David and Veronica are experiencing the collision of Baby Boomer and Empty Nester. They decided to grab life by the horns, sell the nest, hit the road and become GypsyNesters! They’ve been full-time travelers and have been breaking the empty nest rules since 2008. Please enjoy this week-in-the-life of The GypstNesters in The Galapagos!
Day 1: Sunday
Afternoon: The tiny open-air airport is a chaotic scene since all of the flights arrive at about the same time. Dusty busses and beat-up luggage trucks round everybody up and cart them off, hopefully headed to the correct boats. We manage to get delivered to the vessel we will call home for the next week – the Yolita II – without any problems.
(Nora’s Note: Curious about the nautical life? Check out my adventures from living on boats for three months straight)
Quick introductions, instructions and safety procedures are covered during the short cruise to our first destination, Las Bachas Beach on the island of Santa Cruz. The moment our feet hit the sand our guide, Franklin, begins pointing out animals.
In no time at all we spot a species found only in the Galápagos, a Marine Iguana, sunning himself near the water’s edge. Their fondness for water and diving ability, a unique adaptation allowing them to find food underwater, separates these marine guys from all of their land-based cousins.
Evening: As a punctuation point to the day, a sea lion decides to take a quick break on the swim platform on the back of the Yolita II.
Day 2: Monday
We wake up anchored in Darwin’s Bay off Genovesa Island. In reality the whole island is one big crescent-shaped bay formed by the remnants of a large volcanic caldera that just clears the surface of the ocean.
Morning: In no time we are aboard the Zodiac boats and head ashore to the beach at El Barranco, where several sea lions and an unimaginable number of birds greet us. Along the trail we find both a Red-footed Booby and a Nazca Booby watching over their eggs.
In fact it seems like love is in the air, as nearly every phase of the reproductive cycle is taking place here with one species or another. The male frigates are doing their version of the singles bar scene. After all, what girl could resist a bright red inflated gular sac like that?
Afternoon: We quickly see why this is called the bird island. Multiple thousands of our feathered friends have made Genovesa Island their home. The sounds they make are as amazing as their visual displays.
WATCH (and listen): The most amazing, insanely exotic birds in the world!
Click here to watch this on YouTube.
Day 3: Tuesday
We awake a stone’s throw from the equator with the sun rising in the east just as the full moon is setting in the west. We feel really, really centered in our anchorage right at the base of Pinnacle Rock, “The Guardian of the Isles.”
Morning: We find the underwater world of these islands every bit as fascinating as above the surface. Just on this short dive we spot a Chocolate Chip Sea Star, a white-tipped reef shark, a Hog Fish, and swim through the middle of a school of Yellow-tailed Surgeonfish, named for the scalpel-like scales along their tails.
As we make our way through a maze of underwater canyons, a playful sea lion comes straight toward us, seemingly out of nowhere, then blazes past. Wow! Even better, he returns and hangs around for several minutes of frolicking.
WATCH: Veronica is treated to several minutes of frolicking with a sea lion.
Click here to watch on YouTube.
Afternoon: For our afternoon adventure we trek across the barren landscape of a very young lava flow on the island of Sanitago. Young in this case meaning about 130 years, which may sound slightly less than young, but geologically speaking that is just the blink of an eye. The molten rock flowing into the sea formed numerous types of mind boggling patterns and designs, depending on the speed of the cooling process.
The tropical sun on the black basalt flow takes a toll on Veronica.
We are happy to report that she survives to tell about another fabulous day.
Day 4: Wednesday
Morning: Our day on the island of Isabela, the largest of the Galápagos, begins at sea level, rises above the clouds, and then returns to the sea. As our beat-up bus bounces up the slopes of Volcán Sierra Negra, the scenery changes from dry, barren, lava flows to wet tropical jungle filled with exotic plants and birds, many we have never seen before.
Once the road runs out, we hike about two miles up to the rim of the active volcano. From there we look down into the caldera covered with black, freshly hardened lava from the last eruption, in 2005. That surface is still hot, warmed by the massive magma chamber just beneath it. (Nora’s Note: Better you than me! I evacuated Bali because of volcanic activity)!
Afternoon: On our way back down the mountain we stop off at the Tortoise Breeding Center of Isabela, home to over three hundred Giant Tortoises. The tour of the facility takes us through the entire life cycle of these huge reptiles, going from an egg, to babies, to youngsters a few years old, then twenty to thirty year old “teenagers,” and finally the full grown big fellas, who can easily top 500 pounds and be over 100 years old.
WATCH: This is a breeding center, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised to see some breeding going on.
Click here to watch on YouTube.
Day 5: Thursday
Morning: Still anchored off Isabela Island, we take the dingy into Elizabeth Bay and immediately come upon dozens of Galápagos penguins diving and frolicking beside us while they catch their breakfast. The first sighting of what would be a day filled with close encounters of the rare species kind.
A little closer to shore we pull up to a rock where a few Blue-footed Boobies have staked out an observation post.
Afternoon: We make a wet landing at Urbina Bay, also on Isabela, jumping out of the Zodiacs into the surf, on the black sand beach of Urbina Bay and begin our search for the Galápagos Giant Tortoise in the wild. The signs of them are everywhere, their tracks and droppings, and it isn’t long before we find one of the magnificent creatures.
Day 6: Friday
Morning: We hike up a short trail to Darwin’s Lagoon. When the first pirates and sailors first found the lagoon they celebrated what they thought was the discovery of a big fresh water lake. But it turned out to be salt water, even saltier than the sea. The water seeps in from the sea to fill the lagoon and is then concentrated by evaporation.
Afternoon: The Yolita II makes her way across the narrow straight to Fernandina Island where we set foot on the youngest of the Galápagos Islands. Unbelievable numbers of Marine Iguanas seem to cover every rock, actually almost every inch, of this island.
These prehistoric looking guys are the only iguanas that can swim and dive. They have adapted to eat seaweed off of the underwater rocks because the barren lava offers almost no supply of food. Their adaptation also includes the ability to filter the salt out of sea water, so they periodically spit, or more precisely sneeze, out the excess salt while drying off after a swim.
Day 7: Saturday
Morning: We awake in Buccaneer Cove (Caleta Bucanero), Santiago Island, so named because it once served as a hideout for pirates before and after attacks on the Spanish Galleons hauling gold and silver out of Peru.
Afternoon: After a quick jaunt over to Rábida Island, the afternoon starts with our last chance to swim with the fishes. We gear up and dive in from the unusually red sand beach. For those who haven’t been keeping score, we’ve seen white, golden, black and red sand beaches in the week that we’ve been here. These are formed by the various types of volcanic rock that make up the islands, as well as the classic white sand from crushed corals and shells.
We see the usual array of amazing things – sea stars, surgeonfish, puffers, sargent majors, angel fish, but also a new guy, a Blenny, “sitting” on the rocks atop his little fins. Then Franklin calls out that he has spotted the last item on David’s list of creatures he hoped to see swimming in the ocean…the Marine Iguana. Even though we saw several thousand of them yesterday, seeing one feeding under water, then swimming back to shore, really completes our Galápagos undersea experience.
As we are coming out of the water a worried mommy sea lion is calling for its baby. Finally the baby arrives and they have a ridiculously cute reunion.
WATCH: Mommy and baby sea lion find each other!
Click here to watch on YouTube.
The GypsyNesters just returned from China, Japan and South Korea and are excited about an upcoming adventure to the Canadian Maritimes. On their way, they’ll make a stop in Toronto for TBEX in June. David and Veronica have a personal motto: The Plan is No Plans. Follow them at GypsyNester.com – you never know where they’ll turn up next!