The Big Tortoises from Santa Cruz Island


You just can’t imagine how large the giant tortoises of Santa Cruz Island are. They sometimes reach 600 pounds and live to almost 130 years. They lumber along and every so often just appear…like while we were eating an outdoor lunch yesterday one emerged from under the structure. They certainly are awesome.

While on Santa Cruz we also visited the Darwin Research Center were they are doing a great job to preserve several endangered species like the giant tortoises as well as the Galapagos land iguana pictured here.


I am presently in Quito and we return home tomorrow evening. This has been a wonderful vacation to the Galápagos Islands and we leave with many very fond memories for what we have seen and the people we have met. Hats off to the crew and staff of the MV Galapagos Explorer II for their tremendous service!

Giant Tortoise on San Cristobal Island

Thursday we visited San Cristobal, the Eastern most island in the Galapagos. The treat was to see our first giant tortoise and to visit a research facility dedicated to preserving them. We understand that the ones we saw are the small ones (at around 200 pounds!) and that tomorrow we may see the big ones (that may weigh as much as 600 pounds!). These turtles live extraordinarily long lives that last well over 100 years.

Galapagos giant turtles were often captured in the past by sailors and used for food. They could be taken on board a ship, given nothing to eat and later become fresh food for the crew. I understand that when Darwin visited the Galapagos that many were taken on the Beagle for this very purpose.

Yesterday we visited additional beaches and saw many more animals which we can now identify readily. We have seen numerous sea turtles, blue herons, blue footed boobies, crabs, a few flamingoes, and many sea lions. Yesterday a young sea lion came ashore on an excursion and played with swimmers in our group and today there were many in San Cristobal on the town benches and in the landscaping!

Today leaving San Cristobal we spotted whales! What a wonderful adventure as we approach the end of our vacation in a few days.

To answer a question sent to me… Yes, with the Internet I have also been doing some work. I am virtually caught up and don’t have a huge amount of email waiting for my return. I like that.


Darwin Lake in the Galápagos Islands

Each evening before dinner our tour group is briefed on what to expect the next day. Last evening, today’s 3 hour hike was described as “powerful” which meant it to be really difficult and that those without the appropriate stamina should think more than twice about taking it.

I decided that I wanted to see the sites and was going to go! It was difficult but well worth the climb up to and around a volcano rim. In the photo you see the water filled crater lake in the foreground named for Charles Darwin and our ship, the MV Galapagos Explorer II, in the background.

Yesterday we saw Galapagos penguins (pictured with marine iguanas), flightless cormorants nesting, blue footed boobies, pelicans, sea lions, sea turtles, a stingray, and a blue heron (pictured eating a baby marine iguana).

We watched the blue heron from about ten feet away as he slowly approached the baby iguana’s hiding spot and carried him away for a meal. Later he repeated the process with another baby iguana.

The excursion is very enjoyable. Thank goodness for the long and sometimes difficult hikes so we can burn off some of the calories we are so willingly consuming from the fantastic food offered at every meal.

We have met many enjoyable people as we always do. Everyone has so many interesting stories about their past trips to exotic places around the world.

Our tour group is arranged into three smaller groups for landings with our own guide. Our group is led by Israel who is a Galapagos native and also the expedition naturalist for our trip. He is a professional and we are glad that he is leading our small group of 13 for the landings by an inflatable boat called a Zodiac. Most landings are dry landings but some are wet…meaning we wade ashore.

We have seen several volcanoes with the tallest at 4900 feet. The last time any of them was active was 2009. Of course all of us would gladly want to see some lava flowing!

This afternoon we are going on a coastline excursion and hopefully tonight we will have a clear sky to see stars. In the next few days we look forward to seeing the large Galápagos tortoise!

I have been asked about the camera I am using. It is the iPhone camera.

That’s all for today…of which I am uncertain today’s date or time!




Fantastic Galápagos Islands Wildlife

It is really enjoyable taking hikes today with a naturalist who is pointing out various plants and animals here in the Galapagos Islands. Today we were up early to hike to the top of a lava summit where a lighthouse light has been installed. Along the way we saw more crabs, lizards and a finch, one of the species Darwin studied.

Last night was interesting as a bird decided to visit our room! I successfully was able to pick him up with socks covering my hands and show him the door since he couldn’t find his way out!

Today’s photo is one of the numerous crabs seen this morning.

We are presently sailing to our next stop later this afternoon. We have only wifi communication presently. No voice connection except through Skype, wifi, and satellite. I was able to contact my mom but the connection is not very reliable.

