Day 2: Guayaquil to Baltra and North Seymour
This is part of a series about our vacation to the Galápagos Islands. To see the first article in the series, click here.
It was another short night, with a 5:45 wake-up call, 6:00 breakfast, and a 7:20 departure for the airport. Celeste is starting to look tired, but is otherwise holding up well with the short nights. After breakfast there was enough light to see more of the city from the hotel, and what we were able to see was quite attractive. The short bus ride back to the airport revealed somewhat of a litter problem, but otherwise I might have guessed that I was in southern Europe.
The flight to Baltra was about 90 minutes long on an AeroGal (Aerolineas Galápagos) 737, and featured a second breakfast opportunity. Just before landing, they came through the plane, opened the overhead bins, and sprayed a mild insecticide to protect the fragile environment of the Islands.
Baltra itself is a barren place. The island, used as a military base during World War II, seems to consist mostly of a small airport, a port, and a few small military facilities. The airport is surrounded by a surprising number of small souvenir stalls. We took a bus to the port, and were greeted by a marine iguana, a sea lion, and a number of colorful crabs which are a taste of things to come.
We took Zodiac boats to reach the Endeavour. After being led to our cabins (small and cozy but efficient), we attended a series of introductory briefings interspersed with snacks and lunch. Mid-afternoon we finally boarded Zodiac boats for our first hike, on the tiny island of N. Seymour. As we boarded the Zodiac boat, one of the naturalists handed Celeste a “scavenger hunt” list of things to look for on the island. This was one of the many things they do to help keep the kids engaged.
All tours of Galápagos are led by certified naturalist guides who also make sure that we don’t stray off the marked trails, get too close to the wildlife, or other no-nos. Our guide, Walter, was a wealth of knowledge about what we were seeing and hearing. At the beginning of the hike, everyone jostled to take pictures of wildlife that Walter pointed out. I started getting annoyed with a sub-species known as the Blue-Jacketed Shutterbug that kept stepping between me and the wildlife. But pretty soon it was clear that this is different from every place I have ever been: there was more to see than we could possibly take pictures of.
Want pictures of the famous Blue-Footed Booby? No problem. Sitting on a nest? Sure. hatching eggs? Yup. Trying to attract a mate? Yes (and I wish I had an audio recording of that whistle they make). Raising young? Uh-huh. And so on.
We got lots of pictures of blue-footed boobies, frigate birds (including that crazy red pouch the male uses when trying to attract a mate), both land and marine iguanas, sea lions and their young (one of which sniffed Celeste to see if she was its mother), and the endemic swallow-tailed gull. All in the course of a 1 1/2 mile walk. It’s true, they aren’t afraid of people, but it’s important to respect their space, which we tried to do.