Minca and Playa Del Ritmo

Oh Minca! What a weird and wonderful place.

Not to start too harshly, but the town itself is shit. That said, it is only about 3 blocks by 3 blocks, so the “town” of Minca isn’t really much of a place to dislike. Fortunately, once you have moved past the 3 blocks the surrounding area was WONDERFUL. While in Taganga we spoke with the owner of the Bonzai Café who assured us that Minca was great and we should definitely go. Fortunately for us we heeded his advice.

After doing some research on hostals in Minca we settled on Casa Loma despite a few reviews about the number of steps that must be climbed to reach it. When we reach Minca we followed the directions to the hostal and climbed the 220-ish steps to our mountain home for the next 3 days. We arrived quite tired and pouring sweat. Both Autumn and I are competitive, so while catching our breath at the top we were very happy to see a few more people reach the top in the same condition and they didn’t even carry 30lb packs up the hill! While the hike up the hill wasn’t easy, it was definitely worth it. The view from Casa Loma is incredible. On most days you can see all the way to the Caribbean Sea in addition to the surrounding mountains.

casa loma view

We arrived fairly early in the morning, around 10am, and were able to check-in to our mountain hut room shortly thereafter. Our mountain hut, Casa Selva, was a tiki style hut with bamboo poles and a palm thatch roof. The hut was enclosed on 3 sides with the side at the foot of the bed open to our private deck and a fantastic mountain view. Not to worry, we had a mosquito net for around the bed as well as a rain sheet and a privacy sheet (neither of which we used). We could lay in bed overlooking the mountains and watch the birds fly; definitely a first for both of us.

tree house hut mountain hut

Once we were checked-in we changed into our swim suits and decided to walk to Las Marinkas waterfalls. It was about a 45 minute walk uphill which as you may have guessed makes for some seriously sweaty people. The benefit of getting that hot while walking to the waterfall is that since it is a mountain river waterfall you are able to cool down RIGHT AWAY. The water was serious cold, but all sorts of refreshing.

uphill to marinkas cascadas las marinkas

When we first arrived there were 6 other people at the falls, but they left after about 5 minutes and we spent the next hour enjoying the falls just the two of us.

just us at the waterfall glam pics conquering las marinkas

After a great time in and around the waterfall, we walked back to Minca for a quick bite of lunch at the Lazy Cat restaurant. Post lunch it was back up the hill to Casa Loma for a great sunset with a beer in hand.

sunset at casa loma

We had read that the food at Casa Loma, while vegetarian, was fantastic. Dinner the first night definitely did not disappoint. Their dinners are quasi family style with everyone sitting around 2 big tables, but the food is plated. This allows for some meeting of new people and the exchange of travel stories. We sat across from a Dutch guy who had traveled quite extensively. One of his most unique places was the month he spent in Iran. He absolutely raved about the people and the cities. As he described, the people were incredibly friendly and incredibly generous of their time and homes. Apparently the people of Iran think their government is as crazy as the rest of the world does. I found all of this very interesting although I have no interest in jumping on a plane and taking a trip there. Don’t worry Papa D!

Day 2

On the morning of Day 2 we awoke to our fantastic view from the hut. Today we decided to visit a coffee and cocoa farm for a tour which included how to make both coffee and chocolate. Expectations were definitely high. The directions to the place said it was about an hour and fifteen minute walk to the farm from our hostal. Interestingly enough they said the walk down was shorter… Turns out that when you walk up 1,000+ feet in elevation in just over an hour you arrive at your destination exhausted and incredibly sweaty. Are you sensing a theme yet? The Minca area is very pretty, but everything is UP.

hike up to a finca

The farm itself was on the top of another mountain and had some amazing views. The family was great. When we arrived (dripping sweat) they led us to a great breezy spot to sit and relax. They then brought us each a big glass of juice to drink and their pet Toucan “Touci” to play with. Not a bad reward for our hike up to the farm!

Toucci the toucan top of the mt at the finca

The tour itself was quite easy. We started off with a 3 minute walk to some coffee plants trees, some information on the threats to coffee farmers (fungus, bugs, and wasps that eat said bugs), and then back up to the farm to see the coffee making process in action.

finca man

I would say the general process is similar to some of the winery tours we took, but with some coffee specific elements. There is a separation process, fermentation process, drying step, initial deshelling process, roasting, and then a final deshelling process. All-in-all a fairly straight forward process, but I am sure there are lots and lots of nuances that we didn’t see. The farm that we were on did all of the harvesting, processing and drying but they send the beans to Santa Marta for roasting and bagging for resale.

working over the beans

After the coffee tour we were joined by another 8 people for the chocolate tour. Part of the tour was the same as the coffee tour, but they walked us through the full process for making chocolate. Very cool, but the taste didn’t really get good until we added milk and sugar to the raw cocoa.

cocoa plants

The tour went much longer than we anticipated and we were both starting to get quite hungry, but there was one more thing to do: chocolate facials. We got some great chocolate face photos:

chocolate mask choco and coffe face

The walk back down to Minca was shorter, but not much easier. At least we got to use lots of new and different muscles.

