Rabida Island, Galápagos Islands

Flamingo walking along the water getting ready to eat

In the afternoon, after our first visit to Santiago Island and the bullet fur seals, we headed over to Rabida Island.

This island is known for its red sand and the pink flamingos.   There were 6 mating pairs of flamingos.

6 flamingos standing with their heads buried in wings and one on a nest

They were feeding and the noise they made while feeding was really interesting -- unfortunately I wasn't able to capture it well...but if you listen close in the beginning of the video below, you may hear it. 

Flamingo walking along the water getting ready to eat
And then there was this guy (or gal) giving himself a bath....
flamingo pruning his feathers
flamingo standing so you can see the black feathers on his wings

We saw 2 nests with 1 egg in each!  It was very exciting to the naturalists as flamingos hadn't nested on the island in about 20 years.

flamingo sitting on nest
Flamingo checking on its egg
close up of the flamingo checking its egg

As we were leaving the island, a few sea lions were laying on the red sand.

a young sea lion lays on a  red sand beach

After a short visit to the island, we went for another snorkel.   This was not the best one - lots of fish and a bullet fur seal.  The water felt really cold, so I didn't stay I very long.

There was a bit of drizzle today and very overcast.   After the snorkel, back on board, briefing and dinner...early to bed to get ready for the new day.

Santiago Island, Galápagos Islands

a young fur seal poses with a soft sky behind him

The snorkeling with sea lions was definitely my highlight for the snorkeling and maybe the entire trip -- but this stop in Santiago island was my favorite on land activity.

Fur seals (they are actually sea lions) were my favorite -- but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Another early start with a 5:00 am breakfast (most Galapagos trips do not start so early - I was with a photography group - so we were up early to get the beautiful light and were usually leaving the islands when the non-photography tour groups were arriving).

By 5:45 we were in the pangas and on our way to Santiago island.   A wet landing.   We divided the group in 1/2 and one 1/2 walked up the coast and the other walked inland.   We were doing a big circle.

I was with the group that was walking inland.   It was still early with not much light.   

We saw some birds and a hawk and spiders.   

As I am trying to get over my debilitating fear of spiders, I try to photograph them so I can see the beauty in them.   This one was taken pretty far away but the silhouette shows the hair/fur on its leg (if you zoom in) and you can just make out the spider web in the low light.

This spider is a silver argyle spider.

silhouette of a spider that shows the fur on his feet and a very faint spider web

We turned towards the coast and were rewarded with sheets of lava rocks flowing to the ocean.   

the lava rocks flow towards the sea and some of the rocks are covered in green algae
lava rocks flow to the sea

On the lava, every where you looked were the bright orange and  red Sally Lightfoot Crabs.  

A red and orange sally lightfoot crab rests on a black lava rock

And we also found the Fur Seals!

Fur Seals are actually sea lions and not seals.   They have twice the amount of hair follicles as the Galápagos sea lions and the Fur Seals are smaller than the Galápagos sea lions.

The animals were high above the water and I wonder how the heck they got up into their resting places... did the tide go up that high or were they just more nimble on land than they look?

a fur seal puppy sleeps on the lava rock high above the water on Santiago Island Galapagos
A lava bridge with water underneath and a young fur seal resting on a ledge of the lava high above the water

The same fur seal from a different perspective

We saw several young ones and some of my favorite photos from the entire trip came from these fur seals.

a young fur seal snuggles in between the lava rocks
a yellow crowned night person stands on lava rocks.    bright yellowish orange long legs, grey chest and feathers a light yellowish head and make on his eyes

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

We also saw a lava egret.    A really nice looking bird.   He hunted and killed the crab (which I was in the wrong spot) and then an octopus stole the kill from the egret!    Who knew that those types of things happened in the wild world?

a lava heron - eats a lightfoot crab that it just killed

We also saw marine iguanas - not near as many as on some other islands, but still quite plentiful here.

marine iguana on the lava
profile view of marine iguana

And even a land iguana.   The land iguanas were much rarer for us to see and we never saw a bunch in one spot like we did with the marine iguanas.

portrait of a marine iguana - yellow and brown with lots of scales on his face
orange and yellow and black butterfly

As we left the island on the panga to go back to the catamaran, we passed a rock with blue footed boobies.   We were able to watch these interesting looking birds for several minutes from the panga.

Later in the trip, we saw them hunting - they look like bullets flying down from the sky diving into the water to catch fish!

blue footed boobie - bright blue feet, white chest, blueish face and dark wings stands on a lava rock

then...snorkeling!    lots of cool fish and fur seals!     The fur seals were like torpedos - they moved so fast thru the water -- they were there then gone and then over there and then gone.   They were a bit curious about us but did not interact with us anywhere near the amount the Galapagos sea lions did.   It was still so much fun!

Here are a few of my favorite artistic renditions from this day.   They are available as prints at my travel gallery.  

an artistic image of a seal - the image is mostly black with his whiskers glowing
dramatic black and white of a fur seal
a young fur seal poses with a soft sky behind him
young seal poses on the lava rocks with a pretty pinkish sky behind

To see more images from my Galapagos and other trips,
visit my travel gallery at 

lisamroberti.photos


If you enjoy the articles, images, and videos, then please join my newsletter.   I send the letter out periodically through the year when I have great stories or information to share.

Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos Islands

fur seal puppy sleeping on a ledge over the water

We anchored off of Punta Vicente Roca on the Isla Isabela.   At 2:00 we went out on the pangas.    

We toured the cliff sides from the pangas and it was the first site of FUR SEALS!   Interesting, fur seals are actually sea lions and not seals.   They have double the amount of fur per square inch than the Galápagos sea lions.   

fur seals laying on top of a rock in Punta Vicente Roca Galapagos islands


The first ones spotted were a mama and her puppy fairly high up on the rocks.

