Week of family Olympics and adventure!August 7, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C
Great week! See details in picture below!
We got off the boat around 9am and were all transferred to the airport by bus. We were on the 1.5 hour, 11:30a flight to Guayaquil which went smoothly. The remainder of our vacation was spent at the Hotel Del Parque - same as the hotel we stayed at the first night. The surrounding area is a park that includes coffee trees, cocoa trees, a boardwalk through an area with lots of different animals, lots of Ecuadorian people and various food stalls. We got some ice cream and an empanada for a late afternoon snack, both of which were excellent. Afterwards, we took a 4pm guided tour of the park and then went to get dinner at around 5:30. The sit down restaurants in the park are pricey with strange (i.e. not kids friendly) food, so we walked to a food court we had heard about. We ended up walking way too far to get there since we missed a turn, but once we made it, it was a cute outdoor food court in a courtyard with lots of food options.
Now it's 7pm and time for bed! Our wake up call is set for 2am!!😫Read more
I woke up early so decided to wake Addey for an early morning stretch class that she had been wanting to do with me. After breakfast, we boarded the zodiacs for Darwin Bay trail. Genovesa is pretty incredible with more birds than you can imagine, soaring and walking all around, without any fear of humans. Here is where we got to see red footed boobies (and their chicks!) along with beautiful red-billed tropic birds, swallow tail gulls, frigate birds and the endemic Nazca boobies, among others. After our walk, we stayed at the small beach there and watched the kids play. I took pictures of the striking and plentiful Sally light-foot crabs and a few sea lions joined us in the beach. On our way back to the boat we got to see some fur seals resting in the rocks of the island.
Our afternoon excursion was to Prince Phillip's Steps where, after a 90 foot climb, we took a 1.2 mile hike around the plateau that is Genovesa. More incredible bird watching and photography and we were fortunate to find several hunting owls.
We came back to the boat and started packing. 😔 We had a farewell toast and get together in the lounge before dinner. The kids got prizes for the points they had collected in their expedition journals - a Nat Geo hat and buff (balaclava). A bunch of people spoke about how special the trip has been - really kind people, kids got along very well and excellent guides and staff. It went way too fast as all good trips do!
We had a short photo presentation after dinner presenting photos from whoever wanted to upload 5-7 of their own photos and many from Jonathan our photographer naturalist. Jace was very excited to have his pictures in the slide show and, in particular, got a beautiful picture of a Sally light-foot crab.
Early sleep tonight for another early rise tomorrow...Read more
Woke up at 7am and after breakfast took a zodiac cruise along the volcanic shores of Santiago Island in an area known as Sombrero Chino. We saw a penguin which was great. Afterwards, Ken, Jace, Cooper and I went snorkeling while Addey went to the beach with her friend Claudia and her grandparents. The snorkeling was excellent. We saw a white tip reef shark (swam right beneath me!) and I saw a number of other fish I hadn't seen before - Galapagos puffer, Pacific boxfish, Calico Lizard fish, Flag Cabrilla and a Tiger Snake eel).
Once on the boat, we sailed past Bainbridge Islet and, from the sky deck, were able to peek inside the crater at a brakish lake with a few spots of flamingos. After lunch we played cards in the lounge with our new friend, Laura. All the kids got to go out on zodiacs and learn how to drive them.
At 3:30p we hiked around Sullivan Bay - a 3/4 mile hike on 120 year old lava flow. Very similar to walking on the Big Island of Hawaii. There were no animals aside from a few lava lizards but a beautiful and interesting hike on some uneven sharp lava rocks! Afterwards, we took the zodiacs close by and saw 6 penguins resting - very cool to see penguins on the equator!
We had our pre-dinner drink and talk in the lounge at 7p. They projected live microscope images of microscopic life of the ocean - very neat. We also got to see a preview of the videographer's work for the week which looks incredible - can't wait to see the finished product! We had a BBQ dinner on the skydeck and then went back to the lounge to play euchre (found out that 8 of us knew how to play!) and then hung out until 11.
