A world like no other!

Trip Start Oct 13, 2004
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Trip End Jun 21, 2005


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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Wednesday, November 17, 2004

November 11th - 15th, 2004
She Said:
Well, we really are living National Geographic now!!! The magic of the Galapagos is absolutely mesmerizing and no matter how much people try to describe it, it can really only be experienced to be believed. From the moment I set eyes on these islands, I was absolutely astonished at three things:
1. the proliferation of wildlife "are those really sea lions laying on the steps where we are supposed to disembark off the boat?", [gasp] "look at the giant tortoise almost bigger than Tyler right on our path"...
2. the phenomenal uniqueness of the animals - who ever heard of birds with blue feet (blue-footed boobies), huge lizards that swim (marine iguanas), the last living turtle of a species and the only penguins north of the equator (also the smallest).
3. the animals absolute laissez-faire approach to human existence - not only do they not care that you are there as they go about their business, be it feeding their young, mating or just hanging out...they often find you to be an amusing diversion.

We went to a different island everyday (actually sailed thru the nites) and each one had a completely different landscape and selection of wildlife. It was absolutely fascinating - we saw so many incredible things I can't even begin to describe them. Snorkeling took on a whole new dimension, swimming with the sea lions. They are so incredibly playful, it was an absolute blast swimming with them. At first it can be a bit startling, as tho' they are completely clumsy looking on land they are unbelievably graceful in the water. They shoot off like torpedoes and when you see one coming straight at you, it can be a bit alarming until they veer off at the last minute and you realize they're just playing with you. What a rush! The pups are so playful, its amazing to watch. When they're little they stay in 'training pools', shallower tide pools and chase each other and flip around. They will use pretty much anything as a toy, tossing around seaweed, chasing crabs etc.

In some ways, it's such a departure from anything we are accustomed to experiencing it almost seems surreal at times. Such unique, strange animals, with such unconventional behaviours - what a Mecca, especially for the children....kind of like Dr. Seuss in real life :-)

The Legend, our cruise ship, was great and as kids are apparently an anomaly on Galapagos tours, we got royal service from everyone. The demographic actually blew me away - most of the people were retired so it was like the kids had a whole boatload of grandparents. Why more people don't bring their children here amazes me, I really can't imagine anything much better! That said, the Galapagos is such a highly protected area (thank God!) that there are some rigorous restrictions - must stay on the paths, no food on the islands whatsoever, no harassing the animals etc - so if your children are unable to abide by those types of rules, it's definitely not recommended. However, if they are - it is the most magical wonderland imaginable!!

That said, I guess Galapagos isn't for everyone. Juan Carlos, our guide, was sharing a story of two sisters from Russia that he was guiding while he was on a smaller boat. A) They were mad they didn't get a big boat (like that's HIS fault) and B) didn't seem to get the concept that you're hiking every day. He suggested to them that hiking shoes or at least sneakers would be wise. They didn't listen to his advice for whatever reason and the next day they came wearing flip flops with big plastic flowers on them....Juan Carlos wasn't too sure about this, either from a comfort or fashion-statement perspective, but alas they're the guests. Anyway, it went from bad to worse for everyone as apparently the iguanas favourite food has a bright yellow flower on it and not too far into the hike, some hefty iguanas took a liking to these sandals. A couple of them grabbed the flowers on the shoes and started fighting over them. The Russian woman went bizerk, "they're attacking me, these beasts, this isn't safe, aaaaah etc. etc". Needless to say, they cancelled the rest of their trip and I'm sure their travelogue experience of the Galapagos would read much different than this one. :-)

We were put in the 'young group' and met some great people, no flip flops in this crowd. Again, the children picked their trip buddies and this wonderful couple from Boston - Paul & Cathy, gained two admirers for the duration. When we went thru our daily Highlight/Lowlight Dinner Discussion, Paul & Cathy usually had some role in their highlight section. Tyler particularly always talked about 'the man in black' , Paul (even tho he didn't look the least bit like Johnny Cash and only wore black one day that I remember). It's nice to see Tyler initiate with people as he has always been so shy and reserved. Actually both children have really blossomed, it's amazing what happens when they aren't inundated with the trappings of escapism (ie. TV, video games, junk) and are instead exposed to the wonders of the world. I can't help believe they will be forever transformed by this journey, even if they have few cognitive memories.

Lessons Learned:
Take the 8 day cruise vs the 5. Every island has it's own magical wonders and I hated to miss the other days. Kayla was aghast that we only took the 5 day option, so she made a deal with us - when she becomes a biologist, we'll take her and Tyler on the full cruise. What a negotiator.
Take a big boat - the waves get rockin' and our guide said when he worked on the small boat, he often didn't sleep at all. And that's from someone used to it. We met people who had cancelled from the small one the first nite, saying they were absolutely ill from seasickness.
Take seasickness stuff, just in case. SeaBands were a lifesaver for Ty.
Take a digital camera. Between the two of us, I think we had over 100 pics of sea lions alone...awesome to shoot as they just keep getting better, but egah the cost of film & developing would have killed us.

