Our friends, Lea Ann and Chuck, are enjoying their nine month world cruise…Would we do that?…

May be an image of map and text

When our friends, Lea Ann and Chuck, whom we met on a cruise in 2017 sailing from Sydney to Seattle, came to visit us while we were staying in The Villages in Florida, they were excited to share their enthusiasm about booking Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas Ultimate World Cruise.

While we were in Florida last summer, Lea Ann and Chuck visited us. It was wonderful to see them and hear about their upcoming world cruise.

Our mouths were agape when we heard they’d decided to embark on the nine-month cruise. We asked them endless questions while wondering if we’d ever want to commit to such an extended period on a cruise ship.

Although we revel in their enthusiasm, after they left, we talked, and both agreed we’d never be interested in such a long cruise. Nine months is a huge commitment, and for the following reasons, we wouldn’t be interested now or in the future:

  1. Cruising for so long could easily diminish our enthusiasm for cruising in the future. We love the anticipation of booking a cruise and the days and months before sailing when the excitement is at the forefront of our minds. For us, it would take away the mystery and magic of cruising.
  2. Living in such tight quarters for so long would not be easy for us. No, we don’t always use all the space available in a holiday home, usually only spending time in the bedroom, kitchen, and living room. But, being able to move around with ease and enjoying spaciousness is a huge part of our enjoyment. Cruise cabin space, even the balcony we always book, is limited and confining.
  3. Many of the ports world cruises visit are ports we’ve visited in the past. After all, we’ve been on 33 cruises, most with new and unfamiliar ports of call, many of which we wouldn’t be interested in visiting again.
  4. The food can become tedious and repetitious, besides often being fattening and unhealthy.
  5. The risk of getting sick when a captive audience for such an extended period is an issue for us. On at least half of our cruises, at least one of us, if not both, picked up a cold or virus, many lingering for weeks. Now, with COVID-19 and all its variants, we’d hesitate to embark on such a large ship for so many months. Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas, with a passenger capacity of 2476 plus 832 crew, is a breeding ground for many illnesses, especially when new passengers embark for the next leg of the journey at some ports, disembarking at the end of that leg. Plus, passengers can pick up an illness when they get off the ship for activities at various ports of call. When we were on the small boat in August 2023, Azamara Journey, with only a capacity of 702 passengers and a crew of 408, neither of us became ill.
  6. Cost: One would pay well over $117,599 (per person) for a balcony cabin. We wouldn’t be interested in an interior cabin with no windows, and those prices start at $59,900 (per person). Based on the above five points, it wouldn’t be worth paying such a sum for a long-term cruise.

Here’s an article from the New York Post about the cruise Lea Ann and Chuck are on right now, focusing on how many Gen Z passengers are participating:

“It’s been three years, and Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate World Cruise has finally set sail.

The epic nine-month-long holiday is a first-of-its-kind for the cruise liner, and they’re not surprised it’s gone viral on TikTok despite having hit the shores just over a week ago. (RelatedBest cruise lines review).

“Many guests booked their tickets over two to three years ago during the pandemic, and we are thrilled to be hosting a range of guests from young solo travelers to couples and families,” Dave Humphreys, director of sales at Royal Caribbean International AUNZ, told news.com.au.

“We have an impressive number of Gen Z and millennial cruisers, with a significant number of guests between the ages of 18-30 joining us on various legs of this cruise.”

As the name suggests, it’s a pretty ‘ultimate’ experience, with the cruise traveling to more than 60 countries and 11 world wonders in 274 days.

The cruise is broken into four segments — Ultimate Americas Cruise, Ultimate Asia Pacific Cruise, Ultimate Middle East & Med Cruise, and Ultimate Europe & Beyond Cruise.

Depending on the destination and room you choose, prices can vary from $19,895 to $37,268 (per person)

But, if you want to do nine months, the price tag is much heftier. The cheapest is $88,000 for an interior stateroom and up to $1.2 million per person for a Royal Suite.

“Each guest who has booked the Ultimate World Cruise Package received business class airfare, premium transportation, and a pre-cruise hotel in their package up to $5892 per person,” Mr Humphreys said.

“The business class airfare applies to specific getaway cities. The package includes a beverage package, laundry services, inclusive gratuities, and a VOOM Surf and Stream package.”

TikTok has become inundated with passengers sharing their experiences, from the meals they’re eating, restaurants they’re visiting, and gym classes to glimpses of what their rooms look like and the entertainment and performances they’re attending.

“I am LIVING for your videos. Please, pretty, please don’t stop. Greedily. I will beg you to post more,” one viewer commented on a passenger’s ‘sea day in my life’ clip.

Mr. Humpreys said they also can’t wait to join some of these guests virtually along with the wider TikTok community.

“There will be 27,000 passengers on the various legs, of which over 600 are sailing for the full nine months,” he told news.com.au.

“We have almost 2,000 Australians joining us along the way, including 30 Aussies doing the full nine-month world cruise.”

He said guests were offered the flexibility to book one or more of the four expedition packages.

Mr. Humphreys described it as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience where guests can traverse the globe in one incredible journey.”It’s going to be epic.”

It’s fascinating to read about this and see Lea Ann and Chuck’s blog, which may be found here. We continue to see their updates and the sheer joy they are experiencing on this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, February 3, 2014:

Louise suggested we put out some yogurt at night for the nocturnal bush babies. We placed a small bowl in a hanging wood birdhouse near a tree. Unfortunately, we were distracted yesterday morning and forgot to remove the little plastic bowl of yogurt. Going inside to get beverages, we returned to find these Vervet Monkeys lapping up the yogurt with the little bowl in hand. Tom scared them off (they can be destructive), and they dropped the bowl and ran off. For more photos, please click here.

Part 2 (of three parts)…Month by month, emotional and memorable events from our world travels in 2023…Happy New Year!…

In May, when staying at The Villages, we spent a day on Lake Harris, boating with reader/friends Linda and Burt. We stopped at a campsite for lunch. It was a fun day!
It was a delightful day on Lake Harris and the Dora Canal.

May, June, and part of July 2023 – The Villages, Florida, USA

Tom’s cold isn’t going away. He doesn’t feel awful and has no new symptoms, but he’s not himself. We thought that after a week, it would be gone by today since we’d made plans for tomorrow that we’ve since canceled. Fortunately, I feel fine.

Our dear friends Rich and Karen came to visit us twice while we were in The Villages Florida.
Kristi and Kevin, Tom’s nephew, thoughtfully drove the eight-hour round-trip to see us. We had a fantastic day!

We had planned to clean the condo on Friday. When he awoke this morning, he was still not feeling well. For the first time in a very long time, I cleaned by myself. We’d purchased a Swiffer from Amazon with dry and wet pads, and I ran around doing one project after another, washing, wiping, dusting, and floors. It took me about an hour.

Our friends from Boca Raton, Mark and Carol. They are visiting us for three nights. We’re having an excellent time with them. See the post here.

After struggling for almost a year, I surprised myself with how energetic I am. Today, I will be up to 20 minutes on the exercise bike, adding one minute daily. I can’t believe how quickly I was able to increase the duration. Now, I will stop increasing time and instead increase the difficulty. Doing this has changed everything for me.

When they visited, we had a great time with friends Lea Ann and Chuck. Right now, they are on a nine-month world cruise. How fun!

Note: we’re waiting for one more photo from our dear friends in Florida, Karen and Rich, who visited us twice while staying at The Villages. We were so busy yakking we forgot to take photos!!!

Our dear friend Lisa is on the left, and her friend Vicki is on the right. We had a fantastic day and evening!

Soon, I will begin doing resistance exercises using light weights using the equipment in the Fitness Center in this condo complex. I know how to pace myself since I worked out six days a week before traveling the world 11 years ago for most of my adult life. I was always fit and ate healthy. But even so, I fell prey to heart disease due to heredity. There is little one can do to override our genes.