Tomorrow is our last day - very sad.... 😔Read more
We started the day with a 1/2 mile exploration of the circuit trail around South Plaza. It was beautiful and other worldly!😍 Red succulants carpet the ground and prickly pear trees are everywhere. This is the home of the endemic (unique) Galapagos Land Iguana and we had the opportunity to watch one eating a prickly pear fruit. The cliffs around the island were beautiful and we saw a plethora of Swallow-tailed gulls, pelicans, and frigate birds soaring. We even saw some chicks. It was an incredible walk and a photographer's paradise!
Addey hiked with her new friend Iago (from Mexico and her dance partner from last night).
We came back to the ship and anyone so inclined had an opportunity to jump into the ocean from the boat. I got great pictures of my family jumping off and they loved it (though the water was only 69 degrees! 🥶).
Afterward, there was a lecture on humans and the Galapagos. It was decent. Even Jace came to the lecture. Then we had an Andean lunch buffet.
The boat switched islands after lunch which was quite rocky. Both Jace and I felt a little nauseated 🤢, so we took a Zofran and a nap! It helped (as did anchoring near our next stop - Santa Fe Island).
We took a zodiac into the bay and saw sea turtles, a group of manta rays, and the ever present (but not less intriguing) sea lions. We took a short hike around the rocky trail and saw several endemic Santa Fe land iguanas. Aside from tons of sea lions at the beaches that flanked each end of the trail, and more mockingbirds and finches, there was little else to see.
We came back to the boat for cocktail hour and dinner and then to bed. Happy 4th of July!!Read more
Fun and full day! We spent the day in the 2nd largest island in the archipelago. It also has the largest human population with over 25,000. Our group's naturalist, Benjamin, took us to the Tortoise Breeding Center and gave us a tour of the facility with more than 1200 tortoises bred to re-populate the waning populations on the islands. Each island has it's own species of tortoise however, so breeding is island specific.
From there we had about an hour of free time to walk back to town and check out the souvenir shops - typical redundant chotchkes but still fun to look.
We then joined the half of the group who chose to go to a coffee/sugar cane farm about a 1/2 hour away (the other half went to a private school supported by Lindblad). On the way, we stopped at a lava tube (common in volcanic islands) and walked down into the tube - about 100 yards. Once we came up we got to try fresh off the tree bananas, and they were excellent!
The coffee and sugar cane farm was called 'El Trapiche'. We got to see how sugar cane is squeezed to produce a liquid and how that liquid is turned into molassas, brown sugar or moonshine. There were tastes of everything including moonshine that we let Jace taste (luckily, not a fan!) Between that, the sugar, and ultimately coffee tasting, I'm sure we were not in the running for best parents of the year! We all enjoyed the farm alot. We learned about coffee production. Ecuador is known to make some of the world's best coffee. Our naturalist for this portion of the day was Jonathan and he actually has his own coffee farm in San Cristobal. He was able to teach us a lot. Not an easy process, growing coffee, but apparently lucrative!
We met up with the rest of our fellow travelers at 'Rancho Manzanillo' in the highlands for a good buffet lunch. The huge tortoises were everywhere and we got to check them out in there habitat. They gave us tall boots to wear there since, apparently, they have fire ants in the area. Luckily noone met up with any. We got our obligatory UofM family picture with a tortoise.
We got back in town at 4:30 and walked around checking our more shops until 6. (Cooper bought a stuffed animal hammerhead shark (for $2!) and Addey got a swim shirt).
We took the zodiac back to the boat and got ready for dinner. We had dinner with a couple from southern California along with one of the naturalists and the expedition videographer.
After dinner, we got to listen to a wonderful local musician group and watch dancers - both the official and unofficial ones! Addey and another little boy were dancing up a storm and entertaining everyone! Ken and I even were pulled up to dance a couple of times by the official dancers. It was a fun night. Jace and Cooper missed the entertainment since they were tired and went to sleep early.Read more
Ken and I went on the optional pre breakfast 6:30am walk on Floreana. The area is known as Punta Cormorant though no cormorants are there. Kids were out cold so we let them sleep. We landed on a green (olivine) sand beach which glitters when the sun shines on it. We walked to another beach, this one white sand. We saw the flipper of a large sea turtle as it threw sand out of it's hole to prepare for laying eggs. We saw blue footed boobies with their babies and flamingos feeding in a large salt pond.
