Day 7 |
Dec 01, 2016

Galapaguera and Cerro Brujo, San Cristobal Island

By Maria Angelica Betancourt, Galapagos Naturalist Guide
00° 54.0’ S, 89° 36.6’ W
Air Temperature:

The Silver Galapagos anchored at 7:00 in front of San Cristobal Island. It was a cloudy morning, and thirty minutes later the Expedition Leader started our disembarkation in order to visit La Galapaguera -what great moment for me to share my hometown with my guests.

We were the last group disembarking; our bus was waiting for us and after forty-five minutes bus ride we got the place to see the giant tortoises. At the very beginning we saw at least three of them; it was a very nice welcoming. The visit took us more than one hour. We got to the feeding platform and maybe twenty of these giant tortoises were over there. Some of them were at the water pond refreshing themselves. My guests had a great moment watching how the park rangers did their work using a scanner in order get the information from the microchip which is under the giant tortoises’ skin

By the end of our visit we stopped at the breeding center. Our guests learned more about how that project works in order to recover the giant tortoises from San Cristobal Island. We saw different ages in different corrals. We had a great time watching the little ones. After this visit we got back to the town for some free time.

Back on board and while we sailed to our next destination, our guests enjoyed their lunch in The Restaurant with great views of the coastline of the island.

It was a very sunny afternoon at Cerro Brujo, and great weather conditions for our kayaks. Guests enjoyed leisure time on the white sandy beach; some of them were walking and some others swimming. What a beautiful place. Along the shore line we found some migratory birds, marine iguanas, and a very large number of sea lions resting -a lot of pictures were taken.

We had a beautiful sunset with a bright orange sun at six in afternoon -on the horizon an amazing rock formation call Kicker Rock.



Day 7 |
Dec 18, 2015

Santa Cruz Island

By Karina Lopez, Galapagos National Park Naturalist Guide
0° 54' 44.2" S, 89° 26' 13.6" W
Air Temperature:

This morning Silver Galapagos anchored at Academy Bay which is located at the southeastern side of Santa Cruz, the second largest and the most populated in the Galapagos Islands.

From the outside deck I saw in the misty morning a bay that goes from turquoise to grey and a background of colourful houses and big clouds hiding the peak of the island.

I got closer to the edge and saw how the Brown Pelicans, juveniles as well as adults, gracefully glided very close to the surface of the water. It was time to start our excursion so we embarked onto the Zodiacs to get to the main dock of Ayora where a bus took us to the highlands.

It seemed to me like the colours got more intense with the rain, it was so green. We crossed the Dry and Transition zones of vegetation to reach the Humid one where the predominant tree is one of the best known examples of adaptive radiation; its name is Scalesia pedunculata.

We walked on a very short trail through this forest to a viewpoint of one of the two pit craters located one on each side of the main road which is the reason why they are called ‘the twins’.

Vegetation in this area was exuberant and interesting, giving a great opportunity to learn about endemics and how the presence of introduced plants -such as quinine trees, blackberries and others- is disrupting the ecosystem. The geological feature was impressive and we found some different species of Darwin’s finches, mockingbirds and other unique birds.

After the walk along the rim of ‘the twins’ we took a 15 minutes ride to the limit of the farming area and National Park on the south west of the island. This is part of the migration route of one of the two species of giant tortoises we have in Santa Cruz.

Even though the mist continued when we arrived, it did not stop us from being able to get amazing close-up pictures and learn about these huge reptiles that were all over the field by the dozens. Most of them just grazing by themselves and some of them gathering in the muddy puddles; we saw males, females as well as some young ones.

Galapagos coffee, lemon grass tea and fresh fruits from this farm were ready for us back in the restaurant area after the exploration. I returned the very useful rubber boots provided by the farmer and I got on the bus for the ride back to the dock to take the Zodiacs and return to the Silver Galapagos.

At 2:15 pm, after a delicious lunch and a power nap, I was ready for more on this last day of an experience of a lifetime in this remote place so full of wildlife.

I went for something a little different: El Trapiche, a sugarcane farm that has processed sugarcane to produce raw sugar bricks for over forty years, using the same machines and techniques from those days when a donkey was the main force of power for the manual press.

I loved the way how don Adriano and his family presented the details of how they work together in the production of the raw sugar, organic coffee and firewater. He has a funny personality and despite the barrier of language, sometimes the guests did not need the translation from the guides to laugh when he told a joke in between explanations.

After our visit we headed down to the town for some shopping and cultural encounter. I stopped by the fishermen’s market where they cleaned the fish thereby attracting sea lions, pelicans and frigatebirds. This put a great interaction of animals and humans in front of the lenses of the people passing by.

Right before taking the Zodiac back on board, I had the chance to mingle in a Christmas celebration for the kids of the town organised by the municipal authorities. Long lines of smiling children were waiting for a little toy and some candies. There was music and a lot of colour -a nice fiesta.