Fortunately, I don’t need to make any New Year’s resolutions this year. I’ve lost 21 pounds, am working out again, eating as healthfully as possible, and have reduced my occasional red wine consumption from two glasses to one. I considered giving up wine, but I love a glass of red, and it doesn’t seem to affect my heart or pulse rate; I decided to reduce the amount.

A few days ago, we stopped at Liquor World near the petrol station when Tom needed to refill the fuel in the rental car before returning it to the airport for another car. At that store, I found the brand Black Box, Cabernet Sauvignon, with only 5% alcohol, as opposed to the usual 12% to 14%. With this wine low in carbs, calories, and alcohol, I could drink a second glass, which still would be less alcohol than one glass of regular wine.

I realize low-alcohol wines don’t taste as good as regular wine, but it’s a tradeoff I am willing to make for my health, like the tradeoffs I’ve made with food. I haven’t opened it yet, but I think I will tonight, it’s New Year’s Eve. Tom won’t be celebrating with me but will once he’s feeling better.

Last night, we did a Grubhub order with a Henderson Asian restaurant. We purchased enough to last us for two nights. Tom had his usual sweet and sour pork with pork fried rice, and I had steamed shrimp and vegetables. It was delicious. We get Grubhub with no one-year delivery fees through our Amazon Prime membership. But still, the two-night order was $105, including Grubhub’s service fee, taxes, and tip. We rationalized the cost, realizing we’d spend more than this to go out to dinner one night. Once in a while, this is fun to do.

On another note, today’s post is to share what transpired in our world travels in 2023. There wasn’t much traveling in today’s second segment since we spent May, June, and part of July at The Villages in Florida while we waited to go on a few cruises, which we’ll share in tomorrow’s final segment. Although, we had a wonderful time when friends came to visit us.

However, in August, included in the second segment, we went on two cruises, and thus, the cruise-related photos continue in today’s “year in review” post.

July (end of the month) and August 2023 – Edinburgh, Scotland, and two cruises, one to Norway, the second to Greenland

We couldn’t post photos while we spent three days in Edinburgh. The WiFi connection at the hotel was too slow to add pictures. Then, when the three days ended, we immediately boarded the first of two cruises: the first on the Azamara Journey, with horrible WiFi preventing us from posting more than a few photos to Norway, and the second on Celebrity. Summit to Greenland, 17 days later. For detailed photos from these two cruises, please check our archives for August 2023. But here are a few. Please scroll down to see.

A few nights into the Norway cruise, we got off the ship to a theatre with local dancers and musicians performing. See the post here.
Tom’s photo today of the town of Isafjordur, Iceland, while on the Greenland cruise. See the post here.
Tom was squinting his eyes after he took off his glasses for a selfie. We had so much fun at the” Silent Disco.” From the post here.
Deep-sea sediment cores from northeast Greenland, the Fram Strait, and the south of Greenland suggest that the Greenland Ice Sheet has continuously existed since 18 million years ago. See the post here.
Cape Spear Lighthouse in Newfoundland. See the post here.

Running out of space with all of these photos, we will continue tomorrow with September through to the end of the year here in Lake Las Vegas, Nevada. Thanks for sharing this year with us. It wasn’t as exciting as some years ago, but we visited nine countries in 2023!

Happy New Year everyone. Have a safe and enjoyable segue into 2024!

Photo from ten years ago today, December 31, 2013:

On New Year’s Eve, after returning to the house in Marloth Park, this centipede on the wall by the bathroom door made us cringe. Tom, as always, disposed of it. Sleep didn’t come easy the remainder of the night, fearful that the rains of the past few days may have brought more of these inside the house. For more, please click here.

We’re back in Quito…Good to be back on land, but again we’re high in altitude…Whew!…Wrapping up The Galapagos photos…

Giant tortoises at Isabela Island Breeding Center.

Note: our naturalist, Orlando, took all of today’s photos, which he sent to me each day via WhatsApp. Thanks, Orlando, for thinking of me!

The two-hour flight from Baltra, The Galapagos Islands, was almost a full-day journey. We disembarked the ship at 11:30 am and didn’t arrive at the JW Marriott Hotel in Quito until after 5:30 pm. We collected our stored luggage from the bellman and headed to a different room than we’d had over a week ago when we stayed here two nights before the cruise.

Tom was looking into the mailbox at Post Office Bay, where he found a postcard left by a visitor from South Africa, which he took, and we’ll ensure they receive it once we return to Marloth Park.

The only flight we could get to Manta was on Monday, so this time, we’ll spend another two nights at this high altitude. So far today, 18 hours after our arrival, we’re holding up OK in the 9350′ altitude. Our legs feel like lead when we walk, and my heart rate is 10 to 15 beats faster per minute than at sea level. The heart compensates for lack of oxygen at high elevations, and thus, one’s heart rate may increase until adapted two to three days after arrival. We will only be here for two days and won’t be adapted by then.

Tortoise heading out to sea.

But, in one way, the altitude right now is more tolerable than the seasickness we suffered on the ship, a 98′ long catamaran with eight passenger cabins for 16 guests. Feeling nauseous is worse than feeling out of breath and tired. I look forward to returning to sea level by tomorrow night after our 50-minute flight to Manta, leaving Quito at 7:25 pm.

Another green tortoise was heading out to sea.

Once in our room, we unpacked what we needed for the night and this morning and didn’t bother to unpack anything more. We never unpacked while on the cruise, making packing much easier when it was time to go, as will be the case here. When we were in lockdown in India in the Marriott Hotel for ten months, we never unpacked there either. We pulled out the three outfits we wore repeatedly and never touched anything.

A sea lion at the beach.

While staying in Nevada and Minnesota in the past few months, we never unpacked in either hotel. With 11 years of travel experience, we’ve gotten pretty good at “living out of a suitcase.” However, when we arrive in Ecuador for 79 days, we’ll unpack and wash everything since we’ll have a washer and a dryer. How unusual!

Sea turtles mating.

After we got situated in our room, we rested for a few minutes, never napping. At 7:30, we headed downstairs for dinner in the Botanica Restaurant, which cost was included in our cruise, along with this morning’s and tomorrow morning’s breakfast. Our hotel for the two nights was also included. But we’re on our own for dinner tonight.

A blue heron.

Most likely, after having a big breakfast, Tom won’t be hungry by dinner, so we’ll head down to Fogo De Chao, where, once again, I’ll have their salad bar with a vast array of foods I can eat. There’s no way I could eat the classic meats served tableside that they are known for. It’s just too much food.

A blue-footed booby and an iguana.

We have no plans for the next day and a half. We’ll have to sit in the lobby tomorrow afternoon when checkout is noon. But it’s more comfortable to sit in the lobby than get comfortable in the room. We could get a late checkout as VIP members with Expedia on our site here. But those few extra hours in the room make no difference to us.

Hood or espanola mockingbird, the largest on the island.

In 48 hours, we’ll be at our holiday home in Mirador, San Jose. I found a nearby market online, so we can bring our bags into the house and head to the market to shop. That’s quite fun for us since we love being able to check out local foods befitting our way of eating. Plus, we’ll need to stock up on bottled water since the tap water in Ecuador is not potable.

Floreana daisy.

That’s it for today, dear readers. We hope you’ve enjoyed our Galapagos photos and Tom’s adventures. No doubt it would have been a lot more fun for him if we’d been able to experience the excursions together. In the future, we’ll keep this new adaptation in mind when we are booking plans for the future.

A yellow warbler.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 22, 2013:

Due to a WiFi issue, we cannot post a photo from ten years ago. For the story, please click here.

Day 7…Celebrity Xploration…The Galapagos Islands…Avian flu kills three birds in Galapagos….Tom stayed on the ship with me today…

Tom took one of my favorite photos: a pelican with a pouch filled with fish. The brown Galapagos pelican has a thick layer of skin located on the lower mandible and connected to the throat – this is a gular pouch. The bird uses this flap of skin to scoop fish out of the water, to hold its catch like a dinner plate of regurgitated fish for its chicks, and even to cool itself on a hot day!

