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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

Day 6; Bachas Beach & Bartolome Island
Bachas Beach is a beautiful beach located on the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island. The name “Las Baches” comes from the locals’ poor pronunciation of the word “barges” which were washed on shore during WW II when they broke their moorings.

The beach is one of the largest nesting areas for Green Sea Turtles, so we walked carefully.

We arose early this morning to watch the sunrise from the Beagle Café. In the early morning the ship is quiet and the coffee and pastries are wonderful. This is our favorite time on any ship.

Sunrise from the Beagle Café Deck 4

The morning excursions are both low intensity. The first one, Flamingo search – is a wet landing departing the Xpedition at 9:00 AM. This excursion is a short hike inland looking for Flamingos and other shore birds ending with time to snorkel for those who want to.

We choose a “Beach Activity”. It was the second activity departing the Xpedition at 9:30 and after a wet landing on Bachas beach we had an opportunity to snorkel for 2-3 hours. There were many fish, not as colorful as the fish in Hawaii or the Caribbean but certainly beautiful. This snorkeling was unique and an adventure because of the large number of Green Sea Turtles, Marine Iguanas, feeding Blue Footed Boobys and  the wonderful antics of the Galapagos Sea Lions. The time just flew by and we were thankful for the wet suits as we were in the water for a long time.  We floated above the sea turtles and Iguanas observing them graze on the algae.

Green Sea Turtle feeding on algae

We reluctantly departed the beach at 12:30 and headed back to the ship for another great lunch, this time in Darwin’s Restaurant.

The afternoon lecture at 1:30 was given by Chief Engineer Yevhen Terekhov. He spoke on the engines and cruising in the Galapagos and afterward offered interested guests a tour of the engine room, one of the advantages of being on a small vessel. If you were interested arrangements had to be made through Guest Relations.

Bartolome Island, a recent, volcanically active island, is located in the central portion of the archipelago. With its characteristic moon-like landscape and volcanic cones, it’s

a good introduction to the Geology of the Galapagos Islands.

Moon-like landscape and volcanic cones, Bartolome Island

The afternoon excursions began at 4:00 PM with the High Intensity dry landing on Bartolome Island.  Then a “to the Top” hike up 358 wooden steps to a picturesque vista for picture taking. (2.5 hours)

The Medium Intensity excursion departed the Xpedition at 4:15 and was a wet landing, and a hike along the Isthmus which separates the 2 main beaches found on Bartolome Island. (2 hours)

The Low Intensity excursion departed at 4:30 and was a zodiac-ride along the Coast of Bartolome Island looking for Galapagos Penguins, then snorkeling. We chose looking for Penguins. Good thing we did, as it turned out this was our only opportunity to photograph Penguins. We saw a mating pair (below) and several groups of individuals. We saw a few feeding while we were snorkeling but didn’t have adequate camera equipment to photograph them.  (2 hours)

Galapagos Penguins, Sally lightfoot crab and a Lava Herron (above penguins) 

We returned to the Xpedition at 6:30 and again had just enough time to dress for the evening briefing and dinner.

Day 7: Isabela & Ferandina Islands
This morning began again with coffee at the Beagle Café and another beautiful sunrise.  The Xpedition cruised along the coast of Isabela Island searching for whales and dolphins. Isabela is by far the largest island in the Galapagos Archipelago. It is composed of 3 active volcanoes. The last eruption occurred in October, just prior to our arrival in December. The western portion of Isalbel is historically important as it was part of the itinerary of Darwin’s exploration on the HMS Beagle.

We crossed the equator at 7:00 AM during the search for marine life. The naturalists were on deck available for questions and to help in the search. We did spot one whale, a Sei Whale but from a distance. We received a frameable certificate for the equator crossing in our cabin.

At 9:30 AM the excursions began with the High Intensity Activity, a dry landing at Tagus Cove, Isabela Island. A 1.5 mile hike followed by a short zodiac ride along the coast searching for Galapagos Flightless Cormorants and Galapagos Penguins. (1.45 hours)

We chose the Low Intensity Activity which departed at 9:45 AM, which was supposed to be a zodiac ride along the coast looking for Penguins and Cormorants.  (1.5 hours)

Our Naturalist guide was Fabio, an excellent biologist. He spotted bird activity on the water and took the zodiac in that direction. We were fortunate to encounter a pod of Bottle Nose Dolphin playing in our wake.  We never did make it to the coast line, but had a wonderful time with the Dolphins. Reluctantly we returned to the Xpedition for another wonderful lunch.

