The Kimberley – Days 1 and 2

We arrived in Darwin, a town of about 150,000 people. It is primarily a port town. It is the capital of the Northern Territory which is >500,000 Sq.Mi. and home to less than 250,000 people. While it is about 18% of Australia’s land mass, it is only 1% of its population. We boarded the Silver Discoverer for an Expedition Cruise, basically the same formula as our Galapagos trip last year.

We were supposed to go snorkeling at Jaco island in East Timor but unfortunately, a prior cruise ran their ship aground on a reef in the bay causing damage to the reef and prompting an East Timor decision to suspend anchoring in the bay. We still went to East Timor which puzzled many of us. Why were we “wasting” a day or almost two at sea? The reason was Cabotage.

Cabotage – noun

    1. the right to operate sea, air, or other transport services within a particular territory.
        • restriction of the operation of sea, air, or other transport services within or into a particular country to that country’s own transport services.

Turns out that Cabotage is also the reason that most cruise ships to Alaska stop in Vancouver at the beginning or end of Alaska cruises. Many (most?) cruise ships, regardless of ownership are Bahamian registered due to tax advantages. However this means that in many countries (e.g. US and Australia) the cruise can not start and end exclusively in one country.

Last day – back to Baltra and then home

It was an amazing trip. One we will never forget. Experienced some amazing places, and met some new friends.

As I write this we are in Quito airport waiting for our red-eye to Atlanta and then on to Minneapolis. It is time for this adventure to end. Looking forward to seeing family and friends while we are there.

This morning I looked out our stateroom and saw our bags (along with everybody else’s) being loaded onto a zodiac. I realize that this ship never docks so everything that comes on or goes off is transported via zodiac but I wish I hadn’t seen this.

Fortunately ours made it. I wonder if, or how often, a bag doesn’t.

Santa Cruz

We cruised overnight to Santa Cruz, the island with the largest human population. The headquarters of the Galápagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station are located in the small town of Puerto Ayora.

At the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center, we saw dome shaped tortoises some of which are waiting to be returned to their home island.

When it gets hot, they enjoy the mud.

Gardner Bay

The highlight of snorkeling at Gardner Bay was the sea lions. They were everywhere, weaving in and out of the snorkelers and making lightning fast dives to the bottom to fish. Very beautiful.

I was also taken with the King angelfish and the rock and coral bottom made it much easier to capture them vs. sandy bottoms.

Giant Tortoise

When you think Galapagos, most people think of Tortoises, big ones. Over-hunting and competition with introduced animals has left its numbers close to extinction. The Galápagos National Park Service park rangers and the scientists of the Charles Darwin Research Station have been working since the 1950s to bring their numbers back. We saw and learned about their conservation efforts and saw Tortoises from 1 month old to some well over a hundred. They are working hard to restore and protect the Galapagos Islands’ natural biodiversity.

They weren’t very afraid of us and several times cut across our paths. Actually I should say blocked our path for several minutes as they walked 5-10 feet. All I have to say is that Hare must have been really stupid to lose to one of these.

Rabida

Rabida is a small picturesque island with red rock cliffs and maroon sand. The contrast of the red rocks, green cactus trees and the blue turquoise sea create landscapes of stunning contrast, even when you take them from the water. We saw some sea lions along the shore. I think that Mama wanted to nap but junior wanted to eat.

During the snorkel I saw sea lions, reef sharks, marine iguanas, colorful parrotfish.

In the afternoon we sailed to Eden Islet for a Zodiac ride and saw the local Pelicans.

North Seymour Island

Today our adventure started on North Seymour Island.

North Seymour is a small up-lifted island filled with a profusion of wildlife – above and below the sea. The new species today included Blue-footed Boobies, and lots of Galapagos land iguanas.

Love was in the air again as Blue Footed Boobies did their mating dance. It clearly works.

 

Sea lions basked in the sun and Land Iguanas foraged (Cactus, really?)

Coming ashore on the east coast of Santiago Island, we saw the lava flows that are not much older than a hundred years (1897). The snorkeling was great and we swam along side massive sea turtles.

Genovesa

Our first excursion day took us just north of the equator to an island called Genovesa. The day was packed and we started with exploration at ‘Prince Philip’s Steps’, a steep path named after the Duke of Edinburgh who visited the island in 1965. We saw Nazca Boobies nesting on the ground, Red footed Boobies in short trees and mating, Great Frigatebirds putting on a show with fiery red sacs, and a Short-eared Owl.

Then back to the ship, after donning wet suits we were zodiac-ed to a little bay where snorkeled. We were in a caldera (formed when the mouth of a volcano collapsed). It was hot, so getting in the water had a double benefit.

Afterwards we went to the ship, grabbed lunch and I had a quick nap.

In the afternoon we had another tour near the beach and saw many of the same species but in different habitat. We also saw a Yellow Crowned Night Heron.

We still can’t really believe that we are here.

Silversea Galapagos (day 5)

Hops, hops and more hops. We flew from Quito to Guayaquil to Baltra, rode the bus to the coast/pier and then finally took a Zodiac to the Ship.

Finally we are underway.

Quito (day 4)

Another early wake up call (5:00AM) so we could catch an early Cusco to Lima flight, followed by a Lima to Quito leg. The remote destinations we chose (Machu Picchu and the Galapagos) required a lot of connecting flights.

A city tour was available but we’d had enough of busses and travel for the day.

This is from our room at the JW Marriott in Quito. Quito is bigger than I thought at 2.5M people.

Tomorrow: Quito to the Silver Discoverer Galapagos.