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Pearl Irby

Age: Various

Occupation:Travel Professional, Biologist

Number of Cruises: 21+

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Celebrity Xpedition

Sailing Date: December 4, 2005

Itinerary: Galapagos Islands

Seymour Island
North Seymour Island was named after Lord Hugh Seymour and is located at the central area of the Archipelago just north of Baltra. The major attraction is the colony of nesting Magnificent Frigatebirds.

The afternoon high intensity excursion began at 4:00 PM. It was a dry landing and a 2.5 hour hike on the island.

The medium/low intensity activity which left at 4:15 was a zodiac ride along the coast with a dry landing. (2 hours)

Landing on Seymour Island

We chose the high intensity activity and were the first zodiac to depart for Seymour Island. Something to keep in mind as you sail from island to island is that each island has a species that is unique. This was the only island we visited with Frigatebirds, so we concentrated our photographs on them.

Nesting and displaying Frigatebirds

The dry landing on Seymour went well and we hiked literally through sea lion colonies and came to the Frigatebird nesting area. It was amazing to see such beautiful birds up close displaying all their unique breeding behaviors. Seymour Island had a serious problem with biting flies, so remember to bring an insect repellent and use it. This was the only island where we had a problem with insects. Hiking is rough because there are many rocks on the trail, or should I say the rocks make up the trail. On the ship they offer walking sticks which could be helpful, but we had so much camera equipment it was not possible to carry any thing else.

Rocky Trail on Seymour Island

Seymour Island was amazing. We were fortunate to encounter a Land Iguana, as they were not abundant, at least during the time we where there. The animal and bird activity changes season to season. We picked a shoulder season between the wet and dry time of year. It was also a month with low rainfall averages.

Land Iguana

Departing Seymour Island, we returned to the ship at 6:30 PM. That gave us time to shower and clean up before the evening lecture and briefing of the next days activities, followed by dinner.

Upon returning to the cabin we found an invitation from Hotel Director, Mario Pires requesting us to join him at his table for dinner. We arrived at the lounge a little early, which gave us time for a dinner cocktail and a visit with the friends we were making. We then met Mario for dinner. It was a delightful dinner. We were made to feel very special and Mario had many interesting stories of his life aboard ship.

Hotel Director, Mario Pires and Cruise Director, Jorge Parrales in the Discovery Lounge

Day 4; Kicker Rock, San Cristobal & Espanola Islands
For those who chose, day 4 started at 6:15 with an early riser’s breakfast at the Beagle Grill and a 7:00 AM zodiac ride around Kicker Rock.

Kicker Rock or Sleeping Lion

Kicker Rock is an interesting geologic structure off the Northwest shore of San Cristobal Island, the Galapagos version of Gibraltar. On our visit we observed Blue Footed Boobys, pelicans, sally light-foot crabs and soaring overhead were frigatebirds. Well worth getting up for.

At 9:00 AM we departed the Xpedition for our second excursion of the day, a dry landing at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island. San Cristobal is the fifth largest and eastern most of the Islands in the Archipelago, one of the four islands Charles Darwin visited. We visited the Interpretation Center (Human History Museum) which is financed by the government of Spain and offers a journey through the history of the islands. After leaving the Center it was a short walk to main street, Charles Darwin Avenue. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno Is a small sleepy town with cobbled streets offering limited shopping.

This was the only excursion offered at location.

View of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno from the Interpretation Center

Down Town Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

The town is small but picturesque. I’m a tee shirt fan and there were many to choose from. Prices ranged from 6 to12 dollars. There are many other local items to purchase. This excursion was about 2 hours long and very informative. There are only 2 inhabitant islands so if you are going to purchase anything this is one place. Santa Cruz Island which we visited later in the week has a much bigger town and shopping area.

From town we were picked up by the zodiac and transferred back to the ship for lunch. We choose the Beagle grill over Darwin’s Restaurant as they have a BBQ set up in the rear of the deck which offers fish, chicken and hamburgers. We all loved the hamburgers.

At 2:00 PM in the Discovery Lounge Deck 4 the lecture series started today’s program was “Geology of the Galapagos Islands” given by the cruise director, Jorge Parrales. Jorge’s presentation was very informative but I would recommend doing additional reading prior to visiting the Islands. We went to for a complete listing of natural history and wildlife guides to the Galapagos. The site also has great books on many other destinations world wide.

The afternoon excursion was a visit to Espanola Island. Espanola Island is the southernmost and oldest Island of the Archipelago, 4 million years old. The Island is a favorite of visitors because of the high concentration of wildlife. We made a dry landing at Suarez Point.

At 4:00 PM the High Intensity Activity began with a dry landing on Espanola Island, duration 2.5 hours. We took a 1.9 mile hike over rough terrain, with large rocks along the entire path and with the opportunity to see Marine Iguanas, Galapagos Hawks, Sea Lions, Mockingbirds, Waved Albatrosses and nesting Masked or Nazca Boobys.

The Medium Intensity Activity departed at 4:15 and lasted 2 hours with a 1 mile hike.

The Low Intensity Activity departed at 4:30 and had an optional landing along with a zodiac ride along the coastline.