In the past week on this ship, Celebrity Xploration, there were islands we didn’t visit that may have been included in past cruises due to the incidence of avian flu discovered in three dead birds. See the article below from this site:

Another pelican in rough seas.

“Catastrophic avian influenza reaches the Galapagos for the first time

Almost 200 years on, when Charles Darwin observed his Galapagos Islands finches, which became the emblems of his theory of evolution, birds in the region are again in the news for what many scientists warn could be the source of the next pandemic.

A lovely photo of a pelican, taken by Tom, is in rough seas.

Three out of five dead birds have tested positive for avian influenza (H5N1), according to the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), which is the first time the deadly virus has made it to the Archipelago. It’s a worrying sign for scientists, who have sounded alarms since the pathogen moved from a seasonal concern to a potential pandemic spillover in 2021.

Notice the frigate with the red pouch…Males have a bright red pouch on the throat, inflating like a balloon to attract females. Females, unlike most other seabirds, look different than males with their white chests.

In the last two years, more than half a billion farmed birds have died or been culled due to the virus, and conservative estimates suggest hundreds of thousands of wild birds across the globe have died. It’s also killed thousands of sea lions in South America. Skunks, mink, dogs, and some humans have also been infected.

On a tour of the bridge with Captain Marcos.
Ship captains often still use handwritten logs, although they have plenty of computers they could use.

While H5N1 has now spanned the globe, its presence in the Galapagos highlights how difficult this virus is to contain, mainly since it is so prevalent in shorebirds and migratory birds. In the Galapagos Islands, 80% of birds are endemic. The arrival of H5N1 makes all bird species incredibly vulnerable.

There are cameras throughout the ship, which the captain and his staff observe throughout the cruise.

While avian influenza has been circulating for decades, intensive farming and virus mutations have seen it spread in novel ways, and scientists have sounded the alarm it’s the most likely source of a new pandemic.

More equipment on the bridge.

To date, Antarctica and Australia are the only continents without reported avian influenza outbreaks among wild birds.

This is known as Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock), which we sailed around in the ship at happy hour.

Source: Galapagos Conservation Trust”

Sure, three birds dying from this flu doesn’t sound like much, but three birds could have eventually impacted the entire bird population, which could have entirely affected the ecosystem of these fantastic islands. Hopefully, they’ve caught it in time to save the birds that have been such an integral aspect of our time spent here on the islands.

Amazing rock formations.

Today was a hectic day planned for the passengers, starting at 8:45 am and returning at 6:00 pm, which would include hours of walking while visiting a village on Santa Cruz island, the most populated of the islands in the Archipelago. A lunch at a local restaurant and a visit to a farm with lots of giant tortoises were planned. The remainder of the day would be spent shopping in the village, a favorite pastime of many travelers.

An alternate view of the rock formation

Unbeknownst to me, last night, Tom decided he was going to stay on board with me. There was no way I could have walked about for nine hours. Last night, when he chose to stay with me today,  he didn’t tell me until this morning since he didn’t want me to worry about him staying behind while I was trying to sleep on yet another night of rough seas and seasickness. Surely, I would have attempted to talk him out of staying behind, but he insisted he wanted to be with me. What a guy! I am so lucky.

Another view of Kicker Rock at sunset. Beautiful!

After dinner and conversation, I headed to bed when I became seasick and couldn’t keep my head up. Anticipating rough seas, I didn’t eat or drink much at dinner, and just like that, at 8:30, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Tom had to hold onto me to escort me to our cabin and help me get into my pajamas. Once my head hit the pillow, I felt better and could eventually fall asleep for an hour.

Kicker Rock at sunset.

But, when the rocking and rollin’ became worse, I awoke and never went back to sleep until around 3:30 am. During that time, I was going back and forth with my web guy and our hosting company while they were attempting to fix some issues on our site that I’d been dealing with for the past five days. They were in a different time zone, and it was daytime where they were.

Last night’s sunset.

After dozens of email messages back and forth, by about 3:00 am, they resolved the issues. Most likely, few of our readers would notice any of the issues, but they were evident to me while I was trying to upload posts daily. Then, a few nights ago, when we put our laptops on the floor during brought seas, as recommended by staff, somehow my laptop got banged around on the floor, and the screen came loose from the base of the laptop.

Sea lions love to sleep on rocky surfaces as well as soft sand.

It appeared that it could be fixed when plastic pieces had broken off. Wouldn’t you know, four staff members gathered around my laptop while I tried fixing it and offered to help? It was Agustin, the hotel manager, and Christopher, the cabin attendant, who performed a miracle getting it entirely fixed. They even fashioned some new parts from bits of metal they had on the boat.

Alternate view of last night’s sunset.

Not only will we be tipping the 12 members of the crew in the passenger’s collective tip basket, but we’ll be giving extra tips to Agustin, Christopher, Jonathan (the superb chef), and the two naturalists, Juan Carlo and Orlando, who fussed over me every chance they got, sharing tidbits of information about the wildlife that I have presented here in the posts.

Sailing away from Kicker Rock.

We’ll have to share many more photos and continue to post them until we feel we’ve shared the bulk of them. It may take a few days or even a week until we’ve exhausted the supply of photos and videos from this exciting experience.

What a unique sight to see here in The Galapagos Islands.

Tomorrow, Saturday, we’ll disembark the ship and fly back to Quito, where we’ll again stay at the gorgeous Marriott Quito until Sunday, when we’ll fly to Manta, where we’ll stay overnight for one night to begin our drive to our new home on the sea on Monday morning, making a quick stop at a market for some groceries along the way.

From left to right, starting with Alexis in the wedding dress and her new husband Seth. Then, continuing to the right are Emmanuel and Ann, Anthony and Colleen, and Jackie and Michael.
Last night at dinner, our group of eight sat at one of two tables in the dining room. From left, with her back to us, Gill, her husband John, Jeff, Nadine, Tom and I, Karin and Stephen.
Us, last night at happy hour on the upper deck.

Although the boat is anchored right now, we’re still rocking back and forth, making me queasy, but Tom is fine. Go figure. Jonathan will have some lunch at noon since I haven’t eaten anything yet today. Tom didn’t want lunch when he’d had a big breakfast this morning. When the passengers return tonight, we’ll celebrate our final night with the crew over another spectacular dinner. I hope the seas aren’t rough tonight.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 20, 2013:

We are babysitting their two little dogs with Hans and Jeri gone for the Kenyan holiday this weekend. This is Jessie, whom they inherited when a nearby homeowner didn’t want her. She is an entirely outdoor dog, never sleeping indoors and spending all her days and nights outside. It was hard to close the doors on her last night when we went to bed, leaving her looking at us. I wanted to pick her up and put her in the bed with us, but we knew not to upset her routine. She’s a sturdy little dog and an excellent watchdog. For those who knew us in our old lives, does this remind you of anyone? For more photos, please click here.

Day 6…Celebrity Xploration…The Galapagos Islands…Charles Darwin’s influence on The Galapagos Islands…A reader writes, asking a valid question…

Charles Darwin.

In yesterday’s post, we mentioned we’d be sharing information about Charles Darwin and his impact on The Galapagos Islands, emblazoned in the public’s minds for past and future generations. After reviewing the description of his life from many sources, I found this source to be most informative. I have edited it in part to fit the size and nature of our posts.

“Charles Darwin: History’s most famous biologist…

Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882) transformed the way we understand the natural world with ideas that, in his day, were nothing short of revolutionary. He and his fellow pioneers in the field of biology gave us insight into the fantastic diversity of life on Earth and its origins, including our own as a species.

Data has revealed that they can dive down to 200 meters and hold their breath for more than 20 minutes. Their natural predators are sharks and orcas; whales very rarely fish sea lions in the Galapagos. The biggest colony of sea lions in the archipelago is in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and San Cristobal.

Charles Darwin is celebrated as one of the greatest British scientists who ever lived, but in his time, his radical theories brought him into conflict with members of the Church of England.

