What an absolutely stunning trip, absolutely phenomenal. And to share it with those cute daughters, full of fun and good laughs and sweet kindness and endless curiosity--well, what could be better?
We first met up at the Atlanta airport and were able to spend several hours there together--eating at PF Chang--fried rice and lettuce wraps and Pad Thai, shopping for backpacks and catching up. We flew from Atlanta to Quito and arrived at about 10:30 with a driver ready to take us to the JW Marriott in Quito--with soft beds to sink into sleep for about six hours. We rose to see the beautiful view of the snow-capped volcano in the distance over the homes in the foothills of Quito.
We continued on to the airport again to travel by Avianca airlines to Baltra island in the Galapagos. We were in the first row of first class, very inexpensive with the most comfortable reclining seats! What a joy to experience all of this with Katie and Chrissy and catch up on conversations.
We were met again at the airport at the Baltra airport, Santa Cruz island, Galapagos and taken to our boutique hotel, Semilla Verde (or Green Aeed in English). We are in the midst of the jungle here--banana, lime, orange, guava, and coffee trees, 12 acres of land with paths through trees and intermittent sitings of giant tortoises. Yesterday, Chrissy, Katie and I woke early to walk the grounds, take pix near giant leafed plants, stop in the yoga studio for early morning salutations and Chrissy's amazing gymnastics, and take pix next to giant tortoises. Delightful! The first day here, as we walked down the road to the street, Chrissy found a butterfly on the ground that looked like three green leaves put together.
I am sleeping in a room with Kylie (my niece) and Chrissy and Katie are together next door. Our rooms are adjoining but also have an adjoining balcony with hammocks on either side. We have loved the hammocks, relaxing in them, lying in them in the early morning when someone else is asleep, reading, relaxing, sending photos. So peaceful here, only the sound of roosters and cows in the morning and birds everywhere.
The architecture of our boutique hotel is beautiful with huge cedar beams and intermittent petrifed wood, white and rich red brown wood, comforable and peaceful. We have a private dining area with food served when we are ready in the morning and evening--usually for just our party of four. Another guest, Kelly arrived yesterday and we have enjoyed talking to her about all of our adventures on the Galapagos.
Our first day, we travelled by bus, dingy and boat to Bartholeme island. The trip there was so amazing. The four of us sat on the bow of the boat on a cushioned area, leaning against the outer windows. It was a National Geographic TV episode. Our naturalist guide, Pico, helped us to identify our wildlife sitings. First we saw jumping sting rays, off to our left. They flip in the air to rid themselves of pesty barnacles. Next we saw thousands of shear water birds flying ahead of us, as if to guide us to the next island. Pico said he had never seen that before. To our right, we started spotting sea turtles who came right near the boat and we were able to see them swim close to the top of the water, surfacing and diving. Then, little black sea lion heads popping up above the ripples of the water--dozens of them. Next, a dolphin surfaced near the boat to our right and actually lept in the air over the bow of the boat! Finally, we saw a whale shark off to our left right near the boat, only viewed because we were trying to photograph a surfacing sea turtle.
I felt like the fates had brought us the most beautiful welcome to the Galapagos. When we reached the island, we hiked up a volcanic rock path to a beautiful view above--I think four hundred steps. It was hot and dusty, but fascinating. Before climbing the stairs, we saw a Galapagos penguin and bright red crabs over the volcanic rocks, as well as a sunning sea lion. Next, we had a light lunch on the boat and then donned our snorkeling gear to see colorful fish along the coral reef. We returned to eat dinner, talk and share with each other--photos and experiences and climb into bed.
Yesterday was my favorite. We went to North Seymour island and walked paths among courting, nesting, and mating birds as well as viewing their eggs and new fuzzy babies. I absolutely love the blue footed booby! The color of the feet is a cross between aqua and teal. They make their nests with only a couple twigs and then create a ring of guana--white bird poop in a circle around them. The mom and dad take turns on the eggs and staying with the baby chicks. When the babies get a little older, they need to stay within the white circle or the moms will not rescue them!
We saw an amazing display of frigate birds with their bright red pouches underneath their beaks--used by the males to attract the females. There was one sweet couple with the female snuggled next to her amazing mate, his pouch full and brilliant in the sun. The males make a popping, drumming sound to add to the mating attraction! There was dozens and dozens of blue footed boobies and frigate birds as we walked past them with our naturalist explaining the wildlife patterns. And, something I have never experienced. They were totally unafraid and unmoved as if we were their best friends. They were happy for a photo op at any moment. None flew away as a result of our proximity. Maybe because there were no people on these islands until the early 1800's, maybe because they have very few predators, not sure. But, a sweet experience.
We also saw sea lions and bright red crabs and the marine iguana that can swim in the ocean and diving pelicans and sea turtle nests. We snorkeled again too.
Before we returned to our hotel here in the jungle, we took a quick trip into the local town and saw the fish market with sea lions and pelicans waiting to get their bites of food.
Today we will hike up to the highlands of Santa Cruz, where we are staying, hiking up to an extinct volcano where a forest is growing inside. Then, we will return to town to the Darwin Station and a local dinner.
Love to all! Love to have each and every one of you and your family come here!