After a few minutes, we saw the mama going down the rocks towards the water.   The baby was apprehensive to follow.

(photographing from the panga had it's challenges as there were 7 of us - the panga is drifting and moving up and down with the water and trying to shoot between and over people from a moving boat was tough...so I wasn't able to get pictures for all the parts of this story.)

mama seal heads down the rocks to the water as the baby watches her leave

The dexterity of the sea lion to maneuver over the rocks was extraordinary.   

mama sea lion continues down towards the water over steep rocks while the baby looks on
the mama sea lion continues down the steep rocks

The puppy gets up courage and follows mama down to the next ledge.

the puppy starts to follow mom and makes it down to the next ledge

mom goes down a little bit further then what's pictured below

mama fur seal continues down the rocks

and she waits for a big wave

a big wave crashing on the rock where the mama seal is waiting

and disappears into the ocean

the rock washed with water and the seal is gone

The scared puppy stayed on the ledge protected by the little cave.  

the sea lion puppy takes refuge in the cave on the ledge

He eventually got brave and also went down towards the water until a big wave washed him away.  

I saw him go into the water but couldn't get a photograph.   We did not see him meet up with mama but sea lions excel in the water so we are sure he ended up reunited with mom.

We saw more seal puppies and lots of birds on the rocks of the cliff.   Including the flightless cormorant.    

fur seal puppy sleeping on a ledge over the water
a very wet fur seal clings to the side of the rocks
a fur seal poses on the rocks just above the water

Marine iguanas also were lounging on the rocks sunbathing and we saw one penguin.   The penguin was molting and looked quite pathetic.

a molting penguin and marine iguanas on the rocks

as well as blue footed boobies and a Nazca Boobie (the white and black bird below)

blue footed boobie perched on black lava rock
the nazca boobie on a ledge.  this bird is white with black edges on his feathers, gray feet and a yellow/orange beak and black on the edge of his tail


After the dinghy ride, we had a great snorkel.   My favorite one of the whole trip - why?   because there were SEA LIONS!!!   The sea lions were very inquisitive and playful.    This was the highlight of my entire trip to the Galápagos Islands.

I jokingly said that I hope I'm not mistaken for a sea lion (or a beached whale) in my wetsuit, but after watching them in the water, I realized there was no way that could happen.   The sea lions are incredibly skilled and graceful underwater.

It was like watching the best ballet or ballroom dancers on a stage.   The way they moved was mesmerizing.     I captured just a tiny bit of it in this short video below.

It was so hard to not reach out and touch him when he swam upside down in front of me.   I had one hand on the GoPro and the other hand I had holding on to the neck of my wetsuit so I wouldn't touch him - self control is not one of my strengths - but I knew it was bad for him...so I had to make sure not to reach out to touch him.

We had some time to shower and spent some time on deck with the beautiful sunset.

sun setting over the ocean

Downloaded images and then the briefing and dinner.    We didn't move until after dinner because we had to navigate around the north tip of the island.   It was a long navigation - about 9 hours and they warned us there would be 2-3 meter waves.

I was safely flat on my back in bed before the waves hit and it got very rocky and stuff I could hear stuff falling over from the motion.  So grateful we were moving thru the waves while it was night time!

To seem more pictures from the Galapagos Islands and my other travels, go my my travel photo gallery.

www.lisamroberti.photos


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Fernandina Island, Galapagos – the marine iguana breeding grounds

2 marine iguanas. 1 with his claw on the shoulder of the other

Have you ever seen the documentary "Island of the Dragons" narrated by David Attenborough?   (the below video is the entire documentary)

It was filmed on Fernandina Island...the next stop on the Galapagos journey.

5:00 am breakfast

followed by 5:45 into the pangas to make it to the island and set up before sunrise.

The pangas pulled into a cove and up to a little pier which was slippery and led thru a forested region over to the ocean.

breakfast on the catamaran

First view in the early morning light was a sea lion and then turn the corner and we are greeted with thousands of marine iguanas.

portrait of an iguana in early morning light - with a crab crawling on his shoulder

A marine iguana in early morning light with a crab friend on his shoulder

Fernandina Island is a nesting area for the marine iguanas.   And if you watch the film above, you'll see the trials that the iguanas have to go through to just survive.

We did not witness any of the eruptions or lava flow.  I'm not sure if it was happening on another part of the island or if it just wasn't flowing when we were there.  

We also didn't have the violent seas like they show in the opening of the documentary.   Nor did we have the rough seas like they showed in the movie (and I was very grateful for calmer waters).
2 marine iguanas.   1 with his claw on the shoulder of the other
Sally Light Foot Crab on black lava

After taking pictures of the iguanas and crabs for awhile, there was a walk around the nesting area.  It was during this time that we saw the snakes made infamous in the documentary.    They were waiting for their opportunity to feast on the baby iguanas emerging from their nests.

Baby season had not yet started...so we didn't see the babies running for their lives from the snakes and the birds of prey.

snake in the gravel sand waiting for baby iguanas to break thru the nest

A hawk in a tree looking...probably for prey

A sea lion skeleton

more crabs and then . . . 

hawk perched in a tree
skeleton of a sea lion
sally lightfoot crab sideways on the lava and shell beach

SEA LIONS!   

There was a baby sea lion in the water and then 2 moms with their puppies.   

the baby sea lion was crying for his mama.

the moms leave the sea lions on the beach and then go to the sea for food and then come back (hopefully) to feed the babies.

