Wednesday 14 August 2019

Galapagos and Ecuador - Background and 14th August (Day 1)

In 2018 I had a failed attempt to get to the Galapagos and so when Martin Kennewell contacted me to say that another trip was on in 2019 I was very keen to join.  When I mentioned this for clearance with Sarah both her and Tobias were keen to come along effectively trebling the price of an already expensive trip but how could I resist or refuse? My choice was to go on the trip at a high financial cost or to not go at all. The entire trip was organised by Rockjumper and ultimately cost us (Sarah, Tobias and myself) over $15,000 plus our international flights and hotels either side of the Galapagos tour.

My desire to go to Galapagos was mainly driven by the history of the archipelago, seabirds and the spectacle of the wildlife rather than necessarily the endemic birds, I was not that fussed by the endemic Mockingbirds nor the Darwin’s finches particularly although all, of course, have a fascinating evolutionary history.

The trip was divided into three elements first we were to stay at Mashpi Lodge to the west of Quito for two nights prior to eight nights on the Galapagos we then had a final day at Antisana prior to our international flight home.

Mashpi Lodge was booked on line, this is an expensive lodge but we wanted somewhere safe, clean and child friendly for Tobias' first experience of the Neotropics and a cloud forest. Mashpi arrange for a transfer from hotels in Quito but as these were not conveniently located, involving a drive into the city, we opted to stay at the Wyndham Quito Airport Hotel which was where we were to meet the group for the Galapagos element of the trip. I then asked Gabriel Bucheli, who guided me in Ecuador in March, if he could do the transfer or if he knew of someone who could. Gabriel recommended his brother Esteban and so Esteban collected us from Quito and drove us to Mashpi Lodge and back incorporating a number of stops on both the outward and return journey. At Mashpi the lodge provides guides and organises activities for the duration of the stay, there is little scope to walk alone but one can walk the main access track unaccompanied.

The Galapagos section of the trip was organised entirely by Rockjumper,. The trip was guided by Forrest Rowland and we had a Galapagos bird and natural history guide with us for the full duration. We stayed on the Nemo III a well equipped catamaran for seven nights and with one night in a hotel on Santa Cruz.

On our final day we used Gabriel Bucheli for half a days guiding at Antisana Ecological Reserve. Gabriel collected us at 07:00 and we were on site at around 08:00. We birded until 12:15 for five ticks which were all fairly easily obtained from the vehicle. Gabriel is an excellent guide with a thorough knowledge of bird calls and locations to see the birds he can be contacted on but note that he is often in the field and may not respond immediately.


The weather was generally fine and mild at Mashpi Lodge, however, the late evening and much of the night of 16th August was wet with fog persisting until around 09:30 the following morning. At Antisana on 27th August it was cold and windy but mainly sunny.

The weather here was generally fine but often with considerable cloud cover and with temperatures around the mid-twenties centigrade. When birding the higher elevations on southern Isabela, Floreana, San Cristobal and Santa Cruz we experienced fog and drizzle and occasional spells of heavier rain.

There were very few annoyances. In Mashpi there were a small number of mosquitos that seemed to target the hand and wrist area. On Galapagos the sun was strong, particularly when on the water, and thus sunburn was a hazard which I found out about when seawatching on 23rd even though conditions were largely cloudy.

I took with me my Olympus kit with the OMD EM1 Mark II camera, 300 F4 lens, 40-150mm F2.8 lens, 28-100mm F3.5-6 lens and 1.4 converter. I used the 300mm when on-board seawatching but on land this lens provided too much magnification and so I used the 40-150mm with the 1.4 converter which was perfect. I didn’t use the 28-100 a great deal but for a few scenic shots.

  • 14th August (Day 1) – Flight LHR (06:20) to Madrid then 11:20 from Madrid to Quito (10 hours) arriving in Quito at 15:30. Short transfer to Wyndham Quito Airport Hotel.
  • 15th August (Day 2) – Transfer to Mashpi Lodge with birding en-route. Arrived at 14:15. PM walk to waterfall and canopy tower.
  • 16th August (Day 3) – All day Mashpi Lodge area.
  • 17th August (Day 4) – Mashpi Lodge Hummingbird Garden then transfer to Wyndham Quito Airport Hotel at 12:30.
  • 18th August (Day 5) – Fly to from Quito Guayaquil at 08:10 then on to Baltra in the Galapagos Islands. Boarded our boat the Nemo III and then sailed to North Seymour Island where birded until 17:45. Overnight sail to Genovesa Island.
  • 19th August (Day 6) – All day Genovesa Island then sailed overnight to north-west Isabela Island.
  • 20th August (Day 7) – North-west Isabela Island and Fernandina Island. Overnight sail to south-east Isabela Island.
  • 21st August (Day 8) – South-east Isabela Island then overnight sail to Espanola Island.
  • 22nd August (Day 9) – Espanola Island then overnight sail to Floreana Island.
  • 23rd August (Day 10) – Floreana Island and Champion Island then overnight sail to San Cristobal Island.
  • 24th August (Day 11) – San Cristobal Island and Sante Fe Island then sail to Santa Cruz Island.
  • 25th August (Day 12) – Transferred from boat to hotel on Santa Cruz Island. Birding on Santa Cruz Island all day.
  • 26th August (Day 13) – Travelled from Puerto Ayora in southern Santa Cruz Island to Baltra Airport. 11:15 flight to Quito landing at 14:30. Afternoon in Wyndham Quito Airport Hotel.
  • 27th August (Day 14) – Birding Antisana AM then transfer to Quito Airport. 17:35 flight to Madrid delayed and so missed connection in Madrid to London on 28th. Depart Madrid at 15:55.
Map showing the key sites visited and species recorded during our trip. Zoom into map and click on pins for more details.

14th August
After a 02:00 alarm we were at Heathrow for a 04:20 checked in and headed to our departure gates. The two hour flight to Madrid went quickly and we arrived in good time. With a two hour stopover in Madrid we relaxed in the lounge until being called for our 11:40 flight. The flight went well and we relaxed with some Cava, Tapas and red wine. We crossed over the Caribbean via St. Lucia and the next couple of hours or so we experienced some fairly significant turbulence as we crossed the Caribbean and followed the Andes south-west over Caracas and Bogota. We landed at 15:30, cleared the airport fairly quickly and checked into the Wyndham Quito Airport Hotel by 16:30. After freshening up we had an early dinner and crashed by 19:30.

Links to Other Days of the Trip (Click to View)
14th August (Day 1) – International flight to Quito.
15th August (Day 2) – Mashpi Lodge.
16th August (Day 3) –Mashpi Lodge.
17th August (Day 4) – Mashpi Lodge and transfer to Quito.
18th August (Day 5) – Fly to from Quito to Galapagos Islands. Then sail to North Seymour Island.
19th August (Day 6) – Genovesa Island, Galapagos.
20th August (Day 7) – North-west Isabela Island and Fernandina Island, Galapagos. 
21st August (Day 8) – South-east Isabela Island, Galapagos.
22nd August (Day 9) – Espanola Island, Galapagos. 
23rd August (Day 10) – Floreana Island and Champion Island, Galapagos. 
24th August (Day 11) – San Cristobal Island and Sante Fe Island, Galapagos. 
25th August (Day 12) – Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos.
26th August (Day 13) – Fly Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos to Quito. 
27th August (Day 14) – Antisana Ecological Reserve then fly Quito to London.