Young Charles Darwin

Born in 1809 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, Darwin was fascinated by the natural world from a young age. Growing up, he was an avid reader of nature books and devoted his spare time to exploring the fields and woodlands around his home, collecting plants and insects. In 1825 Darwin enrolled in medical school at the University of Edinburgh, where he witnessed surgery on a child.

Seals and sea lions are marine mammals called ‘pinnipeds’ that differ in physical characteristics and adaptations. Sea lions (left) are brown, bark loudly, “walk” on land using their large flippers, and have visible ear flaps. Seals have small flippers, wriggle on their bellies on land, and lack visible ear flaps.

Surgeries at the time would have been carried out without the use of anesthetic or antiseptics, and fatalities were common. Watching this procedure left Darwin so traumatized that he gave up his studies without completing the course.

During his time in Edinburgh, Darwin also paid for lessons in taxidermy from John Edmonstone, a former enslaved man from Guyana. The skills Edmonstone taught Darwin became crucial just a few years further into his career. After his time in Scotland, Darwin went to Cambridge University to study theology.

These sea lions have gone without many predators because of their isolated location. The only predators they have are sharks, killer whales, and dogs. So, like most Galapagos animals, they have no reason to fear people.

The voyage of HMS Beagle

In no rush to take holy orders in 1831, Darwin accepted an offer to embark on a five-year voyage aboard HMS Beagle. One of his Cambridge professors recommended him for the role of naturalist and companion to the ship’s captain, Robert FitzRoy.The journey would change both his life and the trajectory of Western scientific thinking.

Most other marine mammals in the Galapagos cannot be considered residents because they are migratory. There are only two species of seals (including the Galapagos sea lion), two whales, and two dolphins that are true Galapagos residents.

Darwin explored remote regions and marveled at a world so different from the one he knew. He encountered birds with bright blue feet, sharks with T-shaped heads, and giant tortoises. Darwin collected plants, animals, and fossils on his travels and took copious field notes. These collections and records provided the evidence he needed to develop his remarkable theory.

The Galápagos mockingbird (Mimus parvulus) is a species of bird in the family Mimidae. It is endemic to the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. This bird had no fear of Tom, standing quite close to him.

Darwin returned to England in 1836. A highly methodical scholar, constantly collecting and observing, he spent many years comparing and analyzing specimens before finally declaring that evolution occurs by a process of natural selection.

What is the theory of natural selection?

To this day, the theory of evolution by natural selection is accepted by the scientific community as the best evidence-based explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on Earth. The theory proposes that the ‘fittest’ individual organisms – those with the characteristics best suited to their environment – are more likely to survive and reproduce. They pass on these desirable characteristics to their offspring.

There were many other boats in the area.

Gradually, these features may become more common in a population, so species change over time. If the changes are great enough, they could produce a new species altogether. On his travels, Darwin had collected finches from many of the Galápagos Islands – off the coast of Ecuador – which helped him to formulate his idea.

The waved albatross, also known as The Galapagos albatross, is one of three species of the family Diomedeidae that occur in the tropics. When they forage, they follow a straight path to a single site off the coast of Peru, about 1,000 km to the east.

Some of these finches had stout beaks for eating seeds, and others were insect specialists. But Darwin realized that they were all descendants of a single ancestor. As they dispersed to different islands, the birds adapted to eat the various foods available. Natural selection has produced 13 different species of finch.

Darwin’s pigeons

From his travels on HMS Beagle, Darwin suspected that the environment might naturally manipulate species, causing them to change over time – but he couldn’t find a means to explore this effectively in the wild. Experimenting with artificial selection in pigeons gave him a way to study how far a species could change. By artificially selecting features – crossing birds with particular characteristics to generate different offspring – he gathered valuable evidence for evolution by natural selection.

These sea lions may look like the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) but are different. They are smaller and breed primarily on the Galapagos Islands.

To illustrate his theory, Darwin bred the birds to have exaggerated features. The similarity between artificial selection and natural selection is at the heart of his explanation of evolution in his revolutionary book On the Origin of Species. After completing his experiments, he gave all 120 of his pigeon specimens to the Museum. They are currently part of our bird collections kept at Tring, Hertfordshire. 

The adult males are larger than the females. When dry, they are usually dark brown or varying shades of gray. The adult males have a pronounced bump on their foreheads. Adult females are light brown or tan with a smaller forehead. All sea lion pups are dark brown when born, and as they mature, they change to light brown or tan. Young Galapagos sea lions have a nearly flat head.

A shared discovery

Darwin knew his radical ideas would be met with stiff opposition. Even after 20 years of research, he worried about how his theory of evolution would be received as it challenged widely held religious beliefs of the time. 

He delayed publishing on the topic for a great number of years while he assembled a mountain of evidence. Darwin volunteered to send Wallace’s ideas to a journal for immediate publication when he learned that the young naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace had developed similar ideas.

While larger animals in the Galapagos (like cows, goats, and horses) exist, sea lions are the largest endemic land animal. These islands are 1000 kilometers (600 miles) from the mainland – that’s a long swim for a land animal.

On advice from friends, the two scientists organized a joint announcement. Their theory of evolution by natural selection was presented at the Linnean Society in London. Both had studied the natural world extensively and made several observations critical to the development of the theory. The following year, Darwin published the contentious but now-celebrated book, ‘On the Origin of Species.’

The American Oystercatcher is found in the intertidal zone of most Galapagos Islands. Their population is small; around 400 birds live in the archipelago.

On the Origin of Species

Published in 1859, On the Origin of Species provoked outrage from some members of the Church of England as it implicitly contradicted the belief in divine creation. Despite accusations of blasphemy, the book quickly became a bestseller.

Great apes

The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex – which Darwin published in 1871 – fuelled even greater debate as it suggested that humans descended from apes. The Bishop of Oxford famously asked Thomas Huxley, one of Darwin’s most enthusiastic supporters, whether it was through his grandfather or grandmother that he claimed descent from a monkey.

This is something many people want to experience when they visit the Galapagos, and it’s definitely a thrill. The young pups stay in shallow waters until they are around five months old. During that time, they don’t even fish for themselves. They have no reason to be territorial or aggressive. Even at 12 to 24 months, they are only partially independent; they will continue to nurse until their mother has another pup. And even then, she may continue to nurse the older pup. They don’t mature until they are around 4 to 5 years old.

Despite the attacks, Darwin’s conviction in the scientific explanation that best fits the available evidence remained unshaken. He was keen for his ideas to reach as many people as possible and for his books to be read in many different languages. Part of his success has been attributed to his conversational and approachable writing style.

Since Galapagos sea lions don’t migrate outside the archipelago, their breeding season isn’t dependent on migration patterns. And while their breeding season may vary from year to year, it normally lasts 16 to 40 weeks between the months of May through January. For that reason, you might see pups throughout the year.

The Origin of Species was so influential that within a year, it had been published in German. In Darwin’s lifetime, his book was translated into German, Danish, Dutch, French, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Spanish and Swedish. Our Library has 478 editions of On the Origin of Species in 38 languages and in Braille.

Darwin and the Tree of Life

Charles Darwin used the concept of a Tree of Life in the context of the theory of evolution to illustrate that all species on Earth are related and evolved from a common ancestor.

Darwin”s theory of the Tree of Life. Darwin’s first sketch of the Tree of Life, was found in one of his notebooks from 1837. Image reproduced with kind permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.

The tips of the branches show the species that are still alive today. The tree also shows those that are now extinct. Darwin explained:

‘From the first growth of the tree, many a limb and branch has decayed and dropped off; and these fallen branches of various sizes may represent those whole orders, families, and genera which have now no living representatives, and which are known to us only in a fossil state.’

Orders, families, and genera are all groups that can be used to classify organisms. The lines on the tree show evolutionary relationships between species. For example, a recent version of the Tree of Life would show a line between some types of dinosaurs and the earliest birds, as scientists reason that birds evolved from a particular lineage of dinosaurs.