We stopped by the Lazy Cat again for lunch and then it was back up the hill to
Casa Loma. Both of us were sufficiently tired that we laid low the balance of the day and only left our hut to share a dinner and then eat a delicious piece of passion fruit cheesecake. Yum!

Day 3

Our last day in Minca had the potential to be many things. What we decided was that we would push ourselves again and hike an hour (uphill of course) to Pozo Azul, which is a great set of waterfalls northwest of Minca. The walk was sweaty once again, but the falls made it all worth it. There were several swimming spots to choose from so we picked the first one to cool off and then explored the others. Incredibly beautiful. I will let the pictures do the explaining.

pozo azul pool one pozo azul pozo azul three waterfalls

After Pozo Azul we made a quick stop at Camaritas. This is a small shack that serves smoked meats, beers, weed, and I’m sure coke if you really wanted it. The food had been highly recommended as was the crazy old guy that owned the place. The menu was limited that day to two items, but they were both delicious. As we were wrapping up our meal the old guy came and said hello and then walked away and fired up a joint that the Marley’s would be impressed by.

One more time back up the hill to Casa Loma to grab our packs and then right back down the hill to get a taxi to our next stop, Playa Del Ritmo. Playa del Ritmo was highly recommended by a German women we met at Casa Loma and was right on the beach so we definitely had to try it out. The taxi rides to the hostal were not great and the town of Santa Marta is shit, so the view was not good either. BUT… when we finally arrived at the hostal which is 15 minutes south of Santa Marta we were awed. The hostal is literally ON the beach. It has a tiki bar/restaurant and the room was just fine. We arrived just in time to catch the tail end of the sunset with our toes in the water. Not too shabby. Oh yeah, and there was a puppy that came to hang out with us while we were watching the sunset. Very cool.

Dinner at the tiki bar and then off to bed!


Day 1:

Our first day started off with a beautiful beach view from our air conditioned hotel room (a/c was added to the must-have list after living without it in the Amazon). We walked along the board walk to a café that served farm fresh greek yogurt. A farmer up in the hills delivers it daily. YUM! The town of Taganga is a horseshoe shaped bay surrounded by the lush Sierra Nevada Mountains.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so we decided to take a short boat ride to Playa Grande. The woman at our hostal helped us to arrange a boat to Play Grande and called one of her friends with a restaurant on the beach to look after us. Very nice. The beach itself is smallish and full of restaurants, lounge chairs, and lots of people. Upon arrival we were guided to a couple of chairs in the shade where we plopped ourselves down, opened cervezas, and proceeded to watch the world go by. Most of our day was spent swimming, snoozing, and basically just soaking it all in. There was even an ice cream man pushing his floating ice cream cooler through the water ringing his bell the whole time.

When we decided it was time for lunch, we were brought a tray with a variety of freshly caught fish for us to choose from. No filets down here. They just throw those babies on the grill and served them to us head and all! I can’t give the restaurant a rave review, but it was a fun experience.

After a nice afternoon on the beach we boated back to Taganga around 4:15 for a quick shower and get then back outside for the sunset. The Taganga Beach Bay is perfect because the sun sets directly behind the edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Tomorrow we are going to try to watch it all from our balcony!

After some delicious beachside tacos and daiquiris we headed back to the hotel to get a little research done and do some reading.

Day 2:

Today was the day I finally got to do some scuba diving. After doing some research yesterday, we connected with Oceano Scuba and scheduled a 2 tank dive for me with Autumn able to come along and do some snorkeling. Oceano was highly rated online and they certainly lived up to their rating.

After a quick breakfast we arrived at the scuba place around 8:15 to check-in, meet our guide, and grab our gear. Patricio was our (English speaking) guide and got us all geared up. Next it was onto the boat and the quick 10 minute ride over to their “beach” hut in Tayrona National Park. After dropping a couple of people off at the beach for their intro diving lessons, we headed out to Isla de La Aguja to do our first dive (and snorkel). The water wasn’t overly clear, with a visibility of around 25ft, but enough to make the dive enjoyable. We dove a nice reef break along the island and saw lots of fish and even a few different eels.

After the first dive we chilled for about an hour at the beach hut and enjoyed some fruit, sandwiches, water bags, and sun.

While I was going back into the water for our second dive of the day, Autumn decided to stay at the hut and hang out with her new Canadian and Australian friends. Similar to our first dive, we got to see lots of smaller fish as well as a couple of HUGE Green Moray Eels. I mean these guys were monsters. Fortunately (or unfortunately) both of our dives were deeper than our underwater camera would allow, so you will just have to take my word on the fish. 🙂

After the second dive wrapped up we picked up the beach goers and headed back to Taganga. We were all very pleased about the day.

