Sunday, November 13, 2022


We planned to go to the Galapagos Islands with my partners similarly to prior trips to Peru in 2009, East Africa in 2014 and Greenland, Iceland and Denmark in 2019. It was suggested by Laura, the wife of one of my partners, as a fitting trip before two of my partners, John and Mark, retired at the end of 2021. We chartered a yacht for 16 people for March 2021 which was going to include my partners and their wives (10 people) and 6 others we'd invited to go along with us. Then Covid hit and blew that trip out of the water. We got an extension of our trip to March 2022, for a 5% increase in price, then watched it all fall apart, one by one, as other interests, health issues and concerns about Covid saw all of my partners and their wives back out. We recruited people to replace the 6 people from the original voyage who backed out and even they started to back out. We ultimately changed our trip from a chartered voyage on the yacht, which we were fully responsible for, to taking places on the yacht. We eventually filled 8 places, four of them friends of ours, and two were friends of friends. The yacht filled up the other 8 spaces independent of us. It was a long and stressful process, with many hours spent over several years (the planning started in 2019), so I was thrilled to finally see it happen. We planned some time in Quito, before the Galapagos Islands, and in Cuenca after the Galapagos Islands, to round out the trip. Two friends, Terry and Geneil, joined us for our entire itinerary. 

On Wednesday, March 22, 2022, we left for LAX about 8:00 p.m. that evening for our flight on Copa, a Panamanian airline, which left at 1:03 a.m. early Thursday morning. After a 6.5 hour flight we landed in Panama City, Panama, at Tocumen Int'l Airport (PTY) at 9:30 a.m. where we'd arranged a tour with Vincent Scott, through Tours By Locals, for our 8.5 hour layover. We had an hour drive to the Gamboa Boat Dock on Gatun Lake, which is part of the Panama Canal, then took a boat out to Monkey Island. We saw a few huge cargo ships going through the canal and a few howler monkeys, a crocodile and snail kites. Afterwards we drove to the Miraflores Locks where we saw a boat go through the locks and I had great views of circling magnificent frigatebirds. Then we drove into Old Town Panama City (Casco Antiguo), late on our itinerary, and did not have time to eat or spend more than a perfunctory few minutes. We got back to the airport, without having eaten all day, and had some pretty horrible airport food for dinner.   
     Panama: A Day Trip (Judy) 
     Snail Kite  (Bob)
     American Crocodile  (Bob)
     Slaty-Tailed Trogon  (Bob) 
     Magnificent Frigatebird  (Bob)

We left Panama City at 6:52 p.m. on Copa and arrived in Quito, Ecuador (Mariscal Sucre Int'l Airport (UIO)) at 8:53 p.m. after a two hour flight. We were picked up by a driver at the airport (30 minutes late) who drove us very slowly to Mindo (2.5 hours to cover 70 miles) where we spent the night (and the next night) at Las Terrazas De Dana Boutique Lodge. We didn't get in until after midnight and did not get to sleep until about 1:00 a.m. 

Friday morning, March 18, Terry and I were picked up by Julia, our birding guide, and a driver, for a two hour drive to Mashpi Amagusa Preserve. There we feasted our eyes on a smorgasboard of exotic birds that were delicious. 
     Mashpi Amagusa Preserve  (Bob)
     Blue-Gray Tanager  (Bob)
     Bronze-Winged Parrot  (Bob)
     Rose-Faced Parrot  (Bob)
     White-Whiskered Hermit  (Bob)
     Velvet-Purple Coronet  (Bob)
     Green-Fronted Lancebill  (Bob)
     Golden Tanager  (Bob)
     Flame-Rumped Tanager  (Bob)
     Flame-Faced Tanager  (Bob)
     Glistening-Green Tanager  (Bob)
     Empress Brilliant  (Bob)
     Broad-Billed Motmot  (Bob)
     Barred Becard  (Bob)
     Crimson-Rumped Toucanet  (Bob)
     Golden-Naped Tanager  (Bob)
     Green Thorntail  (Bob)
     Green-Crowned Brilliant  (Bob)
     Lyre-Tailed Nightjar  (Bob)
     Moss-Backed Tanager  (Bob) 
     Orange-Bellied Euphonia  (Bob)
     Orange-Billed Sparrow  (Bob)
     Ornate Flycatcher  (Bob)
     Purple-Bibbed Whitetip  (Bob)
     Purple-Throated Woodstar  (Bob)
     Rufous-Throated Tanager  (Bob)
     Toucan Barbet  (Bob)
     Violet-Tailed Sylph  (Bob)
     Smoke-Colored Peewee  (Bob)
     Long-Tailed Sylph  (Bob)
     Brown Inca  (Bob)