This means that closely related species are found close together, stemming from the same branch. For example, humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans are all great apes, so they all belong to the same branch of the tree of life.

Darwin’s legacy

Although Darwin’s theory of evolution has been modified over time, it remains fundamental to the study of the natural world. Darwin changed not only how we see all organisms but also how we see ourselves.”

 Darwin was, without a doubt, a pioneer in his time. Some may not believe the extent of his theory, but if you are interested in learning more, you can read his book and many other publications written about his life and theory. How exciting for us to be in this magical place in our lives.
We are grateful for this experience, however, limited it may be for me right now since I am learning so much from the daily talks by the two naturalists, Juan Carlos and Orlando, the wonderful photos Tom is taking on each excursion, and my research in the process of it all. I am not disappointed at all.
Now, on to another topic…Last night, I received a private email from a reader (one of many we receive each day) whose name I won’t disclose to protect his privacy that read as follows:


I have been reading your blog for years and was sorry to read you could not accompany Tom on the excursions. I would appreciate it, and I believe many of your readers would too if you could describe in detail with pictures the environment and obstacles one might encounter on these types of excursions. I have a bad knee and can not walk long distances so I would like to know the details. Things include getting in and out of the zodiacs, terrain encountered, wet/dry conditions, etc.  

Thank you so much, and I wish you continued enjoyment in your travels.”
I wish we had thought of taking photos of the walking and hiking environment sooner. Unfortunately, we were so focused on the wildlife and scenery that we didn’t center our attention on the terrain specifically. However, I borrowed the following three photos from other passengers, as shown below.
Shipmates Karin and Stephen took this photo of the rocks to navigate at another location.
Tom says, “There are times when paths consist of small pebbles and other times when there are large lava rocks and boulders that are hard to navigate. Sometimes, it’s just a walk on a smooth sandy beach.”
A photo of a lot easier trail shipmates Karin and Stephen took on a walk.
Each evening, either of the two naturalists at a nightly briefing session describes in detail the excursion for the next day, including some photos of the terrain and any potential walking hazards. Many of the walks were shorter, but some were as long as 1½ hours. At times, there were options to embark on the long or short walk, which could be beneficial in your case.
It’s hard for us to determine if you’d be able to tackle these excursions based on the severity of your knee condition. Even getting on and off the panga boat (the Zodiac boat) was too difficult for me to participate in any of the activities. The boat ride may be smooth or choppy, during which one has to use one’s legs to support oneself since there are no specific seats on these boats. One must use their legs to hold themselves up while sitting on the inflated rubber sides of the boat.
Shipmate John took this photo of the rocks the passengers have to navigate on an excursion. It’s not too easy for those with walking disabilities.
We probably wouldn’t have booked this cruise if we knew how difficult these excursions would be based on my unsteadiness. However, as it turns out, we made the best of it and have enjoyed ourselves and learned a lot. Only you can decide if this would work for you.
That’s it for today, folks.
Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 19, 2013:

Out to dinner in Diani Beach, Kenya, this adorable guy, a part-time resort resident belonging to one of the windsurfing trainers, hung around with us during our dinner, looking for morsels. Once we gave him several bites and he saw our plates were clean, he moved over to the table of other diners with full plates. For more photos, please click here.

Day 5, Celebrity Xploration…The Galapagos Islands…A funny post office…

In Hawaii, we saw blue-footed boobies, as well, but with darker blue feet.
  • Galapagos Facts: 
  • “Hunted as food by pirates, whalers, and traders from the 17th through the 19th centuries, between 100,000 and 200,000 Galápagos tortoises are estimated to have been killed off. Tortoises were also hunted for their oil, which was used to power lamps.”
  • Fray Tomás de Berlanga – The world first heard about Galapagos more than 470 years ago. The Dominican friar, Fray Tomás de Berlanga, Bishop of Panama, was the official discoverer, arriving on March 10, 1535. Currents inadvertently drove Fray Tomás towards Galapagos after he had set out from Panama on his way to Peru.”
An endearing phenomenon in The Galapagos at Post Office Bay is described in the text below.

“This Is the World’s Most Unusual Post Office

On a remote island in the Galápagos, tourists become mail carriers.

The Galápagos are better known for their sea lions and penguins than postal service. But the island of Floreana operates a unique stampless system of sending mail from one of the world’s most diverse, uninhabited areas.

Blue-footed boobies atop the lava rock formations.

Long before ecotourists annexed the remote islands off Ecuador’s coast, it was a pit stop for 18th-century whalers traversing the oceans. After months or even years on the job, the homesick seamen came up with an ingenious system of getting letters to their families. They erected a barrel on Floreana Island and left their mail for sailors on passing ships to deliver.

More endemic cacti on Floreana Island. Notice the little tubes.
Tom didn’t go kayaking without me but enjoyed himself nonetheless.

The first mention of the post office appears in the Journal of a Cruise, Captain David Porter’s account of his 1813 trip to the Galápagos, according to a timeline crafted by John Woram, author of Charles Darwin Slept Here. In his book, Porter recalls a crew member returning with papers “taken from a box which he found nailed to a pot, over which was a black sign, on which was painted Hathaway’s Postoffice.”

A tortoise making her way to the sea.
Was she considering digging a hole to bury her eggs?

Twenty-five years later, another explorer documented the practice of bottling notes and leaving them to be taken back to America by fishing vessels. Those same fishermen “would never fail, before their departure, to touch at this island to take on a supply of tortoises.” The consumption of giant sea tortoises during this period is one of the reasons why Charles Darwin found none left on Floreana Island when he arrived in 1835.

Another view of the post office.

This unconventional system has persisted into the 21st century. Today, thousands of letters pass through Post Office Bay. Tour groups often stop at the island to explore the ancient lava caves and to pick up and drop off postcards.

A cameraman is in the process of making a documentary about The Galapagos Islands.

The simple wooden barrel is covered in notes and keepsakes from travelers passing through in what resembles a glorified birdhouse. The origins of the first barrel are opaque, but it may have come from a crew in the 1890s. Since then, the barrel has been replaced by visiting vessels from around the world. Over the years, driftwood bearing painted names and dates has been piled around the site to commemorate long-ago letter deliveries.

These two are red-billed tropic birds, commonly seen in The Galapagos. The red-billed tropic bird is one of three closely related species of seabirds of tropical oceans. Superficially resembling a tern in appearance, it has mostly white plumage with some black markings on the wings and back, a black mask, and, as its common name suggests, a red bill.

After visitors sift through the mail and collect letters going to a home near their final destination, they can mail or, preferably, hand-deliver letters to the recipients. Tour guides are known to say that slapping a stamp on the letter and dropping it in a mailbox is cheating—though the 18th-century whalers likely wouldn’t object to any method that saw their letters delivered.”

Swallowtail seagulls are beautiful nocturnal birds.

Thus, when Tom rifled through the postcards waiting to be picked up and delivered, he found one from Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He took the card, and we plan to mail it to the recipient when we get to Marloth Park, including a card with our information in case people who receive it would like to chat. That will be fun! We’ll report the results here at the time.

A seal lion snoozing on the rocks.
Playful sea lions.

Although I haven’t been on one excursion since we started this cruise, I am having a good time. Each time the 15 passengers, including Tom, return to the boar from the two to three excursions daily, I am thrilled to see them and love hearing their adventures and stories.

An unusual cactus formation.

And, of course, Tom is bursting with enthusiasm each time over what he’s seen and taken photos of for me to see and share. There are only so many animals on these unique islands, and repetition is unavoidable, but each shot holds its intrigue and interest, particularly to the animal love that I am.

Swooning sea lion.

Once they go out again for a few hours, I find myself totally at ease, enjoying the gentle rocking of the boat and the visits from any of the 12 staff members who stop to chat and say hello. One of the two naturalists, Orlando, has been sending his unique photos of the day to my WhatsApp account, which I will share in one fell swoop toward the end of the cruise. There’s certainly no shortage of photos around here.