This baby's mama had not come back yet and he was trying to get close to the other mamas and they kept chasing him away.

the calls from the baby were so very sad but the baby was in really good condition so we were hoping it was just a matter of time before mama came back.

young sea lion in the water
young sea lion trying to get close to the 2 mamas with their puppies

Continuing the walk around, we found another young sea lion by himself.   He appeared to be younger than the first one and also looked to be in very good condition!

baby sea lion laying on his back nestled between lava rocks
cute baby sea lion lying in the black lava rocks

Completing the loop, almost back to where we started was another field of marine iguanas.   One of them had a lizard friend.

marine iguana with a lizard on his head

At the little pier where we had to pick up the pangas, were a bunch of sea lions.   They were so playful as they jumped on and off the pier into the water, splashing around.  What a great way to end our visit to Fernandina Island!

As we got back to the catamaran, there was a stowaway.   Could he be any cuter?   Good thing there were two areas for the pangas to disembark so we didn't have to disturb this guy.

a sea lion on the loading platform of the catamaran
a sea lion on the loading platform of the catamaran as seen from the top of the stairs

Shortly after we got back, it was time for snorkeling.   The hope here was to find swimming and feeding marine iguanas.   I did see a few but I found more turtles than iguanas.   Both were feeding off the algae on the rocks.

Another great and full morning in the Galápagos Islands.   Back to the catamaran after snorkeling for lunch and off to our next location for the afternoon.

Want to see more pictures from the Galápagos Islands or my other travels?    You can find my travel gallery at

 www.lisamroberti.photos


If you enjoy the articles, images, and videos, then please join my newsletter.    I send out a newsletter periodically through the year when I have great stories or information to share.   

Urbina Bay, Isla Isabella – Galápagos Islands

marine iguana with lava racks on a black rocky beach

Day 2 afternoon 

After snorkeling with the sea turtles in the morning, we had lunch and motored over to our next spot.  

Several us sat up on top of the catamaran on the sun deck and were rewarded with frigate birds using the draft of our boat to fly.   It was fun to watch them (and hope they didn't poop on our faces).

frigate birds flying above our boat on the deep blue sky

We all left unscathed (un-pooped).

At 3:00 we took the pangas to Urbina Bay.   Urbina Bay is also located on Isla Isabella.    This outing was a wet landing - so Keens on, back packs in a dry bag (just in case).

As we landed on the beach, we were greeted by a large marine iguana.  

marine iguana with lava racks on a black rocky beach

We dried off our feet and got our gear out of wet bags and then started walking down a trail into a forested region.   

It was a very slow and somewhat painful walk for me as the beginning of the trail was thick sand and my foot was very swollen from twisting it in the morning.    

During the walk we saw several land iguanas.   The first one was pretty deep in the brush...then one was laying right on the trail.

Land Iguana hiding in the undergrowth of the forest
Land iguana (yellow) laying flat on the sandy walkway

We saw some insects... a Large Painted Locust and a Zig Zag Spider were 2 I stopped to photograph - no macro lens so this is the best I could get.  

The colors in the Galapagos are stunning.   The colors on the land iguana, birds, and insects were so varied and had me wanting to see more.

underside of a zig zag spider
a colorful locust that looks similar to a grasshopper

There were a lot of different birds... this one posed for me for quite a while just off the trail.

brown, grey and white bird on a tree branch

There were a lot of tortoises- several hiding in the undergrowth but a few out in the open.  This one next to the stop sign was between 2-4 years old according to Franklin, one of the naturalists on the trip.

Tortoise standing next to a wood stop sign in the forest

When we returned to the beach there were yellow warblers but they were "deep" into the lava rocks.   I tried to get to them and then decided against it since it was just day 2, I didn't want to risk my foot any further.  So I just sat on the beach listening and watching the waves and the marine iguana that we saw when we first landed.

claw and leg of a marine iguana

Franklin, one of the naturalists took my camera and took a few pictures of the birds for me.

Yellow warbler shakes his feathers
Yellow warbler on a lava rock

When we arrived back to the catamaran, I wrapped my foot and iced it...and as a bunch of us sat on the sun deck, so many frigate birds joined us to watch the beautiful sunset.  

I laid on the chaise lounge just looking up to the sky watching the frigate birds (and the occasional boobie flying above us...the frigates chased the boobies away...but other than that it was super peaceful to just watch them soar!

Once again the birds used the updraft of the boat to help them soar.  At times they were flying just a few feet over head.   It was beautiful.

ice pack on my foot
beautiful sunset over the back of the boat
frigate birds flying over the boat in front of the white clouds
single frigate bird in the blue sky

At 6:30 we had the briefing for the next day, dinner and downloading images which ended the day.   Another beautiful and stimulating day in the Galápagos Islands.

Be sure to view the photo gallery from this trip.   It is a work in progress as I go through and edit all my favorite images from the trip to share with you.

In the gallery, there are images that are NOT included in this article

www.lisamroberti.photos



As always, I would love any questions or comments !

Galápagos Islands – Punta Moreno, Isabela Island

curly cue neck of a pink flamingo

Day 2 morning

The morning began with a 7:00 am breakfast.   By 8:00 we were on the pangas with our gym shoes and camera bags for a dry landing on the lava rocks.

Part of the path was smooth and easy to walk on and part had loose lava rocks.

picture of people walking over the smooth section of lava

Our walk brought us to a lake quite a bit below us with a few flamingos.

I don't know what it is about flamingos - the surprise of their beautiful salmon-pink feathers, their awkward spindly legs, their height, the way their necks curl...but something about them makes them so magnificent to watch.  We got there with the sun high so there were lots of harsh shadows to try to play with but just sitting on the lava rocks and watching them go about their day was fascinating!

people sitting on the lava rocks watching the flamingos below
flamingo swimming
portrait of a flamingo with beautiful feathers
curly cue neck of a pink flamingo

We stayed awhile to photograph the flamingos and then walked to the other side of the lake to get a different view point.

I was not the first one to fall as I stepped onto a loose rock and it turned under my foot and my foot turned with it and I landed hard on my butt - saving the cameras of course.

