Galapagos Day 5: Santiago Island


It was a packed full day today (or not, if you decided not to do some of the activities). We started the day off early with a sunrise hike on Santiago (or James) Island, which is special because it’s Lindblad’s adopted island! We didn’t see much in the form of wildlife, but we did see a few birds including two Galapagos hawks, and this little guy who was very kind to stay still while I stuck a camera in his face.

Then it was back to the ship for breakfast and a change of attire. After we ate (and digested a bit), we hit the warm water around James Island. Most of our snorkeling excursions have been what Lindblad calls “deep water snorkeling”, meaning that we snorkel right from the Zodiac without stepping foot on land. Today was our deepest deep water snorkeling experience yet and it was awesome! We swam along the perimeter of the rocky shoreline, mostly following the steep coral walls that make up the edges of the island. At times we couldn’t even see the ocean floor because the wall dropped down so steeply. Among a plethora of tropical marine life, we saw some parrot fish, surgeon fish with razor sharp barbs on their sides, starfish stuck to the rocky wall, several sea lions, white-tipped reef sharks, slow, graceful, speckled manta rays, and my favorite a view of a fishing pelican underwater. If you’ve ever laughed with a snorkel and mask on, you know it’s rather difficult, but I couldn’t help myself when watching this pelican stick his beak under water to catch passing fish and seeing his throat pouch blow up like a balloon. It was amazing and ridiculous at the same time. I wish I had had an underwater camera. After about an hour I was starting to feel a little queasy from being in the rough, surging water for so long, so we got back in a Zodiac and promptly had a nice view of some mating sea turtles in the water. It looked awkward and uncomfortable.

Back on the boat, we had some time before lunch to relax and then after lunch we could either go snorkeling again (as C did), or stay on board to do as we so pleased (me). We all went ashore around 4pm to do another walk – at a different location – on James Island. I almost didn’t go, but I’m sure glad that I did! The first half of the walk was on a dirt path through some low green vegetation and a volcano off to our left. We saw several birds, a few lizards, and lots of spiders. Then we emerged onto the ‘beach‘, which was actually a fusion of coarse white sand and solid black, ropey lava. We walked over the lava portions and stood gazing in awe at the giant ocean-carved grottos filled with swirling sea water. The water inside was crystal clear and laying on the warm lava rocks surrounding the grottos were sea lions, fur seals, and limp marine iguanas. We even saw a sea turtle slowing paddling its way through a grotto and underneath a natural bridge leading out to the ocean.

I could have stayed there all day, but we had to move on. Making a loop, we headed back to our landing beach via the shoreline and had more opportunities to photograph iguanas, sea lions, and birds. We even saw two mom and pups pairs, the pups frantically nursing milk from their moms. One lone pup came right up to a woman in our group and started sniffing her to see if it was his mother. He was disappointed, I think, because he made a plaintive bleating noise and dove into the ocean. The sun was setting and I got some great shots with the beautiful light.

For dinner, the galley and hotel staff set up a BBQ dinner on the aft sun deck. Of course it was mostly meat, but they’ve been treating me very well here. I almost always get my own plate of food delivered to me for lunch and dinner (vegan-style). And tonight was no exception. I don’t know how they managed to get seitan and tofu dogs out here, but they did!

Tomorrow we enter back into civilization. We’re headed to Santa Cruz Island to visit the Charles Darwin Research Center and see some more giant tortoises!

Biking Through Ecuador, Day 9: Baeza to Quito


Galapagos, Here We Come!

Well, we’re sitting at the Quito airport, waiting for our flight to Guayaquil, and I thought it would be a good time to catch up on our final day of biking through Ecuador. Actually, we didn’t do any biking, but it was still our final day of our Biking Through Ecuador adventure with Arie.

After a terrible night sleep in Baeza due to a hostel made entirely out of wood with paper thin walls and a group of male college-age students drinking rum and cokes, we woke up groggy and not in the mood for biking. Luckily, we were heading to Papallacta, a hot spring resort about an hour northwest of Baeza. We were back in the cloud forest, so it was pretty chilly, but once we changed into our bathing suits and stepped into the warm thermal springs, I was in heaven. The steam rising from the pools mixed with the misty air gave the place a mystical feel. There were about 10 different crystal clear pools as with different temperature waters coming straight from underground thermal springs. We arrived early, thankfully, so it wasn’t too crowded, but people started to trickle in and the pools filled with locals and travelers alike.  We soaked for about an hour before I started feeling dizzy and rubbery, so I emerged from pools and snapped some photos of the resort.

Then it was back in the car for a drive through the green mountains toward Quito. We passed numerous waterfalls and more scenic vistas along the way. When we reached the top of the pass, Arie inquired if we wanted one last descent by bike into the suburbs of Quito. Despite the sun and blue skies, C and I were way too relaxed and warm to change into our biking clothes and get back on the bikes. Part of me wishes that we did – it was our last chance to ride! – but at the moment I was pretty content to just sit in the car and enjoy the beauty out the window. So that’s what we did. We stopped at Arie’s wife’s bar just outside of Quito for some nachos and then Arie drove us into the city and back to La Casa Sol where we said our goodbyes.

