A Day on Barbados – January 2019

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Barbados was our 4th port stop on our Caribbean Cruise. All we really wanted to experience on Barbados was to snorkel near shipwrecks. We decided that booking an excursion with our cruise line would be the easiest way to achieve this activity.

We believe that possibly our lack of experience with cruising almost led us to miss our excursion bus on Barbados. On St. Lucia, our excursion starting point was a three-minute walk off of the ship. However, on Barbados, it took us 20 minutes from the time we got off the ship to get to our connecting bus, which alone was not easy to find. It was a pretty long walk that we did not necessarily allocate time for. We did catch the bus, which took us to Pirate’s Cove on Carlisle Bay in Bridgetown. We got to spend some time lounging on the beautiful beach (see picture above and at the bottom of this post).

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After a good amount of time on the beach, many individuals in our excursion group were getting antsy to get on the snorkel boat, which turned out to be delayed by more than a half hour. On top of this delay, we had to walk a half mile into town (see picture above) to catch the boat that was suppose to have docked right by the beach we were on. This was not happy news for a few individuals who had mobility concerns (they were on this excursion for the glass bottom boat option). Both were poor planning issues by the tour company. While we did not personally mind the walk, it was another delay that took away time from our snorkeling adventure, that we had been most looking forward to. The boat was equipped with the necessary snorkel gear, drinks and a slide to get into the water. After a few minutes, we got to the first destination – the shipwrecks.

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The view of the shipwrecks was crazy stunning! Our boat was literally parked on top of them, so we didn’t have to snorkel far at all. The pictures above are a bit grainy, because I pulled it from an underwater video that we took. However, while we enjoyed snorkeling around the shipwrecks, it was nearly impossible to view this amazing sight and simultaneously avoid swimming into another snorkeler. It turns out that there were many many excursions to this sight at that time (see picture below). Even with the craziness of all the people, I would have still liked a bit more time to explore the shipwrecks, but when you have all those boats in one place, you become a bit nervous that yours will take off without you, so we remained close by.

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Our next stop, was to see sea turtles or in our case sea turtle. I don’t believe I ever snorkeled with a sea turtle before and this one was much larger than I expected.20190102_125939 However, there was one of them and like twenty of us snorkelers following/chasing it. It was an odd experience, and we don’t feel like it was a positive one. Again, our snorkel time was too short, and we were back on the boat, heading toward the beach. If we were feeling a bit disappointed by this excursion at this time, that disappointment increase a lot by how we disembarked from the boat. The boat landed on the beach, which was fine. However, the waves were rocking the boat so much that it became very dangerous to disembark and people exiting the boat were falling. Some fell pretty badly. I feel like we definitely earned ourselves a cold beverage on the beach after that. (See picture on the right.)

Note: While the cruise line did reimburse us some of our excursion money for this not so positive experience, we will definitely think twice before booking another excursion through a cruise line.

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20 Years of Travel #14 – Galapagos

321037_10150282405697986_8079591_nThe 20 Years of Travel series continues with a very memorable family trip we took in 2011 to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. This adventure cruise was established with a partnership between Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic. This would not be your typical vacation with lots of relaxation. We were there to explore islands filled with unique creatures that are endemic to the Galapagos. Our days were filled with nature walks, snorkeling and lessons on Darwin, geology and photography. It was one of the most exhausting and rewarding trips we have ever experienced.

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We flew to Guayaquil, Ecuador (pictured above) and then flew to San Cristobal (pictured below), where we would pick up our boat that would be our home for a little more than a week.

The National Geographic Endeavour (pictured on the right) was a smaller boat but had326327_10150281751942986_1913629_o everything we needed. Anyway, we wouldn’t spend a lot of time on the boat, except to eat and sleep.  Through an intercom radio in everyone’s room, the program director, Carlos, would make a morning announcement/wake-up call. These announcements would come normally between 5-7am in the morning.

Espanola Island

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We took many nature walking tours on Espanola. Our first stop was a beach full of lounging sea lions. Then we walked through piles of marine iguanas – never want to be that close to iguanas again if I can help it – to find one of the largest flying birds in the world…the albatross. We got to witness the albatross mating ritual, which was really fascinating. Our final stop lead us to some blue-footed boobies. These are marine birds that are known for their blue feet, hence the name. We got to see some babies that just look like little cotton balls – so adorable.

Champion Island

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We took smaller rafts around Champion Island to get a better visual of some of the water animals. The highlight was seeing penguins. After the rafting tour, we went snorkeling with all the amazing fish, penguins, and sea lions that like to play with you in the water.

Floreana Island

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On Floreana, we stopped to visit Old Post Office Bay. This post office box (which looks more like a barrel) has been there for hundreds of years. This postal system does not require stamps, you just leave cards for your family and friends and pick up other individuals’ cards who have addresses near you that you can hand deliver. This post office continues to operate just like this. We delivered cards and my family received their card as well.

Santa Cruz Island

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Santa Cruz is one of the four islands of the Galapagos that are inhabited by people. There is a lot to see and experience on this island. Here are some highlights from our time on Santa Cruz:

  • The Charles Darwin Research Station. At this station they look to provide safety and protection to grow endangered species. This was where Lonesome George lived, who was the last survivor of the dynasty of land tortoises from Pinta Island. While we did get to see him, he did unfortunately die one year later. It is estimated that he lived for almost 100 years.
  • The fish market. This market was bustling with activity and we were thoroughly entertained by pelicans and sea lions begging for fish scraps. Yet, the fisherman had no problem doing their work.
  • Sugar cane production. We visited a family’s farm that produced sugar cane in an old fashion style. They let us try some of their 65% alcoholic drink (130-proof) that they can produced from the sugar cane. They also produce their own coffee beans and chocolate there which were fantastic.
  • Giant tortoises. With our giant rubber boots, we wandered around in a field full of giant tortoises, who were bigger than us and didn’t mind us hanging out with them.
  • Twin Craters. We continued to enjoy the natural lushness and greenery of Santa Cruz by taking a hike to two huge craters, that were caused by the sinking of empty magma chambers.
  • Cerro Dragon. On the opposite side of Santa Cruz is a place called Cerro Dragon, where you can see an abundance of boobies, frigate birds and land iguanas.

Bartolome Island

We had more opportunities for snorkeling off of Bartolome Island. On one of these snorkeling excursions, white-tipped reef sharks were spotted. We also got to enjoy a presentation by two authors, Jonathan Weiner and Deborah Heiligman, who wrote about Charles Darwin and his research (specifically regarding his interest in the finches). As a book lover, this was a huge highlight for me. I own books by both authors (see picture above).

Genovesa Island

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The highlight of this island was the red-footed boobies and the nazca boobies.

This was such an amazing trip for so many reasons, but mostly because we found ourselves doing things we had never done. I, personally, was never an animal person, but on these islands we were walking side by side with iguanas, tortoises and hundreds of other creatures. We had only been snorkeling once before but went multiple times in the Galapagos. There is nothing like snorkeling with sea lions that are blowing bubbles in your face. We learned so much about the evolution of nature on these islands thanks to our fantastic guides and experts. These guides also gave us photography lessons that helped us capture all of these amazing moments. This was such a memorable experience!

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HAPPY TRAVELS!!!