Highlights:
1. Snorkeling with the sea lions
2. The feeding frenzy of the blue-footed boobies, pelicans and sea lions as a school of fish came into shore, it was better than a Hollywood show as tons of these animals came together, diving, fishing and leaping around for at least 5 minutes. Amazing.
3. The quiet family dinners - the whole dining room just for us an hour before everyone else.
4. See Mark & Kids
Lowlights:
1
. Getting a bit weary of everything being scheduled - I'm a free spirit and love to be on my own time.
2. Missing my internet connection with all my buddies!

He Said:
Highlights:
1. Swimming with the Sea Lions
2. Being able to get so close to the animals, they truly have no fear of humans.
3. The Giant Tortoises and seeing Lonely George the last of his kind.
4. The Blue Footed Boobies
5. Galapagos Penguins
6. Baby Sea Lions,
especially
watching them playing with each other and in some cases some of the
other wildlife. They truly are fun to watch and when you can walk right
up to them it is even more amazing.
7. Watching the Marine Iguanas swimming in the Ocean
8. Visiting the different Islands, each which is unique from the others
9. The bird life
10. Taking pictures you never imagined you could take
11. Watching the kids reaction to the various animals

Lowlights:
1. Tyler getting Sea Sick the first day (but he was fine after that)
2. Having my schedule set and managed by somebody else.

The
Galapagos Islands like Kapawi are a completely unique and amazing
experience. We went on a Boat called The Legend. It was a 90 person
boat and I don't think I'd want to go on a boat any smaller based on
how we rocked sometimes in the ocean swells. It was a great boat, with
great staff, great service and great food. It was our first experience
on a Cruise style trip and it was a great experience. That said, I
don't think Cruises are for me or for us, except in certain
circumstances like the Galapagos where it is the only way to see the
islands.
Our days were busy, up at 6:45, breakfast at 7:00 and the
first groups are off the boat at 8:00 am. You usually had two
activities before lunch. Then we'd cruise to a new location for an
afternoon activity or two. We took advantage of the kids being able to
eat early and had thus had a private family dinner for 4 vs. a private
family dinner with you and 90 of your closest friends. It was a nice
break from all the group activities. Not that groups are bad, but as
many of you who know me, know, I'm not who is attracted to crowds.
That
said the experience of the Galapagos is worth any suffering I may have
experienced by having to hang out in groups all day. I was invariably
taking up a position in the rear taking in the sights and clicking away
with my digital camera.
On that note, I must put in a plug for
digital cameras, this is the only way to go. We have two, a fully
automatic Olympus that is in Shannon's care and my Digital Canon Rebel.
I don't know how many pictures we took but who cares, we just delete
the ones we don't like. No worries about film you just shoot away,
assuming you don't use up your memory card or battery. But with an
extra battery and today's cards that should not be a problem. I can be
pretty click happy and have not even come close to using up my card in
one or two days of shooting. That said we are downloading every other
night to the laptop. Having a way to off load the pictures is key and
the laptop is perfect for that. Okay, I'm done plugging digital
cameras.
We took the 5 day, 4 night option on The Galapagos Legend
and that got us the following Islands: Santa Cruz, Baltra, Bartolome,
Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago (a.k.a. James Island) and Rabida. As I
said each provided a completely unique experience, although after a
while it is kind of ho hum another Sea Lion. It is unbelievable.
Each
group has it's own guide and these individuals are very well versed on
the Galapagos. In our discussions with various folks this is the job to
have in Ecuador. These guides are well paid, well tipped and live a
very good life by Ecadorian standards. Our guide was Juan Carlos and he
was fantastic. As with Juan Marcello, at Kapawi, he was great with the
kids.
That said Juan Marcello was in a class by himself when it
came to making the kids feel comfortable and apart of what was going
on. During some of our free time he played marbles with them, took them
fishing or just let them wander around with him. He was amazing. Cello
if you read this, thanks a lot we really appreciated you and our time
at Kapawi.

Kid's Said:
Highlights:
Tyler -
1
. His buddy Paul, a.ka. the man in black
2. The pool on the ship
3. The animals
4. Swimming on the beach
Kayla -
1. Being able to see and swim with Sea Lions.
I don't know why they call them sea lions, I think they they should call them Sea Dogs because they kind of sound like a dog.
2. Seeing Blue Footed Boodies.
These birds were really cool especially because they have blue feet. We got to watch them diving down from the sky into the ocean to get fish.
3. I got to snorkel in the Galapagos and the sea lions would swim right by you and play with you. I also saw very colorful Parrot Fish.
4. I got to see a Golden Ray swimming by the boat.
5. Seeing the Giant Tortoises and Sea Turtles.
6. We got to see Galapagos Penguins, we saw some swimming in the water and some on land.
7. The Boat had a Kid's menu so I got to each French Fries with my meals.
8. Making a new friend on the boat
her name was Cathie and I hiked with her all the time. She was from Boston and the woodpecker's keep making holes in her house.
9. Seeing Lonesome George, he is the last of the Giant Tortoises from the Island of Pinta. They have not been able to find a female that he will mate with. This is really sad because when he dies there will be no more Giant Tortoises of his species. They will be extinct, he is the last one.

Lowlights:
Tyler -
1. Still having to take my malaria medicine
2. Having the boat driver make me sit down in the middle
3. Getting Sea Sick the first day
Kayla -
1. Having to leave the Galapagos and missing my new friends.
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