Yesterday’s lunch of seabass and baked chicken, avocado, asparagus, and tomatoes. Note the photo of the fantastic seviche below.
Not necessarily a fan of seviche; this cold dish made by Chef Jonathan was the best. Tom didn’t like it, so I ate both of ours. What a treat!

Today, Wednesday is the halfway point of this cruise, and it will end on Saturday when we fly back to Quito for two more days and one more night. But we have so much to look forward to our upcoming stay in Mirador San Jose Province, Manabi, Ecuador, until January 8, 2024.

Tomorrow, we’ll share details of Charles Darwin and his worldwide influence on The Galapagos Islands, one of the planet’s most exciting and wildlife-rich spots.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 18, 2013:

The cockpit of the small plane, flown by Edwin, will return us to the Maasai Mara. For more photos, please click here.

Day 4…Celebrity Xploration…The Galapagos Islands…The stunning photos continue…

Tom was sitting on a bench with all these massive iguanas in front of him. They didn’t seem to mind a bit.

The 14 passengers on this boat, plus Tom, are having a fantastic time going to the islands two or three times a day to explore this incredible location’s wildlife and unique areas. Each time they return to the ship, they have big smiles on their faces, their eyes twinkling with sheer wonder over the treasures they’ve beheld on this last expedition.

Such unusual creatures.
While walking along this patch, Tom had to walk around the iguanas to avoid disturbing them.
A dirt road in a small village on Isla Isabela Island.

I am not sad that I am unable to join them. It’s utterly delightful to see Tom grinning from ear to ear along with his boat-mates over the exquisite sightings they’ve had along the way on each outing. Oddly, I am not jealous but feel a powerful sense of joy in seeing them have such a good time in God’s Wonderland in the beautiful country of Ecuador.

A little restaurant along the dirt boulevard. It would be fun to eat there. Some of the passengers ate there, but after being served three big meals a day on the boat, Tom had no interest in eating again.
José de Villamil, or José Villamil, was born in New Orleans when Louisiana was a colony of Spain. He was one of the fathers of the independence of Ecuador, the founder of its navy, “conqueror” and first Governor of the Galápagos Islands, and Minister of Foreign Relations.
They often cuddle with one another.

I can sense they feel a little awkward sharing their joy over this blessed experience with me, the one who stays behind, typing fast and furiously on her laptop, an observer of their once-in-a-lifetime adventure. But they need not feel bad for me. I am having a glorious time through their eyes, photos, and stories to tell.

They hang out anywhere that suits them.
Be careful not to step on them!
The marine iguana is the only lizard in the world able to live and forage at sea and is endemic to the Galapagos Archipelago. Eleven very similar subspecies are found on different islands, with those from Isabela and Fernandina being the largest.

Besides, Tom has become a fine photographer, capturing moments with the same finesse I always strive to achieve but seldom accomplish. No longer will I ever tease him about his photo-taking acumen. He’s surpassed all my expectations and is a worthy match for the best of my accumulated, albeit inconsistent, skills over the years.

Fishing boat in The Galapagos. Yesterday, we dined on fresh caught grouper for lunch, and for dinner, it was scorpion fish…both were delicious. Scorpionfish have extremely potent venom in their sharp spines, making them one of the most poisonous animals in the ocean. Scorpionfish tend to live near the surface but can be found at 2,625 feet (800 m) deep.
Again, like in Africa, domestic and wild animals are not a good mix. Tom visited the Arnaldo Tupiza Chamaidan Breeding Center, where baby tortoises are bred until maturity to be released into the wild.
Tom took a photo of this sign at Arnaldo Tupiza Chamaidan Breeding Center.

Yes, I can live this life of unsteady immobility, and from my armchair and expeditions on shaky legs, I can continue to share the adventures we encounter along the way in our upcoming travels. The anticipation for the future is as thrilling and passionate as when my pace was assured and steady. My disability does not imprison me. I am enhanced in spirit over the challenge of making the most of every day, grateful for what I can do instead of what I cannot.

Another interesting sign is the Arnaldo Tupiza Chamaidan Breeding Center.
This is a young tortoise with many years yet to mature.
More baby tortoises.

I am emboldened by this new time in life, knowing it’s not unlike the pleasure we derive from adapting to new environments as we’ve traveled the world over the past 11 years in a mere two weeks from today. So much has changed, yet we are still the same people we were in 2012, ambitious, in love, determined, and somewhat fearless.

This one looks a little older than the above youngsters.
More young tortoises were enjoying the little pond.
Apparently, this tortoise was annoyed.

Perhaps I am not totally fearless when I suffered considerable angst over the impending altitude of Quito at 9350 feet. Then, as the altitude sickness presented symptoms to me, only exasperated by the fact I have heart disease, Afib, and asthma, all conditions known to deter travelers from high altitude, I found a sense of confidence in the fact that I never panicked, drank tons of water and rested as the best panaceas for the condition. By the third day, I was almost back to myself.

Photo of a sign about whitetip sharks.
Tom was thrilled to get this photo of whitetip sharks in a channel. Whitetip reef sharks are one of the most abundant Galapagos reef sharks. They can be seen from the surface to over 300 meters under the ocean. Although they prefer shallower water and are rarely seen deeper than 40 meters, they occasionally venture into open water from the reef.
More whitetip sharks. The naturalists Juan Carlo and Orlando explained that they hadn’t seen the whitetip sharks in six months, and they magically appeared for our passengers yesterday.

Now, when we return to Quito in four days to begin the altitude adjustment one more time, I have no angst or apprehension, knowing precisely what to expect in the last two days we’ll spend in Quito until we fly back down once again to Manta on October 23, to begin the drive to our new home the next day until January 8.

Cuddle buddies on the rocks.
Beautiful scenery.

After January 8? We have no plans, but we know our journey will continue to new horizons wherever possible. We’ll most likely make some decisions in the next 30 to 60 days on where we’d like to go. So many factors come into play when making those types of decisions.

Of course, none of these positive feelings I am experiencing would be possible without all of you, our valued readers. Without the daily preparations of these posts with Tom’s stunning photos, I’d be sitting here, playing with my phone or reading a book, neither of which would be fulfilling.

Sound asleep.

As a matter of fact, I often wonder if we would have continued traveling for 11 years had we not been documenting our daily lives as we have. It’s truly been the most meaningful and enriching aspect of our worldwide travels, knowing that someone out there is gaining joy in the world through our eyes. Now, in some ways, it will be through Tom’s eyes for those experiences that may be difficult for me to experience.

Saying so reminds me of Tom’s dear deceased older brother Jerome, who was blind and passed away last March at 94. Today would have been Jerome’s 95th birthday. A few years ago, when he was still able to read (listen to) our posts through an app on his computer, he said. “Tommy and Jessica, you will be my eyes as you travel the world. Jessica’s words paint a picture I can “see.” Tears flow from my eyes as I write this. We both miss him so much.

Blue-footed booby with those blue feet tucked away.

Many of our loyal readers have written to us in the past few days, extolling the virtues of our positive attitude in continuing on when others may have surrendered. But we don’t deserve praise for our commitment and dedication to continuing on. Curiosity? Perhaps. Astonishment? Perhaps. Or for some, who may say…” When are they going to get the message that they need to stop?”

No, we don’t continue on to “prove a point.” But, we do continue on for the enrichment of our lives, the sense of awe and wonder of the world, and the blissful adventure and the divine opportunity to share it all with all of you, each and every day. We thank every one of you for the great gift!

My dinner last night consisted of scorpionfish, roasted chicken, sun-dried tomatoes (which I later discovered have too many carbs for me), salad, garlic, spinach, and cheese. The chef, Jonathan, is going to great lengths to ensure I have plenty of delicious meals.

