Trip report: Galapagos Endemics Cruise (Nov 2012)

Guided by Andres Vasquez. This was a set departure tour.

This was another great trip to the land of tame birds, the fabled Galapagos Islands. Songbirds and other wildlife here are examples of how other birds in the world should behave in front of birders, responding actively, and quickly, to pishing, and staying exposed for prolonged periods so all the members of the group can not only see them well, but also photograph them at their leisure. Seabirds on the Galapagos are both colorful and abundant, flying all over the place at close range, and were observed nesting closeby, either ON, or just off, the trails we walked along, posing for pictures time and time, again.

We had a different itinerary this year due to national park regulations, which forced us to change the places we planned to visit, just a few weeks before the start of the trip. Anticipating that these issues with the National Park offices were likely to occur due to recent administrative changes, we happily had a plan B that would still give us a great trip. At the end we found all the endemics in range, and plenty of other special birds besides including comical boobies and displaying albatrosses, plus several migrants besides. We found all of Darwin´s famous Finches except for the critically-endangered Mangrove Finch, (which most tours are not granted permission to visit due to strict protection measures in place for this bird the numbers under 100 individuals), and all the rest of endemics except for the cormorant as we, sadly, were not permitted to visit Isabela/Fernandina as originally planned.

This trip ended up being the most enjoyable of the trips I have personally led in the Galapagos, especially in terms of the beauty and diversity of locations visited. We enjoyed paradisiacal sites like the Sleeping Lion islet and the Pinnacle Rock on Baltra Island while watching playful Galapagos Penguins. The people who braved the chilly waters, snorkeled among hundreds of colorful fish, playful sea lions, bizarre Marine Iguanas, and patient Pacific Sea Turtles; as well as the harmless, but still intimidating, White-tipped Reef Sharks, and several species of interesting rays.

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