Day 15 in the Galapagos

So here it was, the last day of my 15 days in the Galapagos Islands.  It was a little bitter sweet.  While I think I have probably seen almost all the highlights there is to see, I will really, really, miss the daily hikes and adventures on and under the water.  The Galápagos Islands really are a magical place.

Anyway, we were up at 5:30 and in the zodiacs at 6:00 for a hike around North Seymour Island, which is about a half hour from Santa Cruz Island and the location where we would be flying out of in just a few hours.  We did a dry landing, but the rocks in the landing area were super slick and we had to carefully walk up the little hill to our path.

Now North Seymour Island is a small island known for the colony of frigate birds as well as the colony of blue footed boobies on the islands.  And as we hiked around the lava stone path, we encountered male frigate bird after male frigate bird with their red waddle in full bloom as they looked for a mate.  At one point, some female frigate birds (the females are recognizable because they have a white chest and look like a bird in a tuxedo) flew overhead and the males in the trees went crazy.  They all started calling out and opening their wings in a wide display and flapping in a slightly weird manner.  Talk about desperate.  Gesh.

Anyway, as we walked, we encountered a few nests and the odd pair of male-female frigates, but the majority of frigates we encountered were desperate males pleading for attention.  It was kind of sad there seemed to be so few females.

Male frigate in mating mode
Female frigate and baby
Me and a frigate
Male frigate with baby

We also encountered a number of blue footed boobies.  (I will never say blue footed boobies without thinking of young Thomas who got the biggest kick out of say “boobies” every time we talked about the blue footed, red footed or nazca boobies.  “BOOBIES” he would yell out every time the name was mentioned.  Ah the mind of a nine year old.


Anyway, as we walked along the path we came across a threesome booby showdown of sorts.  The female was standing by herself while two males faced her in a bit of a dance off.  Actually only one of the two males was doing the full courting dance.  The male lifted his leg and then flapped his wings in the traditional mating ritual while the other male half heartedly lifted his leg and let out a couple screetches, but that was about it.  Suddenly the dancing male made his move.  He went over to the female, screeched a bit while she screeched back and then he picked up a twig and tried to give it to her.  Looks like we have a winner.  I got a lot of it on 2 different videos, but we ended up moving on so we were never sure if the showman really won her over.

Anyway, as we moved around the island and back towards the shoreline, we continued to encounter a lot of dead frigate birds as well as the skeleton of a dolphin.  Harry could not tell us the reason for the birds death so we were only left to speculate.  (You can actually see one of the dead birds in the video above.)

North Seymour shoreline

Also as we walked around the shoreline, we encountered a number of sea lions for the last time.  One particularly playful guy came right up to me and as I moved on, he continued to try and find some human companionship by approaching a number of others in the group.  It was quite entertaining.

Unfortunately, we reached the end of our walk and it was time to take the zodiacs back to the boat and move the Samba a half hour to Santa Cruz Island.  It was indeed bittersweet.  The crew on the Samba had been absolutely phenomenal.  And in order of the picture below, there was Jose our captain, who never failed to immediately call us to the deck when he spotted anything unusual in the water; Arnie, the first mate and often times my trusty zodiac driver (and manta ray spotter) and truly good guy; Enrique, the engineer, who was just about as kind as can be and always had a smile on his face; Jairon, the young man who accompanied me to San Cristobol and stayed with me until we got back on the boat the next day; Francisco, aka Guapo, our chef extraordinaire who made the best vegetable soup and best ceviche I have ever had (and why I did not get the recipes is a complete brain f*rt on my part); Cifredo, who literally did everything on the boat from serving our meals and snacks to cleaning our rooms (he was a joy); and finally Harry, the fabulous, unflappable (except when spotting manta rays) naturalist guide.  If you ever plan to go to the Galapagos, I cannot recommend enough the Samba boat.  It was incredible.

The crew of the Samba

So after breakfast, we loaded in the zodiacs and headed for shore and the Baltra airport.  It was time to say goodbye to the most wonderful Galapagos group.  How I got so lucky with the people on the boat not once, but twice is beyond me, but there was something incredibly special about the folks during my second week.  Not only did they come to my rescue literally one day after they met me, they welcomed me back on the boat like a long lost friend.  These folks were fantastic!  The incredibly optimistic Karim and the wonderfully adventurous Manal.  I can’t wait to visit your home country of Lebanon!  And then of course there was Lisset and Guillermo who were rocks stars in trying to help me get rid of the cramping in my legs and who continued to watch out for me through the trip.  And I will not forget their young son Thomas who drank the ship out of Fanta and then started in on Sprite.  He was an absolute jewel on board (BOOBIES!).  Erica, the most amazing in shape person I have ever met who always had a smile on her face.  And last, but certainly not least was the Haro family.  Luis who always made me laugh (“Vicky what’s the matter with your face”).  Vicky who was a joy and another of the rock stars who helped me during my cramping crisis.  And of course daughters Paris and Lexi.  If all teenagers are like these two young ladies the world has a very, very bright future.  I loved talking to these two and they were an absolute pleasure to get to know.  (Rock on girls!)

My shpmates

So once at the airport, everyone but Manal, Karim and I left on the 11:00 a.m. flight to Quito.  I was on a 1:00 p.m. flight and Manal and Karim were on a 1:30 flight.  I would spend a couple days in Quito before heading home.  It had been a glorious trip.


And one more surprise.  As I was sitting waiting for my flight a young man in military fatigues approached me.  ¿Cuál es tu nombre? (What is your name?).  Mi nombre es Deborah.  The guy starts laughing and rattles off something in Spanish. Despacio por favor (Slow please).  The guy then rattles off Samba, Floreana, San Cristobol.  Turns out it was my helicopter pilot!  What are the odds??  His name was Ruben and face to face he really didn’t look like George Clooney (as opposed to staring up at him as I am lying on my back strapped to a backboard), but he was still my hero!

My pilot