Category: Ecuador

Farewell Lonesome George

By , July 8, 2012 12:54 pm
Lonesome George

Lonesome George

Lonesome George died on June 24th, 2012 due to natural causes. He was more than a mascot of the Galapagos. He was the last specie of the Pinta Island tortoise. While is exact age is unknown, he was believed to me more than 100 years old.

Before Lonesome George’s death, all attempts to mate him with closer female species of his kind failed.

We are very thankful to have been able to see him when we visited Santa Cruz Island a year and a half ago. Lonesome George remains a symbol of the urgent need to conserve nature.

The Unspoken Heroes Of The Galapagos

By , July 22, 2011 12:01 am
Animals of the Galapagos

Animals of the Galapagos

On our bucket list for places we want to see before we die, the Galapagos was very high.  We were concerned that it was going to put a big dent on our budget, but we managed to get to the Galapagos and not spend too much.

Yes, everyone wants to go to the Galapagos.  And yes, everyone that does go says they love it.  I want to have another response, yet I can’t. Maybe I don’t want to go on another cruise in the Galapagos, but I do miss those special animals.  So my video of the week goes out to those animals of the Galapagos, the unspoken heroes, and the great folks we met out there.

Enjoy and have a very very nice weekend.
 

 

Couple Of The Week: Yours Truly

By , May 11, 2011 4:52 pm

I hope we don’t need any introductions. The couple of the week is Boris and MuiMui. While we were interviewing couples for our weekly couple section, we actually got asked to answer a few questions for Holly, who will be starting her travels in a few months. You can read the original interview on her blog.

MeAndFrenchie

Boris And MuiMui

Relationship Status: | Attached to the hip.
How long have you been together? | Over 3 years.
How long have you been traveling? | 13 months.
How long is your total planned trip? | 12 to 18 months.

What attracted you to traveling in the first place and how did it become a reality?
Boris: I grew up in France and have always been attracted to the US. I finally went there for an internship and loved it. Once I graduated, I immediately found a job in San Francisco. I loved the city so much that I was disappointed to have ended up there before seeing more of the world. One year before our world tour, I told MuiMui that I wanted to move abroad and experience life in a different country. She replied that if she had to leave everything, she wanted to see more of the world. We agreed to go on a world tour together.

MuiMui: My desire for travel grew from loving parents who worked all the time and basically from their lack of travel. In college, I snatched every chance I had to travel outside of the US. Then when I joined the corporate world, travel became my yearly escape. When I met my Boris, he would challenge me whenever I would say, “I wish I could …” so here we are, circling the globe.

How is traveling different from taking a two week holiday?
Boris: Traveling has nothing to with going on holiday. First, you always have to look at your budget to make you can make it to the end of your travel and that you don’t have a bad impact on the populations. Second, traveling is, for us, more oriented towards meeting people and learning cultures than just sightseeing. Last, I would say that when you travel you have to give yourself time to rest and reenergize.

MuiMui: The two do not have to be so different but as a typical American, my short and infrequent holidays seem to dictate how I traveled initially, so I would automatically try to maximize my experience by seeing as much as I can and within the western comforts I am use to. It was when I went to Vietnam for the first time on holiday and explored the small villages and did away with my usual comforts that made me realize how much I was missing out on.

How do you organize world travel among the both of you?
Boris: Before entering a new country we will both do 1 or 2 hours of research and then compare our results. Then with the information, we will try to make an itinerary that would allow us to see most of it within our allocated time frame. Once we arrive in a city, we will start looking together for a place to stay and I usually get tired and let MuiMui find the best deal in town.

MuiMui: A world trip is a lot to take in so with some planning, it makes things a little easier for us and more efficient. We split up the work by who wants to do what. Two things we learned not to do is over plan, leave out some of the small details to be explored together, and for each country, it is good if the both of you read up a little about it as you enjoy a place more if you know more about it.

What did you learn about each other?
Boris: She is extremely good at bargaining and finding deals. She can be very cheap and will get extremely upset if she finds out somebody else got a better deal. No matter how hard it is, if she has decided to go somewhere, she will find a way to get there (and without getting ripped off).

MuiMui: I did not necessarily learn something new about Boris, but the small details I looked passed before the trip were more apparent during the trip. For example, I know he is a nice guy, but I found at times he was being too nice and polite to a stranger in a situation that I did not feel comfortable being in.