We choose the High Intensity activity, the landing went fine but the trail was

The trail, not only difficult but Iguanas everywhere

rocky and difficult. Not only did you have to watch the trail for rocks but Iguanas and Sea Lion pups as well. There were Sea Lion pups everywhere as the females had just given birth. Very young pups came up and smelled our feet looking for their moms. They were so cute. We must have 200 Sea Lion photographs.

Pup looking for Mom

Further down the trail we came into an area of nesting Nazca Boobys. The birds, reptiles and mammals have no fear of people, so we were able to get very close to the nesting Boobys with out disturbing them. You could get a close up photograph with a 50mm lens.

Masked or Nazca Booby’ and chick

The colony of Boobys and chicks was one of the highlights of this Island along with the observation of adult and immature Waved Albatross. There were several adults Albatross flying overhead. They’re huge birds; so impressive to see as they spend most of their life at sea.

Waved Albatross (photo by Celebrity Guide)

Waved Albatross (photo by guide)

We arrived back at the ship around 6:30 PM, checked in and had to hurry to get cleaned up for the next day’s presentation by Jorge in the Discovery lounge at 7:45. We just had time to grab a drink from the lounge which we took to our room and enjoyed while cleaning up. Evening dress is country club casual. The men usually wore either cotton Bermudas or slacks with a nice shirt and the woman wore cotton or linen slacks and a nice blouse. Several women had brought light weight dresses.

After the lecture we selected our activity for the next day and headed to Darwin’s for a lovely dinner. The wine was a Chilean Cabernet which was heavy bodied and excellent. Our waiter Luis was Ecuadorian as was most of the staff. Luis was so sweet. He started saving us a table in his area. Even thought it was open seating, he put a reserved sigh on the table.

Our Waiter Luis, Dee & Bob

Day 5; Puerto Ayora & Dragon Hill (Santa Cruz Island)
Santa Cruz Island:
Is the second largest island in the Galapagos and a hub for tourists. The Xpedition anchored at Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the Galapagos, where the Charles Darwin Research Station and the National Park Service offices are located. In 1959 the Ecuadorian government declared all the islands, except areas already colonized as a national park.

We met at the Beagle Grill for the medium Intensity Activity to the Highlands which departed at 8:00 AM.

Today’s second activity was high intensity; the excursion departed at 8:15 AM and went to the Charles Darwin Research Station.

Later in the week the ship returns to Santa Cruz and the itineraries were reversed, therefore everyone had the opportunity to participate in each activity.

We choose the 3 hour dry landing at Puerto Ayora with a bus ride to the Highlands and a 1 mile hike to observe giant tortoises in the wild.

Giant Tortoises in the wild

We hiked past the tortoises, which were grazing like cattle, ending the hike at a ranch house where we were offered coffee or tea. The highlands get a lot of moisture, so be sure to bring a rain coat and protection for your camera equipment. Along the way we saw many wonderful birds among them a Vermilion Flycatcher.

Vermilion Flycatcher (photo by Gene Schneider).

We boarded the busses at the ranch for the ride back to town where we had a short time to walk around and/or shop.

Down Town Port Ayora: Bob, Pearl & Blue Footed Booby

We caught the Zodiac returning to the Xpedition just in time for lunch. The aroma of BBQ burgers, chicken & fish to made us hungry again.

After lunch, for those planning to snorkel, the equipment was issued on deck 6. We were fitted by the naturalists for mask, snorkel, fins, wet suit and a carrying case. This equipment was checked out for the duration of the cruise.

Bob getting fitted by Guides Fabio & Vanessa

After the fitting we had to hustle to the Discovery lounge for Jorge’s presentation. Today’s lecture was on “Sharks; A Broken Myth”. The title made us a little uneasy but after the lecture we were reassured as there has not been a documented shark attack in the Galapagos.

The afternoon excursions offered were two we really wanted to do. We had to choose between an inland hike with the possibility of seeing Land Iguanas and Flamingos (2 hours) or an Advanced Snorkeling Activity (1.5 hours). The Low Intensity Activity was a Coastal Exploration, which also sounded interesting (1.5 hours).

We choose the Inland Hike and were glad we did as this was one of only 2 opportunities to see large Land Iguanas.

We departed the ship in our zodiac at 4:00 PM for a dry landing. The hike was hot and dusty but interesting. Our guide Rod shared much information about the history and biology of Santa Cruz Island. We were fortunate to have Rod as our naturalist on the majority of our excursions as he was a very knowledgeable biologist.

Land Iguana, Dragon Hill, Santa Cruz Island

Flamingos, with a background of unique island vegetation

At the end of the hike we had the opportunity to snorkel for ½ an hour. This was FUN as we were joined by a friendly seal. He played with us the entire time. There were also many Green Sea turtles. It was a wonderful experience.

Swimming with a Galapagos Sea Lion

By 6:30 PM we were ready to return, grab a cool drink form the Discovery bar and get cleaned up or the evening lecture and dinner.

Dinner under the Stars; Dee, Bob and Pearl

This evening’s dinner was served on deck “Dinner under the Stars”. Luis saved us a table as he did every evening. After dinner the Musician Jacobo played the piano in the Discovery lounge.

We were generally ready to retire after dinner so we could get an early start for the next day, but we had listened to Jacobo earlier in the cruise and his music was pleasant and a good back drop for conservation and renewing friendships.

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