Friday, 17 April 2015

Galápagos Day 1 - Las Bachas, Isla Santa Cruz

We flew from Quito to Baltra in the Galápagos this morning. The first 15 minutes of the flight provided spectacular views of the Andes just after sunrise.

Andes near Quito, Ecuador
Photographs courtesy of Joanne Smissen (and her window seat)

Our first sighting of the Galápagos was the northern part of Isla San Cristobal, which was mostly covered in cloud but I managed to grab this shot (with compact Olympus camera).

Flying over Isla San Cristobal, Galápagos

Arrival at Baltra was like landing at an international airport. Because access to the islands is so closely monitored and controlled, there are security checks, bag checks, passport control and National Parks fees to be paid before you can even pick up luggage. It didn't take long though and it gave us a few minutes to acclimatise to the temperature and humidity - both much higher than when we left Quito a few hours before.

Once through customs, we were greeted by Tui de Roy, who would be leading our tour, along with our National Parks tour guide, Enriquez. Our luggage was collected by the boat crew and we took the short bus ride to the dock where we boarded the pangas (zodiacs) that took us out to the Tip Top III, which would be our home for the next 15 days as we visited 26 locations on 12 islands. We had a slight variation from the planned itinerary on the map below but we mostly followed this route.

Tour map, Galápagos Islands
(from the Tip Top Fleet trip guide book: The Galapagos Islands Aboard)

A three-course lunch (soup, buffet main course and dessert - a pattern to be repeated every day for the next two weeks) was served while we cruised from Baltra to our first landing point at Las Bachas Beach on Isla Santa Cruz. The name 'Las Bachas' originates from WWII, when the American army abandoned two barges on the beach and the locals could not pronounce 'barges' correctly in English, which resulted in Las Bachas Beach. Remnants of the barges remain today (see photograph below).

As we arrived at Las Bachas Beach, the weather closed in with heavy clouds and rain surrounding us.

Storm clouds, Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 130mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/1250

Eventually the rain passed and the sun broke through so we boarded the pangas and headed for the beach. 

Pangas and Las Bachas Beach, Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 @ 24mm, ISO 400, f/11 1/320

As we landed on the beach, this Great Frigatebird flew past

Great Frigatebird (male), Las Bachas Beach, Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/4 1/1600

and alighted on a tree stump less than 100 metres up the beach. It remained there, preening and stretching its wings while we stood around photographing it from only a few metres away.

Great Frigatebird (male), Las Bachas Beach, Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/4 1/2500

A Great Blue Heron stood, posing, on the dunes close by.

Great Blue Heron, Las Bachas Beach, Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/4 1/5000

Just over the dunes, there is a small lagoon, where we found a pair of Black-necked Stilts. Stilts are notoriously flighty everywhere else I have encountered them but this one walked along the edge of the water less than ten metres from me.

Black-necked Stilt, Las Bachas Beach, Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4 1/2500

Other than the birds, the highlights were two signature animals of the Galápagos, both of which we were to see and photograph many more times but it was exciting to see them on our first landing.

Sally Lightfoot Crab, Las Bachas Beach, Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/4 1/200
Sally Lightfoot Crab, Las Bachas Beach, Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/4 1/250
Marine Iguana, Las Bachas Beach, Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 @ 20mm, ISO 400 f/5.6 1/160

In addition to the wildlife, the landscapes proved to be an ongoing photographic attraction.

Barge wreck, Las Bachas Beach, Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 @ 14mm, ISO 400 f/4.5 1/125

In particular, we were to be spoiled with many spectacular sunsets.

Las Bachas Beach, Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 @ 14mm, ISO 400 f/4.5 1/500

3 comments:

  1. HI Ian I am so jealous! I am so glad you areposting about your trip around the Galapagos Island. .It is somewhere I would like to to go the clarity of the shots is wonderul and the colours and so seeiing your fantastic shots is amazingto me. I look forwardtosee much more. Can you letus know what company you used for your trip inon of your further posts please.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Margaret, I plan on putting together a summary post at the end with travel details and photographic notes but we used Galapagos Travel and they were fantastic to work with before, during and after the trip. I thoroughly recommend them.

      Delete
    2. Hi Ian Many thanks for re and information. I am just on my way to Tory Island and probably will have to catch up on your osts when I return next Tuesday as I probaby will not have the time or the internet!!!

      Delete

Apologies for the inconvenience but I have had to turn on word verification to avoid spam (I was getting 10-20 a week)

Birding and Natural History Blogs - Australia

Birding Blogs - Worldwide