Our Naturalist, Fabio helping everyone safely board the Xpedition.

Today’s lunch was an Ecuadorian Buffet set up at the Beagle Café. They served many traditional dished such as Ceviches, Muchines, Empanadas de Viento, Carne en Palito and many others. The food was excellent and prepared with much care. I was surprised the food was not spicy, as I expected.

Picture of buffet (Celebrity photo)

This afternoon at 2:00 PM there was an Advanced Snorkeling Activity offered, snorkeling from the zodiac.  We could not pass that up.

Getting ready to enter the water to snorkel

We were able to snorkel for an hour before the guides forced everyone from the water. It was so interesting no one wanted to leave. We were able to observe Galapagos Flightless Cormorants and Blue Footed Boobys and Marine Iguana’s feeding. Again we were joined by a young Galapagos Sea Lion that just wanted to play. Such fun!

Galapagos Sea Lion

We returned to the ship at 3:00 PM in time to clean up for the afternoon excursion which began at 4:00 PM.

Fernandina Island: Is the youngest and most western of all the Islands. It is also one of the most volcanically active. The latest eruption was in 2005. In 1968 the floor of the caldera sank 990 feet in a two week period, showing this island to be one of the most spectacular in terms of geology. The excursion made a dry landing at Punta Espinoza on the northeast corner of the island.

The Afternoon excursions began at 4:00 PM with the High Intensity Activity a dry landing

On Fernandina Island and a 1 mile walk on a Pahoe-hoe lava trail, searching for one of the largest Marine Iguana colonies and nesting Flightless Cormorants.  (2.5 hours)

This was the activity we choose.

The Low Intensity Activity was a zodiac ride around Espinoza Point searching for Spotted Eagle Rays, Golden Rays, Pacific Green Turtles and nesting Cormorants. (2 hours)

Our Naturalist Guide was Rod. We made a dry landing on Espinoza Point. A dry landing involves stepping from the zodiac onto a rock out-cropping or man made pier or cemented area as in the photo below.

Example of a dry landing, rock and cement man made pier

We observed several large Marine Iguana colonies. These Iguanas are unique and are found only in the Galapagos.

Pearl, Bob, Marine Iguana’s, Sally Lightfoot Crabs on Pahoe-hoe lava

Marine Iguanas

Bob, observing nesting Flightless Cormorants and Marine Iguanas

The above pictures illustrate the diversity of animals, the numbers of animals and their lack of fear of humans. It was amazing to sit there and watch the interactions, and competition for space between the animals.

In the same area the Galapagos Flightless Cormorants were beginning to pair off and start nest building. Notice the blue eye. Their nest building and mating ritual activity was amazing to watch from such an intimate distance.

Galapagos Flightless Cormorant Nesting

We hiked further down the coast entering a Mangrove area. Again a unique environment, different from anything else we had seen. In the Mangroves you can see Galapagos Fur Seals, a different species from the Galapagos Sea Lion. It’s the Sea Lion that has come out to dive with us. The Fur Seal is not as inquisitive.

Galapagos Fur Seal in the Mangroves

Again a wonderful adventure must come to an end, time to return to the Xpedition.

After the evening briefing by Jorge, in the Discovery Lounge, we were lucky to have our Naturalist, Fabio, join us for dinner in Darwin’s Restaurant. It was such a pleasure to have the Hotel Manager and the guides join us, their personal stories greatly enhanced our experience and understanding of the Country.  We turned in after dinner, getting ready for the next day’s early start.

Dinner at Darwin’s Restaurant; Fabio, Pearl, Dee and Bob

Day 8 Santiago and Rabida Islands
Santiago Island:
This Island also called James and San Salvado, is the fourth largest island in the Archipelago. In the 1930’s a group of people attempted to colonize this island. The Conway’s wrote a book about their experiences entitled “The enchanted Island”, published in 1947.

Day 8 off the coast of Santiago Island started with a sunrise and cup of coffee from the Beagle Café.

Bob and Dee, Sunrise and Coffee

The High Intensity Activity “Survival of the Fittest” began at 8:00 AM. A wet landing at James Bay, Santiago Island, followed by a 2.8 miles roundtrip hike to an eroded cinder cone used in the past for a salt mining operation followed by a swim and snorkel from the black beach. (3 hours)

The second High Intensity Activity departed at 8:15 AM. It was a wet landing at James Bay with a coastal walk to find shore birds and inter-tidal species in the tide pools. We walked along collapsed lava tunnels, a resting area for Galapagos Fur Seals and their young. The excursion ended at the black beach for snorkeling prior to returning to the ship. (3 hours) This was the excursion we choose.