It stung a LOT and I was wondering if I broke it...but after a few seconds it wasn't so bad and I was able to get up and gingerly walk on it. 

Thankfully, one of the ladies on the trip - an avid hiker saw me go down and helped me over the rough spots the rest of the way as my foot was very unstable.

view of the lake with a few flamingos

The view that cost me having a stable foot the rest of the trip...

There were more flamingos closer towards us from this view point -- the lake wrapped around the bush on the left but they were still below us.

After we finished photographing the flamingos we walked a bit further to pick up the pangas at a different location.    

After getting into the pangas, we went for a short panga ride through the mangrove area.   There were a lot of pelicans and other birds and the water was very clear.

Pelican portrait

We returned to the catamaran and then got ready for snorkeling.   I wasn't sure what to expect - the weather was warm so I assumed the water would be too -- oops.   I knew that was wrong when they started fitting us for our wetsuits... 3 mm.   They told us the water was 63-65 degrees.    Definitely NOT tropical!

I did bring some wetsuit booties since my feet tend to get really cold.   Back on the pangas smooshed into wetsuits and armed with go pros, masks, snorkels, and fins for the first snorkel of the trip.  I was seriously hoping I wouldn't be mistaken for a sea lion or a whale in the wetsuit.

When we got to our location, they instructed us to swing our legs over the other side and slide / jump in.   When my face hit the water it was such a shock.   I didn't hold onto the rope the first time I jumped in so I went straight under and boy was that a wake up call to cold water!    I caught my breath after that shock and then I really didn't want to put my face in the water again -- but there were TURTLES and fishes and plants and .... so the face went in the frigid water and then ... peace.

I don't know what it is about turtles - they aren't exceptionally graceful creatures - but they just bring out this intense feeling of peace.   The idea of slow down and smell the roses and don't be in a hurry.  

Watching these huge sea turtles was mesmerizing.    They didn't bother about us - didn't even seem to realize that we were there - just going about their own business swimming and eating and going up to the surface to breath.

What an extraordinary experience.     As as certified diver (albeit I haven't done that in about 20 years) I have seen turtles on occasion - but never this many and never this close.   A really amazing memory.   The video below doesn't do the experience justice.

Be sure to view the photo gallery from this trip.    It is a work in progress as I go through and find my favorite images to share with you.   Some are the same as in this article and some are new and not included!

www.Lisamroberti.photos


As always, I would love any questions or comments !

Galápagos Islands photo tour – Journal Day 1

front view of a tortoise

Ahhh the Galápagos Islands....a dream destination of unique animals and landscapes.

To be honest, I really didn't know much about the Galapagos but I've wanted to visit for a long time and when one of my favorite photo tour companies - Aaron's Tours - posted it as a trip, I had to sign up.    According to Google "The Galápagos Islands is a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean.  It's considered one of the world's foremost destinations for wildlife-viewing."

My trip was planned for 2020 and got delayed due to covid.   I finally got to experience the Galapagos last week.... some come with me on my journey to these remote islands of Ecuador.

My understanding is that you can visit the islands in multiple ways - you can stay on one of the islands in a lodge and do a land tour or you can do a boat tour.   They even have some cruise ships that do stops in the Galapagos.    The boat tours are divided... there are so many islands and stops at each island that it is impossible (well probably not) to see everything in one trip.

On my trip, we stayed on a fairly small Catamaran.  There were 8 cabins.   We visited 6 of the 13 main islands.   We stopped at multiple places on most of the islands.

the catamaran in the Galapagos

Getting to the islands and to our catamaran was an adventure all in its own right!

Getting to Ecuador

I flew from Chicago to Miami and then Miami to Quito Ecuador.   I flew in a day early as I usually do - to make sure I'm there if there are any delays with flights or luggage.   I spent my free day just relaxing at the hotel and catching up on some internet classes I'm taking.

That night, I met with the group that would be my buddies for the next 10 days.   A group dinner and then off to bed because of a early morning the next day.

Quito to Baltra Galapagos

5:00 am alarm on my phone and a quick shower and meet in the lobby by 5:40.   A quick transport to the airport.   We had to go thru a special screening for the Galapagos.  You aren't allowed to bring in any animals, meat, or plant life.   

Going thru check in with camera equipment is always nerve wrecking.  My bags are usually too heavy and my carryons with my camera gear is ALWAYS too heavy...so it's a cross your fingers and be super nice to the check in people and hope for the best.   We all go thru with no problems!   Yea - a great start to the trip.

Since the restaurant wasn't open yet at the hotel, we found a little coffee stand at the airport.   Waited a bit and then got on the plane.   It was a 3.5 hour total plane ride with a 40 minute stop for refueling and loading / unloading passengers.   We were not allowed to exit the plane.

mountains from the airplane
the view from the airplane window of the blue water and an island

The Airport on Baltra

We landed on the island of Baltra.   it is a very very small island.   The airport is carbon neutral and is the first in the region.   There were a lot of signs talking about how the airport can operate that way.   One of which is solar - they don't operate at night either.

We had to go thru a line to show our papers and that we paid the entrance fee for Galapagos.   Carry-on bags thru another screening and then all the checked bags were laid out and a sniffer dog came to check every bag.   After the dog was done, we were allowed to collect our belongings.

There was a cute little shop where several us purchased some water while we waited for our naturalist - his flight got hung up and he actually landed after us.

Getting to Our Boat - the adventure starts now

Here is where the adventure really begins.    The naturalist took us outside the airport (where so many people from the last 2 planes were) and we boarded a public bus with all our belongings.   They took the big checked bags and put them in the back of the bus and some underneath.  

