We have heavy duty wet suits that are too bulky to be practical for all but the coldest diving. A week before flying off to the Galapagos, I called dive shops in the bay area and found that not one of them stocks 1 or 2 mil skins or wet suits, not one! Well we were flying through Miami. I found there were a number of dive shops in South Beach. On my second call, I reached Arlyn at South Beach Dive Shop. She said they have two models of women’s light weight full length suites in woman’s small and a dive skin in men’s large. Cool, we’ll be out in a few days, could she hold them for us?
Our flight to Miami went quickly. I wonder why people fly American. If you are not one of their Gold, Platinum, Sapphire, Dust, Mud, Pebble, or sand members, you get cattle class with the worst leg room of all airlines (that’s what it feels like). Because we would have an hour to make our connection, we opted to fly to Miami a day ahead and overnight at the Airport Marriott. This also gave us time to take Uber-X to the South Beach Dive Shop. Arlyn was at the counter when we arrived and “hooked us up” as the saying goes. She was fun and helped us pick just the right suites for our trip. If you are headed to warm waters and have the time, drop by this shop.
Here’s their website: http://www.southbeachdivers.com/
Armed with cool gear, headed back to Miami International Airport for our flight to Ecuador.
We have been home for a few days now. We flew back from Ecuador via Miami on Monday, 4/18/16. It was a very long day made longer by our sadness leaving the Galapagos. We did not feel the earthquake that hit Manabi Province on Saturday 4/16 around 7pm. We were in a caldera when the captain was notified and we steamed near top speed into deeper waters. Later that evening while in calm waters we felt two large swells rock the ship. The magnitude 7.8 earthquake has caused extensive devastation in Ecuador.
The Galapagos Islands
Here I will recount our magical trip to the Galapagos on the National Geographic Islander organized by Lindblad Expeditions and booked through Tim Lapage Safari Experts out of Park City Utah. This is our second “cruise”, though this was entirely different than a Seabourn Cruise. This is truly more like an ocean going safari on a much smaller and intimate boat. There were 47 guests and nearly that many crew.
We flew into Guayaquil (pronounced Y-aquil) from Miami on American on the April 9th. The flight was delayed 4 hours. Rather than arriving around 9pm local time we landed at 1:30am, arrived at the hotel around 2am, and had our wake-up call at 5:15 that morning for our flight to San Cristobal. Luckily we flew from San Francisco to Miami on the 8th. National Geographic organized the trip perfectly. A representative greeted us at Miami before our flight and another met us at Guayaquil and accompanied us to the Hilton Colon. Nat Geo people were with us from our departure from Miami throughout the adventure and through to our departing flight from Guayaquil. Their organization is top flight.
Dreary eyed but with full tummies after our breakfast we boarded busses for a short flight to the islands and boarded our ship. The first day aboard ship was very low key. We met the crew, expedition leader, Carlos Romero who gave us an orientation briefing. We met hotel manager, Daniel Davila, who is responsible for the ship’s rooms and smooth functioning of guest services aboard ship. We had the required safety drill, a buffet lunch where we met some of the other guests. Carlos then briefed us about the philosophy of the Galapagos National Park rules. Carlos can be a very funny fellow; I enjoyed his briefings. The tight control over the parks gave me pause. Kayaking and snorkeling is limited to one hour and in very specific spots. We would not be allowed on or in the water for extended periods. We also learned that all boats that enter the park must be authorized and must carry a GPS beacon. All are park “rangers” who will report any boat that is not registered to the Ecuadorian authorities. Even so, the park is huge and hard to patrol. Just the week prior an individual was caught with 17 iguanas in his luggage. He almost got away with it, but for a trained dog who sniffed out one iguana and the jig was up.
On our first day we had one excursion to the National Park Interpretation Center and a walk to “Frigate Hill”. Back aboard there was a welcome aboard cocktail party and dinner at 7:30 pm. Tim Lapage had booked a number of Park City couples on this trip. Many of the guests broke into familiar groups both at the cocktail party and for dinner. Ellen and I made it a point to dine at different tables over the next week to get to know each couple at least somewhat. Initially, it was a bit hard not knowing anyone else on the cruise, but over time that issue faded away. Often we found ourselves choosing an empty table to see who would join us. The other guests were like minded people and a pleasure to be with on the cruise.
Our first day held no inkling of what we would do and see in the following days. It felt very tame, which was welcome after so little sleep. We were in room 210 on the main deck. I had wanted 301 or 302 on the Bridge Deck, but in retrospect I think 210 was the better choice. The boat was very stable most of the time with cruising to our next destination done at night. Still the main deck swayed far less than the decks above. The observation deck at the top swayed noticeably in calm waters. Rooms with their own veranda seemed “nice”, though we were up and away from the boat practically all day. We would have had little time to enjoy a private view. Then too, why not mingle with the other guests.
For more information from Tim Lapage, Safari Experts: http://safariexperts.com/
For more information about Lindblad Expeditions: https://www.expeditions.com/
And here’s a link to the Islander’s deck plan
First Day’s Photos
And a very few photos from our first day in the Galapagos.
Porto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal Island
A Lava Lizard, endemic to the island
Ellen in her element
The National Geographic Islander