More to come as we see many interesting and exotic things!


Old Town Quito to the Galápagos Islands

Yesterday in Quito we journeyed through Old Town and felt the strong Spanish presence in the architecture and the influence on traditional Ecuadorian food. We had a great deal of fun seeing the Presidential Palace and visiting several churches. One of the interesting points was to visit the Virgin of the Americas statue that overlooks the city.

This morning we woke early for our flight to the Galápagos Islands and saw a beautiful sunrise. The sun came up over a 19,000 ft volcano and created a spectacular view. Our flight from Quito was fine and we were met at the airport by representatives from the MV Galapagos Explorer II. Once we were assembled onboard we learned that there are only 37 people on the tour and that there is a staff of 75!

After sailing for about an hour we stopped at Santiago Island and departed for shore on a Zodiac. Immediately on landing at a lava flow we saw a Marine Iguana! A bit later there were Lava Lizards, crabs and penguins. There is so much to see including Lava Cactus thriving in the lava!

Dinner on the ship was wonderful. And we are greatly enjoying the company of out fellow travelers from the US, UK, China, Australia and India.

Tomorrow we explore more and I will make a new blog entry if the Internet is available!




Visit to a Volcano in Ecuador

The past few days have seen us visit the Equator, tour sights where the Spanish conquistadores and Incas fought, and we have gone to the rim of a nearby volcano!

The picture is taken from the volcano rim looking into the volcano. The mountains on the left and center are actually the dome inside the top of the volcano. Looking at the photo you can see what looks like buildings and roads…that’s what they are! The volcano, although still active, has not been a threat for decades so people moved in and farm the land. About 100 people live there. The way down is on a serpentine trail. Interesting, isn’t it?


I have been asked about the elevation and how we are feeling. Quito is at about 9200 feet. We do get some minor headaches and after our experiences a few years ago in Peru, we are prepared. We have been drinking plenty of water and eating high percentage chocolate. That has helped. We do tire more easily and take numerous stops to catch our breath when walking. If you have a question, email me!

We also went to the Equator which was a cool visit. Of course we ran the experiment to see which way water drains on the Equator and in the hemispheres. It actually is different in all three!

That’s all for now. Tomorrow we visit Old Town Quito and hope the weather continues to hold as we anticipate taking some very good photos of the architecture.

National Archeological Museum in Quito


This wonderful museum is located just ten blocks from our hotel. It contains so many artifacts from pre Columbian times that it makes your head spin. Photography without flash is permitted and I was able to get some stunning photos which I will publish after I return home. Meanwhile, attached are examples.


Ecuadorian Currency

On our way to Ecuador everything seemed to be going so smoothly until we got to Miami yesterday. The plane to Quito had a mechanical problem and we were delayed three hours before departure. Subsequently, we arrived at the hotel around 3:00 am.

We slept for about 4 hours and had a superb breakfast at the hotel. I don’t know what most of the fruits were but they were good as were the fresh baked goods, eggs, meats, vegetables, and cheeses.

We also bought water as we have been told to drink only bottled water on the entire trip. We had previously learned that the official currency is the US dollar which is good so we don’t need to be concerned with currency conversions. An interesting sidelight is that coins are a mixture of US and local. Fifty cent coins and dollar coins are commonly used here, unlike in the US.

This afternoon we are walking to an archeological museum and tomorrow our guide is taking us to some small villages nearby. I will post more in a few days.

More Preparations for Ecuador

Preparations are progressing well for our upcoming trip. Plane tickets, check. Reservations, check. No dress-up activities, confirmed!!! Hair dryers in hotel and on the ship, confirmed (obviously not for me)! Power converter, required. How to enter absence into timekeeping system at work, done. Someone minding my duties while gone, done. Hmmm, this is going smoothly! Didn’t check if Internet will be available. It likely will and I will continue my vacation blog in WordPress.

Preparations Begin for our Ecuador and Galápagos Islands Adventure

Two weeks from tomorrow, May 27, we leave for vacation. This year we are going to straddle the equator in Ecuador and the Galapagos in the Pacific Ocean. The trip promises for us to see lots of unique plants and animals. However, one thing that will be also interesting is to see the stars in the northern sky at the same time as the southern.

The plan is to leave Philadelphia changing planes in Miami before arriving in Quito. We stay there a few days and then join our tour group to fly to the Galápagos Islands where we will be on a ship for 7 nights. At the end we fly back to Quito and return home via Miami.

As I have done in the past, I will blog here about what we are seeing!