We're 12 passengers on the Darwin. I'm the lone American, Jenn is the one Canadian from Edmonton, Anne & Rob are from Dublin, Sara & James are from near Brighton, England (figured out later that this is their honeymoon). All the rest are Aussies, and with the exception of Katey from Perth, they're from Melbourne, so Natalie & Brian, Rachel and sisters Fiona & Georgina round out the group. Only Katey, Anne, Rob and I are on the 5-day tour, the rest continue on for 8-days total. I also seem to be the only one headed right home after. Ah well.
Today we landed on the Island of Baltra, where the US built a landing strip during WWII. (Don't get too excited, because we also did some crappy stuff here that we didn't clean up when we left.)
Started with a fantastic lunch, then went for our first excursion on Las Bachas beach. There was a pelican perched on a rock near where we landed, and it was so still that he looked more like a sculpture than a real living creature. As our guide/naturalist Sergio led us around parts of the island, we saw herds of crabs clinging to lava rocks on the beach, flamingos a heron and several other birds in a lake area, and watched pelicans and boobies diving into the water to scoop up a snack. It was amazing to see how long they could stay under before popping back up.
The surf was churning up so much sand, that there was nothing to see snorkeling, and very little visibility, so I passed until tomorrow. We did see the decaying remains of an old pier the Americans built on the island during WWII. Because of what remains (decaying i-beams sticking up out of the sand), it isn't safe for people to swim or snorkel on the beach there.
Back on board the boat we had time to clean up, had our safety/evacuation briefing, and then a nice dinner.
THEN I went off to bed in the smallest cabin I've ever seen. Figure an overnight train in Vietnam, minus all the space for the second pair of bunks, plus a closet that takes up 1/3 of the walkway space. It was SNUG! Thank heavens I have this palace all to myself!! I can't fathom how two could possibly share it.
We are transferred to Quito Airport for our early morning flight to the tiny island of Baltra in the Galapagos. We must pay a US$100 national park tax on arrival at Galapagos Airport. This is best done using cash, as using credit cards can be a time consuming process. We are met in the arrival hall and then bussed to the M.V. Darwin, anchored a short distance away in Baltra's small port. Once on board we are assigned our cabin before we set sail. Our stop this afternoon is the beautiful beach of Las Bachas on Santa Cruz Island. This beach is a major egg-laying site for sea turtles. Marine iguanas can be found ashore whilst pink flamingos are commonly seen in the lagoon. Remnants of a floating pier can still be sighted and is a testimony to U.S. presence in the Galapagos during World War II.