We came back for breakfast and then went back out for a zodiac tour of Champion Islet - a small offshore volcanic cone. There was one alcove with many curious and playful sea lions swimming all about. We looked for the Floreana mockingbird but did not see it.
Ken and Jace went on the 10:45am deep water drift snorkel near that alcove and had a great time! They saw sea lions, of course, but also saw a white tip reef sharks, star fish and king angel fish. Cooper, Addey and I sat this one out. I took a nap! Between the dramamine I took last night, early mornings, and high level of activity, I was sleepy!.
After lunch (Mexican today), the kids did their global explorers activity, filling out postcards which will make sense in a bit.
At 3pm, a small group of us went out kayaking. Addey and I took a double kayak, Ken and Cooper too another, and Jace a single. We saw shadows of Eagle rays, sea turtles, adorable young swimming sea lions and enjoyed the beautiful teal water. Cooper and Jace got a little bored with this activity but the rest of us loved it! From there we went to Post Office Bay where we did a wet landing at the beach and walked a short ways to the 'post office' which is actually a barrel still used for an old mail swap tradition going back to the late 1700s. The kids 'sent' their postcards and we looked through the cards that were there. We found one for Royal Oak and will deliver it when we get home. 😁 The kids played on the beach with the other kids from our group for an hour, and they all had a blast.
Before dinner we had wine on the sun deck and then went down to the lounge for our nightly recap/lectures. Tonight the resident photographer talked about tips for taking photos then we learned about the Lindblad /Nat Geo Artisan Fund projects supporting local artists. These talks tend to be too long-winded, especially for the kids but really for all of us!
Kids got a surprise pizza and movie night in the lounge and adults had a nice meal together in the dining room. We really like all of our fellow travelers. We have been sitting with different people at most meals. The last couple nights we have sat with Laura and Rubin, from Indiana - both work at Purdue - and her mother Judy who lives in Portage, MI.
Ken and I looked at the stars, from the top deck, after dinner - beautiful!Read more
It turns out that if the time on your phone doesn't change correctly and, even if you remind yourself before you go to bed that that is the case, you are still likely to wake up at the wrong time! Lucky for me, this was an hour earlier than I intended. So, up at 5:45 for me after a night of pretty impressive rocking (of the boat variety!) I went up to the sun deck and found a fellow passenger to chat with and then went to the lounge for coffee and a snack. They always have food out in the lounge - fruit, cakes, crackers /cheese, and a wonderful coffee machine! Got a chance to get to know our program coordinator (lead naturalist) Gabby who was there as well. I went to a 1/2 hour 7am stretch class on the sun deck with one other guest and it was a really nice class - my speed - short, not strenuous and relaxing!
Breakfast at 8:30am with Ken and the kids and then off to get on our wetsuits and grab snorkeling equipment. We took zodiac's to a deep area near the island and our group jumped off. It was COLD! 70.5 degrees. My wetsuit definitely helped. Cooper and Addey only have shorties so definitely colder for them. They did great though. We got to see angel fish, sea urchins, sea stars and, best of all, got to snorkel right around playful sea lions.
We stopped back at the ship to drop off the snorkel gear and headed back to Espanola Island (also known as Hood Island) to enjoy an incredible beach/coastline. The sand was fine, the water incredibly teal and the sea lions adorable. We only had about 30 minutes to enjoy and wish we had alot more!
At 12 we were back on the boat for lunch (an Ecuadorian buffet). All the young explorers on the boat (aka kids) got a tour of the bridge after lunch and then the resident photographer /naturalist gave a talk, to anyone interested, on photo composition - good for Jace.
The boat was quite rocky in the afternoon which caused Jace and I to have very mild queasiness, but this quickly resolved with an afternoon excursion to the other side of the island at Punta Suarez. We had a near 2 mile hike over very rocky terrain but the views were stunning and we saw great stuff - brown pelicans, many marine iguanas (ugly things!), lava lizards, sea lions (of course), Galapagos doves, mockingbirds, blue footed boobies and, our favorite, the wave albatross now in mating season and performing their courtship dance.
Per national park restrictions, nobody is allowed on the islands after 6pm so back to the boat we went (though I could have spent many more hours there taking pictures).