Would you do it again? What would you change?
Boris: Yes but after a little break. I would do more research beforehand and visit fewer countries. I would also try to dedicate more time for personal activities like photography walks with locals, cooking lessons, or Spanish classes.

MuiMui: Yes! I feel like this past year was just a taste of more to come. I have more ideas for future trips such as becoming fluent in another language and staying longer in one place.

Any scary stories or low points?!
Boris: Nothing really scary as we never got robbed but if I have to choose a low point, it would be our experience in Indonesia on the road to Mount Bromo: A driver tried to rip us off and then a group of youngsters on motorbikes “saved” us, which was all an organized scam. We were in the middle on nowhere with no other tourists or public transportation around. It took us 3 hours to get out of there.

MuiMui: When we arrived in Arequipa and was looking around for a hotel, we met a female traveler who just experienced an attempted taxi kidnapping the evening before. She was still trembling and emotional and that woke me up how we always have to be careful in any country and as much as we are, shit still happens when there are bad people.

What was your most recurrent disagreement?
Boris: First money, second transportation.

MuiMui: We had one big recurring disagreement which was about when/how to book transportation. We both liked different styles and in the beginning, I would throw tantrums, not knowing I was, when I couldn’t get him to agree with me.

What are your top three tips for anyone thinking about traveling?
Both:
1: Go.
2: Meet as many people as you can.
3: Be open-minded and never reject something because it is different from what you are used to.
4: Always be aware of your surroundings.

Do you have any tips for traveling with your partner?
Boris: One laptop each or no laptop at all. Find some activities that you can do alone (photography, diving, etc). Even if it is easier to stay in your room, try to go out and engage with other people as much as you can; the experience you share is invaluable and not written in any guidebook.

MuiMui: Traveling to new places is both fun and stressful. Doing it with someone else can be even more challenging so work together instead of trying to be right all the time. There is no right or wrong when it comes to saving $0.50. Be more open minded while being safe and meet fellow travelers.

Any do’s and don’ts?
Both:
DO follow your instincts and change your plans.
DO NOT leave your stuff unattended even for a second. When riding on trains or buses, make sure your things are attached to you at all times. It just takes one second of snoozing for your things to be stolen.
DO learn the local language or at least use basic phrases or words.
DO NOT dress up like you would at home when visiting India. Not only will you shock the people, you may encounter constant harassment.
DO try local cuisine away from tourist areas if possible.

Is your traveling experience any different to how you imagined it would be?
Both: Traveling is more tiring than what we thought. It felt like a full time job at times. People are very different from one country to the other. Usually, the less money they have, the more giving they are and the more interested they are to meet you.

What was your favorite country you visited? Why?
Boris: Hard to say but I have 3 places that stand out:
Thailand because we had a marvelous time there. We met extremely nice people and no matter what kind of experience you are looking for (beach, history, culture, food, city, trekking, mountains, villages, etc), Thailand has it all!
Colombia because we went there with some apprehensions and no positive expectations, but the kindness of the people blew us away. Trust me, Colombia is one of the safest countries we’ve been to and you will love both the landscapes and the people.
Galapagos because it is 100% unique. Everyday we would wake up seeing something that you can only see on TV: Giant Turtles, Endemic birds, penguins, iguanas, and etc. Plus walking on islands made of fresh lava (only a few hundred years old) is quite something.

MuiMui: It’s so difficult to pick a favorite as there is something great (and bad) about each country we went to. I think the country that wins for overall ease of travel, variety of things to see and eat, pleasantness of the people and culture, something for everyone, is Thailand. But I will never forget about how wonderful the people in Colombia were, or how out of this world the animals were in the Galapagos, or the penguins hopping onto the beaches of New Zealand, or the colors and sites of India, and … the gastronomy culture and way of life in the south of France.

Finally what’s the best thing about traveling?
Both: We always think that the best thing is to see beautiful and famous places. After coming back, I don’t think that is true anymore. Learning is the best thing that happens when you travel. Meeting people from different cultures will open your eyes on the world and your own life. This is, in our opinion, an invaluable experience.

Galapagos Cruise: Day 6-7-8: Fernandina, Rabida and The End

By , December 7, 2010 9:30 pm
Sleeping Female Sea Lions

Sleeping Female Sea Lions

Day 6 – Fernandina is the far west island, which few cruise ships venture off to. We knew right away that we would see unique things on this island when we were greeted by the skeletal remains of a large whale.

