Dancing with Darwin: an unforgettable week in the Galapagos

In this article, our guest author, Kate Convissor, shares an unforgettable week in the Galapagos, with pristine beaches, aquamarine seas and of course the birds, seals and other wildlife.

Most people travel through Quito in Ecuador, heading for the Galapagos Islands as their main destination. My experience was the opposite. I was already traveling through Ecuador and planned to spend several days in lovely Quito. The city was UNESCO’s first cultural World Heritage Site, so it’s very historic and photogenic. Since I was already so close, my trip had to include the Galapagos and when my sister learned of my plans, she decided to join me.

Galapagos 6

Mating sign of the Magnificent Frigatebird

Still, my expectations were, well, non-existent. Other than cute sea lions and birds with funny names, I had no idea what to expect from an 8-day cruise through one of the most precious and unique places on the planet.

I must say, my first sight of the Galapagos through the windows of the tiny Baltra airport was underwhelming. It looked like a dry, shrubby, rocky moonscape with heat that would melt your eyeballs.

Galapagos Cactus Photo: Kate Convissor

Galapagos cactus

On board the San Jose

But things improved once onboard the breezy deck of the San Jose, the ship that would be our home for the next eight days. Once we found our cabin, which was more comfortable and spacious than I had expected, with twin beds (not bunks) and a nice-sized bathroom and a big window (not to mention blessed air-conditioning for those blistering afternoons), I began to feel the excitement build and the tension drain away.

A ship at sea! What could be more delightful?

And indeed, once we were underway, slicing through an impossibly blue ocean with a far horizon melting into a similarly blue sky and the wind rushing off the bow of the ship, I began to catch the magic of the Galapagos.

View of Pinnacle Rock from atop Bartolomé Island Photo: Kate Convissor

View of Pinnacle Rock from atop Bartolomé Island, Galapagos Islands

 The amazing animal culture

Our first landing that afternoon was on the tiny islet of Mosquera, which was little more than a lump of sand with sea lions lazily scattered about and a handful of other creatures I’d read about, like Sally-lightfoot crabs and tiny lava lizards. At this point, I was completely smitten.

This would be a great week.

Sea lions and Sally Lightfoot crabs in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Sea lions and Sally Lightfoot crabs in the Galapagos Islands

Almost every day we woke to sun, sea, maybe another boat or two at anchor, a satisfying breakfast, and new wonders to explore. Days were filled with activity, which usually involved one or two hikes and/or one or two snorkeling adventures, and maybe a panga ride to some interesting cove. We usually visited two different sites each day, but the boat motored during mealtimes or at night, so we weren’t twiddling our thumbs en route to the next place.

The hikes, while sometimes very hot, were always interesting and sometimes entrancing. And, of course, there was always the blue ocean to cool off in.

Pristine beaches and aquamarine waters in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Pristine beaches and aquamarine waters in the Galapagos Islands

Snorkeling is almost de rigueur in the Galapagos since the water is teeming with all sorts of life, from sea turtles to small sharks to schools of colorful fish. The color and variety is fascinating.

I am not an avid swimmer, but I was determined not to miss this opportunity, so I grit my teeth and wore a life jacket for the first snorkel. It was fantastic! The water was warm and so bouyant that staying afloat was effortless and all that aquatic life under the surface of the ocean was worth enduring any momentary discomfort.

Remnants of volcanic activity in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Remnants of volcanic activity in the Galapagos Islands

One of the more delightful hikes was at Punta Suarez on Espanola Island. Since it was high tide with waves crashing against the rock, our “dry” landing was a little tricky. (This is where you want experienced guys driving your panga – the little boats that takes you from your cruise ship to the shore.) We walked across a tide-flooded inlet guarded by a big bull sea lion who was jealous of his girls. (This is where you want an experienced naturalist-guide who knows the ways of macho sea lions.)

