Galapagos Islands Cruise Day 4: Whales!

Chris and I awoke before dawn at 4:30 and headed to the top deck to see the crescent moon on the horizon and the star filled sky.   The yacht was still anchored in Elizabeth Bay and would be setting off again at 5:00 am.  By the time we lifted anchor, the clear sky had clouded over with dark, ominous clouds.  We thought perhaps our luck had run out  the seemingly endless sunshine enjoyed thus far was now over.  As the yacht sailed north to Urvina Bay at a steady pace of 10 knots per hour, the sky ahead brightened and by breakfast we were enjoying full sunshine again.


We did our first wet landing this morning, where the dinghy lands on a beach and we all get out in knee or hip deep water and make our way to shore.  Theoretically, this is a rather straight forward process.  Today, however, the waves were quite high and timing was everything.  After several failed attempts, we made it to shore and everyone jumped out as quickly as possible fearing the waves would pull us back to sea.

Once we were secure on land, a hawk surprised us with a sudden visit on the beach and provided an excellent photo opportunity as he hopped about in front of us.

The search for land iguanas began.  At first we noted the holes dug by the iguanas and soon enough we met our first one on the path.  It is remarkable that we can get so close to animals and they don’t appear to be fearful whatsoever.  Even the birds come close and stick around for a while allowing everybody to take pictures.


Back on the beach, the plan was to go snorkeling but our guide recommended against it.  Not only was it dangerous as the waves crashed into the rocky shore, the visibility would be poor as well.  A few in the group went for a swim instead.  Chris and I opted to stay on shore and walked along the beach.  The coarse, black and white sand was so different from the fine powder we had seen on other beaches. Chris took advantage of this time to take some photos of our group.

Enrique, our capable and knowledgeable guide.

Dafne and Jasper from Holland.  Dafne is a web designer and Jasper introduced himself as a fireman but we later learned his work involves a lot more.  For instance, he is also a rescue diver and paramedic.

Laura, the 18 year old student from Germany.  She is enjoying her “gap” year travelling and volunteering before she goes to medical school next year.

Jasper kindly took many pictures of Chris and I together – I think he liked playing with Chris’ camera!

We were once again on the move, continuing north to Tagus Cove where we would eat lunch and spend the afternoon snorkeling and kayaking.  Along the way we spotted a humpback whale and her calf in the distance.  We tracked her for a while but then lost sight of her as we headed into the protected cove.  After lunch, she was spotted again and the captain and crew obliged us with a whale chase, taking up anchor and pursuing the whale, much to everyone’s delight.  All the guests were on the upper two decks, cameras and binoculars in hand.  We tracked the mother and calf  as they swam in unison, coming up now and then to the surface, but unfortunately not breaching.  On board, there was a steady play by play – here she comes, there she goes as we all tried to get a good look and an equally good picture. She treated us a few times with a great view of her fluke (tail fin) as she slapped it down into the water.  This was better than a siesta any day.

This candid shot of Rick (with his wife Babs in the background) seemed to capture the essence of Rick in all his exuberance and expressiveness.  His friends confirmed that this was classic Rick, who, by the way is a financial advisor.

Babs, a retired occupational therapist who worked with special needs children, was captured enjoying the moment and the view in this candid shot.

Finally, we turned around and headed back for the cove to resume our scheduled activities: lunch, snorkeling and kayaking.  Chris and I decided to stay on board; I was feeling pretty lousy from my cold and I think Chris just felt like relaxing.   We shared the middle deck with Barb who, like us, decided to spend the afternoon reading and relaxing.  Enjoying a drink on deck surrounded by beauty was not the worse way to spend an afternoon.

Barb, a property manager, enjoys the middle deck and a good book while the others are off snorkelling and kayaking.

Olof, Christiana and Wim, the family from Germany, explored the bay in the kayak.

Later in the afternoon, we once again loaded into the dinghies for a hike to the edge of Darwin Lake.  As we left the yacht, a sea lion decided to check out our catamaran and jumped up onto the first step, and then continued up the stairs to the lower deck at the encouragement of the crew.

It was a dry landing along the rocky shore and a steep walk to the beginning of the trail with several sea lions sunning in our path.  We were on the hunt for four birds:  the Darwin Finch, Vermillion Fly Catcher, Large Billed Fly Catcher and the Carpenter Finch.  We ascended slowly under the glaring sun surprised at the intensity of its rays this late in the day. Several lookouts offered spectacular views of Darwin Lake and the ocean beyond.

We spotted many Darwin Finches and a few Mockingbirds but the other birds eluded us.  The final lookout gave us a spectacular view of Wolf Volcano, the highest peak in the archipelago at a height of 1,707 m (5,600 ft).

We descended as the sun was setting and in the dusk we caught a fleeting glimpse of a Large Billed Fly Catcher, but this little bird was too fast for us to capture in a photo.  Now that the heat of the day had passed, there was a lot more birds flitting about along our path, but the Vermilion Fly Catcher and Carpenter Finch remained elusive.

As we made our way back to the dinghies, we had to manoeuver around a very large sea lion who was laid out along the stairs directly in our path.  It took some coaxing, but we finally convinced him to let us pass.  A couple of more sea lions tried to intercept us as we walked down the rocky slope.


Back on board we followed the now very familiar routine: rest and clean up before dinner followed by a briefing by Enrique for the next day.   After dinner, a few stayed up to play cards or read, but Chris and I retired early to our room.  I was feeling pretty lousy today because of my cold and it was for the first time since leaving Canada I yearned for home, not necessarily my home, but the comforts of a home where I could just lie in bed and recuperate.  I figured a good night’s sleep would be the best cure.

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