It was a short ride to the water.    We offloaded the bus, claimed our luggage and then took a public boat... our luggage went ON TOP OF another boat -- so glad it wasn't raining and then the water was calm so the luggage hopefully wouldn't fall off the top of the boat.   We kept our cameras and computers with us.    The boat was full to capacity.

It was a super short few minute ride across the channel to Isla Santa Cruz.   When we landed at the island, we offloaded the boat and walked up the pier - and we found a SLEEPING SEA LION!   He was totally oblivious to all of us tourists stepping around him.   Welcome to the Galapagos - yes indeed!

sea lion lounging on the pier
sea lion on the pier sleeping

Time to claim our bags again and then they went onto a private air conditioned bus with us and our carry ons.

We took the bus across the island for about a 45 minute drive and then the bus stopped at another pier.   They collected our bags and we just had our carry-ons and we loaded onto 2 pangas.  

There were multiple more sea lions on the pier too...including this baby nursing on mama without carrying about us at all.

These are like zodiac boats.   It was a bit crowded with all of us and all our gear but we managed.   A little bit of spray as I was in the front and I was happy to have my rain coat to throw over my laptop bag.

The ride to the catamaran through the marina was only a few minutes.    Then the crew on board our cat(amaran) took our bags and helped us onto the boat.   We had a quick briefing and then assigned our cabins.    Since I was the only female traveling alone, I had my own cabin.  

the inside of the cabin - 2 twin beds and a chest
the bathroom in the cabin

Each cabin had either twin beds or a king and a small bathroom with shower, toilet, and sink.   The water from the sink was not drinkable so we had to remember to brush our teeth with the bottled water from our water bottles.   There was a cooler with the purified water in the lounge area.

We had a few minutes to get settled then had a lunch and then back on the pangas to the island for an outing.   This time we just had our camera bags.   Back on the bus and we drove thru the little harbor town and by all the shops to the Charles Darwin Research Station.   

picture of the Panga or Zodiac

Faces blurred for privacy

Santa Cruz Island and the Charles Darwin Research Station

As we walked the rest of the way, we spotted our first marine iguanas lounging on a boat ramp.   I didn't really take any portraits because I figured we see them in a more natural setting then just on the concrete.

marine iguanas on the boat ramp

We walked the rest of the way up to the tortoise research and breeding center stopping for some small insects along the way.

At the tortoise breeding center we saw many different tortoises and some baby ones as well.    

tortoise head
a side view of the tortoise
front view of a tortoise
one tortoise on top of the other peaking over the shell

After having the tour we had about 1.5 hours on our own to walk back to town.   

I stopped at a beach - there was more lava rock then sand but it was the first glimpse at the Sally Light-Foot Crab and more marine iguanas.

sand that leads up to the lava rocks and then to the harbor
red sally light foot crab on a black lava rock
portrait of a marine iguana
close up of a marine iguana foot

I kept walking and made it to the area where the locals clean their fish. There were pelicans and sea lions hoping to get a handout.  

Fish cleaning station and adorable sea lions - or are they?

(I LOVE sea lions).   I was so excited to see them...until one of the sea lions had diarrhea like poop and it flowed down to the other one and he just laid in it -- ICK.   I could not stay and hang with them any longer.

The marine iguanas were just hanging on the sidewalk.   I went into multiple shops because I realized I forgot to pack my sun glasses strap... I did find one and I was so happy.

Back to the pier and onto the pangas.    A little bit of time to organize, then our briefing and dinner.   They mentioned it would get quite rocky during the night - and it did.   No editing for me.   Just laying flat on my back in bed counting all my blessings with the help of a tiny little motion sickness pill.

Day 1 of Galapagos and what an amazing start to a dream photo trip.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I will be posting pictures and short videos of wildlife, lodges, and wild places and YouTube for short and longer videos!

Holly

Holly in the snow

THE decision is never easy.  But often it is clear.  This time it was neither.

It's never easy to say good bye to your pet, your friend and family member.  When you adopt (rescue or purchase), you are committing to caring for him/her for their forever.  To love them unconditionally, feed them, give them shelter, health care, and keep them safe.

At least that's how it works in my world.  Sometimes humans miss that particular memo when they decide it's time to add a pet to the family - but that's a whole different story and article.

I think given my rules above, it's normal then to feel like a failure when the life of your cherished animal is over.   Like somehow I failed keeping them safe.   Like somehow I should have done more, fixed them better, loved them more.   Somehow deep in the soul it feels like if I had loved them enough, they wouldn't have left.

But that's not how it works in my world either.

When I chose to open my heart, I knew there would be destruction later.  It's a given.  And sometimes it IS easier to just close off the heart and not feel the inevitable pain.  Easier but so much emptier.

The pain of loss is worth the joy of love.  I'm going to say that again.   I feel that the message is for someone - even if maybe it's just for me.  The pain of loss is worth the joy of love.

During the depth of the pain, it's sometimes hard to remember.

Time to Add to the Family

12.5 years ago, I decided it was time to add to my family.   My family consisted of a Labrador retriever that was going blind from PRA and my giant Newfoundland.

I searched on pet finder for another Newfoundland and found her!

Hollys picture on pet finder

She was listed as a Springer Spaniel, Newfoundland, St. Bernard mix.   I took one look at this spunky girls picture and knew she was the one for me.

About a 5 hour drive to East St Louis to meet my little Goddess at her foster home.   She was so tiny.

me holding baby Holly

Holly certainly was a spunky girl.    She caused all sorts of problems with her big brothers - her whole tiny body was smaller than Shadow's head!   And when he had enough of her, he'd just put his head on her and squish her (in an ever so loving way).

Shadow the Newfoundland with Holly

I adopted her in January and we spent many hours at dawn outside in the freezing cold waiting for her to go potty.   She learned quickly that if she went potty - we'd go inside - so she'd just go running around and play and play so she didn't have to go back inside.  My spunky girlie, my Minnie Moo.

baby Holly in the snow

Growing up

She grew up really fast and I started wondering about her pedigree.   She hated water - wouldn't even step in a puddle and loved to run the fence line.   She had very pronounced dew claws so I thought maybe she had some Great Pyrenees - but I'll never know.