We caught another beautiful sunset before heading off to dinner at Babaganoush. Autumn’s friends had told us about how great it was so we had to give it a try. For just around $10 US each we had a delicious three course meal. The food and the drinks were great and we would highly recommend it to anyone in Taganga.

Tomorrow we are off to Minca to do some hiking and sleep in an open mountain hut. Should be fun!

The Amazon – Leticia Day 3

The night before we discussed making our last full day in Leticia a little less structured. Autumn and I had a leisurely morning with breakfast at a small café (a ham and cheese omelet, bread, and coffee for $2.10 US) and then met up with the Hetrick’s to try and secure a boat for a half day tour. After getting a stupid expensive quote from a tour company, we walked down to the boat dock and were able to secure a private boat for 3-4 hours for a good price.

The driver offered us three stops for our trip. Our first stop allowed us to take a walk through the jungle. We saw some enormous lily pads, enormous trees, the world’s smallest monkeys, and we even got to swing on vines like Tarzan!

drew of the jungle we love the jungle climbing trees tree hole tree eating tree huge trees The dale jungle explorers the whole group exploring the jungle huge lilypads

After our jungle hike, we spent a little time in a jungle opening enjoying a quick rain shower with some parrots.

enjoying the rain macaw two birdies

We jumped back in the boat to head over to the place where we held the sloths yesterday. It was a ton of fun so naturally we had to do it again. While in transit we could see a wall of rain coming our way from up river. The driver did a great job of getting us to land and under cover in the nick of time.

Storm hiding from the rain

Even with the rain we got to hang out with our little creature buddies again!

sloth friend prehistoric turtle awww buddy the sloth


the three amgios chilling sloth

Nothing like a cup of coffee. In the rain. With an Anaconda. 🙂

coffee with an anaconda

And some baby monkeys!

lil monkey just monkeying around

A few more scenery shots on our way back to Leticia.

amazon river amazon river tree river ride

We wrapped up our day by grabbing a quick bite of linner (lunch/dinner), spending some time in the pool, and watching thousands of parakeets fly in to Santander Park to roost.

santander park

Not a bad way to spend our last full day in the Amazon!

The Amazon – Leticia Day 2

After a great start yesterday to our Amazon adventure, we were all looking forward to our full day boat tour. We met up with the guide at the Anaconda Hotel where Erik and Chelsia were staying and were led down to the boat launch. Today’s boat was much larger, a two engine speed boat with 8 other tourists in addition to us. After a quick intro the boat took off upstream against a very healthy current. Fun fact, the Amazon River is the longest, deepest, and fastest moving river in the world. The current was very impressive and we aren’t even in the real rainy season yet! Speaking of the rainy season, the river can rise as much as 50 – 60 feet above its current level. Rather amazing to think about. No wonder why all of the houses near the river were on stilts. Our guide said that everyone is used to this fact and it really isn’t a big deal; like snow in the winter he said…

Anyway, on this trip we saw dolphins again early on and then continued on to Monkey Island. If you would have asked us what we expected out of Monkey Island, none of us would have been correct. Instead of taking a walk and seeing monkeys at a distance, we got bombarded with monkeys almost from when we stepped on land. Seriously, they were jumping on our heads, climbing all over us and in general using us as play toys. Absolutely an amazing experience.

Next stop was at an Amazon village. Apparently in this particular village, the women rule so we were welcomed by the grandmothers and treated to a dance. Autumn got to participate, which was nice, but given that she was already HOT it made for a sweaty few minutes. We then did a little perusing of some of the local wares, but since we aren’t really into trinkets we left empty handed. Sorry Kelly Gardner. L

Next stop was Puerto Narino where we had lunch and then I climbed to the top of a lookout tower. There were some great views.

While I was taking pictures from the tower, Erik and the crew were down below getting his drone set up. He got it going and took some amazing footage and pictures from the air. Talk about a unique view!

drone pic 2 drone pic

We saw some great scenery as we headed back down stream towards our last stop. Upon arrival at another village, we were led to a thatch building overlooking the river. When we first arrived there were a few monkeys and parrots playing in the building which were very fun to see. The next thing we knew, the local handlers started bringing other animals for us to see and hold.

It started with a crazy prehistoric looking turtle:

Then an owl:

I’m pretty sure that Autumn is getting ready to start school at Hogwarts soon…

And then we maxed out the cuteness scale when they brought out baby sloths. Seriously, they are ridiculously cute, soft, SLOW, and cuddly. Cora and Alia were so happy to be holding them.

Oh yeah, Autumn and I got our share of cuddling with them too!


Manly + Sloths!

And an Anaconda! Eat your heart out Alice Cooper!

Out behind the houses was a little pond with GIANT lily pads over three feet across!

Finally, we saw a capybara which is the world’s largest rat. Aside from looking a little weird it was a cool animal to see. Apparently these are also a favorite meal for large anacondas. The snake would have to be large and in charge to down one of these!