Skeleton Of A Whale

Skeleton Of A Whale

Then for the first time, we saw marine iguanas swimming. If you remember the movie Alien 4, it looked just like aliens swimming, just a little tinier.

Marine Iguana Swimming

Marine Iguana Swimming

While we were taking pictures of sea lions, we saw a flightless cormorant. It’s not especially beautiful but it gained our respect when we learned there are only 1,000 still alive in the world and that they are all living on this one island. We eventually spotted a few more and counted over 30, which is 3% of the world population.

Flightless Cormorants

Flightless Cormorants

Afterwards, we sailed to Tagus Cove in Isabela Island. The scenery was still rocky but there was an orange hint everywhere. Our snorkel session brought us to a spot where penguins and sea lions were swimming within one meter of us. The sea lion wanted to play and would even touch us sometimes but his size was too impressive for us so we backed far away.

Sea Lion Swimming With Us

Sea Lion Swimming With Us

Sea Turtle Chilling

Sea Turtle Chilling

In the late evening, we crossed the equator line for the 3d time! Then we had a moment of whale watching as everyone onboard the ship came on deck to see the Bryde’s Whales.

Whale Watching

Whale Watching

Bryde's Whale!

Bryde's Whale!

Sunset Before Crossing The Equator

Sunset Before Crossing The Equator

Day 7 – On the 7th day, we landed on a black beach in the backside of Santiago Island. All around us were birds diving into the water looking for fishes. This was also another great spot for observing fur seals. They were very noisy and the younger ones kept fighting each other. After our 2-hour walk, some of us went snorkeling, but I went off to play soccer while MuiMui decided to tan on the beach.

Boris' Feet On The Black Sand Beach Of Santiago

Boris' Feet On The Black Sand Beach Of Santiago

Bird Going For A Dive

Bird Going For A Dive

Young Fur Seals Playing

Young Fur Seals Playing

For our afternoon excursion, we explored Rabida Island with its red beach and popularity among lazy sea lions. After a quick hike up, we found a great spot to take a group picture.

Sea Lions On Rabida Island

Sea Lions On Rabida Island

Group Shot

Group Shot

Both Pretty & Lazy

Both Pretty & Lazy

Day 8 – It was our last day and with a morning flight to catch, we woke up extra early to indulge the last of the Galapagos. We took the small boat out to black turtle cove. There were many mangrove trees so we had to maneuver our way in. Suddenly under us was a school of Eagle Spotted Rays passing through. It was a beautiful morning and the water was shallow enough to get a clear view of them. Minutes later, we realized there were also many white tip reef sharks resting in the water. As we continued further, there were two turtles mating in the water. It was a beautiful moment and I was already pleased with everything we saw, but this was definitely a great way to end the cruise.

Spotted Eagle Ray

Spotted Eagle Ray

Sea Turtles Mating

Sea Turtles Mating

*** There is a lot of hype about the Galapagos and after experiencing it ourselves, this is definitely a must do. It was one the most expensive highlights of our travel so far, but we had an amazing time so it was all worth it.

There are a few cost effective ways to reduce the price:
1. Go off peak season! The weather is still great although the water is cold, but there are usually wetsuits onboard to rent. Whatever the season, the animals are always there.
2. Don’t book overseas. Go to Quito and relax for a few days and book your cruise there.
3. If you have to book overseas or if you are in Quito, book direct and avoid the middleman. While it is hard to book directly with the owner, they usually have an agency in Quito.
4. The Galapagos is very popular especially during peak season but there are hundreds of cruise lines so if you can book last minute, you can save even more.
5. If a cruise is out of the question, fly to the Galapagos and enjoy Santa Cruz Island. There is so much to see there. You can even take a water taxi to a few other islands.

While the prices vary in the type of ship you select, no matter what the size is, bring seasickness pills!

Thanks Again Kelly, Sam, Jennifer, and Christian for your pictures!

Iguana Up Close

Iguana Up Close

Heron

Heron

Fernandina Volcanic Landscape

Fernandina Volcanic Landscape

Who's On My Head

Who's On My Head

Orange Sea Turtle

Orange Sea Turtle

Yellow Flycatcher

Yellow Flycatcher

Alpha Male Doesn't Want Us Near

Alpha Male Doesn't Want Us Near

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Galapagos Cruise: Day 3-4-5: Santiago, Isabela, and More

By , December 6, 2010 5:00 am
Penguins!