Birds, birds, birds

Espanola is a nesting condo for Nazca boobies and other birds I’ve forgotten the names of. The rocks are dripping with whitewash, and fluffy juveniles are waiting patiently (or not) for a snack, while their beleaguered parents are trying to oblige (by regurgitating the fish they’ve worked hard to find). Bird families were strewn haphazardly across the relatively flat and somewhat rocky clifftop. An occasional blue-footed booby broke the monotony.

Nazca booby in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Nazca booby in the Galapagos Islands

We clambered over rocks snapping photos like crazed tourists, while the birds couldn’t have cared less. The trail wound among the nesting birds and along a cliff edge until we all settled cliff-side to watch the waves crash on the black volcanic rock and send plumes of mist and water through a blowhole. All of which formed a dramatic foreground as the sun slowly rode down the western sky.

Blow hole on Suarez Point on Espanola in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Blow hole on Suarez Point on Espanola in the Galapagos Islands

Now, I ask you, where else in the world can you sit with 16 people with this kind of natural wonder playing out around you? (Okay, there was another small tour group waiting to take our place on the rocks, but that doesn’t change the overall picture.)

Small luxuries combine with pleasant company

After every activity, our long-suffering steward, Jackson, met us with his broad smile and a juice drink and snacks. Every evening we passengers gathered for a beer to chat and swap notes about the birds or fish we’d seen. And every night we fell asleep to the gentle rocking of the boat as it steamed toward our next magical destination.

Red-footed booby in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Red-footed booby in the Galapagos Islands

Our naturalist-guide, Carlos, was an energetic, informed and personable 26-year-old. He, like many other guides, had grown up on the islands and that native knowledge was honed by the compulsory training all the guides receive.

My sister and I were also lucky in that all the passengers on our small boat were wonderful to travel with for a week, from the 86-year-old lawyer and his wife (Please, God, may I be like them when I am old) to the young brother and sister who came with their mom.

Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé Island in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé Island in the Galapagos Islands

I think our group was so compatible, in part, because we all opted for a small, less luxurious boat (but make no mistake, the San Jose was very clean and comfortable) so that we could focus on experiencing the islands and not staying comfy and entertained on board the ship. Some of the luxury cruise liners carry 100 passengers and can’t get to as many islands as the smaller boats.

“If you want a bigger cabin and more amenities, you should choose a luxury cruise. If you want to really experience the islands, you can have a very good time on a smaller boat,” said Evelyn, my agent at Happy Gringo, through whom I booked our cruise.

True in every way. Cruising in the Galapagos Islands was a fantastic experience, and a longer cruise on a smaller boat like the San Jose was, for me, the best way to do it.

Sleepy sea lion in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Sleepy sea lion in the Galapagos Islands

About our guest author: Manykconvissor bio photo thanks for this story to Kate Convissor who has been traveling more or less continually since she sold her house in 2010 and trailered around North America. Kate blogs semi-regularly at Wandering Not Lost. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter

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Read about Dancing with Darwin - a week in the Galapagos

For more Ecuadorian delights:

Ecuador and the Amazon Rainforest
Take a Hot Bath in Banos, Ecuador
Beyond the Galapagos Islands – Ecuador’s Forgotten Treasures

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

A weekend getaway at Hotel del Coronado in San Diego

In this article our guest author, Susan Foster shares her girl’s weekend getaway at the historic Hotel del Coronado, set by the sea in San Diego, California.

My friend Cherie and I traveled quite a bit together in college and for some years afterwards. These trips came to a halt during the years we raised our children. Recently however, we have enjoyed a girl’s weekend getaway together every-other year. A perk of midlife has been the significant upgrade in the accommodations we can now both afford!

Susan and friend Cherie at Hotel del Coronado in San Diego

Susan and friend Cherie at Hotel del Coronado in San Diego

This year’s destination: San Diego

Cherie is from Virginia and I live in Montana. This year, we chose to meet at the warm coastal resort town of Coronado, just across a bridge from San Diego, California.