The Amazon – Leticia Day 1

So while in South America we decided we needed to see the Amazon. Forget the fact that a huge chunk of it is in Brazil or in the North of Peru; both of which we decided not to visit. Fortunately, there is a small sliver of land in Columbia which drops down right in the heart of the Amazon; Leticia.

We arrived on December 5th and were greeted with 90 degree weather and 90% humidity. Wowza! Chelsia had arranged a pickup for us from the airport, which is always nice when arriving in new places. The van took us to Erik and Chelsia’s hotel at which point we said our see you later’s and ventured out to find our hostel. Unfortunately, the map on Airbnb was not remotely accurate, so we tromped around for 45 minutes looking for our hostel. Given the temperature and the fact that we were carrying backpacks both contributed to the rivers of sweat running down our bodies when we finally found it. Not pleasant, but hey it is the Amazon and I guess we’d better get used to it.

We arrived around 11am, so after checking in to our respective accommodations and then a quick stop for lunch we rendezvoused to determine our activity for the balance of the day. Leticia itself is a small city full of motorbikes, river boats, and birds; the main purpose of which is a launch point for Amazon adventures. Not wanting to sit around and wait for the tour we had scheduled tomorrow, Dash (Erik) and I arranged a night tour through an agency in Leticia.

Our first Amazon adventure started that night! The six of us: Erik, Chelsia, Cora (4 yrs old), Alia (2 yrs old), Autumn, and I went on a 4 hour river night tour to search for the Amazon’s night creatures. Very cool! The boat was a long, skinny, wooden motorized boat with a tarp cover. Fun fact, Leticia sits in a very cool location, at the corner of three countries; Columbia, Peru, and Brazil. When we left the (very small) port to venture out onto the Amazon River, we could see all three countries.

After 10 minutes or so in the boat we spotted a family of river dolphins. The handful that we saw were quite young and we were told that not only are the young dolphins small, but they are a grey color which fades into pink once they become adults. Talk about a great sight right out of the gate.

We continued on, but from behind us we could see a storm building with the occasional roll of thunder. So in preparation, we grabbed our rain jackets and pulled down the sides of the tarp. It was then that we got our first taste of the RAIN Forest. We continued to motor while the rain engulfed us. Fortunately, it only lasted 10-15 minutes and then we were free to pull up the sides again for a better view.

The next leg of our journey took us up a small river. The goal of this stretch was to see Cayman, Crocodiles, Owls, and other night birds. Mission accomplished. While we were told there some of crocodiles grow to 16+ feet, we didn’t find any that size. That was okay though because our guide spotted and grabbed a little Cayman for us to look at and hold. Definitely a first!

lots of teeth

As we continued up the river, it continued to get smaller and smaller and smaller until we navigated through some areas that were wall to wall reeds. Add that to the fact that I was on the lookout for a 15 foot Crocodile and it made for an exciting boat ride.

On our way back down the river our guide grabbed a little Croc for us to hold and he showed us the difference between it and a Cayman. Definitely more camouflaged and with a more mean look about it.

We also saw owls, frogs, spiders, and night herons. Very cool.


Our time in Bogota was spent at our friend’s, Erik and Chelsia, home. They have two sweet girls, two dogs, and a cat. We loved having a fun, busy household to hang out at while we explored parts of Colombia. They will be joining us on our adventure along the Amazon River, but first we will hit the highlights of Bogota.

Bogota is a huge city with a population around 8 million. We gave ourselves a full day to see some of the main attractions. We started at the Museo Del Oro, which is the Gold Museum. The name says it all. Basically, it’s a museum filled with gold artifacts from Colombia’s history. This museum has a great set up and is very English friendly. We learned a lot about how they made the artifacts, what their purpose was, what they symbolized, etc. Fun to learn about and crazy to think about how inventive they were. The detail they were able to make as well as their ability to combine multiple metals to make all sorts of different tools and ceremonial items was amazing.

Afterwards we made a brief stop into the Iglesia de San Francisco. It had beautiful, gold statues/art/ornaments! But, there was a service going on, so we left fairly quickly. No pictures allowed.

Then, we stopped into the Museo de Botero. Botero is an interesting artist because he takes famous to semi-famous people and paints them as if they were 300 pounds!! Basically, there were a bunch of huge people all over the walls. FUN! The museum also had a few Picasso’s and other artists as well.

Our last stop was to the convention center where they had a “Christmas Market”. There were 6 huge buildings with lots of unique, artisanal items for sale. Nothing was really Christmassy, so I think it’s called that because it’s around Christmas time and people buy their presents there? That was slightly disappointing because we wanted it to help get us in the spirit of the season. But, we did see Colombia’s First Lady…we snapped a picture of her because everyone else was and then we asked Chelsia when we got back. Neither of us have ever seen a First Lady in person before!

Bogota is a big city. We still aren’t really fans of big cities, but we gave it a chance. Up next: THE AMAZON!!!