Penguins!

Day 3 – In the morning of the 3rd day, we awoken to find ourselves at a new island called Santiago. It was a dramatic change of scenery as we went from having lots of wildlife and trees on Genovesa Island to nothing much besides lava on Santiago Island. The dried up lava flows captured some interesting shapes like the Darwin toilets.

Lava And Sea On Santiago Island

Lava And Sea On Santiago Island

Landscape On Santiago

Landscape On Santiago

I'm Stuck And I Can't Get Out

I'm Stuck And I Can't Get Out

Lava Noodles

Lava Noodles

Darwin Toilet

Darwin Toilet

For our daily snorkel excursion, we went to Bartalome Island. There were many colorful fishes in the water, but the highlight was when we saw our first Hieroglyphic hawkfish and penguin swimming in the water. We didn’t have wetsuits on this time around and while it was bearable for some time, we soon returned to land.

Hieroglyphic Hawkfish

Hieroglyphic Hawkfish

Penguin In The Water!

Penguin In The Water!

In the evening, we had a romantic group stroll to the top of Bartalome Island. We watched the sunset and soon after, it was just the moonlight and lights from cruise ships in the open water.

Me & Frenchie At Sunset

Me & Frenchie At Sunset

The Moon From Bartolome Island

The Moon From Bartolome Island

Day 4 – By the 4th day, waking up early was getting more difficult, but the motivation of seeing new kinds of animals helped get us out of our bed each time. Today was going to be extra special since we were going to visit the island of Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat) where the local traffic is mostly fur seals. We found some sunbathing on the rocks and others sleeping inside the bushes. We were advised to give them space, as they can get dangerous. With their large eyes and adorable faces, it was difficult to believe they would attack.

[Difference between seals and sea lions: earless seals (true seals) and eared seals (sea lions)]

Landscape On Chinese Hat

Landscape On Chinese Hat

Baby Fur Seal

Baby Fur Seal

Mama and Baby

Mama and Baby

We Cant Get Can't Enough

We Cant Get Can't Enough

Our afternoon snorkeling excursion brought us to the shallow waters next to Santiago Island. It was a great spot to see the fishes up close. We spotted a huge blowfish and white tip reef sharks just a few feet away!

Me & Frenchie Snorkeling

Me & Frenchie Snorkeling

Shark!

Shark!

Group Of Yellowtail Surgeonfish

Group Of Yellowtail Surgeonfish

In the late afternoon, we relocated to Dragon Hill in the northwest of Santa Cruz Island. It was very hot, but it didn’t stop us from looking for land iguanas. Since it was mating season, most of the iguanas were inland. We only sighted one land iguana during our two hour hike. It was massive and when it heard us, it crawled as fast as it could into the shrubs.

Looking For Land Iguanas

Looking For Land Iguanas

Land Iguana

Land Iguana

Reflections

Reflections

Day 5 – While we already visited Isabela Island during our land tour prior going on our cruise, it still felt like our first time. The day started off with a morning snorkel where large tortoises guaranteed our full attention. It is just an amazing experience time and time again to swim alongside tortoises of this size, as they are so graceful and peaceful in the water. We also spotted a few large rays in this area.

Tortoise Swimming With Us

Tortoise Swimming With Us

Sting Ray

Sting Ray

In the afternoon, we went to the Turtle Breeding Center of Arnaldo Tupiza. There were many turtles of various sizes. We then cruised to Islote Tintoreras to see the white-tip reef sharks in their resting area. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a Galapagos Hawk.

Baby Turtle And Egg

Baby Turtle And Egg

Galapagos Hawk

Galapagos Hawk

White Tip Reef Shark

White Tip Reef Shark

Galapagos Heron

Galapagos Heron

We LOVE The Galapagos

We LOVE The Galapagos

Our time in Isabela was short so I was happy we had done a trip by land beforehand. We just can’t get enough of these animals.

Special Thanks To Kelly, Sam, Jennifer, and Christian for your pictures!

Final days of our cruise to come …

MuiMui Getting Kissed By A Marine Iguana

MuiMui Getting Kissed By A Marine Iguana

Aww, Another Baby Fur Seal

Aww, Another Baby Fur Seal

Penguin Sunbathing

Penguin Sunbathing

Fat Crab

Fat Crab

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

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