|Ezra, the iguanas and me in the Galapagos.|
|Great Frigate Bird on Genovesa. Photo by Ezra Hornik.|
|Sea Lion in the Galapagos. Photo by Ezra Hornik.|
Pelican in the Galapagos. Photo by Ezra Hornik.
We still had to make a couple of other decisions: our ship was scheduled to sail from San Cristobal, Ecuador on Sunday, June 10 but there are no flights from NY to San Cristobal; we would have to book an international flight to Quito, Ecuador or Guayaquil, Ecuador and then take a shuttle flight from there to San Cristobal. Moreover, not only are there few flights from NY to Quito or Guayaquil but the connecting flights from Quito or Guayaquil to San Cristobal are notoriously unreliable and we didn’t want to risk missing our connections. So we had to decide when to fly out of NY, whether to stay in Quito or Guayaquil, and where to stay in Quito or Guayaquil once we got there before embarking on our cruise.
|Sea Turtle underwater in the Galapagos. Photo by Ezra Hornik.|
We chose to give ourselves plenty of time and to stay in Guayaquil: we booked a flight on American Airlines from NY to Miami on Thursday, June 7 with a connecting flight from Miami to Guayaquil that day. And we booked a room at the Hampton Inn Downtown in Guayaquil. Our plan was to spend Friday and Saturday in Guayaquil and then fly from there to San Cristobal on AeroGal on Sunday. We chose to stay in Guayaquil rather than Quito because it is closer to San Cristobal; indeed, the AeroGal flight to San Cristobal takes off from Quito and stops in Guayaquil before going on to San Cristobal so it does save time (and a few dollars) to fly from Guayaquil rather than Quito.
|Crabs in the Galapagos. Photo by Ezra Hornik.|
That being said, however, Guayaquil really isn’t that entertaining a town and it might have been a little more fun to have spent the time in Quito instead, but I’ll really never know. There are a couple of small museums in Guayaquil, a large number of historic monuments, a long stretch of land to stroll along the waterfront boasting a rather non-descript mall and an equally non-descript market, a scattering of fast food and other forgettable restaurants, and an unusual park, Parque Bolivar, which is home to hundreds of iguanas roaming free. If you do go to Guayaquil, check out the park; we didn’t find anything else there noteworthy.
|Heron in the Galapagos. Photo by Ezra Hornik.|
The Hampton Inn Downtown is listed as a five star hotel and it certainly met our needs. It was clean and inexpensive; it boasted a gym, spa and sauna; our room rate included a very satisfactory buffet breakfast; staff was very accommodating (if somewhat inefficient); the food at the hotel’s restaurant was surprisingly good; and the location is superb – within walking distance of the waterfront and the Parque Bolivar and only about a 15 minutes ride to the airport. But a five star rating is a real stretch. I’d probably give it three although it well may be as good as it gets in Guayaquil and, within that context, I would not hesitate to recommend it to you.
|Iguana in the Galapagos. Photo by Ezra Hornik.|
|Manta Ray underwater in the Galapagos. Photo by Ezra Hornik.|
We boarded the Eric, were introduced to the captain, the crew and the other passengers and were shown to our cabin. The Eric accommodates just 20 passengers in nine cabins and a crew of about 12 (including the captain, two guides, a first and second mate, two cooks, a bartender/waiter, a steward, an engineer and a couple of panga drivers). (A panga is a small raft-like vessel that transports passengers to and from the yacht and the islands). Our cabin was a little small for the three of us but we spent virtually no time in it other than to sleep so it really didn’t present a problem.
We were served a buffet lunch on the Eric and received a
safety drill and then were promptly taken from the yacht by bus to La
Calapaguera Cerro Colorado on San Cristobal Island where the National Park has
established a breeding program for the land tortoises. We saw these amazing creatures, many well
over a century old, in their native habitat and learned about the threats to
their continued existence and what the National Park is doing to save them.
|Unknown fish in the Galapagos. Photo by Ezra Hornik.|
|Giant Land Tortoise. Photo by Ezra Hornik.|
Over the next several days, we visited eight other islands - Genovesa (also known as Tower Island), Santa Cruz, North Seymour, Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, Rabida, and Santa Fe – before returning to San Cristobal. In the course of our travels, we crossed the Equator six times and saw an incredible number of bird species including red footed boobies, blue footed boobies (my favorite), nazca boobies, storm petrels, great frigates, magnificent frigates, swallow tailed gulls, greater flamingos, pelicans, penguins, blue herons, lava herons, flightless cormorants, mockingbirds, and far too many others to mention.
|Blue Footed Boobies. Photo by Ezra Hornik.|
The birds were astonishing but so were the land iguanas, marine iguanas, sea lions, crabs, lizards, sea turtles, giant land tortoises and large number of fish. We were awakened every morning at about 6:45 AM, breakfasted on board the Eric, and then were transported by panga from the yacht to one of the islands (usually with a wet landing) where we were led by our guide on a walk of about a mile or more, sometimes on a beach, sometimes in the rocky remnants of a volcanic eruption. That walk generally was followed by an opportunity to snorkel (an opportunity which Sue and I reluctantly forewent but which Ezra availed himself of every time and which probably represented the high points of the trip for him).
|Another iguana in the Galapagos. Photo by Ezra Hornik.|
Following the walk and snorkel, we were returned to the Eric via panga for a buffet lunch. In the afternoon, we visited another part of the island or another island entirely and were given another opportunity to snorkel. Then it was back to the ship for a briefing on the next day’s activities, dinner and, by this time thoroughly exhausted, to bed.
|Baby Sea Lion playing with Ezra underwater. Photo by Ezra Hornik.|
So here’s the bottom line. The trip was phenomenal. Sue and I participated in most (albeit not all) of the guided hikes. Our guides were terrific, warm, knowledgeable and entertaining. I thought that the meals were good but not great, but I’m a tough food critic: most of the other passengers on board raved about the food. Accomodations were adequate. Public areas were ample and the captain and crew were first rate. We had a great time.
And Ezra had the best time of all. He was first on line for every meal, went on
all the hikes and snorkeled at every opportunity, cavorting with baby sea lions
underwater and photographing fish and turtles with his underwater camera. Ah, to be 15 years old again!
|More Sea Lions in the Galapagos. Photo by Ezra Hornik.|