A section of the San Diego skyline, and the bridge to Coronado

A section of the San Diego skyline, and the bridge to Coronado

Deciding to splurge, we booked a long-weekend stay at one of the leading San Diego hotels, the historic and luxurious Hotel del Coronado. Built in 1880, it is now an American National Historic Landmark.

A weekend getaway at Hotel del Coronado, San Diego

A weekend getaway at Hotel del Coronado, San Diego

A glitch in our plans!

Our flights were originally scheduled to arrive into San Diego late morning on a Friday, within minutes of each other. Unfortunately, an airplane mechanical difficulty delayed Cherie’s arrival until evening. I found out by reading a text from her just before boarding my own flight:

The text from Cherie

The text from Cherie

Despite feeling horrible for Cherie, the Hotel del Coronado was a lovely place to spend an afternoon alone.

Gardens of Hotel del Coronado in San Diego

Gardens of Hotel del Coronado in San Diego

Our lavish room at Hotel del Coronado had 2 king-sized beds, 2 large tv's, a bathroom, closet, sitting area and ocean-view balcony

Our lavish room at Hotel del Coronado had 2 king-sized beds, 2 large tv’s, sitting area and ocean-view balcony

I explored the sprawling grounds and beautiful building, walked several miles on the hotel’s private beach, ate a lovely ocean-side meal, and watched an incredible sunset from the balcony of our full ocean-view room.

A sunset from the balcony of our full ocean-view room at Hotel del Coronado

A sunset from the balcony of our full ocean-view room at Hotel del Coronado

Once Cherie finally arrived, we salvaged the rest of her day by enjoying a light meal and some talented live music downstairs in the Babcock and Story Bar.

Saturday was a full day!

Wearing the matching outfits we had unknowingly packed, we headed down to the beach for a walk, then consulted the helpful hotel concierge to assist with the planning of our day.

A walk on the beach at Hotel del Coronado, San Diego

A walk on the beach at Hotel del Coronado, San Diego

 Old Town Trolley Tour and a day in San Diego

It had seemed unnecessary to rent a car. A cab from the airport cost about $30 US, and the village of Coronado is an easy walk from the hotel. Coronado offered more than enough to entertain us, but we decided to spend a day exploring San Diego. We purchasing discounted Old Town Trolley Tour tickets ($33 US each) from the concierge, which turned out to be the perfect way to experience the city.

Old Town Trolleys in San Diego

Old Town Trolleys in San Diego

The trolley route covers 25 miles in about two hours, and the driver provides an entertaining and informative narrative. Passengers can get on and off as they please at any of the 11 different points of interest. Trolleys cycle through each stop about every half hour throughout the day.

Typically, I prefer to be “off the beaten path” and avoid tourist-type activities. With our limited time schedule though, I enjoyed the comprehensive overview of San Diego provided by the Trolley Tour. We disembarked at five stops.

Our first stop was Balboa park in San Diego

Home to 15 museums, and a vast number of other interests, several days could easily be spent at Balboa Park. A free, narrated 15-minute tram tour of the park convinced us both to return someday with more time to explore.

Visiting Balboa Park in San Diego

Visiting Balboa Park in San Diego

Next up: Little Italy, San Diego

This hilly community with many enticing shops and restaurants is, according to our driver, the largest “Little Italy” in the United States. Had we desired Italian food, this would have been a perfect place for lunch.  Or – we could have had a pint in the British Pub we discovered there!

A British Pub in the Little Italy of San Diego, located on India Street!

A British Pub in the Little Italy of San Diego, located on India Street!

Visiting Old Town, San Diego

We couldn’t leave without a stop at Old Town San Diego. Established in the 1700’s, we enjoyed walking through the historic buildings.

Exploring Old Town San Diego

Exploring Old Town San Diego

Our concierge recommended El Agave Tequileria. The authentic Mexican food and margaritas (mine was avocado!) were excellent.

Not far from the Mexican border, it was no surprise that the Mexican food and Margaritas were wonderful!

Not far from the Mexican border, it was no surprise that the Mexican food and Margaritas were wonderful!

