Friday, May 12, 2017

Celebrity Xperience In The Galapagos- Part IV (Sea Lions & Boobies & Penguins, Oh My!)

As we traveled north, then west and then south through the Galapagos, we arrived at Tagus Cove on the west coast of Isabella Island; the largest of the islands.  

Celebrity Xpedition - Targus Cove, Galapagos
With our morning options being a long fast-paced walk without much to see and a short zodiac ride or an extended zodiac ride with optional snorkeling, I had to make a decision, and mine was based upon how I would probably see more wildlife.

Blue Footed Booby
The long zodiac ride with snorkeling was definitely the best option!  Within a few minutes we saw the ubiquitous brown pelican as well as flightless cormorants, blue footed boobies and Noddy Brown terns perched on sheer sandstone and lava cliffs.

Flightless Cormorant

Two Flightless Cormorant Fledglings
Noddy Tern
As we moved to the other side of Tagus Cove we saw marine iguanas, sea lions and our first Galapagos penguins.  Very cool and very fast. (So fast that getting photographs was a challenge!)

Galapagos Penguins
(A bit out of focus.  Oh Well.)
Our short walk to Darwin Lake was fine, but honestly, our naturalist made what should have been a pleasant “That’s interesting” into a 20 minute painful rambling to show off how much he knew.  Celebrity is in the process of retraining the naturalists to present things in a better way and, while they have overall been excellent, I was about ready to jump off the cliff and into Darwin Lake.

Fortunately, that was all but erased because of what, at the time, I thought  was the most amazing snorkel ever.  While I was getting myself orientated, a large sea turtle appeared and as I was watching him I saw a fast movement.  It was a sea lion swimming right by my side. It was incredible.  

Shortly after that, just as I was about done having been watching quite a few sea turtles, a black and white object darted past me:  Penguins!  For about 3 minutes I watched penguins swimming and feeding underwater.  That was an Xperience!

So feeling like, “It can’t get any better”, after lunch and a siesta, with the ship relocating to Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island, it was time for what is called a “deep water snorkel”. It isn’t deep water per se, but rather you snorkel from a zodiac rather than a beach.  

But as we set off our naturalist spotted a flightless cormorant struggling to swallow a very large scorpionfish.  (These are not the smartest of birds!)

Flightless Cormorant struggling to swallow a scorpionfish
Once on site, I headed off to an area between two lava outcrops that I thought might be a good place.  Within three minutes I am watching marine iguanas scraping algae off of the rocks.

Marine Iguana scraping algae off of the rocks underwater
(Video to follow)
It was then but moments later and sea turtle after sea turtle appeared with one literally running into my mask!

One of many sea turtles seen during my snorkel
Then, less than seven minutes into my snorkel a sea lion appeared and began playing with me; even blowing bubbles into my face!  Unbelievable! 

Sea lion playing with me
(Video to follow)
And then she shot off as quick as she arrived.

It was then back to the “mundane” observing all sorts of fish and more marine iguanas grazing underwater.  Oh well.

But fear not!   A few minutes later I heard some people laughing and screaming.  I am guessing it was the same sea lion playing with them.  I figured it was there time to play, so I continued on – trespassing on their underwater playground for a moment – to continue my Xploration.  I did come across a large grey and white stingray and a huge school of very large orange and blue parrot fish.

As I turned back, heading to the zodiac, who do you think decided to play with me? Yup.  And I figured out that if I dove down and twisted around she would play more.  It was a pretty awesome five minutes or so.  And, yes, she kept blowing bubbles into my mask!

Sea lion coming right at me and then dove below me.


After heading back to the ship and changing it was time for a long leisurely walk.  (There was a shorter walk for those who wanted it.) Of course, I am now learning that in the Galapagos the Xtraordinary is the ordinary!  

After we landed in the zodiac it was a short walk to some pretty spectacular lava fields.  The intensity of colors (even the different blacks) and the magnitude of the views really cannot be captured in a photograph.


Lava field with lava cactus
A shield volcano in the background


Following the trail we eventually came to a point when you literally needed to be careful not to fall over marine iguanas sunning themselves and getting ready to settle in for the night.  With so many around you could hear a cacophony of snorts as they expelled excess salt.

Marine Iguana

Wall to Wall Iguanas!
Then we headed over a sandy beach where we came across yet more sea lions.  But then the real treat:  A one to two week old sea lion pup with its mother and a big bull sea lion standing guard.  

Sea Lion Mother & Pup

Bull Sea Lion keeping guard
Another aw-inspiring Xperience.


Because the tide changed getting to the zodiacs was a bit difficult, traversing slippery rocks, but the Celebrity expedition team did a good job providing assistance where it was needed and everyone made it back safe.  (Of course, keeping us entertained as we waited our turn were a group of young sea lions jumping over each other in a small tidal pool.)

That evening Celebrity Xperience put on a delicious barbecue with steaks grilled to order over a seriously large natural charcoal grill. (Of course there was chicken and fish as well, as there is available every lunch and dinner.)  So we dined al fresco on the aft deck.

Did I mention we had the added bonus of a full moon?