Posts tagged "Galapagos"

Tag Archives: Galapagos

A gift from Rocket

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Cassidy, the 9 year old on our recent Galapagos trip, named this sealion Rocket. She stayed with us in the water for almost an hour, shooting past each of us in turn and showing off her acrobatic prowess. She was obviously having a lot of fun with us.

In this case I was the last out of the water and she still would not leave me alone. It was as if she was worried that I might get out too, leaving her without a playmate. Apparently, according to her, the only way to keep me there was to offer me a present.

She grabbed a puffer fish, shook it up enough so that it inflated in self-defense, making it much more of a fun play thing and then dropped it in front of me.

A Galapagos of firsts…

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It was to be a two-week family charter spanning three generations, each member of the trip with their own hopes and expectations. The patriarch was a high-powered business leader and even before we set off we openly discussed his fears of being ‘captive’ for two weeks aboard our luxury vessel. The matriarch was like a sponge ready to soak up as much high powered natural history information as possible – both are ardent conservationists. The four kids, from 6 to 10 years old, were the best prepared youngsters we have ever had the pleasure of leading on a trip. Their preparation already included a deep understanding of Galapagos species, ecosystems and threats, they had arrived fully kitted out with wetsuits and had undergone intensive pool training picking up weights off the bottom of their local swimming pools, honing their water skills to maximize on all the snorkeling the trip had to offer. They spent downtime writing journals, plotting our course on their individual maps, drawing pictures of the wildlife and writing postcards to friends to be posted from the famous Post Office Barrel. The whole thing was a delight from start to finish.

 

 

For Addie, the cutest six-year old you could ever meet her target was to commune with turtles for the first time in her short life. We found turtles by the dozen and the beaming smiles as she lay for ages at a time, spread-eagle on the surface rocking in the gentle swells of the shallows with up to five of the large, indifferent reptiles (as if she were simply another turtle) said it all.

 

 

Cassidy, 9, the go-getter of the quartet was on a mission of proving herself. She swam with the last of us in the water, beat us all to the top of the daunting Bartolomé boardwalk and exceeded her personal best in a hot 10 mile hike along the crater rim of the world’s second largest caldera of Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela Island. Her other, rather inspired, first was to commit one of her ‘baby’ teeth to the tooth fairy in the depths as the ship’s GPS hit 00 00 degrees latitude on the equator.

 

 

Willa, 10, wanted nothing more than to interact with sealions. Her dream was realized at nearly every landing and, with patience and an uncanny sense of which sealion might be the most inquisitive, spent hours during the trip sitting quietly until the curiosity of a young pup got the better of it and Willa was accepted and even became the object of a sense of playfulness from the kindred mammalian spirit.

 

 

Finn, 8, the only boy, of course wanted to see sharks. By the third day he had already broken free of the invisible reins of his parents in the water and was diving down to meet the docile white-tipped reef sharks on their own terms. Good street cred for next term in school!

 

The parents were enthralled by the wonder expressed by their kids and likewise for the grandparents for both generations of offspring.

 

The matriarch relived the magic of the islands that we had shared with her 23 years previously while the patriarch, after the first week and going in to the second had shed all sense of stress and previous reservations, it was almost as if he wondered why he had to get off the boat after 14 days as if he had found his new home!

 

For us, every trip brings something new and in this case it was two things, first a young humpback whale in the shallow waters of Floreana Island that swam alongside and even under our zodiac, secondly to bring our vessel alongside a stunning broad-billed swordfish (our first) sunning itself at the surface of the glassy waters of the rich Bolivar Channel.

Galapagos wows again…

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Having led or guided hundreds of trips to the archipelago over the decades this last one stands above the rest. We knew the Super Group were all as keen as mustard from day one but had no idea we would have 100% participation in all activities every one of which was pushed to the max. The bar has been raised to new heights.

 

 

 

Just being on the beautiful sailing vessel, the SS Mary Ann eating meals on deck under clear skies with frigates flying around and the sounds of sealions calling from the shore already seemed enough. Spending so much time out on deck is the perfect platform to view a host of cool wildlife.

 

Highlights on land were as diverse and wonderful as the islands themselves. Where everything seemed to happen within a meter or two. We watched a short-eared owl feeding on a Galapagos petrel, oyster catchers changing the guard on their nest, tortoises lumbering past to their mud wallows. All 12 of the possible Darwin’s finches. Carpets of marine iguanas (many of them bright red and turquoise), flightless cormorants performing a courtship ritual. Penguins braying like donkeys. Sealions suckling new born pups. All three species of boobies and the magnificent waved albatross.

 

 

This trip however it was the ocean that came into its own and surprised us continuously while snorkeling or viewing from the vessel. Our encounters included a squadron of more than 100 spotted-eagle rays. The dark stain in two feet of water that turned out to be about 40 white-tipped reef sharks, mobula rays leaping synchronously next to the boat. A once in a life time encounter with oceanic sunfish in the deep waters off Isabela Island. Huge pods of dolphins, some taking turns to bow-ride below us. Some rare whales. 30 turtles in a field of view underwater while snorkeling. Penguins and flightless cormorants pecking at us and looking into our masks.

 

It was hard to say goodbye to the group but such a pleasure to have found new life-long friends. Thank you ‘Super Group’ (and the ‘Rat Pack’) and the crew and Captain of the Mary Ann.