San Cristobal Island

After our cruise we were fortunate enough to have three more nights in the Galapagos in the town of Puerto Baquerizo.  This is a small, sleepy port city on the island of San Cristobal.  I’d call it the unofficial capitol of sea lions. They were everywhere; in the street, on the boardwalk, on the benches, etc.  The city has built an ineffective fence to keep them out, but it seems as though the sea lions follow the saying “where there’s a will there’s a way”. Ha! The beach is covered in huge males, sleepy females, and tons of small little pups.

staircase of sea lions baby eating drew and his harem pup

The males are constantly fighting over the harem leader position.  They roam their boarders making horrible noises and taking out any male who tries to butt in.  This doesn’t last long though because they have to patrol 24 hours a day they aren’t able to eat or sleep much, so their rein usually only lasts about 4 weeks.

big boy big papa

The sea lions and their pups weren’t always cute.  In fact most of the time they were loud, stinky, snotty, and covered in flies.  I’ve decided the sounds they make are similar to a zombie vomiting (if you can imagine that).  It really is pretty unappealing…even the little baby pups have an odd guttural call when they want their mom.  Regardless, it was super fun to see them all the time and in such huge numbers!

It rained often during our time there, but when you are snorkeling it really doesn’t matter.  There were numerous beaches you could walk to that were perfect for underwater sight seeing.  The first beach we were at had one lone sea lion perusing the waters, a turtle and lots of fish. Sick of seeing picture of sea turtles yet? They were everywhere and we can’t help posting pics of them…they were such cool creatures to watch.

sea turt Playa Mann

We weren’t seeing much else, so we decided to pack up and go to the next beach.  Here the waters weren’t as smooth as the last place and the water was churned up. This made the visibility low, but it didn’t really matter because there were sea turtles everywhere and they didn’t mind if you got close! We also saw our first swimming/diving marine iguana while we were snorkeling. What an odd sight!

drew and a turt swimming iguana

Our time in the Galapagos has come to an end. WHAT A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE!!! The world is changing quickly and we feel blessed that we were able to witness these awesome creatures and islands while they were still around.  We will be back!! Colombia is our final destination before we head home for Christmas. Can’t wait : )

8 days on the Eden – Days 5 – 8

Day 5

Today was a transition day. There were 12 people from our boat disembarking and 12 more joining the fun. It wasn’t exactly a smooth transition, but eventually everyone got to where they needed to be. In the morning Drew and I were dropped off in Puerto Ayora (where we spent the first 3 days exploring), so we decided to take advantage of having the internet to send some emails and call home to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

In the afternoon we went with a small group to the Santa Cruz Highlands where there are many Giant Tortoises roaming around in their natural habitat. We found this experience to be much better than viewing them at the Darwin Nature Center! It was really nice to go there with our tour guide because he gave us lots of fun information about the tortoises. Information such as tortoises don’t mate until they are 40 years old!! Crazy!

Once we hopped on the boat again we had all 16 passengers on board. This time there were people from Chicago, Austria, Spain, Germany, Chile, and Australia. It was fun getting to know some more people and hear their stories. It should be a fun next couple of days.

Tonight will be a quiet one until about 2 a.m. because that is when we pull up anchor to head towards Floreana Island. Hopefully, we will sleep through the rough seas this time!

Day 6

So it turns out that long night navigations in the Galapagos aren’t too enjoyable. Similar to the navigation to and from Genovesa Island, we got rocked and rolled for the majority of the night again. I would like to say that we are pros at this by now, but it still stinks. Both of us have figured out how to ensure we don’t get sick, but that doesn’t make it any easier to sleep. Apparently we were not the only ones. At breakfast everyone was pretty blurry eyed from a lack of sleep. Kind of a rough start to the day.

The fortunate thing for all of us is that our day quickly became great! When we woke in the morning we were anchored off the north side of Floreana Island. Floreana has a unique history from whalers and pirates to German settlers to missing people and the like. A few of the stories are worth googling.

After breakfast we started the day with a nice panga (small boat) ride and then took a fairly short walk up to an amazing lookout platform named Baroness Lookout. It is one of the most picturesque sights I have enjoyed. In addition to the water and different color hues, there were sea turtles and sea lions playing in the cove below. VERY COOL!

Genovesia Island from Baroness Lookout


And what was next to the panga when we got back to the beach? A very curious and playful young sea lion. Autumn took some great photos from about 5 feet away.

Just sitting

Next, it was on to Post Office Bay. This is a pretty neat story as well. When the English Whalers first came to the Galapagos one of the ships put an old rum barrel on the shore of this bay which was used to send mail back to England. If a ship was going home, they would grab the contents of the barrel and hand deliver it to the recipients. The tradition is still carried on today. We went through every post card in the barrel and there was one addressed close to where we live so, we grabbed it and will hand deliver it. Here comes your post card Inver Grove Heights! After going through all of the postcards, we dropped ours in the barrel. Supposedly it takes around 3 weeks for someone to deliver the postcard, but we shall see!

post office bay
Next up for the day… Snorkeling. And GREAT snorkeling at that. In our 45 minute snorkel we saw loads of fish, probably 15 sea turtles, 4 sharks, numerous stingrays, several big puffer fish, a sea lion or two, and lots more. One of the sea turtles we saw was a huge male that was probably 6 feet long from head to tail. It was almost as big as me!

sea turtle fish boarding the panga at post office bay

In the afternoon we did another great snorkel at the Devil’s Crown. It had even more fish than the snorkel in the morning. On one place in particular, the ocean bottom looked covered in a blanket of fish.

carpet of fishcolorful starfishblue fish

Oh, and we saw penguins too!