All in all, it was an amazing trip. There were a few things I wasn’t too impressed with – like the lunches of white bread and little else – but C and I had a great time biking and hiking around Ecuador’s mountains, lakes, rivers, and volcanoes. Would we do it again? Absolutely. We’ve even been questioning each other about where we want to do our next multi-day bike holiday. South East Asia is top of both of our lists 🙂 I did a bike ride in and around Bangkok with Grasshopper Adventures, and it was awesome. Now I have my eye on their Indian cycling tour.

Even though our Biking Through Ecuador has come to an end, it’s not the end our our Ecuador travels. We’re heading down to Guayaquil today and then embarking on the National Geographic Endeavor tomorrow for an 8 day trip around the Galapagos (sign up for the daily expedition reports here).

Then our plan is to base ourselves in Cuenca for a few days and do day trips to surrounding areas of interest before C needs to return to the ship in Baja. I’ll spend a week and a half at Madre Tierra relaxing and rejuvenating in the Valley of Longevity before I have to go back to work in Baja. So stay tuned for more adventures!

The Next Lindblad Model?


Finally! Off the boat at last! It’s been a long two months down here in Costa Rica and Panama on the Sea Lion, but we made it through and now we’re in San Jose relaxing at the endearing Hotel Aranjuez (thanks, mom, for the recommendation). We left the Sea Lion just after lunch yesterday amid the turmoil of a new rotation coming in and an old one on its way out. It was good to see people I haven’t seen for awhile, but I was also ready to start my vacation!

This past week was actually a rather memorable one for me, though, in terms of Lindblad trips. I had a very light work week massage-wise (which I wasn’t sorry about), so I went on a few more outings than I normally do (I can go on any hike or Zodiac cruise I want to when I’m not giving massages, but I typically stay on the ship and work out or catch up on emails). It was a photography-orientated trip, so we had two guest photographers – Ralph Lee Hopkins, a National Geographic photographer, and Richard Maack, a professional freelance photographer from Arizona. The guests ranged from point-and-shooters to semi-professionals with two or more SLR’s strapped around their necks.


Towards the beginning of the week we stopped at a new beach in Coiba National Park that I’d never been to. The landing was difficult – our Zodiac drivers had to bring the Zodiacs in stern first on a rolling wave – so catching the Zodiacs when they came in was exciting and drenching wet. The beach was also home to massive hermit crabs and tide-pools that harbored strange-looking nudibranchs, sea stars, little fish, and snails.

For my last week I also got to lead the horse-back ride at Caletas, just outside of Corcovado National Park. There were about six riders plus myself and we had a nice morning riding along the rainforest trail and out onto the white-sandy beaches as the waves crashed into the rocks.

Later that day I was recruited by our National Geographic photographer – Ralph Lee Hopkins – to do a brochure photo shoot at the base of a waterfall at San Pedrillo. I’d never done a photo shoot before, so I was excited! He had me wear a bright blue top, black carpris and a safari-style hat with a chinstrap. Before taking the brochure photos (for Lindblad’s expedition catalogue, although the photos we took will probably never make the cut), he shot me doing some yoga poses with the waterfall at the background. It was so much fun! Maybe my next career will be a yoga model???


So now here we are, enjoying the expansive breakfast at Hotel Aranjuez, with no plans for the day expect to relax, maybe walk around if we feel motivated, enjoy a nice dinner and perhaps a movie. Tomorrow we board a plane that will take us to Ecuador and our mountain biking/hiking escapade and Galapagos adventure!

Galapagos Here We Come!


Good news came in my mailbox today! C and I got a cabin on the National Geographic Endeavor in the Galapagos starting on the 9th of March and ending on the 17th. Wahoo! We’re so excited. I kind of knew that we were going to get a trip, but confirming it made it actually feel real. So… after we’re finished on the boat in Costa Rica (a week and a half to go) we’ll spend a few nights in San Jose and then fly to Quito. The Galapagos trip isn’t the only exciting news though… While looking online for things to do in Ecuador, I stumbled across the site of Arie’s Bike Company. It looks awesome, so we also signed up for a 9 day mountain bike and hiking adventure. Check it out here. We added a day to do some biking and bird-watching in the Mindo area as well as biking into an active volcano. After that trip we head down to Guayaquil to meet the rest of the Lindblad guests headed to the Endeavor and the next day we fly to the Galapagos for 8 days of fun. Can’t wait! C has to fly to Baja to get on the Sea Bird two weeks before I do, so I’m trying to figure out what my plans will be after he leaves… I’m thinking some nice hostel with good hiking, horseback riding, or more mountain biking. Any ideas?

I’ll definitely be blogging about our adventures in Ecuador, so keep checking back!