Sunday, February 27, 2011

Galapagos Day 1: Las Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz Island

We left Colorado very early on February 4th to catch a 3 and a half hour flight from Denver to Miami. I was perfectly calm on that flight- no worries, no anxiety, just enjoying the trip. Out of the entire trip, this flight- strangely, the first one- was the "best" one for me, in terms of anxiety and comfort. I really do think that the fear of flying online classes helped me a lot.
We had some very lackluster Mexican food in the Miami airport, but we were too excited about our trip to care much about terrible airport food :) The flight from Miami to Guayaquil was about 5 hours, and I did well up until the last half hour. Suddenly, I wanted OFF THIS PLANE. I feel the need to assure you all that I deal with my anxieties very well, so don't worry, I wasn't crying and pacing the aisles or anything. I just turned to Bobby and said "I want off this plane" haha. All in all it was an uneventful flight, although the movie "Life as We Know It" was awful. Sorry Katherine, you just don't do it for me. We met up with Bobby's mom and dad (Bonnie and Bob) and his sister and brother-in-law (Denise and Chad) very late that night at our hotel, shared a welcome drink (virgin pina colada for me) and then collapsed into bed.
The next morning we were up early to eat breakfast and head to the airport to catch our plane to the Galapagos islands. The weather was really nice- in most of the pictures it looks overcast, but trust me, that is precisely why it was nice. Without that kind cloud cover, it would have been sweltering.
The airport looked like it was brand new, and everyone was so nice and helpful. This is where I go ahead and let the cat out of the bag- by the end of the trip, American airlines weren't looking too great in comparison. I've never had better service, better food, or been more comfortable on planes than I have in South America.
Surprise- we're in first class. We didn't know until we got on the plane (a brand new Airbus 320, the oldest plane we flew on the entire trip was an Airbus 319). I'd never flown first class, and let me say that it helps a lot with my flight anxiety.
Having this much room, in a supercomfy chair that feels like a recliner, with a huge flat screen right in front of me, PLUS a window seat offered plenty of distractions. The flight was short- an hour and a half- so that probably helped as well.

The islands were beautiful from the air. The fact that I was calm enough to be taking pictures out of the window is huge.
The Baltra airport is very small, and it's open air. The runway is right in the middle of exactly nowhere, and you get off the plane via stairs that are wheeled up to it. Then you walk across the runway into the covered area where they process you for arrival and entrance into the Galapagos Islands- they are officially designated a National Park of Ecuador. Then you filter through to the other side to wait for a bus to take you to your ship. These shirts were on display at the vendors shops  and I thought they were clever.
Touristin' it up in front of the sign. Right after this was taken we hopped on a 3 minute bus ride and boarded our ship,the Eclipse. I didn't get a full picture of it, but the previous link has several.
The ship is a small cruise ship, but it's unlike any cruise ship I've ever been on. It holds 48 passengers, but on this particular trip we were lucky- there were only 24 people on board. The rooms were gorgeous, with the most comfortable bed I've ever  slept on.
All of them have sea views, and as we would later find out they were serviced 3 times a day. We couldn't keep these rooms messy if we tried. At this point in the trip I'm thinking "we're really, finally, truly here" followed by "now I want a nap" followed by "no, wait, I want to eat delicious food".
They served us said delicious food, went over safety drills and such, and then it was time to head off for our first excursion.
The islands don't have big ports where the ship can dock. For every excursion we were in a panga (motorboat) that took us from the ship to the island. Some of our landings were wet, like this one, where you just jump out into about 3 feet of water and wade to shore. Some were dry, where they rev the engine to push the panga up onto rocks and you scramble out. On every excursion during the trip, we were the only people on the island.
Las Bachas beach and Bobby, upon landing. We went on a hike around the island with our guide, Martin. Ecuadorian law requires that anyone visiting the Galapagos islands have a guide- 16 people max per guide. Our ship, however, has a 12 people max per guide policy, which allowed everyone to be able to ask questions and hear answers, and it didn't feel like a crowded tour group. The following pictures were taken as we hiked around the island.

After the hike we had a swim- and check out that rainbow. The weather was really great- enough cloud cover to protect us from the sun, but it wasn't rainy or cold. The water was so clear, and there were all sorts of fish swimming all around us.
I love this picture of Bobby's parents!
Sun setting, right before we got back on the panga to head to the ship for dinner.
I hate going out in public with my hair wet, so after a shower I twisted it all up. This takes about 5 or 10 minutes tops, but the crew leader, Maria loved it so I taught her how to do it.
This is us right before dinner in the lobby/reception area. This is where we would all meet up for excursions, and where they would have snacks waiting for us in the afternoon when we came in from the islands. The trip started off great, and it would end up just getting better. I swear I could live on the Eclipse for the rest of my life- if only they would let me! Between the food, the great people we met, the awesome crew, and the atmosphere that felt more like a really nice hotel instead of a cramped cruise ship room, we were all looking forward to spending the next 5 days on board.


  1. That looks like the ideal tropical vacation. I love it. No "feel like being a herded farm animal" cruise feeling there!

  2. Exactly! That feeling of being herded is definitely one to be avoided. I think we've gotten spoiled to this style of cruise!