Finally, we wrapped up our most amazing day in the Galapagos with a hike to a beautiful white sand beach complete with sea turtles and sting rays EVERYWHERE! There were turtles nesting on the beach, turtles mating in the water, and turtles surfing waves. Totally amazing. There were also stingrays all over in the surf close to the shore. At first I thought they were rocks, but when I finally got a good look at them it turned out there were all different sizes from plate size to 3 feet across.

sufing turtles turtle and autumn best day ever

This was by far my favorite day in the Galapagos. I hope tomorrow brings more of the same!

sunset sunset

Day 7

We started our seventh day on Espanola Island. This island is known for the Waved Albatross (think The Rescuers Down Under…I did at least). We hiked around searching for them, but instead ran into many baby sea lions, marine iguanas, & Nazca Boobies. Many people had HUGE, expensive cameras on this trip. We had our fairly basic camera and it didn’t matter because the animals in all of the Galapagos are SO CLOSE and numerous that even we got good photos most of the time.

curious pup

The playful sea lion pups varied in size and age, but most were between one week and one month old. So cute!! Unfortunately, for them, the flies loved them too! The waters are a bit warmer than normal which isn’t good for marine animals because the amount of fish declines. If mother sea lions can’t find enough food for themselves, then they will abandon their cute, furry babies. So, we spent a little too much time concerned about whether the baby was sad and looking for his mommy or just making weird noises for the fun of it.


We walked to the top of the cliffs and found many Waved Albatross! They stay high on the cliffs, so their not-so-graceful selves can take off and land easier. They basically barrel in and trip over their huge feet while attempting to land.

cliffs of espanola island waved albatross

Then, we went to the beach to snorkel with sea lions, sea snakes, sting rays, sea turtles, and many other fish.

snorkeling nerdy fish sting ray

After lunch we cruised for 4 hours to San Cristobal Island. At this time I slept….I can’t seem to fight the “bug” I have, so I’m on antibiotics hoping some rest and meds will help. Drew sat at the front of the boat and enjoyed the awesome weather, jumping manta rays, and sea lions. Tomorrow is our last day…crazy!!!

Day 8

Our last day on the Eden. While we have really enjoyed our time on the yacht, both Autumn and I are excited about the prospect of being back on land and sleeping in a stable bed. Today started with a 7am wake-up call for a jump on the pangas and a morning snorkel around Kicker Rock. These two huge rocks are the left overs of a volcanic cone and compose the nearly sheer cliffs down into the deep blue.

kciker rock kicker rock

Honestly, my first thought when we got in the water and looked down was “This must be where they came up with the phrase Davey Jones’ locker.” I mean seriously, it was incredibly beautiful, but there was nothingness below us. Kind of crazy! As we same around the wall of rock, there were lots of different types of fish stratified at various depths. The smaller fish were closest to the surface with progressively larger fish at subsequent depths. Among the bigger fish was a large school of Black Fin Tuna patrolling.

We had been told that we might see sharks on the snorkel and we weren’t disappointed. Up to this point we had only seen white tipped reef sharks. This time we saw black tipped reef and best of all…. THREE HAMMERHEADS!!! Holy crap! Apparently Hammerheads are quite shy and will swim away if they see you (which is the opposite of what I had previously heard). Anywho, they were good sized, around 6 ft in length, but not too large where I was concerned about being eaten. I will admit that the da dum, da dum from Jaws was going through my head.

hammer head hammerhead shark galapagos shark

We also saw several sea turtles flying effortlessly through the water. The deep blue of the water makes for a good picture frame!


After the snorkel it was back on the boat to make our way to port to disembark. It truly was an amazing trip with beautiful animals to see both above and below the water.

Galapagos Notes:

For those of you that may be interested we would be happy to pass along more insight of how and when to go. A few things to keep in mind though:

1) No matter which islands you visit, if you are doing a longer voyage (5-8 days) you will have some long navigations which are quite rocky. Definitely not for those which get sea sick easily.

2) The vast majority of the cruises have a snorkel element to them. Typically 1 -2 times per day. If you are not up for snorkeling I recommend not going to the Galapagos. There are some interesting things to see on land, but you probably will only get about 40% of the experience.

3) It is very true that you can get much better deals booking a last minute cruise once you are in the Galapagos (ours was 50% less), but you are at the mercy of what’s available. Sometimes that can be good, other times things are very limited.