I got back on board tired but happy, feeling like this was a lot more than just a week or a destination.

Galapagos is an experience and every day is just so different from the others the way the islands differ one from the other –and this is one of the reasons of its deep beauty.

Day 7 |
Nov 06, 2015

Santa Cruz Island 

By Claudia Holgate, Guest Lecturer
Air Temperature:

Last night we anchored in Academy Bay, close to the island of Santa Cruz, where we were to spend our last day of activities in the Galapagos. Our landing in the morning was a dry one, onto a dock, where we were picked up by buses for a 45 minute ride to El Manzanillo Ecological Reserve. This is where we were hoping to see the Galápagos giant tortoises, which are free to roam and are not in captivity.

On our journey to the reserve we had a stop to see the “Los Gemelos” or the twins, which are two volcanic depressions formed when surface material collapsed into surface chambers. The vegetation in the craters and on the walls of the craters was extremely dense and green, very different to the habitats we have seen so far. After seeing these interesting geological features, we continued our journey to the tortoise reserve. This island had lush vegetation in comparison to the bleak landscapes we have visited, which is why I love this reserve so much.

On arrival we headed out to find tortoises and we did not have to go far to see the tortoises feeding on the lush grass that surrounds them. It was not just tortoises that were of interest to a birder like me. I saw White-cheeked Pintails, Common Moorhens, Whimbrels, Galapagos Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler and a couple of Darwin’s finches. The vegetation was lush, cloud forest type vegetation, with lots of “Old Man’s Beard” or hanging lichen on the trees.

We headed back to the ship for lunch and a bit of a break before we could choose to go to El Trapiche, an age-old sugarcane mill, where we could see how they prepared sugarcane spirits and coffee, or to head into town and do some last minute shopping and visit the fish market.

A small number of our guests went to El Trapiche. Here on arrival the owner demonstrated how they squeeze out the sugarcane the traditional way, with a donkey around a pivot, which crushes the cane. Then they showed us how they prepare the sugar, and the different forms of sugar. Next came the preparation of the coffee beans and how they roast them the traditional way.

We then made our way down to the distillery, which was a very primitive system of tanks, where the sugarcane ferments and forms a rather strong liquor, their traditional “Moonshine”. Of course we had a chance to taste it, and it was pretty potent.

After an enjoyable afternoon, where we could test out their produce, we headed back to the ship, where we had a chance to freshen up before our Captain’s Farewell Toast and the showing of the second part of our voyage DVD.

Jorge Prigann, our photographer, did a fabulous job of capturing the essence of the voyage and the wonderful experiences we had.

Day 7 |
Jan 13, 2010

Lemaire Channel, Pleneau Bay, Vernadsky Base

By Gennadi Milinevsky – Environment, Atmosphere Physicist

Co-ordinates: 65˚15’S, 64˚15’W

Weather: overcast and mild

The day starts as fog comes from mountains outside of ship anchorage. The plan to make landing on Petermann Island has been changed due to great whale feeding activity south to Booth Island in Pleneau Bay. Our Expedition Leader decided to organize Zodiac tours for whale watching. All then recognized that he was totally right because the whales were feeding in many places and our guests were so excited watching and photographing humpback whales that appeared on the surface, making huge gulps eating krill. Some of the whales appeared about 10-15 meters from the Zodiac and all onboard were delighted with looking at these huge animals so close.

I have taken several nice pictures of humpbacks that show his fluke diving deep to the water. Our Zodiac driver Daniil made it possible for us to have incredible pictures and also provided some lessons. At the end of the Zodiac tour we were rewarded with the sighting of a new species of seals - moulting elephant seals seated at the beach of Hovgaard Island. Elephant seals were the fourth species of seals that have been seen in this trip.

Sailing between icebergs that grounded in the bay was also interesting entertainment for us due to unexpected forms of ice – arches, caves, "mushrooms". Another excellent surprise was to have a glass of Champagne from the "supply" Zodiac in the water to celebrate our successful whale watching.

Soon after lunch, the visit to Vernadsky research station was started. For me, returning to the station was very exciting. I had been the first base commander fourteen years ago and spent one and a half years on the base wintering the first winter after transferring the station from the UK to the Ukraine. Our guests were guided around station by one of the wintering researchers who explained what science is provided at Vernadsky. At the second floor in the dining room we had a chance to send "Antarctic" mail, buy some souvenirs and enjoy a small drink in Faraday bar.

The day continued as we sailed back through the Lemaire Channel and attended a briefing on the next day’s activities. Suddenly, the briefing was interrupted because all were invited on the deck to see a whale breaching. Breaching means the whale is jumping out of the water, showing half its body or sometimes all. This behaviour has been explained by our biologist Fritz, who tells three ideas why it occurs. First - just for fun like a child might do, second - to remove parasites from skin, and third - to attract females by showing how powerful the male is. With that story, we were heading in towards Port Lockroy looking forward to seeing this interesting historical place.