The Low Intensity Activity was a zodiac ride along the coast line followed by a wet landing at James Bay for swimming or snorkeling. (2 hours)

Wet landings can be tricky and care should be taken with photographic equipment.

On the left, an example of a wet landing (not James Bay)

On this excursion as I jumped from the zodiac I slipped and went to my knees in the water. No problem unless your camera is attached to your waist.  In this case I ruined a new Sony DVD Handycam. My advice is never having your camera on your person when boarding or disembarking the zodiac. Always have someone hand it to you after your footing has been secured. Or, if that is not possible have the camera in a sealed plastic bag. Fortunately we had 3 hours of video recorded and secure in the cabin, but this was an expensive mistake.

As we walked along the trail we observed many resting Fur Seals and their young.

Galapagos Fur Seal with pup nursing, notice the Yellow Warbler in the background

We were able to observe intimate moments between the Seals and their pups. This was an amazing experience. So many fur seals; we just had to keep photographing. Between the three of us taking pictures we had a wonderful assortment and many great memories. There are never enough sea lion and seal pictures. December is the month the Seals and Sea Lions give birth to their pups. It’s a great month to visit the Islands.

Galapagos Fur Seal Pup

We returned to the beach to snorkel and caught the last zodiac back to the ship for lunch.

The guides in the zodiacs (in the back of picture) always kept a close eye on everyone snorkeling to insure their safety.

Snorkeling, with the gear issued; wet suit, mask, snorkel and fins,

After getting cleaned up and having lunch, we gathered in the Discovery lounge at 2:00 PM for a demonstration by Executive Chef Raul Castillo, Maitre D’ Christian and Pastry Chef Daniel for an interactive culinary Xperience, followed by a tour of the Galley.

Pastry Chef Daniel, Executive Chef Raul, Maitre D Christian and Hotel Director Mario in the Discovery Lounge (notice the seal picture in the back ground)

This was fun, informative and all attending received a recipe booklet. I joined in by volunteering to make a decorative rose for the cake. It was a small group and everyone seemed to have a good time. Following the demonstration I took the Galley tour; very stainless steel and clean. Before I retired my job was Manager of Environmental Health for the County of El Dorado in California. I have done many kitchen tours and inspections. This kitchen was clean with top of the line equipment. I noticed that posted on the wall were past passenger comments, expressed in graph form. The comments made by guests are taken into consideration by the staff.

Executive Chef, Raul Castillo, conducting the galley tour

Following the galley tour, I watched the last part of an IMAX video presentation on the Galapagos Archipelago, which started at 3:00 PM in the Discovery Lounge.

Rabida Island:
Situated between Santiago and Isabela Islands it is considered the geographic center of the islands. It is named after the “La Rabida” Monastery in Spain, where Christopher Columbus first arrived when he left Italy. It is also known as the “Red Island” due to the mineral composition of the rocks.

The Medium Intensity Activity for this afternoon was a wet landing at Rabida Island with a beach walk to observe Sea Lions and birds, followed by a short hike inland to a bluff for an overview of the island returning to the beach for snorkeling. We departed the ship at 4:00 PM for the 3 hour activity. This was the activity we choose.

 The 4:15 excursion was a wet landing at Rabida Island for snorkeling. (2 hours)

The Low Intensity Activity was a Zodiac ride along the coast line followed by an optional wet landing at Rabida Island departing the ship at 4:30 and lasting for 1.5 hours. 

Rabida Island beach was crowded with Sea Lions, the Xpedition in background

After hiking to the top of a bluff for an Island overview we returned to the beach and snorkeled for the remainder of time available.

You must always be careful while walking as there are obstacles in the trail coming down from the bluff to the beach which could be hazardous. (See Picture)

Hazards in the Trail

During the different snorkeling activities we observed fish unique to the Galapagos such as Galapagos Garden Eel, Black Tailed Mullet, and Four Eyed Blenny.

Snorkeling: Dee, Pearl and Bob (check the clarity of the water)

Returning to the ship at 6:30 we cleaned up and proceeded to the Discovery Lounge for cocktails with friends prior to Jorge’s lecture on tomorrow’s activities, then to Darwin’s to see Luis and have another great dinner.

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