Holly liked to pretend she was the alpha dog in the house.   To any casual observer, they would have thought for sure she was...but when she got scared, even as an adult, she would run and hide behind Shadow.    She would always defer to him - he just never demanded much.

She loved going to daycare and playing with all the other dogs.   She loved being at home.   She loved her doggie beds.   And she loved sleeping upside down with her legs up on the wall.   I can't believe that I don't have a picture of her doing it since she slept like that all the time. Here's one, though - of her not using her dog bed and sleeping laying all crooked like she was prone to do.

Holly sleeping crooked

Though the course of her life, she lived in four homes.   She really liked routine (like most dogs) but she settled into all the homes fairly quickly.   She didn't like strangers and would bark at anyone new coming into the home - something I forgot because of Covid, I haven't had many people come to the house...and unfortunately on her last day, when the vet came to the house, she reminded me.

She had a lot of brothers.  First was Dusty (the blind lab) and Shadow (the Newfoundland), then came Spencer (Frank, the Ex's dog), then Rocky (the Golden), Caesar (my mom's lab), and Max (mix rescue).  After Frank and I became ex's, he got Buddie and Gunnar ( Goldens) and Rosie (beagle mix) and would watch my dogs when I traveled - so his dogs became her brothers too.

Her diagnosis

They all got along so well.    When Shadow died, Holly really had a hard time and just 3 month later, December 2020, she was diagnosed with bone cancer and the drs gave her 2-3 months to live.    She more than beat those odds living 16 months after her diagnosis.   Her therapy dr. at Tops Vet Rehab and I didn't believe the diagnosis but something was wrong with her legs.  He back legs were full of arthritis and she was getting therapy for them for over 2 years.    It was the front left leg that really gave her trouble - and that's where they thought she had cancer.

She went to Tops Vet Rehab every week for acupuncture, chiropractic treatments and other pain relief treatments.    She loved going there.  She loved the attention she got and of course the pain relief.

Holly wearing safety googles during laser treatment

She was on a cocktail of 3 different pain medications and as long as I could manage her pain, she was healthy and happy.

Last 6 months

Rocky very unexpectedly died in July of last year.   I was in South Africa and so the dogs had been staying with Frank.    

After I came home and picked up Holly, it was really hard for her to be alone so Frank would watch her so she could be with his dogs and I would watch his dogs so she had companions.

For the last 6 months Frank's dogs have been living with me while he relocated out of state.  When he was ready to take them, we knew Holly's time was running short and decided for me to keep them for awhile so Holly could have continued canine companions.

Her pain, while mostly managed was getting worse and she was on the max dosage of pain medications many days.   The good days were getting less and less.

It's never easy...and this time it wasn't clear

There would be nights that she was in pain that I could not control and I thought - this is it, it is time...then the next day, the weather would change and she would be running (well - her way of running with 3 bad legs) outside and smiling...and I thought to myself - what was I thinking...she's so happy and full of life...how could I even consider letting her go.

Then she'd have more bad days and again the cycle and thoughts would haunt me.   Am I doing enough...what else can I do?   Is it time?   is she ready?    I had long talks with her and it was clear she wasn't ready.

This mental torment for me went on for months.   I wanted to do the right thing by her - give her as much life as she wanted but making sure it was a GOOD life and not one that was excruciating pain.    Dogs can't talk - I had to watch her body language, the position of her ears, how she carried herself, the tension on her face, how she was breathing.   Every minute of every day I was watching her, analyzing her quality of life.    

Thank you to all my friends that listened to my struggles - debating if she had enough quality - was I being selfish wanting her to stay longer, was I being selfish thinking it was time for her to go - so I could end my suffering as well as hers.    

The conversations I had with myself were endless and many times quite cruel.

And it continued.   The winter was so much easier for her.   As spring came and warmer weather and rain, she really started struggling.    About 10 days ago - she had her best day in over a year and I thought - a miracle?   did something jar loose?   Is she really going to be ok?   She was happy and spunky and feeling great.   That night, she had the worst night of her life.   She had already had her max dosage of pain meds and I couldn't help her.   I just sat on the floor with her petting her wishing for the pain to go away.   I knew it was time.   I was calling the vet as soon as they opened.    After awhile I went back to bed.   She woke me up in the morning and was running around the kitchen!   And the conversations would start again in my mind.

For the last week she was on max meds and she had the 2 worst nights of her life in the last week.    In between her moments of happiness - which were still existent but lasting shorter and shorter, she'd lay on the floor fully flat (and I was keeping my house at 65 degrees for her) and just panting and panting from the pain.    

I called the vet on Monday and the soonest they could come was Wednesday the 27th.   Thank God the temperature dropped and her last days were days of super comfort.   On Tuesday night, 36 degrees out she was outside and I wanted to be with her so I donned my winter coat, hat and gloves and decided to light a bonfire.    

Little did I know, the bonfire pit had ripped and so the pit was full of water, I emptied it the best I could and just lit a tiny bonfire in the corner so I could let her enjoy her time outside and I could enjoy time with her.

a very small bonfire

I spent most of her last day sitting on the floor with her.   Questioning if I had made the right decision because she was doing so well.

How many times I asked myself - how many days does she have to suffer for me to feel good about the decision?    Isn't it better for her to pass when she still has good life left?    I'm sure if you ask 100 different dog owners that question - you'd get 100 different answers.   There is no right answer - there's just your choice.   As her loving guardian I got to make that very difficult choice and decided to let her go when she was having a great day.   When she was still happy and not after multiple days in a row of suffering.