That afternoon we visited Milpe Bird Sanctuary, near Mindo. We didn't see as many birds, but we did see some spectacular ones, including my first toucans. 
     Milpe Bird Sanctuary  (Bob) 
     Choco Toucan  (Bob)
     Crested Guan  (Bob)
     Crowned Woodnymph  (Bob) 
     Bananaquit  (Bob)
     Green Honeycreeper  (Bob)
     Pale-Mandibled Aracari  (Bob)
     Palm Tanager  (Bob)
     Red-Tailed Squirrel  (Bob)
     Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird  (Bob) 
     White-Necked Jacobin  (Bob)

Meanwhile, Judy and Geneil stayed in Mindo and visited a butterfly sanctuary and a chocolate factory. 

Saturday, March 19, I'd made reservations to go to Refugio Paz de las Aves. They were supposed to pick us up at our hotel and didn't show. They did not respond to phone calls or emails. So I did some birding on the grounds of our hotel, then made arrangements for a birding guide to pick us up later. He took us into the hills behind the hotel and it was not productive. We had him rent a van and take us to Milpe Bird Sanctuary again, then Judy and Geneil took us into Mindo where we visited the butterfly sanctuary and walked around town. Early evening, at 6:30 p.m., we were picked up by a driver and driven to the Wyndham Quito Airport where we spent the night. 
     White-Lined Tanager  (Bob) 
     Thick-Billed Euphonia  (Bob)
     Scrub Blackbird  (Bob) 

Sunday, March 20, we had an 8 hour tour of Quito for 8 people, our original group of 4 and then another two couples. We visited the Itanim Middle of the World Museum, the Mercado Central Market, the Basilica of the National Vow, Independence Square, the Church of the Society of Jesus, and the Basilica and Convent of San Francisco. 
     Ecuador: Quito-In-A-Day  (Judy) 

Monday, March 21, we went to the airport in Quito about 7:15 a.m. to prepare for our flight to the Galapagos Islands. We left Quito about 9:15 on LATAM and landed in Guayaquil about 10:10 a.m. to pick up additional passengers. We left about 10:55 a.m. and arrived at Baltra Airport, in the Galapagos Islands, about noon (it was a two hour flight but we changed a time zone). We were picked up by bus and driven to a ferry and then crossed the Itabaca Channel to Santa Cruz Island. There we took another bus to about the center of the island where we stopped at Rancho Primicias, a tortoise ranch, where we ate lunch and walked among semi-wild Galapagos tortoises. I was excited to see some Darwin finches, a Galapagos mockingbird and white-cheeked pintail ducks. We got on the bus again and drove to Porta Ayora, on the south side of Santa Cruz, where we walked around for about an hour and then got on our yacht, the Alya. We we had dinner, then started our journey, rocking and rolling through the night, to Isabela Island. 
     Small Tree Finch  (Bob)
     Small Ground Finch  (Bob)
     Medium Ground Finch  (Bob)
     Galapagos Mockingbird  (Bob)
     Galapagos Pintail  (Bob)

Tuesday, March 22, our morning activity was a visit to Moreno Point on Isabela Island. We drove around in our pangas (a small rubber boat) and saw nesting pelicans, striated herons, green sea turtles, penguins, blue-footed boobies and marine iguanas. Our afternoon activity was another panga ride into Elizabeth Bay, on Isabela Island. Lots of views of green sea turtles, another striated heron, more penguins and flightless cormorant. 
     Flightless Cormorant  (Bob)
     Galapagos Penguin  (Bob)
     Galapagos Brown Pelican  (Bob)
     Galapagos Green Turtle  (Bob)

Wednesday, March 23, was the best day in the Galapagos Islands. Our morning activity was at Urbina Bay on Isabela Island. We did a short hike and saw lots of giant tortoises and our only land iguanas. Later we snorkeled in the bay and saw a number of green sea turtles. Our afternoon activity was at Espinoza Point on Fernandina Island. It is the only allowed landing point on the island and the most wild of the islands. First we did snorkeling during a downpour. I was sitting in a panga watching and saw a swimming marine iguana. Later, it stopped raining and we did a hike. We saw a stunning display of hundreds of sea iguanas, along with very loud and present sea lions and lots of crabs. 
     Isabela Island - Urbina Bay  (Judy) 
     Urbina Bay - Isabela Island  (Bob) 
     Galapagos Land Iguana  (Bob)
     Galapagos Sea Lion  (Bob)
     Fernandina Marine Iguana  (Bob)
     Galapagos Lava Lizard  (Bob)
     Galapagos Dove  (Bob)
     Sally Lightfoot Crabs  (Bob)