4) Unless you are going to spend 3 – 4 weeks in the Galapagos, you will not be able to see all of the islands. Our Cruise hit the central, southern, and western islands. This is a choice you will have to make. We did not see Isabella Island. I guess we will have to save that for another trip.

8 days on the Eden – Days 1 – 4

Day 1: We were due to meet our cruise ship back at the airport. It is quite the process consisting of a 45 minute taxi ride, a 5 minute ferry ride, and another 10 minute bus ride. Unfortunately, we were doing this process with 100 other people, so things got pretty sweaty and hectic. Two hours later we made it to the airport and met up with our tour group. After a few minute wait, our baggage was loaded on to another bus and we were off to meet up with our Yacht.

The Eden

Our home for the next 8 days and 7 seven nights was called Eden (fortunately not a clothing optional boat). It is a yacht that has room for 16 guests and 7 crew members. Immediately upon getting on the yacht we were led in to a main common area with bar, living room, and dining room. It was there we received a briefing on the boat, outline of the daily routine, and other necessities. After the briefing we got to see our rooms for the first time. There were 4 rooms down below (complete with loud noise from the engine), 1 room on the main level, and 4 rooms on the upper level. Our room was on the upper level, so we had bunk beds, windows facing the water, and a very adequate bathroom (it was bigger than some hostel bathrooms we’ve had). The room itself seems very small upon entry, but actually was quite sufficient for sleeping. Pretty much everything else happened in the open spaces or in the bar/dining room.

Our cabinRelaxing on deck

Our first and only stop for the day was to Bachas Bay on the north side of Santa Cruz Island. Here our guide, Christian, explained to us that we were going to hear the name Darwin, Galapagos, and Lava used often when learning the names of plants & animals…the people in charge of naming weren’t very original apparently. He also warned us that today we weren’t going to see many animals, but they were in our near future. On our walk we did see Blue Footed Boobies (flying, not up close and personal), sea lions, marine iguanas, turtles (five of them mating in the water), crabs, sea turtle egg shells and a flamingo. Not a ton of wildlife, but Drew and I were still pretty impressed!


Afterwards we were given some beach time to snorkel, walk, or swim. I just observed while Drew went snorkeling. It was a rather short swim though as the water visibility was pretty low. Then, it was time to get back on the boat, shower, gather in the living room for a briefing on tomorrow’s adventure, eat dinner (DELICIOUS), and get ready for bed.

We decided to go to bed early due to the fact that we were exhausted and because the ocean was really rough!! Once dinner ended we were traveling, overnight, 40 miles to the next island. Drew and I both took Dramamine, so we weren’t feeling too terrible, but there wasn’t much else you could do besides attempt to get to sleep amid the heavily rocking boat. I was on the top bunk for all of 5 minutes before I decided that falling out of bed could be a real possibility and even if I don’t I’m anxious enough about it that falling asleep is going to be doubly hard. So, Drew helped me get the mattress off and put it on the floor. We were still getting rocked relentlessly, but at least we wouldn’t harm ourselves in the process!!! The trip to our destination was not so great. Fortunately, the boat arrived in the bay at 2:30am and we were finally able to get some sound sleep. THANK GOODNESS!!!

Day 2

We awoke around 6:45am to try and shake the sleep from our heads before the breakfast bell ran at 7am. Given the rough start to the night I was a little surprised that we both felt pretty decent. We had a good Galapagos attempt at an American breakfast (eggs, bacon, toast, coffee, etc.) and then loaded up for our first adventure of the day at Tower (Genovesia) Island.

A quick couple of notes on the island itself. The island is crescent shaped due to it being the lip of an extinct volcano. The southern side of the volcano ridge has been eroded away over time due to sea currents leaving the great crescent shape. The island is also one of the farthest north islands in the Galapagos, which, due to wind currents also makes the water the warmest.

Our first activity was to do a wet landing on to the only beach on the island. As soon as we landed we were treated to a mama and baby sea lion on the edge of the beach.

Audi with sea lion

From there we took about an hour walk around the beach area looking at the different types of birds resident on the island. Among the many birds we saw were; Red Footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies, Frigate Birds, gulls, terns, and many more. One of the really neat things about the Galapagos Islands are the lack of predators for many of the animals. Due to this, most of the birds and wildlife will let you walk right up to them to take their picture. Sometimes we would even have to leave our designated travel to avoid birds, sea lions, and iguanas who had no interest in getting out of our way.

Red Footed Booby Red Footed Booby

From the beach we were able to do a little snorkeling. We saw lots of neat fish, but the highlight was when a sea lion came swimming right alongside of us on his way out to go eat! That was definitely a first for both of us.

After a busy morning we retreated to the boat for some lunch and a much needed nap. Activities started again at 2:30pm and included snorkeling around the cliff edges of the island. This was a fantastic snorkel full of colorful fish, big schools and loners. The sea floor is around 320ft deep at its deepest in the bay, so while we were snorkeling along the wall, a quick glance to the left would give you a nice look at a dark abyss.