Was it the right choice?   I don't know.   Sitting at my computer writing this, with tears streaming down my checks, I still question was it time.   But, at the same time, I know it was.

Life can be so confusing and so hard with the weight of life and death on your shoulders.

Many people that knew Holly wasn't doing well have asked me if I was going to get another dog and my answer is NO.   And it's not because I don't want to open my heart.  It's because I want to experience more in life.   I want to travel more and it wouldn't be fair to a dog for me to travel as much as I desire and have them left behind.   Is it a no forever? - I don't know.   Maybe one day, I'll get tired of traveling and decide to settle down and stay home...for now, my next chapter is traveling around the world as much as possible.

God speed my dear sweet Holly girlie.   I know you are reunited with your brothers and sister you never met.   I know my dad is watching over you and all of you are watching over me.   I love you little girlie and I miss you.

Thank you for letting me be your mama.  Thank you for filling my life with love and laughter and snuggles.   Thank you for being my girlie.

Here is a short video of some of the memories of my sweet girl.


Rwanda – An intro to the wildlife and nature lover’s paradise

a picture of the layers of hills in the mist

Rwanda is referred to as the land with 1000 hills.  Unfortunately, I only saw a small part of the country on the road from Kigali to the Volcanos National Park, but what I saw has me itching to experience more.

picture of the world map with a pin to show the location of Rwanda

The pin on the worlld map shows where Rwanda is located.  
It is a is a small country in East Africa (see bottom left).
Kigali is almost in the center of the country (circled in red on the bottom right picture) and Volcanoes National Park is on the Northern country boundary (also circled in the map on the bottom right).   The mountain range spreads through Rwanda, Uganda, and The Democratic Republic of Congo.

Map of Africa with Rwanda highlighted
A map of Rwanda with the city of Kigali and Volcanoes National Park highlighted

The sights that drew me in also make me want to learn landscape photography because everywhere you looked, it had hundreds if not thousands of green hues and the textures abounded from the different farm produce and foliage.  The farm terraces meandering up the hills were mesmerizing. 

We didn’t stop for photos, so a few iPhone clicks out the window of a moving land rover was all I could manage.  Even had we stopped for photographs, I knew my skills would never have done the beauty justice.

a picture of the green hills of Rwanda
kids hanging onto a truck to get up the hill



The hills were steep in some places, so the kids (and young adults) would use trucks to help pull them up.   The man in orange on his bike is holding onto the truck (it's hard to see in this picture).

The trip to Rwanda was to trek and photograph mountain gorillas.  I’ve done it before and remember with vivid clarity how much the experience moved me and I was excited to do it again.

a mama gorilla keeping an eye on her baby

It is impossible to describe what it is like to be on the ground with nothing between you and the gorilla except lush vegetation.  The feeling that encompasses you when you get a sneak peek into their lives can move you to tears.  

The experience stays with you long after the 1 hour time limit expires.  In fact, my first 2 gorilla treks were about 35 years ago in Zaire and I still remember the names of the 2 silverbacks I “met”.  (Naninja and Moshamooka for the record).  But that’s a story for another day.

close up portrait of a mountain gorilla

Rwanda is a country with a tumultuous and violent past.   A visit to the genocide museum is really a must see for all visitors and I strongly believe every world leader should learn the history of what happened in this country.  Many books have been written and there is no way to do it justice in this short article, so I won’t write the details here but you can search Rwanda genocide to read about this incredibly tragic past.   

entrance to the Kigali Genocide museum

As a visitor, you would never guess the violent past.  Many will talk of their own personal experience if asked but the country is incredibly peaceful and clean and very safe for tourists and citizens alike with an incredibly low crime rate.  I felt incredibly comfortable as a tourist in Rwanda.

The people were amazingly kind and friendly.  Music and dancing is a love for them.

Another fabulous stop is the Diane Fossey Research Center.   The center was very informative with pictures, videos, and information posters all about the mountain gorillas and the work being done to save them.

A picture of the thank you sign at the gorilla research center
Picture of me standing next to the height measuring stick of a gorilla

Visiting Rwanda, even now, during Covid, was quite easy.    They asked for a vaccine card (but at the time a vaccine was not mandatory) and a negative PCR test.   Upon arrival in Kigali, we had to get another test which cost an additional $50.   As the entrance requirements are constantly changing all over the world – be sure to check to see the current requirements to leave yourself enough time if quarantines are mandated.

The biggest tourist draw to Rwanda is the mountain gorillas.   But Rwanda also has many beautiful wildlife parks that I have yet to visit.   I plan on extending my next trip here so I can visit some of the other areas of Rwanda.  I have heard great things about the other parks and if you visit the other parks, you can get a discount on your mountain gorilla permit (which at the time I visited in October 2021, the fee was $1500).  Again, be sure to look at the current requirements and rates as these things tend to change rapidly.

I highly recommend a visit to Rwanda.  If you are a nature lover, it must go on your bucket list.  Like all tourist destinations around the world, Rwanda was hurt by the pandemic and are now welcoming tourists with open arms.   Go as soon as you can!!


SAFARI TIPS

  • Rwanda is normally an add-on destination to a safari in Kenya or Tanzania

  • Rwanda is trying to promote it's other parks to be a destination on it's own - I haven't visited the other locations so I don't have an opinion but talk to an African Safari Specialist is you are considering that as an option!

  • You can also see mountain gorillas in Uganda but my understanding is the trekking is much more difficult (it is less money).   I plan on visiting Uganda in the next few years.

  • You can also see mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo - personally, I would not go there at this time for safety reasons

  • Gorilla trekking is not usually a first-time safari goers trip but it can be and I highly recommend seeing the gorillas!

