This morning was a lazy morning. We got to sleep in, relax, eat breakfast, wander the streets, shop, eat ice cream, and just generally experience the island all morning long...
In the afternoon, we boarded a flight back to Quito. Once again, we had a brief stopover in Guayaquil, then returned to the capital. Over the past two days, a few of our students came down with a stomach sickness, and then today, five more of our group had caught it too... So thankfully we had ample down-time today to help our stomachs recover. After arriving in Quito, we met our new bus driver and checked into a very nice hotel bordering Plaza Santo Domingo. We ate dinner in a restaurant that offer stunning panoramic views of the city and turned in for a full night's sleep...
Today we had our final boat transfer from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal Island. After our transfer, we went directly to snorkeling. Today's snorkeling was arguably the best of the trip... We snorkeled alongside massive Pelicans and blue footed boobies, sea lions, giant sea turtles, loads of fish, and so much more. The water was cold today, but our Wyoming student hardy noticed... :-)
This afternoon, we essentially split into three groups: one group snorkeled again in the ocean; one group sun-bathed and relaxed on the beach; and the third group wandered about exploring the town...
Tonight was our last night on the islands, so we said goodbye to our local guides, Jose & Wilson, and wandered around the shops until curfew when we returned to our hotel to pack our bags for our return to mainland Ecuador.
Today we began the day with breakfast at the hotel, then on to another brutally bumpy/rocky boat transfer to Santa Cruz Island.
After transferring, we visited the Charles Darwin Research Center!
Later that afternoon, we took a 45 minute nature walk to the pristine beaches of tortuga bay! I didn't get to take many pictures while there, but it was beautiful and calm water in a cove bordering mangroves that provided shelter to small sharks and many kinds of fish. The barrier was lined with cacti and flowers, and the beach's sand was soft and light colored. It was a much needed cool, refreshing swim after a long day in the sun... After our swim, we walked all the way back to town, ate dinner together at an outdoor traditional eatery and then enjoyed the hotel rooftop pool and (for some) a brief karaoke session. Tonight was all about relaxing after the day's activities.
For our first full day in the Galápagos, we explored the largest - but sparsely populated - island, Isabella Island! It was quaint, and safe, and beautiful! As we woke up this morning, several students were itching to go to the beach to play in the waves, so we spent an hour in the ocean before even eating breakfast. Then we spent the entire first half of the day kayaking and snorkeling. We snorkeled with sea lions, crabs, lobsters, loads of fish, sea turtles, and so much more... We kayaked throughout a large bay, around rocky coves, past tropical penguins, large sea turtles, and stopped to see our first blue footed boobies!
this afternoon, we visited a flamingo sanctuary and feeding area, followed by a trip to the land tortoise breeding center to see hundreds of baby tortoises.
After our excursions, we were well worn-out. About half of our students went back to the beach while the others took a rest... Then on to dinner and packing for tomorrow's transfer to Santa Cruz island!
on day three, we departed our Quito hotel at 4am to catch a 6am internal flight to Baltra, Galapagos! As we flew out of Quito, we got to watch the most incredible sunrise over the city nestled in the Andes as an impressive 9,300+ feet!
we spent the day on Santa Cruz island, visiting a tortoise reserve, the Twin Craters, and the largest town in the Galapagos.
We then boarded a brutal 2-hour ferry ride to Isabella Island where we settled in, played at the beach, and ate dinner before resting for tomorrow's busy day.
Day 1 - Thursday: today we spent the entire day traveling to Ecuador. With three flights, five hours in layovers, and 21 people traveling together, it was a great day of traveling!
Day 2 - Friday: Today we slept in - in Quito - ate breakfast as a group, and then spent the whole day exploring the city and visiting the Equatorial Line!
The city itself was beautiful!
Our excursion to the Equatorial Line was fascinating and fun. Students had the opportunity to walk along the Equatorial line, balance an egg on its end, flush water straight down a drain, and play with gravitational forces...
After the exuatorial line, we made an impromptu stop at a beautiful and massive basilica that, for those willing to hike up the daunting stairs and ladders, offered a breath-taking view of the entire city of Quito!
After leaving the Basilica, we ate lunch in the city center and spent the afternoon exploring the old city. With winding streets, colorful buildings, and friendly locals, there is much to love about Quito!! We stopped at the presidential palace, the San Francisco monastery, the site of the future metro station, and the Santo Domingo monastery before returning to our hotel...
We ended our perfect first day in Ecuador with a hearty local meal and a brief celebration for Kyra's 18th birthday!
Now off to bed, because our flight to the Galápagos leaves Quito at 6am tomorrow!!
today the majority of our group of 21 departed from Buffalo at 3pm to drive the first leg of our journey.... We are staying in Billings overnight - then taking early morning shuttles to the airport to catch our flights to Quito, Ecuador! Our ride to Billings was a bit of a rocky one, as our bus broke down alongside the road, and we spent about two hours roadside, hot and thirsty.... Thanks to the kindness of a stranger who brought cups of sweet tea and allowed us to linger on his property, we survived the inconvenience and then traveled the rest of the way to Billings in a borrowed bus. Now with all students accounted for and turning in for the night, we look forward to our painfully early morning tomorrow and our first flight from Billings to Minneapolis!