North Seymour — and buen viaje

Route map (click on map to see a larger version)

North Seymour (click on map to see a larger version)

(from Google Earth)

Note:  If you’d like to skip the text and just look at the photos, with brief descriptions, click here.

Friday morning, 9/18

As Carlos’s schedule board artwork declared, this morning’s target species was the Magnificent Frigatebird, which nests on North Seymour. North Seymour (which Carlos pronounced “say-more,” rather than the English pronunciation of “see-more”) lies just north of Baltra (and the tiny, uninhabited Isla Mosquera).  It was perhaps named either for Sir George Francis Seymour, a British Admiral in the 1800s, or the ship of the same name that was the first of four ships to carry emigrants from England to New Zealand in 1850.   (In case you’re wondering, an early name for Baltra was South Seymour.)

We were scheduled to visit North Seymour early, to allow time for traversing the full trail on the island, in case we didn’t have good views of nesting Magnificent Frigatebirds along the shorter path.  We gathered rather groggily before dawn in the lounge for a quick snack and some juice, to tide us over until breakfast.  It was a cool morning with a slight mist. As I was boarding the panga at the boat, I learned my only Quichua word (the language of the Incas). Rodolfo was muttering “achachay” as he worked with the panga’s lines; nearby, Carlos noted that that was “cold” in Quichua.  It does have rather a teeth-chattering sound to it. We landed at the rock staircase on the southwest shore of the island just as dawn was breaking.  This was a challenging landing for the panga pilots—the wind was strong, the sea was a bit choppy, and the pilots had to hold the pangas tight to the boulders so we could clamber out.  It was a group effort, to be sure.  In the photo on the right, Alfredo gunned the motor to keep the panga close to the rocks while Carlos (far right) held the line and Rodolfo (blue jacket) gave passengers a needed hand up.  Clearly Alfredo was keenly focused on the landing—it was probably the only time he hadn’t announced “Life jackets, please” as the shore neared, so those in the panga would pass the life jackets to the front before they got out of the panga.  Instead, folks headed up the boulders with their life jackets still on—and then had to stop and return them to the panga.

We passed by a number of Land Iguanas, still lingering close to one another in the cool of the morning.  As noted earlier, the Land Iguanas on North Seymour were not endemic to that island.  They were all  translocated from Baltra in the 1930s, in an experiment to see if they could survive on the new island.  Indeed they could; and even more importantly, they were able to provide the breeding stock for the re-introduction of Land Iguanas back onto Baltra after they had been extirpated during the U.S. occupation of the airfield there.  Both populations are now doing just fine.
We passed a mother Galápagos Sea Lion and her pup.  Carlos pointed out the placenta on the sand and guessed that the pup was probably not much more than an hour old.  You can see the umbilical cord still attached to the newborn.  The placenta clearly was prized by a number of birds.  A Lava Gull was definitely interested.  (As noted earlier, this was only the 2nd time we had seen a Lava Gull.  The previous time was nearby on the north shore of Santa Cruz—the most populous island.  Lava Gulls have adapted to humans and their detritus, so it was no surprise that we saw them on these 2 well-visited islands.  This Lava Gull was much darker all over than the one we saw on Santa Cruz—a typical adult plumage.)  Below, the Lava Gull eyed the mother sea lion warily, trying to calculate how it could get at the placenta. A Ruddy Turnstone in almost complete breeding plumage showed an interest in the placenta as well.  (You can get a sense of the breeding plumage in the cropped version of the larger photo, on the right.)  At least while we were there, mom kept the birds at bay although she didn’t really do anything very obvious—at least obvious to us humans.

Continued on p. 2; click below.

9 Responses to North Seymour — and buen viaje

  1. Claudine says:

    Again Tina thank u so much for your quick feedback. I think my mind is just about made up now thanks to u. 🙂


  2. Claudine says:

    Hi Tina I have taken your advice and looked at another itinerary. Thanks again for all your feedback and input . Your site is an excellent site. The other one I have looked at is an 8 day aboard the Angelito thru Happy Gringo:

    Baltra, North Seymour
    Sombrero Chino, Bartolome
    Genovesa, Prince Phillip Steps, Darwin Bay
    Santiago, Puerto Egas, Rabida
    Charles Darwin Station, Santa Cruz Highlands
    Espanola, Punta Suarez, Gardner Bay
    Santa Fe, South PLazas
    Black Turtle Cove, Baltra
    Thanks again for any feedback u can give me on this one before I go any further.


