So I left Quito at the early hour of 6:00 a.m. for the trip to the Gallapagos on the MV Samba. While my flight did not leave until 9:33 a.m., it takes almost an hour to reach the Quito airport from old town hence the early departure time. Once at the airport, I was checked in and cleared to fly to the Galapagos. The flight made one stop in Guayaquil to unload some passengers and load others heading to the islands. Unfortunately, a large family with 12 children boarded and made the rest of our lives on the flight a living hell by getting up and down from the seats, climbing over people and yelling back and forth at each other. It was truly surprising that the LATAM folks did absolutely nothing to make the kids sit down and shut up. Fortunately, I was by a window and had my ear plugs so it was all good for me, but I felt really bad for one guy.
Anyway, we finally landed on Santa Cruz Island at 1:30 p.m. and after further screening for prohibited items, I was met by Harry, who was the naturalist on the MV Samba. Harry introduced me to our group, who had arrived ahead of me. The group included Luton from Germany, Nancy and Steve from Washington DC, Geert and Joleen from the Netherlands, James from San Francisco, Peter from the Netherlands and Shelley from Salt Lake City.
Our group boarded a bus and by 2:30ish we were on the Samba, which would be my home for the next two weeks. We were given a quick overview and a safety briefing before being taken to our cabins. I unpacked everything, settled in and then went upstairs for a late lunch as the Samba left the harbor and began our journey through the northwest Galápagos Islands. As we sat down for lunch, the Samba pulled up anchor and we moved out of the first and headed for our first stop, Mosquera, which is one of the smallest island in the archipelago located between North Seymour and Baltra islands.
After lunch, we were given another safety briefing (this one more in depth) and then we loaded onto the two zodiacs, which would take us ashore to Mosquera’s white sand beaches. As we approached the shore, we could see numerous sea lions lounging in the sun.
Once we were close enough to the beach, we climbed out of the zodiac and waded through the waters to shore. Harry then led us on a hike along the beach past sea lions of all shapes and sizes. In fact, Harry told us that the sea lion colony on Mosquera is the largest in the Galapagos, which became readily apparent as there were sea lions literally everywhere we looked. And as we walked, we passed a huge male sea lion, numerous females and a handful of baby sea lions all barking greetings to us.
The hike along the beach while lovely was a bit challenging. The sand was super soft near the water, but as we hiked up the dunes, the sand became courser and filled with shells. Not an easy walk in bare feet. Lesson #1. Don’t forget to wear water shoes when we land on the beaches.
Harry led us past part of the colony and up to the other side of the dunes where we spotted an iguana and some little lizards lounging
in the sun. We then crossed to the other side of the little strip of land and spotted all sort of crabs clinging to the rocks. They were a gorgeous red colour, and Harry advised us that the crabs are named Sally light foot crabs, which are a protected species so you won’t find them on any menus.
Anyway, as we watched the crabs on the rocks, one poor little sea lion was having a heck of a time trying to get out of the water and up the sandy beach. The little fella would get a little ways out of the water, only to have a wave hit and push him back off the sand. Eventually the little sea lion gave up, swam back out into the water and then made its way to shore in a calmer area of the beach.
A little further down the beach, Harry showed us the remains of a dead shark and while I thought it was interesting to look at the skeleton, there was so much action around with all sorts of birds and sea lions, I wandered off to see what else I could see.
As I moved towards the water and away from the skeleton, I spotted what Harry identified as an oyster catcher being robbed of dinner by a heron. Poor little guy. He made a valiant attempt to recover the meal, but the heron was having none of it. Eventually, the oyster catcher bobbed around some sea lions and made a run down the beach looking for a replacement meal. The last I saw of the little guy he was diving bombing the water trying to catch another fish.
At this point, we began our walk back along the shoreline in the direction of the zodiacs and on the way spotted a pelican dive bombing the water and unlike the little oyster catcher, the pelican was reaping a bounty of fish. Every time the pelican dove down into the water, he would pop back up gulping down a fish. The pelican did this so many times, I thought he was going to burst.
By now it was closing in on 4:30 so it was time to head back to the boat. It had been a long, but really enjoyable day (apart from the plane ride). Once on the boat we were told that we had to double back to pick up a late arriving addition to our group, Phil and Penny from England. And their arrival meant that they were putting Shelly in a room with me. Neither Shelley nor I were particularly happy about this development, but Shelly turned out to be really nice and we got along just fine.
Anyway, when we sat down for dinner we realized we were missing someone … Luten. We immediately thought we might have left him on the beach in Mosquera because at one point, Luten was lying on the sand away form everyone catching a few zzzzzzz. Harry got a slightly panicked look on his face and went to check Luten’s room. To the relief of everyone (more so for Harry) Luten was sleeping in his room. It made for a lot of laughter throughout dinner.
So tomorrow will be our first full day in the Galapagos. We will be doing a little bit of bird watching on the island of Genovesa, followed by our first snorkeling of the trip and then a hike up Phillips Steps to take in the views. For now, it was time to get some sleep.