Setting sail on a yacht in the Galapagos

Trip Start Feb 22, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Ecuador  , Galapagos Islands,
Sunday, July 24, 2011

Galapagos Islands - a dream come true - and we were on our way!  For our amazing journey we stayed on board the Letty, a chartered 20 person live-aboard yacht, for 7 nights and 8 days.  From the comforts of this "semi-luxury" yacht we set out on smaller "pangas" (or dingys) for 3-4 excursions a day to do snorkeling or island exploration.  Here's how it went...

San Critobal Island, July 24th - We board and set sail on the Letty / Kicker Rock
We all (the Hirts, the Spooners, and us) flew from Quito to San Cristobal Island, where our crew was waiting to escort us to our anchored yacht, the Letty. After a quick welcome briefing, buffet lunch, and safety drill, we set sail for Paya Ochoa where we tested out our snorkeling gear and took our first dip into the Pacific waters. Here is where Aaron and I had our first close encounter with the sea lions - a very curious and people-friendly bunch!  As we sat at the waters edge, just feet from them, we began to realize what a special experience we were going to have in the Galapagos. Chris Spooner and dad agreed, as they had already seen two new "life birds" (marking the first time seeing a new bird species).  As it turned out, there would be a lot of life birds/reptiles/fish/you-name-it on this adventure!

Later we watched the sunset as we cruised around Kicker Rock, a vertical tuff cone formation that juts out of the earth almost 500 feet out of the ocean.  An impressive sight!  On the cliffs, we spot blue-footed boobies, masked boobies and magnificent frigate birds. Bob and Chris, our veteran and expert birders, were not the only ones attached to their binoculars. We all went up to the sun-deck to enjoy the magical sunset on the towering rocks . . . an exciting pre-cursor of things to come.

That night we all sat in the "living room" (complete with wrap-around couches and two flat screen TVs) with our "family" who we would be living with on board for the next week. We all introduced ourselves, met the crew, and enjoyed a Captain's welcome drink. We could already tell this was going to be a great group and a great adventure.

Genovesa Island, July 25th - Darwin Bay
Today we spent the entire day on Genovesa Island - a small island in the northeast of the archipelago.  Since bigger boats are not able to go to this special island because it's size and location, we were glad to have chartered our smaller vessel with this stop on the itinerary. In the morning our Letty group boarded the two pangas and we landed at Prince Philip's steps. It seemed surreal walking/touring this Galapagos island - which we'd only seen in books and on Nature programs - yet here we were!  Red-footed boobies were everywhere, a rare treat as this is one of the only islands that they nest on. We also saw Nazca boobies, storm petrels, frigate birds, red-billed tropic birds, and the elusive short-eared owl. It was amazing how close we were to the boobies, sometimes having to step over them or around them in their nests. Some were curious, but most were completely naive and/or indifferent to our presence. They just had no fear of us. How privileged we felt to be allowed so openly into their world  - a place where humans so rarely go. This would be a repeat sentiment felt daily as we landed on each of the 10 Galapagos islands we visited.

That night the seas were very rough and a few of us (Deb and Missi included) did make it through the guide's briefing on the next day . . . or to dinner. The Letty continued to brave rough waters as we went to bed and throughout the night - our roughest night of sleep by far!

We awoke the next morning at 7 a.m. to the sound of music and a wake-up call to a new day of adventures on Isabela Island. . . .

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