Ah, still happy, not melancholy! And grateful for so much.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 17, 2013:

At Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara, Kenya…After the bush dinner, we posed for a photo, although after a day on safari, I hardly felt photo-ready. Tom’s face was sunburned from the almost 8 hours we spent on safari that day, exposed to the elements, loving every minute. We couldn’t wait to put our clothing in the dirty laundry hamper to be washed, dried, and folded to perfection, and that was returned to our tent the same evening. This service was included in the all-inclusive pricing. For more photos, please click here.

Day 3…Celebrity Xploration…Our first night of seasickness ever, after 34 cruises…

A partial photo of a Galapagos Giant Tortoise.At about 7:50 last night, our boat took off for today’s tour of Isabela Island, the largest island in The Galapagos archipelago. The crew mentioned there would be rough seas, and our fantastic hotel manager, Agustin, passed around seasick pills at dinner, which we declined, never thinking we’d need them.

A sea lion on the beach.

Before our departure, Agustin and several other staff members mentioned the importance of us staying on the main deck, which we’re on, until heading to bed. This didn’t worry us since we’ve never been sick on our 34 past cruises since we began our journey 11 years ago.

The rough terrain the group tackled.

Well, last night, we were in for a big surprise. We didn’t start feeling it until we went to bed, and boom! It hit us both like a ton of bricks! Oh, my gosh, we were seasick for the first time in our lives! Even Tom, who’s tough and resilient, ended up puking his guts out. I held my mouth shut tight and managed to make it through without doing the same. At 1:30 am, when we’d reached our destination and the anchor was lowered, we could both get some sleep.

An iguana in the shadows.

Tom felt much better after his “event,” but I struggled until we finally anchored, and when I awoke this morning, I was still queasy; I had a hard time getting showered and dressed in the still-rocking catamaran. I couldn’t join Tom and our shipmates for breakfast, but now, close to lunchtime, I am ready to eat something and hope eating helps settle my stomach.

Tom maneuvered around for a better shot.

I felt much better after a wonderful lunch of fresh-caught grouper right from the Galapagos waters, roasted chicken, spinach, and salads. After lunch, we took a short nap before Tom headed out again for another tour with the group at 3:00 pm, returning to the ship by 6:00 pm. One of the outstanding naturalists, Orlando, added me to his WhatsApp account and is sending me photos and videos from snorkeling and land sightings. Soon, I will share some of those photos. Otherwise, today’s photos were all taken by Tom. He is doing such a great job!

Gosh, I’m thrilled with Tom’s photo-taking skills using his phone. This is a Great Blue Heron spotted at Dragon Hill, Santa Cruz Island.

We could post photos for weeks, but I’m sure most of our readers don’t mind when it’s been a photo drought from us for many months, except for those in August on the Norway and Greenland cruises. We are so excited going forward to be able to share photos of our upcoming extra months spent in Ecuador, a land of many wonders.

The unique scenery.

In doing online research, I encountered the following from this website about interesting facts about The Galapagos Islands. In future posts, we will share more. See below:

“Fascinating Facts about the Galápagos Islands

The remote archipelago has captivated visitors since Charles Darwin stepped ashore in 1835, but how much do you know about the Galápagos?

Six hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador lies the Galápagos Archipelago: a world unto itself, forged of lava and isolated for thousands of years. The islands are known for their famously fearless wildlife and as a source of inspiration for Darwin’s theory of evolution. And that’s just part of the story.

More interesting scenery.

Born of fire: The Galápagos Archipelago is one of the most volcanically active areas in the world. Situated atop a hotspot in the western Pacific, the islands were created over millennia of volcanic activity, as magma repeatedly broke through the sea floor and formed layer upon layer of rock, eventually becoming islands. Today, there are 13 active volcanoes in the archipelago, with intermittent eruptions occurring as recently as 2018.

More stunning scenery.

Discovery by accident: The first-recorded visitor to the Galápagos was Tomás de Berlanga, a Spanish noble and the bishop of Panama, whose ship was blown off course in 1535 while sailing from Panama to Peru. Berlanga was less than impressed with the stark, desert-like archipelago, describing it in a letter to the king of Spain as “dross, worthless, because it has not the power of raising a little grass, but only some thistles.”

This iguana greeted us at the pier when we first arrived in The Galapagos Islands a few days ago.

Human habitation: Though Spanish sailors, buccaneers, and whalers soon followed in Berlanga’s wake, the islands’ inhospitable terrain discouraged permanent habitation. The Galápagos was annexed by Ecuador from Spain in 1832, which led to a trickle of settlements and penal colonies. It wasn’t until the 1960s that an increasing number of Ecuadorians began migrating to the islands, drawn by opportunities in fishing and tourism. Today, more than 25,000 people live among the four inhabited islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana.

A yellow iguana is hidden in the bushes.

Evolution revolution: Although Charles Darwin only spent five weeks in the Galápagos in 1835, his time in the archipelago left a lasting impression. Here, the English naturalist famously observed that the islands’ finches (later named in his honor) had beaks that varied from island to island, depending on local conditions and food sources. Darwin would later draw on this research as evidence for his theory of evolution by natural selection, which he presented in On the Origin of the Species.

Each of the many islands in The Galapagos has a unique cactus endemic to its location.

Ecuador’s first national park: An astonishing 97 percent of the Galápagos landmass is designated a national park. Established in 1959, Galápagos National Park protects more than 3,000 square miles of islands and islets, while the Galápagos Marine Reserve protects an additional 50,000 square miles of ocean around the islands.

Or boat, Celebrity Xploration, a small, 16-passenger, 12-crew catamaran.

Nat Geo connection: In 2015, National Geographic’s Pristine Seas team carried out an expedition to the Galápagos to survey its extraordinary marine environments and make a case for greater protection of its waters. Inspired in part by the team’s findings, the government of Ecuador announced in 2016 the creation of a vast new marine sanctuary around Darwin and Wolf—two of the archipelago’s northernmost islands.

A tucked away yellow iguana.

Gentle giants: The islands’ giant tortoises—after which the archipelago is named—can survive up to one year without food or water. Tragically, this unique adaptation led to their demise over the centuries, as thousands of tortoises were captured and stored onboard ships to provide fresh meat for sailors. More than 100,000 tortoises are estimated to have been lost, leading to the extinction of several species and pushing others to the brink.

Currently, there are four species of iguanas in the archipelago: the Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus), found on Isabela, Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, and Fernandina Islands as well as other islets around them; the Pale Land Iguana (Conolophus pallidus), restricted to Santa Fe Island; the Yellow Land Iguana.

Conservation in action: For decades, researchers have been working to stabilize local tortoise populations at the captive breeding program in Santa Cruz, run by the Galápagos National Park Service and supported by the Lindblad Expeditions–National Geographic Fund. Visitors can observe these iconic creatures up close and explore a facility where tortoise hatchlings are reared before being repatriated to the islands.

Brilliant boobies: The three species of boobies inhabiting the Galápagos can be distinguished by color. Red-footed boobies are the smallest of the trio; blue-footed boobies flaunt their strikingly-hued feet to attract mates; and the Nazca booby, the largest of the three, can be identified by its brilliant white plumage and black-tipped feathers.

One flamingo species is resident in the Galapagos Islands, the Greater Flamingo. Flamingos are large, unmistakable birds with extremely long legs, necks, and unique kinked bills. In adults, the plumage is pink.

Penguins of the tropics: Waddling about the islands—primarily on Isla Fernandina and Isla Isabela—is the only species of penguin found north of the Equator. Though penguins are more commonly associated with the Southern Hemisphere’s chilly realms, the Galápagos penguin thrives in its tropical Ecuadorian habitat thanks to the calm, nutrient-rich waters of the Humboldt Current, which flows north from Antarctica.

Stars in your eyes: Unobscured by light pollution, the night skies over the Galápagos are some of the most dazzling on the planet. With its unique position straddling the Equator, the archipelago offers a rare opportunity to view the constellations of both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres simultaneously.

This is an abandoned flamingo egg, most likely unable to hatch. These small rocks were set here by a naturalist to protect the egg.

