Thursday, April 3, 2014

Galapagos Vacation in March

Optionally click on an image for a larger view 

This is the first of two posts of our incredible vacation in March when Trudy and I went to Ecuador on two tours of the Adventure Life travel agency. The images of this post are of the Galapagos, the first portion of the vacation. Within a week, I will post images of excursions from the Sacha Lodge in an Amazonian rainforest. After in-camera deletions of photos that I knew I would not want to keep, I returned with 2,672 photos! The photos below are my best of the Galapagos.

The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of 
volcanic islands distributed at the equator, 600 miles 
west of continental Ecuador in the deep waters of
the Pacific Ocean.

We flew from Quito, the capital of Ecuador to Baltra
Island in the Galapagos. This map shows the 8-day 
and 7-night tour route of nine islands by boat, bus, 
and trail. We marveled at a wide variety of coral reef 
tropical fishes at many stops.

Our elegant and comfortable Millennium catamaran 
tour ship was 82 feet long. We stayed in one of the 
8 cabins that accommodated the 16 passengers.

Inflatable Zodiac type boats, called pangas, were used
to transport us from the Millennium to islands.

VOLCANOES For me the Galapagos is about vast expanses of skies and Pacific Ocean dotted with 13 major major islands and hundreds of small rocky outcroppings. The land masses are all the result of volcanic activity in a hot spot 100 miles wide where one tectonic plate slides over another. The islands move eastward on top of one of the plates, while the hot spot remains at the same location where magma burns through the earth’s mantle to reach the surface. The size and shape of the volcanoes are different, depending on how long the volcanoes remained over the hot spot. The most recent eruption on Isabela was in 2005 and on Fernandina was in 2009. The only active volcanic activity that we saw was a small, distant plume of steam rising from the Sierra Negra volcano on Isabella island.

View from Punta Espinosa, Fernandina Island

The Sierra Negra Volcano rises to an elevation of nearly 5,000 feet. It is the largest and one of most active volcanoes in the archipelago, with 10 known eruptions since 1813, the most recent in 1979. At about 5 miles wide and 400 feet deep the caldera  (cauldron feature usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption) of the volcano is the largest in the Galapagos. Much of the caldera floor is covered by quite young lava flows.
The 2.5 mile hike to the rim was steep for flat landers from Florida, but ... 

The view from the rim was worth the climb. The trail and 
crater rim were covered with a wide variety of beautiful ferns.

The trail to the rim of the Darwin Volcano was the steepest and longest we experienced.
The blue-green circle of water is Darwin Lake, a saltwater 
lagoon.  In retrospect, I can't believe that we hiked all the
way up the trail from the shoreline adjacent to our boat that
you can see moored in Tagus Cove!

The Ecuador Volcano on Isabela island straddles the equator.

Fortunately we did not climb the Volcán Ecuador. Here we
are celebrating crossing the equator with a glass of wine.

Pinacle Rock The uphill climbs were not only worth it for the view, but needed to work off the fine food served buffet style on board the Millennium. We hiked to the top of Bartolome Island from the low point on the left to summit shown below at sunrise to view Pinnacle Rock, the most visited site in the Galapagos.
Bartolome was unique in our travels, in that the rock was
sandstone formed by compressed volcanic ash.

Pinncle Rock is the leaning shape that resembles the
leaning tower of Pisa. 

Just one more aspect of geology before photos cool Galapagos animals ...

LAVA is the landscape of the Galapagos! It is a no-brainer that since I am fascinated by the patterns of the sand at Mashes Sands that I was totally-out-of-my mind with lava rock. Molten lava cooled and solidified in mid-ooze. This rock was totally wierd stuff and a real challenge to walk on.
Trails across lava fields are marked with
these black and white stakes.
It looked like the lava was fractured and broken into large
chunks by a huge seismic hammer ... patterns on patterns.

Lava tubing?

GIANT TORTOISES We walked among and close up to these ancient beings in a private preserve, and the next day visited a hatchery.

MARINE IGUANAS were unbelievably abundant on portions of most of the islands. They were so tolerant of us that we had to watch carefully to avoid stepping on them. Occasionally they would spray salt through their noses to purge excess from their bodies.

Of the hundred or so photos of marine iguanas, this is my
favorite. This guy is so relaxed while soaking up the warmth
of the sun during one of our early pre-breakfast morning 

GALAPAGOS LAND IGUANAS While the marine iguanas feed on marine algae, the diet of land iguanas is primarily prickly-pear cactus.

FLIGHTLESS CORMORANT With the myriad of fish everywhere in the water, who needs to fly?

NAMESES If the name of a plant or animal didn't begin with Galapagos or Lava, then it generally began with Darwin.
Galapagos dove

Lava lizard

Darwin finch

SEA LIONS were as lethargic on land as they were energetic in the water. They availed themselves of every human convenience, including docks, piers, park benches, and panga cusions.

SALLY LIGHTFOOT CRABS get their name from their quick mobility. The adults provide a splash of bright red and white color to dark rocky shorelines. Juvenile crabs have a subdued color to blend in with the lava rock.

FLAMINGOS really put on a show for us. Cameras fired click, click ... click, as they raised the lighter pink feathers on their backs, opened their black tipped beaks, and sometimes intertwined their necks. WOW!

BLUE-FOOTED BOOBIES do indeed have awesome bright blue feet. We saw a pair doing the courtship shuffle and the male made several offerings of twigs to the female. Getting the next three photos was the most difficult of any in this blog, when a single bird repeatedly flew over and dove for sardines. 

This photo was taking with an ISO of 1000 with a Canon
EOS 6D and a telephoto zoom lens at a focal length of
300mm while motoring around a small island in a panga
off of Punta Mangle, Fernandina Island.

This image and the next were taken on a trail where they
were nesting on North Seymour Island.

GREAT AND MAGNIFICENT FRIGATE BIRDS were a common sight soaring in the skies. They feed by stealing food while on-the-wing from other birds. These images were also made on North Seymour Island.

The males inflate their bright red throat sack when 
females are nearby. 

Only the male great frigate birds have this greenish, purplish 
iridescent sheen to the feathers on their back. What a
spectacle: red, green, purple and black!

Kelly, Trudy, Coleen, and Sheryl

Bob with dabs of sunscreen

Mike and Vicky

Thank you, The end


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