A stop at San Diego Harbor

You could easily spend an entire afternoon at the San Diego Harbor. We just briefly walked up and down the harbor, but enjoyed seeing the ships and submarines which can be toured there.

Visiting San Diego Harbour

Visiting San Diego Harbour

Shopping at Seaport Village, San Diego

We enjoyed the quaint shops here, and saw some incredibly beautiful jewelry.

Shopping for Jewellery in San Diego

I didn’t know the turquoise stone could be so many colors!

The sea wall was the perfect place to sit and sip a cup of coffee.

Stopping for coffee at Seaport Village, San Diego

Stopping for coffee at Seaport Village, San Diego

The setting sun looked like a ball of fire, back-lighting the sailboats and ships at sea, and the beautiful trees in the park.  We were so enchanted we lost track of time, and missed the last trolley – which we had planned to take to the Gaslamp District, known as the “happening place” for nightlife!

Sunset over San Diego

Sunset over San Diego

Back to Hotel del Coronado

Reevaluating our plan, we took a taxi back to the Hotel del Coronado. Once there, we ended the day with a glass of wine and some tasty snacks.  The February temperatures had cooled enough to need a coat, but we were comfortably warm sitting by an outdoor fire-pit at the Sunset Bar.

Sunset Bar, Hotel del Coronado

Sunset Bar, Hotel del Coronado

Sunday: Relaxation and spa day!

After a walk on the beach we reported to the Del’s Fitness Center, to join a group for a yoga session on the beach.  It was my first yoga experience, and I absolutely loved it, perhaps thanks to the ocean setting!

Yoga on the beach - photo taken from our balcony

Yoga on the beach – photo taken from our balcony

The Spa at the Del offers over 50 different treatments and advance reservations are recommended.  We pampered ourselves with manicures, pedicures, and facials, and enjoyed all of the delightful spa amenities, such as the steam room, hot tub and sunbathing by the infinity pool.

Pampering at the Hotel del Coronado Spa

Pampering at the Hotel del Coronado Spa

We watched the sun set while enjoying delicious “Charred Brussels Sprouts,” followed by salad and wood-fired pizza outdoors at ENO Pizzaria and Wine Bar.

Dinner at the ENO Pizzaria and Wine Bar

Dinner at the ENO Pizzaria and Wine Bar

It would be impossible to fully sing the praises of the Hotel Del Coronado, without making this article much too lengthy. You can read the article on my own blog with more about the history and amenities of this glorious hotel.

Susan and Cherie, toasting a return to Hotel del Coronado with complimentary Mimosas from the Spa at the Del

Susan and Cherie, toasting a return to Hotel del Coronado with complimentary Mimosas from the Spa at the Del

My only complaint is that our stay was much too short. Planning our next reunion will be easy – returning to San Diego and the Hotel del Coronado is a must!

About Hotel del Coronado

Hotel del Coronado is a luxury seaside resort in Coronado, California, just minutes from downtown San Diego. In existence since 1888, the hotel is now a beautiful National Historic landmark and a world-class luxury resort. Rooms rates are from $425 USD; book mid-week for lowest rates and be sure to check the resort website for special offers. Website | Twitter | Facebook

Book Hotel del Coronado and other San Diego hotels through our Hotels Booking Page

Read more about Hotel del Coronado in Susan’s article: Hotel del Coronado – Perhaps a glimpse of heaven

Susan received some complimentary services from the Hotel del Coronado during her stay, however all opinions expressed are her own.

profile pics collageThanks to Susan Foster for sharing her weekend in San Diego.  Susan’s blog the most – of every moment is about making the most of all life’s moments with recipes, tips, inspiring stories and excerpts of life in Montana. You can connect with Susan on Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Instagram | Pinterest

For more US getaway ideas:

Five Must Try Foodie Experiences in Portland, Oregon
9 Cool things we did in Austin, Texas
Visit Chicago for pizza, popcorn and a walk by the river

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This article by is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Discover a different side to Ibiza

Ibiza attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors over the summer months, flocking to the island to enjoy the glorious weather and party scene. However, the island also has much to offer during the quieter, off season times. With mild temperatures and a peaceful, down tempo pace, discover a different side to Ibiza this spring.