Swimming lizards: While they may not be the prettiest of the archipelago’s species (Charles Darwin famously described them as “hideous-looking”), they are among the most intriguing. Marine iguanas—found exclusively in the Galápagos—are the world’s only seagoing lizards. Their laterally flattened tails propel them through the water, while their long, sharp claws help them cling to rocks. Contrary to their fierce, spiky-headed appearance, marine iguanas are herbivores, feeding primarily on algae and seaweed.

Snail mail: Floreana Island’s Post Office Bay dates back to the 18th century when homesick whalers improvised a method of communicating with their families—via a simple wooden barrel. Inside the barrel, they left letters for other seamen on homeward-bound ships to deliver by hand. The tradition continues to this day, with thousands of letters passing through the hands of visitors to Post Office Bay.”

Ah, a perfect nap in the sun.

That’s the news for today, dear readers. Thank you for writing to us and providing love and support over our changes to accommodate my walking issues. You all mean the world to us both.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 16, 2013:

In the Maasai Mara we visited a Maasai Village. This is Chief Richard, who showed us around. It was fascinating, and we appreciated his extra time with us. For more photos, please click here.

Photos from Tom’s city tour in Quito and a few from today’s journey to The Galapagos…

Those are some big shoes to fill.

Note; There are too many photos and insufficient time for writing captions on all of them. Going forward, we will make every effort to identify each photo we post; We are so grateful the WiFi signal is suitable for loading these photos, but we make no guarantee that we’ll able to post photos going forward. Thank you for your patience.

We are sitting on the Celebrity chartered plane to Baltra, the main island in the Galapagos. It’s 12:21 pm, and our flight just took off. As I peer out the plane window, I see the Andes Mountains surrounding Ecuador and am in awe of their beauty and expanse to the sky.

Snow peak covered Andes Mountains.

There is a scattering of quaint villages in many of the foothills with ample opportunities for farming and cultivation. There’s a pristine quality of it all. In our few short days in Quito, we reveled in this country’s dedication to ecology and preservation of its vast resources, from the refillable metal water bottles to the limited use of caustic materials and amenities.

The process at the airport was meticulous and uneventful. The friendliness of the staff was evident in every area, and we were whisked through each process with dignity and ease. Several documents are associated with entry to the Galapagos to ensure the utmost safety and preservation of their unique wildlife and terrain. We have completed everything as required.

Now that we are flying to sea level, our altitude anomalies should dissipate within 12 hours. We both did fine walking through the Quito airport. Tom carried our three carry-on bags, and I was pleased with how well I did in the still-high altitude.

Our lunch is being served now on the plane. I will take a break to eat only the three pieces of smoked salmon with cream cheese. I will upload a photo later.

We had a lovely breakfast around 8:00 am, and I was hardly hungry since. Most likely, we won’t have dinner until late tonight on the boat. I ate the smoked salmon and a dollop of guacamole to hold me over. Tom ate the raspberry mousse and didn’t like the rest. Tom is very picky, like a little kid, about food, although occasionally, on cruises, he will try something new and enjoy it. I’d eat almost anything if it weren’t for my necessary way of eating for health purposes.

Speaking of health, I am so grateful to have made it through three days in Quito at a 9350-foot high altitude without a major Afib episode. I felt a few flutters and increased heart rate but immediately did the diaphragmatic breathing, and my heart rate dropped exponentially. I was greatly relieved.

The altitude caused me to walk very slowly when we went to meals, but last night, when we were bussed to a restaurant in the city for dinner, I did fine with steps and uneven pavement, always, of course, with Tom at my side.

At dinner, we sat with six of the other 14 passengers and, by now, had met everyone, making every attempt to remember their names. Surely. In the next 24 hours, we will have that accomplished.

Everyone is very friendly, mainly from the UK, but six Americans are traveling with us. The ages range from the late 20s for one newlywed couple to primarily 60s and 70s. Maybe this time, I won’t be the oldest person at the dinner table, but it’s hard to say at this point.

Last night’s dinner at the restaurant in Quito.

Today’s photos include many Tom took yesterday on the Quito city walking tour and the few I’ve taken in the past 24 hours.

Lunch on the plant to The Galapagos.
Roses are $3.75 for two dozen in Ecuador.

Be prepared, folks. There are many more exciting photos to come.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 14, 2013:
The tail end of the great migration in Tanzania…Gradually, the scenery began to change to include the migrating wildebeest, many of whom had yet to make the journey back to the Serengeti. Anderson explained they would continue on, instinctively finding their way to the large herds of millions. For more photos, please click here.

Looking forward to sea level tomorrow…Tom went on the Quito city tour…I could not…

There are many unique lizards on the islands we look forward to seeing. Not our photo.

I am suffering from mild altitude sickness and am looking forward to flying to sea level tomorrow morning. My symptoms are typical; difficulty breathing, legs and arms feel like lead due to lack of oxygen, and dizziness when standing or walking. My pulse is slightly faster than usual but is not Afib, for which I am grateful.

Tomorrow at 9:30 am, our group heads to the airport, where we’ll fly to Baltra, Ecuador. It’s less than a two-hour flight, and in 24 hours, we’ll be at sea level. I can’t wait. Right now, I am having quite a problem walking, much worse than usual. I can only hope I can go out to the various islands to see the fantastic wildlife awaiting us.

Determined to see everything, I will try with every bit of determination. This trip has meant a lot to us, seeing this stunning place known for its wide array of wildlife, some even prehistoric.

Had we known I’d be having Afib issues and difficulty walking, we most likely wouldn’t have booked this trip, especially with this high altitude in Quito, Ecuador, at 9350 feet, 2850 meters high. I didn’t have the first Afib episode until April this year, and my ability to walk has worsened since we had Covid-19 in April 2022.

Oh, well, as they say, “It’s hell to get old.” If we were living somewhere permanently, I suppose these disabilities of mine would be easier to tolerate. I’d be close to medical care if needed, so much walking wouldn’t be required. We’re now considering places we can visit that won’t require strenuous walking.

The Islands | Galápagos Conservancy
Map of the Galapagos Islands.

But we aren’t ready to end our journey. There are many countries we can visit where we tour the areas by car, although neither of us is a big fan of long road trips. Although, if the scenery is impressive, we don’t mind. We shall see what the future holds. We love cruising on small ships, especially now with the return of Covid-19.

However, on cruises, there are countless excursions off of the ships, often requiring walking for hours. If we can accept this reality on the premise that we lose the days at sea, we can reserve such tours for hiring a driver to drive us around the area at various ports of call. This is a good plan.

I do fine walking about the ship, around a hotel, or at a vacation home, cooking meals, and tidying up and doing laundry. That leaves us with many options.

If we discover I can handle the terrain on the various islands we’ll visit on the cruise in the Galapagos Islands; Tom will go with the camera and take many photos for me and all of you to see. It won’t be anywhere as meaningful not seeing everything first-hand, but I must prepare myself for this reality. The islands consist of volcanic rock. This may be the problem as opposed to level smooth surfaces.

I am now waiting for Tom to take photos on the tour, which will automatically appear in my Google Photos app. So far, I haven’t seen any, which may result in this post’s late uploading.

At this point, I should mention that the WiFi may not be good on the ship in this remote area. If you don’t see a post from us, please know that is the reason we weren’t able to prepare and upload any posts. I can write the text on another app and will save the stories to which we’ll add the photos once the cruise ends, not unlike how we did it when we had a poor signal on the Norway cruise.

If possible, I assure you, we will attempt to do a new post each day. So, please stay tuned for our next post, which may or may not be tomorrow since it’s a morning flight and then the trip to the boat, which could take the bulk of the day. We’ll be busy unpacking and getting ready for dinner once we board the small ship (16 passengers). Please check back daily.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 13, 2013:

In the Maasai Mara, Kenya…How did we get so close, so lucky to get this shot? I must be dreaming! For more photos, please click here.