We had a pre-dinner drink/appetizer with the guests in the lounge and listened to tomorrow's agenda. Dinner tonight was with a couple from Indiana. Jace and Cooper have made fast friends with a boy from Phoenix and Addey sat with a bunch of kids and was in her element!
One cute thing from today: at lunch, the bartender found us in dining room and asked if Addey was ours. When we said yes, he said 'congratulations, she is wonderful' Apparently, she went up to the 'bar' to get a soda and he said 'how are you? '. She replied :'estoy feliz y tu?' he said 'you speak spanish??? And of course, she replied' un poquito'. He was very impressed! We are encouraging them to try speaking Spanish whenever they can. Apparently, she listened. 😊
Now 10pm and off to a very swaying sleep...Read more
Had a buffet breakfast in the courtyard and were transferred back to the airport at 6:45am. Flight for San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos (population 10,000 - humans that is) left at 8:30am. Had access to the Guayaquil airport lounge (Priority Pass thanks to our Chase Visa) but only had about 1 minute to grab anything before we were boarding. Flight was easy and short, 1.5 hours. We boarded a bus for a 5 minute ride to the waterfront and had 1 hr to walk around. Not much to see of the town where we were but already got to see tons of crabs, a few pelicans and plenty of sea lions (who, for the record, are way smellier and obnoxious sounding - imagine loud guttural burps -than I would have imagined). We found several sea lion pups nursing too.
We were taken, by Zodiac to our floating home - The National Geographic Islander where we got settled in to our cabins (303 and 305). Rooms are nice and, for a cruise ship, plenty big. Bathrooms, of course, are tiny.
We joined in the lounge for a welcome drink, snacks and orientation. There are 47 people on the boat. It looks like at least a few families with kids around our kid’s ages (ages 7 to 14). Everyone we’ve met has been super friendly so far. No families from Michigan that we’ve met yet but a few from Chicago, and families from Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Texas and Mexico.
We had a life jacket drill and then had a little time to explore the boat. There’s a ‘gym’ with weights and 3 fitness machines and a ‘library’ - essentially a shelf of books in a hallway (where you can learn all you ever wanted to know about Darwin!)
We had a buffet lunch in the dining room which had food for all of us. Jace is definitely the pickiest of us all, so we will see how that goes. He has committed to the goal of trying a new soup daily (of course stipulations were established quickly!) Today, asparagus soup and he ate the whole bowl!
We went back to the rooms to rest. For me, a nap was in order. Kids and Ken played cards.
At 2:30 we had a looong orientation about what our afternoon excursion would be and general details about how the excursions are run and Galapagos rules. We learned that the Galapagos are both a natural park as well as a province of Ecuador.
Afterwards, we disembarked onto the Zodiac and went back into San Cristobal. No more than 16 people can be in each excursion group and these are all led by naturalists. We took a short walk and then a shorter bus ride to the National Park Interpretation Center (though the only thing there that fit that description was a map on the wall of the islands). Our naturalist, Vanessa, guided us on a fairly easy 1.5 mile round trip walk to "Frigate Hill." We saw frigate birds, Galapagos finches, Ani birds, San Cristobal mocking birds and plenty of tiny lava lizards. Kids loved that!
They gave the kids 'explorer notebooks'. They get points for completing tasks in the notebook and if they get 100, they will get a prize at the end of the week. Cooper was all over this task and Jace, though initially resistant, decided it was not too immature to join in too. Pretty sure they both have 100 points already!
We got back to the boat at 6p and had a welcome reception at 7 in the lounge. Staff made introductions (very impressive staff so far!) We had dinner at 7:30p. Meals appear to be all buffet. Good food tonight. Dining room is open seating so it forced us to split up (yes, Julie, your worst nightmare!) Addey, of course has made a fast friend with a 7.5 year old from South Dakota - Claudia - so she ate with her family. Hah! Cooper and I sat with 2 Jewish couples who Ken and I have gravitated to a bit - both in their 60s from Chicago (1 couple both went to UofM) and very friendly. Ken and Jace ate with another set of grandparents here with their 10 year old grandson.
And that's a wrap on day 1! Now time to cruise...Read more