Well, it’s time to act like sheep. I guess we were kind of shepherded around by Arie during our biking trip as well, but with Lindblad the feeling of being part of a herd is even more so. We woke up early this morning after a great night’s sleep at the Hilton Colon in Guayaquil, put our bags outside the door (which we wouldn’t see again until we were on the ship), and went down the elevator for some breakfast. The buffet spread was enormous, but I’ve been craving fresh fruit (after too many days of white bread!). Then we, along with 90ish other Galapagos-bound Lindblad guests, were herded onto three buses and away we went, back to the airport. We got our boarding passes on the bus (I’m not sure how they finagled that one) and then we were guided through security and, after only a few minutes in the waiting area, onto our plane. It was the fastest I’ve ever been in and out of an airport for a flight. From there it was only an hour and a half jaunt to the Galapagos! We landed on the tiny island of Baltra, which is flat and veiled in a ground cover of green vegetation. There were buses waiting to take us to the dock where we were greeted with a sign saying “Welcome to the Galapagos” and from there we boarded a Zodiac that whisked us off to the blue and white National Geographic Endeavour anchored several hundred meters offshore.
Once onboard, C and I were shown to our cabin (212) and after a quick inspection we set off to explore the ship. One of the first things I noticed was that the carpet is the same as on the Sea Bird and Sea Lion! There are so many small things – like the carpet – that remind me of the ships I work on, but a lot of things that are very different. The size, for one thing, is quite a bit bigger than the comparatively tiny Sea Bird and Lion. Not that the Endeavour is huge by any means, but it carries 96 passengers to the Bird and Lion’s 64. There’s also a lot more outer deck space including two sun decks (one with a pool), the bow, and several outer walkways. Trying to find our way around the ship is sort of like a maze because there are numerous doors and passageways and we have yet to figure out how they all connect… Maybe we’ll have it down by the end of our week on board….
We eventually found our way to the lounge where our Expedition Leader, Paula Tagle, welcomed us aboard and went over a few necessities and logistics. We also reunited with Brian Christiansen, a former deckhand on the Sea Lion that C and I had previously worked with, and has since been promoted to Video Chronicler. It was great to see him again! Then it was time for lunch before we had our first shore landing. This was pretty foreign for C and I because we never do a shore landing on the day guests arrive since they usually board in the late afternoon/early evening. But here in the Galapagos, last week’s guests get off around 8am and new guests get on around 10am! That’s an incredibly fast turn around and I have no idea how they manage it. On the Bird and Lion we typically have five or six hours to get the ship ready and people are still scrambling to get everything done.
The first place we visited was called Las Bachas on Santa Cruz island. It was a nice sandy beach with a path through some lava rocks and low, green vegetation. We divided into groups and off we went with our naturalist guides. On the path we saw some lizards, turtle tracks and hollows in the sand where they laid their eggs, a few birds (don’t ask me what kind), and hundreds of bright yellow, red, and blue Sally Lightfoot crabs. I’ve seen these crabs before in Baja and Costa Rica, but never so close up. I expected them to scuttle away as soon as I approached, but they were fearless! They aren’t joking when they say Galapagos critters aren’t afraid of anything.
Back at the Zodiac landing beach, we had our first opportunity to get in the water with our snorkel gear. The visibility was horrible, but we’ll be snorkeling every day here, so it was more just to get wet than to see schools of fish.
Then it was time to return to the boat where we met the captain and crew at cocktail hour and had our first dinner on board. Tomorrow is a full day of more walks, snorkeling, and hopefully Galapagos wildlife. Stay tuned!