbly Guadalupe (from Ecuador) posing with the crew.
We'll let vivacious Risa say goodbye for all of us to the Treasure of Galapagos. What a wonderful treasure indeed!
DAY 7. Santa Cruz (Las Bachas) & Baltra Island (Disembark)
Way to go Juliane!
We hiked for about an hour at Cerro Dragon
The endpoint of our hike was this scenic locale with crashing waves
Back on the ship, three of us decided it would be fun to jump off the top deck, probably about 30 feet (10 meters) above the water.
Robin and several others took pictures from the zodiac waiting below just in case we needed rescuing!
This is aptly named Chinese Hat, a tiny island off the southeastern coast of Santiago Island
This happy cactus has lots of "babies"
Risa runs up the beach at Chinese Hat with snorkel in hand
Juliane decided to jump first. For the record, Remko and I both jumped too, but it's more fun watching Juliane jump, wouldn't you agree?
Looking across the channel at a candelabra cactus forest
Happy to be sharing so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences. During the post-hike snorkel we saw spotted eagle rays mating -- and a white-tipped shark.
Even the great blue herons in the Galapagos seem less shy than the ones we sometimes see in Colorado
We spent a fairly long time at this "sea lion kindergarten" where sea lion pups learn to swim in shallow waters  [photo by remkonicole.nl]
These two sea lions are obviously best buds -- the one has his flipper thrown over the other, then casually rests his head on the other's head.
Chinese Hat was chock-full of sea lions, including many cubs still nursing
DAY 5. Santiago Island (Puerto Egas) & Rabida Island
Can't remember what this is! Can anyone tell me?
Some of you may be wondering how you too
can sail aboard a luxury yacht for a week in the
Galapagos without breaking the bank. Well, first
the bad news: even sailing for half-price in the
Galapagos isn't cheap. To give you an idea, we
paid $1500 per person for the cruise, plus $540
per person round-trip airfare from Quito, plus
$110 in Galapagos entry fees. That's $2,150 per
person, plus another $200 each in tips for the
crew and guide. Thus we paid $4,700 total for
one week of luxury cruising. Even a budget
one-week cruise will probably set you back a
minimum of $3,500 for two with airfare/entry fee.

On the plus side, $1500 per person is still half
the price of what you would pay to book the
same cruise ahead of time in the U.S. The same
ship -- Treasure of Galapagos -- is consistently
listed at $3,000 per person or higher online. So
if you're willing to fork over half but not the
whole amount, read on.

The key to booking a last-minute cruise is to
show up in Quito with enough flexibility built
into your schedule to allow you to make a quick
decision when the right opportunity presents
itself. Here is what we did. We reserved five
nights' stay in Quito (at Colonial House Quito).
We spent the first three days sightseeing in
Quito, then, on the fourth day, we walked to
Avenida Amazonas in the new part of town (you
could also take a bus or cab for a few bucks).
Av. Amazonas is travel agency central in Quito.

We visited three different agencies. The first,
called Happy Gringo, has a great online website
and a very helpful staff. They presented us with
five or six different options for cruises leaving
in the next few days. The prices ranged from
$1300 for budget cruises to $1900 for luxury
ones. It helped that it wasn't high season (i.e.,
July or August). March is shoulder season so
there were a fair number of good deals out
there. We wrote down the key information then
visited another agency, SurTrek. The SurTrek
agent presented just one option, but it was a
great one. She offered Treasure of Galapagos
for several hundred dollars less than Happy
Gringo for the same cruise. Now, this isn't to
say Happy Gringo would always be undercut but
rather that it's always wise to shop around. The
third agency had less to offer so we went back
to SurTrek and booked Treasure of Galapagos
since it was the best value: a luxury cruise
selling at close to last-minute budget prices.

We actually had to leave a day
early from Quito
to make the cruise work, but this flexibility was
crucial to sealing the deal. It could also have
turned out that the right cruise didn't leave for
several days
after our travel agency visit and
we would have had to stay a few nights longer
in Quito. Either way, you need some flexibility in
your schedule for a last-minute booking option
like this to work. Otherwise, you may just want
to book the cruise ahead of time and pay the
extra money for the peace of mind.

You
might be able to book a cruise cheaper by
waiting until you get to Isla Santa Cruz (or Isla
San Cristobal) in the Galapagos -- but the ship
selection tends to be quite limited and skewed
towards budget. That's because most higher-
end cruises have already been scooped up by
last-minute bargain hunters in Quito. You can
also save money by booking a shorter cruise,
but we wouldn't recommend one less than five
days long since the first and last days are only
partial days. A final option is to forego a cruise
altogether and go Galapagos island-hopping on
your own. We discuss this on our next page.
Anchored near Fernandina -- the youngest island in the Galapagos
How to Book a Galapagos Cruise for Half Price