    • Tina says:

      Hi, Claudine–

      The Angelito is a really good tourist-superior boat—one of 2 in that class that I heartily recommend. She was recently refurbished and it sounds like they did a good job. The owner (Maja) even sometimes serves as the naturalist guide and she gets good reviews. We ran into her with her group on our landing at Urbina Bay and I really enjoyed her interacting with both our naturalist guide and her group. So I think you’ll be happy with the Angelito.

      This itinerary is a very solid “eastern” itinerary, going to 2 of the 4 most distant islands (Genovesa & Española). Those islands are really wonderful and should be great in Oct. (We were there in Sept. on our first trip.) You also have a good chance of seeing a small group of the adorable Galápagos Penguins that move between Sombrero Chino and Bartolomé; no guarantees, but many people report seeing them there while snorkeling (as we did on on our first trip). You’ll get to see the Giant Tortoises living free in the Santa Cruz highlands–one of my favorite experiences! And Santa Fé has a unique species of Land Iguana, found nowhere else in the archipelago (or in the world, for that matter!).

      I’m not sure what kind of babies you’re interested in. Songbirds won’t be breeding, but many of the other species of animals—avian and mammal—have staggered breeding seasons, which vary by island. We saw a good number of young Galápagos Sea Lions hanging with their moms when we traveled in Sept. and we even came upon a female that had recently given birth. I don’t think you’ll see many young reptiles; they tend to hatch during the warmer months. But no matter what, you’ll have lots of great encounters with wildlife.

      So I think this is a great choice. And Happy Gringo gets really good reviews as a reliable and responsive agency specializing in travel in the archipelago. I think you’ll be in good hands with them.



      • Claudine says:

        Hi Tina

        And thanks again for the quick response. One island that I would of have liked to have gone to is the San Cristobal but is not included in this itinerary. With the other islands on this cruise would I be missing a lot by not seeing this one.


      • Tina says:

        Hi, Claudine–

        We haven’t been to San Cristóbal. When we’ve gone to the archipelago, we’ve pretty deliberately tried to minimize our time in the populated islands. You can’t avoid them completely, since you have to fly into and out of an airport and the itinerary usually spends at least a bit of time somewhere on that island. We’ve also not been to Puerto Villamil on Isabela, for that same reason. We go for the wildlife and we want them to be as wild as possible. Personally, I never felt like I was missing much, wildlife-wise, because we had chosen the islands to visit very carefully. At least with land wildlife, I can’t think of any you’d see on San Cristóbal that you wouldn’t see on the Angelito’s itinerary you’re considering.

        If you really wanted to see the island, one option would be to spend a few days on San Cristóbal before or after a cruise. You can get there via a speedboat ferry from Santa Cruz. If you did that, you could try to get a day trip to Kicker Rock (good snorkeling, by most reports) or Punta Pitt (although the itinerary you’re considering goes to Genovesa, where the sea bird breeding colonies are much larger and closer to the paths). These day trips may not go every day, though. And I know the Kicker Rock day trips can fill up fast. So if you did this, you might want to see if you could make reservations to make sure you can do them on the days that you’re there.



  3. mason gomberg says:

    Thank you for a well thoughtout prose about your trip, We are deciding whether to use the TipTop II or another boat or do land tours, but this definitely helps. If you email back I have a few additional questions if you have the time to answer. Thanks again Mason


  4. Marcia Dolce says:

    Great trip report! I will be on the Tip Top II in ten days and appreciate all the details you’ve provided.


  5. Ann Barber says:

    Tina, I have read the whole blog and am moved at your presentation. One, the prose and explanations are terriffic along with the pictures. But your knowledge of how to move from page to page and to enlarge the photos are beyond my capabilities. I think it would be wonderful to print it as a memory to the trip.
    Many many thanks for all the work and detail you provided. We all loved the opportunity to take this adventure but having such memories is priceless. Ann


  6. Steve Marchetti says:

    Thanks for the great trip summary and photos. My wife and I are taking the same trip in mid-March and are looking forward to it with excitement. When we made the reservations we were a little “up in the air” over the boat, your comments settled our concerns.


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