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  • Day7

    Santiago

    July 5, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C

    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.... 😔
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  • Day6

    South Plaza & Santa Fe Islands

    July 4, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    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!!
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  • Day2

    To the actual Galapagos

    June 30, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    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...
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  • Day1

    Off to a good start!

    June 29, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    We had a good flight from Detroit To Miami (dep 10:40) and another smooth 4hr flight from Miami to Guayaquil, Ecuador. We got in at 8:15pm (9:15 for us). Already, there had already been a Nat Geo/Lindblat representative who met us as we boarded the plane in Miami. A good sign of the type of service we were going to receive! We met a few fellow cruise-mates in the airport and were transferred to the Hotel de Parque - 15 minutes from the airport. The hotel was beautiful. We had 2 adjoining rooms and didn’t even have to ask for a roll away (amazing how rare that is!). There were chocolates and merengues in the room along with a sparkling lemon water bar (directions set out to make your own drink). We went downstairs for a quick bite to eat and then back up to get to sleep given our 5:15am wake up call due for tomorrow!Beautiful room and beds were super comfortable!Read more

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