Sunday, August 05, 2012

Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands

Continued from the Galápagos Preview page.

It was a while before I found some time to sift through all the photographs taken during our Ecuador and Galápagos trip.  I'll keep the story-telling to a minimum and just let the pictures speak for themselves.  It was an amazing trip, and I'm so very glad that I was able to visit such a fascinating place.

We had fun in Quito.  It isn't necessarily a city that I'd want to visit more in the future, but it always provided us with some entertainment in the 5 days we were there.

Old Town Quito - Basilica Voto del Nacional in Background

Stained Glass inside the Basilica

Armadillo Gargoyles on the Basilica

We took a really inexpensive bus ride (~$2 round-trip) to the equatorial tourist spot, Mitad del Mundo.  What is sort of silly is that the government actually screwed up the location and the real equator is a few hundred meters off from the marked line.  The museum there that covers all the various native cultures of Ecuador was interesting and worth checking out.  Other than that, the place reminded me of a mini-tourist trap town.

Mitad del Mundo (with Yellow Equator Line)

Instead of eating inside the Mitad del Mundo compound, we ventured out on our own.  After getting lost in some tiny villages, we found our way onto a major road.  After a bit more walking, we happened upon Joy's.  Let's just say that we're lucky to have found it.  Joy was really hospitable and hooked us up with some steamed tilapia.  It was a delicious meal, and she was really friendly.  She even took us to the back of her restaurant where we could perform the balance-the-egg on the equator tourist activity, as it turns out her restaurant sits on the true equator line verified by GPS and Google Maps.

Restaurante Joy's - A Hidden Gem

Steamed Tilapia at Joy's

I don't think I could go somewhere and not try their local delicacy.  It turns out that in Ecuador, one of the local favorites is cuy, which is a roasted guinea pig.  Here it is in all of its splendor.  It did taste pretty good, but it wasn't the easiest to eat given all of the small bones.  Reminds me of rabbit.

Cuy (Roasted Guinea Pig) 

We really liked this local joint as well.  It was more on the fast food end of things, but it was cheap and tasty -- a winning combination.

Good Quick Food at Restaurante Pepito

We also took an all-day side trip to Otavalo, a city known for its textiles.  We went to the textile market, which was fairly large, but surprisingly empty since we went on a weekday.  We were able to get some pretty good deals and walked away with a number of cloths, scarves, and blankets.  Following that, we explored some of the smaller communities in the area.

Otavalo Market

Lamb in San Pablo (Outside of Otavalo)

An Indigenous Otavalan

Next, it was onto the primary highlight of our vacation... the Galápagos Islands.  It was exciting to catch the first glimpse of the Galápagos Islands from the plane.  It was certainly going to be a heck of an adventure.

Our First View of the Galápagos Islands

Our first trip once on the islands was to the Darwin Research Center.  This is where we got to see the famous Lonesome George.  He was believed to be the very last Pinta Island Tortoise.  Unfortunately, around a month after our visit, he died.  Other than the giant tortoises seen at the research center, we did not get to see any in the wild.  You have to go on a larger tour in order to do so.

RIP: Lonesome George

We borrowed an underwater camera for this trip, not one of those enclosures, but an actual underwater camera.  I'm glad we did as I had a lot of fun taking pictures of cool things when snorkeling and then identifying them later on.  Here are my favorites.

Giant Hawkfish (Cirrhitus rivulatus)
Blue and Gold Snappers (Lutjanus viridis)
Blue Sea Star (Phataria unifascialis)

Chocolate Chip Star (Nidorellia armata) and
Cortez Rainbow Wrasse (Thalassoma lucasanum)

Coral Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus)

Spot-fin Porcupinefish (Diodon hystrix)

Panamic-fanged Blenny (Ophioblennius steindachneri)

Razor Surgeonfish (Prionurus laticlavius)

Sea Cucumber with Feeding Tentacles Extended

Diamond Stingray (Dasyatis dipterura)

I also came across a really cool looking grasshopper during one of the nature hikes.  Only later did I learn that was an endemic species found only on the Galápagos Islands, which is pretty cool.

Large Painted Locust (Schistocerca melanocera)

Now, it's time for the birds.  There were so many different types of them.  I never thought I would be a bird-watcher, but you're kind of forced to be one when you're out there otherwise you'd be missing out on a lot.

Pink Flamingo in Lagoon

Frigatebird in Flight

Frigatebird Close-up

Great Blue Heron Snacking on a Baby Sea Turtle

Blue-footed Booby

A Pair of Boobies

Galápagos Dove

One Type of Darwin's Finches


Masked Booby

Masked Booby Perched on a Rock

Waved Albatross Sitting on an Egg

Lava Heron with Freshly Caught Fish

Galápagos Hawk

Another Galápagos Hawk

There were also a lot of other animals to be seen.  One of the greatest things about this place was that many of creatures were simply not afraid of people.  They would just do their own thing for the most part.  You could stand there and observe them for as long as you wanted.

Sea Lion Attacking Its Own Tail

Nursing Baby Sea Lion

Marine Iguanas 

Lava Lizard

Sally Lightfoot Crabs

Pair of Baby Sea Lions

There is this tourist spot called Post Office Bay.  It is here that you leave your postcards and hope that a friendly tourist picks them up and mails them on your behalf.  We left a few for others to pick up, and we grabbed a few to send out.  Only one of ours, at this point, never made it to its intended destination.

Post Office Bay

The ocean views were spectacular too.  The colors represented seemed a bit unreal to me at times.

Nice Ocean View



Hara Prasad Juvvala said...

Nice photos !

Antónia said...

It's amazing :)