  • Be sure to work with an AFRICAN SPECIALIST with experience in both countries so they can give you the correct advice for your specific desires



Visit my Youtube channel for the hotel review of the Kigali Serena Hotel 

The lodge review for Mountain View Lodge is coming soon!

The articles about my mountain gorilla experiences are coming soon!

Wild – but still trapped

polar bear sting on a small block of ice surrounded by garbage in the ocean

Shawshank Redemption - a very popular movie.   Perhaps you have seen it?

The majority of the movie was filmed at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH and I was a visitor there recently for a business retreat.

A strange place for a business meeting...but Kary Oberbrunner, a Best Selling Author many times over, launched his book "Day Job to Dream Job" there and he holds one retreat a year at the prison...more on that in a moment.    

The prison, on the outside, is beautiful.   It was built between 1883-1910 and was operational until 1990.     

The outside of the prison

From the outside, the prison does not look like a prison. It is a beautiful building.

The Inside

The inside is a different story.   

As I walked through the cell blocks and listened to the stories about the lives lead by the prisoners, I was filled with such a huge feeling of gratitude and empathy.

Gratitude for the life I was fortunate enough to live, the opportunities to grow up in a safe neighborhood, with loving parents, making it EASY to stay on the "right side of the law".

Empathy for those that didn't.   Although true, we all make our own choices, for some, the choices are much easier than for others.

The cells are 5' x 8' and were originally designed for 1 prisoner.   Due to overcrowding, they were used for 2 prisoners and then 3.  

The cell scenes in the movies were filmed on a set where cells were built - and they looked like a Ritz Carlton compared to the actual cells where prisoners were housed.   

5' x 8' cell
one of the cells

The prisoners got to shower 1 x per week and that shower lasted 30 seconds.

Some of the "worst" prisoners, were housed in cells with doors like this:

doors that you can's see thru

These doors were to limit the "view" for the prisoner and cause more isolation.   Food was given through the little door opening and that's also where they would be hand cuffed to be allowed to go to the showers or meetings.

The largest cell block had 6 levels of cells.   The cell blocks were extremely hot in the summer and cold in the winter with snow sometimes piling up inside the jail and the water in the toilets freezing.

the cells
sensory deprivation cell


And then, we saw the isolation and sensory deprivation cells.   These cells were either dark 24 hours a day or light 24 hours a day.  

There was a "door" inside the door for food.

This one shows a cot, but we were told there were no beds / cots in isolation cells.

I can't describe the feelings I had when walking through the prison because I'm not even sure what they were besides the gratitude and empathy as stated above.

And I knew that I would NEVER do anything that would put me inside these walls as a "guest".

So, why hold a business seminar here?  What is the parallel with prisons and business and life?

We had a 1/2 hour exercise where we went into the prison cells to reflect on our own inner prisons - in life and business.  

I didn't want to go into the cell.   I didn't want to be isolated, I didn't want to face my demons.   But I did.

It was a powerful exercise and one I am still digesting...

but one question Kary asked is the reason why I am writing this article in a wildlife centered blog - "how does the experience parallel with what we do ?"

Lisa in prison

What does prison have to do with wildlife?

The obvious popped into my mind first:

Animals in captivity vs. animals in the wild

but that is better demonstrated and discussed with pictures of animals in captivity and not me in a jail cell - and that article (or most likely articles) will come sometime in the future.

As I was pondering this outside my cell with Danielle Bernock, a fellow Mastermind Member and truly an amazing person (go check her out on social- she helps people get over their trauma and is truly one of those people that just bring light into your life), she made a simple statement which lead to my AHA parallel:

Animals in the wild, that live as nature intended, are still imprisoned by humans!

Wild animals depend on humans to make good choices for the environment.    

polar bear sting on a small block of ice surrounded by garbage in the ocean

Humans can save wild places and wild animals by the choices we make.

  • Wild animals rely on us to preserve wild places so they have a place to live
  • They depend on us to stop human-wildlife conflict so they can live their lives as nature intended
  • They count on us to stop trophy hunting (where the biggest and healthiest of animals are taken to display on someone's wall)
  • They need clean oceans and have to trust that we will stop polluting the waters around the world
  • They rely on us to stop taking babies out of the wild to live their lives in captivity (this is happening currently with elephant calves being ripped away from their herd and sold around the world - INCLUDING sales to the USA!)
  • Humans hurt them by taking selfies with wildlife and putting them in jeopardy (have you seen the viral videos of people passing around dolphin babies to take pictures and the baby dies because of it??   Or videos when people try to get to close to a bear or a moose.   This causes so much stress on the animal and is dangerous to both them and the human.)
  • The wild animals count on us to stop testing on them for the cosmetic and medical industries (have you seen the videos of chimpanzees that were used for medical testing being released to sanctuaries that have never been outside or stepped on grass?)

I'm sure there are many more examples that I did not think of where we humans are imprisoning wildlife even when they are in the wild.

The animals DO NOT HAVE A CHOICE!

but

WE DO!!!!

We, the humans, have choices.   We can choose to

  • Not take selfies with animals - both captive and wild
  • Boycott industries that test on animals
  • Support non-profits that help animals
  •  
     
    Boycott buying any animal trinkets - rhino horn, ivory, lion / tiger bone salves or creams, giraffe hair bracelets, animal skin rugs, etc.
  •  
    Get involved with local charities to clean up and preserve wild habitats
  •  
    Stay informed about conservation efforts
  •  
    Vote and contact your representatives about wild places and wildlife bills
  • Recycle
  •  
    Plant flowers and gardens that are wildlife friendly
  • Vacation in wildlife rich destinations

There are many things we, the human species, can do to help wildlife and wild places around the world to thrive.  

It is up to us to preserve the wild places around the world for generations to come!

What impact can you make?


As always, I'd love your thoughts about this article and other idea of what the human species can do to help save the wild places around the world!



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