Thursday, March 24, we spent the night just across the straight from Fernandina at Tagus Cove on Isabela Island. We took a morning hike up to a point above a crater salt-lake and saw a beautiful Galapagos hawk, an indigenous bird. Later that morning we kayaked and snorkeled in Tagus Cove, seeing penguins and green sea turtles. In the afternoon we went up the coast of Isabela to Vicente Roca Point where we snorkeled and took a panga ride along the coast, seeing flightless cormorants, sea lions, brown noddy, marine iguanas, nazca boobies, and swallow-tailed gulls. 
     Swallow-Tailed Gull  (Bob)
     Brown Noddy  (Bob)
     Galapagos Hawk  (Bob)

Friday, March 25 we spent the morning at Espumilla Beach on Santiago Island. I spent time on the panga and got great photos of blue-footed boobies, lava herons, our only Galapagos fur seals, sea lions and swallow-tailed gulls. In the afternoon we went snorkeling off Egas Port on Santiago (our best snorkeling experience) and took a walk in a downpour over heavy lava deposits. 
     Santiago Island, Part 1  (Judy)
     Santiago Island, Part 2  (Judy)
     Starry Grouper  (Bob)
     Whitetip Reef Shark  (Bob)
     Blue-Barred Parrotfish  (Bob)
     Razor Surgeonfish  (Bob)
     King Angelfish  (Bob)
     Mexican Hogfish  (Bob)
     Black-Striped Salema  (Bob)
     Blacktip Cardinalfish  (Bob)
     Panamic Fanged Blenny  (Bob)
     Santiago Marine Iguana  (Bob)
Saturday, March 26, we spent an hour or so on Bachas Beach on Santa Cruz island, near Baltras island where the airport is. We took a brief but fabulous walk along the most beautiful white and refined beach we visited in the Galapagos. The best part of the walk was a solitary American flamingo in a pool just 100 yards or so off the beach (the first thing I blogged about after getting back home). Other highlights were a lava gull flying over (the third thing I blogged about after getting home), the most rare gull in the world; a Galapagos great blue heron, an uncommon endemic subspecies; some white-cheaked pintails; and some common shore birds we'd not seen previously. We anchored offshore of Baltra, waiting to go ashore for our flight, then took a flight to Guayaquil where we were picked up by our guide, Javier, for a long drive to Cuenca. We stayed in the beautiful Mansion Alcazar Boutique Hotel. 
     Bachas Beach  (Bob)
     American Flamingo  (Bob)
     Lava Gull  (Bob)
     Elliot's Storm Petrel  (Bob)
     Galapagos Shearwater  (Bob)
     Wandering Tattler  (Bob)

Sunday, March 27, we walked through downtown Cuenca and visited the San Francisco market, the old cathedral and the new cathedral, then drove to Cajas National Park where we did a short walk and drove up over 13,000 feet. We came back to Cuenca for an early dinner at Negroni, which was the best meal of our trip, on the top floor of a tall building right next to the cathedral. 
     Cuenca: Old Town  (Judy)
     Blue-Mantled Thornbill  (Bob)

Monday, March 27, Javier drove us back toward Cuenca for a visit to the Churute Mangroves Ecological Reserve. First we stopped at a farm on a small stream for lunch and a chocolate making experience, then to Churute Mangroves where we took a motorized wooden canoe down a river lined by mangroves. At the end of the day we stopped at the Sheraton Guayaquil Hotel for a few hours sleep before our 3:30 a.m. flight out of Guayaquil. After a 2 hour plus layover in Panama City, our Copa flight got us to LAX about 1:15 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. 
     Andean Foothills  (Judy)
     Boat-Billed Flycatcher  (Bob)
     Roadside Hawk  (Bob)
     Pacific Hornero  (Bob)
     Cocoi Heron  (Bob)
     Pacific Parrotlet  (Bob)

1 comment:

  1. What. A. Trip. Birds for you, chocolate for me, beautiful scenery for all of us. I'm glad we finally made it.