Discover a different side to Ibiza

Explore to coastline of Ibiza

Ibiza has a rugged and fascinating coastline, which lends itself perfectly to hiking and walking. There are many companies who offer guided walks around the island during the winter months, when the climate is perfect for long, adventurous walks. If you have the stamina, why not head to the highest point on the island, Sa Talaia to marvel at the breathtaking views of the mystical rock Es Vedra.

Explore the rugged coastline of Ibiza

Explore the rugged coastline of Ibiza

Or perhaps enjoy a less challenging walk along the beautiful beach of Ses Salines, a natural wildlife park which is home to, over 200 different species of birds and is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage site. You can choose to discover the island by yourself, or join one of the guided walks. See www.walkingibiza.com for some insider tips and an itinerary of their weekly walking tours.

Puig de Misa in Santa Eularia, Ibiza

Puig de Misa in Santa Eularia, Ibiza

Wine and Dine on Ibiza

If you are a dedicated foodie then never fear, Ibiza still has plenty to offer the discerning diner in the off season. Many bars and restaurants are open all year round, albeit some of them just at the weekends, and many offer great value deals for winter visitors. For a delightful beachside meal – head to the shores of Cala Jondal where you will find the eternally popular Yemanja restaurant, open all year round, and serving some of the best freshly caught fish to be found on the island. The gambas ajillo (garlic prawns) have to be tasted to be believed. Another favourite is the organic cafe La Paloma. Hidden away in an orange grove in the sleepy village of San Lorenzo, the menu offers an unusual combination of Italian and Israeli influences, with many of the ingredients coming directly from their own gardens. We recommend the houmous cordero (spiced minced lamb with houmous) which is served with freshly baked foccacia bread, simply delicious.

Organic Cafe Paloma on Ibiza Photo: PalomaIbiza.com

Organic Cafe Paloma on Ibiza

Shop at the flea markets on Ibiza

It’s a great time to indulge in some retail therapy here in Ibiza, especially in the New Year when many shops offer great rebajas (post Christmas sales). Ibiza Town has a great selection of stores which stay open all year round, and the tree lined streets are literally bursting with great value deals to be discovered by an intrepid shopper. Or why not head to one of the markets which run all year round, check out Las Dalias in San Carlos every Saturday for some hippy style clothes and jewellery, or head further north to the Cala Llenya second hand market which attracts hundreds of people each and every Sunday, who head there to grab a bargain and enjoy the live music in the outdoor bar area.

Las Dalias Market on Ibiza Photo: www.LasDalias.es

Las Dalias Market on Ibiza

Pamper Yourself on Ibiza

If you are seeking some R&R and a little ‘me’ time, then low season Ibiza has lots to offer. With Both Atzaro and Can Curreu rural hotels remain open all year round, so head to their spas for some great winter deals on massages, beauty treatments and yoga classes. A perfect time to spoil yourself in the beautiful surroundings of the Ibiza countryside. And why not, you are most definitely worth it!

Visit Ibiza in springtime

Visit Ibiza in springtime

If you’re searching for a place to stay in Ibiza, take a look at Ibiza Summer Villas, who offer a complete portfolio of villa rentals to suit all tastes and budgets. Rent an entire villa for yourself, your family, and your friends. Each villa exudes Mediterranean luxury living at its finest, and some boast up to 17 rooms. Ibiza Summer Villas has almost 100 gorgeous villas to choose from, with special promotions going on year-round. The Ibiza Summer Villa staff know Ibiza intimately, and can give you the best hints and tips about everything island-related.

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For more island delights:

Tapping into the real Ibiza
Carnivals, jazz and nightlife – the sounds of St Lucia
Swimming, surfing, snorkeling – best beaches of the Dominican republic

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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