Back on the boat one more time for a quick shower and then to prepare to go do some more hiking on the island. We were able to get up close and personal to the Nazca Boobies and even a few fuzzy 1 month old. The reason for our walk was to spot the Short Eared Owel. We spotted 3 of them and one of them was in the process of hunting down a small finch. These owls are able to hunt during the day because they have no predators, therefore no reason to hide out at night. Cool!

Day 3

Last night wasn’t as rough as the night before, but definitely rough enough to constitute my mattress moving to the floor (it was more of a front to back sway instead of side to side). Due to the fact that we travel at night we get to wake up to a new view each morning. Super fun! This morning’s view didn’t disappoint. The sun was shining brightly over these large, high lava rock formations. Our location was Bartolome Bay.

Drew wasn’t (hasn’t for a few days) feeling well, so he stayed back from the first morning adventure. I went with the group on the search for penguins. We didn’t spot any which wasn’t a huge surprise because 90% of the penguin population lives on Isabella Island (leaving the other 10% to spread out across the rest of the Galapagos). We did see a lot of neat lava rock and sea lions though. Then, we climbed to the top of the tallest hill that overlooked the awesome sandy beaches, hills and other islands. VERY HOT, but also really beautiful.

Up next was snorkeling. This has definitely been the BEST snorkeling experience we’ve had this trip. Luckily, a little nap and some antibiotics helped give Drew enough energy to come along. The water was incredibly clear and the sea life just wouldn’t stop being awesome! We saw two large sea turtles, two sharks, one PENGUIN, one sea lion, many star fish, a Porcupine Puffer Fish, needle fish, and loads more. 45 minutes of our time was all it took to see these awe inspiring creatures and of course we didn’t bring our camera this time. SHOOT! Oh well, I will always remember a penguin bursting by me, a sea lion torpedoing through a group of snorkelers, and two lazy sharks sauntering under my fins.

After lunch we hiked on top of some lava to see the rope-like formations and gas bubble caves. Then, we did some more snorkeling at the beach on the other side of the island from the one we were at in the morning. We made sure to bring our camera this time! And it’s a good thing we did because we saw another sea turtle! Watching such a gentle, carefree creature was a pleasure. Once again we saw many fish and enjoyed the clear water. We boarded the boat and immediately brought in the anchor.

Sea Turtle on the move Lava field Lava rope

We toured around the Daphne Islands and spotted many turtles, sea lions, and dolphins along the way. But, the best part was when a pod of dolphins raced in front of our boat! They won every race and were still able do barrel rolls and jumps out of the water. SWEET! Then, we were able to enjoy the full moon and frigate birds flying above. Right before dinner we dropped anchor and would stay anchored all night…. HAPPY DAY!!! More sleep for us would be greatly appreciated after all of the sunshine and sea.


Day 4:

Our day started a little differently than most up to this point. Instead of our normal 7am wake up call for breakfast, when the bell rang at 7 it was time to hop in the pangas and do an early tour around Black Turtle Cove. The cove itself is a shallow bay composed of volcanic rock, but has a lush ring of mangroves lining the perimeter which made it much greener than much of what we had seen up to that point. The significance of the bay is that it is where a large number of Green Sea Turtles go to mate. Oh, and we were there at just the right time as you will see from our video. It is true that animals ‘do it like they do on the Discovery Channel’. Fun fact about turtle mating: a typical “session” lasts 2 – 3 hours. Another fun fact: a female typically mates with 3-5 males in succession. She carries the male on her back for the duration too. Whew!

Our tour group had the good fortune to get a front row seat to the action along with the other 4 male turtles all lined up to take their shot.

{mating video to be uploaded soon}

In addition to the mating turtles, we saw plenty of others along with sting rays, sharks, sea lions, and plenty of birds including the always funny blue footed booby. 🙂

Big male sea turtle

After a nice morning in Black Turtle Cove we returned to the boat for breakfast and a fairly short navigation to our next stop, Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill).

Land Iguana

We ran into some rain during the navigation, so we got a late start on our hike around Cerro Dragon. As one might expect, after ran in the tropics the heat and humidity were quite high. We had a nice (sweaty) hike up Cerro Dragon and got to see several Land Iguanas. Very cool and quite different from the Marine Iguanas we had seen up to this point. After learning about invasive animals and the eradication efforts under way it was back to the boat for a 2.5 hour navigation to Puerto Ayora.

The weather we experienced early decided to join us on the trip and we were rocked and rolled for almost all of the 2.5 hours. The first hour we tried to rest in our cabin, but after making the mistake of trying to go to the bathroom I had to go get some fresh air. I will tell you that it is no fun to try to pee standing up while being tossed about in a small bathroom. Fortunately no injuries occurred, but my stomach was not too happy with me. The front of the boat, while wet, was a much better place to spend the last hour or so of the trip.