Grace in the Galapagos

Mal
8 min readJun 20, 2022

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Seven days aboard the M/Y Grace — A Wildlife Adventure

Even though I begin this article with where it all began for us, Quasar & The Grace, I had to throw in this little teaser with a few wildlife images, since, not to take anything away from the Grace which is wonderful in its own right, the wildlife were the stars of the show.
The M/Y Grace — The honeymoon yacht for Princess Grace (Grace Kelly) and Prince Rainier… and our home base for seven days of fun and adventure in the Galapagos Islands.

Quasar & The Grace

After we decided on the Galapagos for our first adventure following two years of Covid sequestration, our first task was to find a good company to help us put together this adventure. We researched several companies and eventually chose Quasar. Among the factors that drew us to Quasar was it’s top rating by Travel and Leisure and the fact that one of the boats they use was once the honeymoon yacht of Princess Grace (Grace Kelly) and Prince Rainier of Monaco. Boy, did we nail it on the choice of Quasar! The accommodations, the service, and the character of this yacht could not have been better. Sixteen passengers with a dozen or more crew who attend to every detail, and two naturalist guides who know everything about these islands, including the history, zoology, botany, geology, and more.

Diane & Paul Schicke from Quasar helped us book this adventure and patiently answered nine zillion of my pedantic questions in the process.

One last detail… My wife and I are in our 70s. I have several physical issues. I am so very grateful to all the Quasar staff, and especially to Scarlet, who graciously assisted me with all my special needs.

Originally, I was going to show all these images in the order that I took them. But about half way through putting this article together I decided to abandon that idea because it was all getting too complicated, so the chronology is somewhat scrambled. There will be a little more about the crew and guides at the end of this article, and various other written bits of info along the way, but now I’d like to introduce the stars of this show… The wildlife…

Starting on the northern shoreline of Santa Cruz Island.

Blue-footed Booby
Lava Lizard
Sally Lightfoot Crab
Blue Heron
Whimbrel (best guess)
Black-necked Stilt — The image on the left is only fair quality, but I wanted to show the one-legged stance.
Marine Iguana — Notice the seaweed elegantly draped over its forehead… such a nice touch. One of only a hundred billion or so iguanas that we saw.
Another Blue Heron
Best Guess — Lava Heron… but I don’t think the leg color is right.
Flamingo
The Grace, pangas readied and waiting to bring us back to the boat after our first shore adventure.

All of the preceding images were taken on just the first day on the northern shoreline of Santa Cruz island… which was really only a half day, since the first half of the day was spent traveling from Quito to the Galapagos.

For anyone considering an adventure on this boat, here is a little info about the cabins and other areas. The fanciest staterooms are on the top deck, I think there are just two on that deck. We never saw them in person, but based on how nice our somewhat less fancy stateroom was, I am sure they are fantastic. After all, one of them was Princess Grace’s honeymoon suite. Our room was on the lowest deck. It was cabin C2, and I am pretty sure it was the nicest and most spacious room on that level… and from my many steamship experiences I will say it is very luxurious and spacious. We didn’t have big windows like the suites on the top deck, just port holes. But that was fine with us. When we weren’t sleeping or changing cloths, we spent pretty much all our waking time in the indoor and outdoor lounges on the upper decks.

Another note about the images in this article. All of them were taken with a Panasonic DMC-ZS60 which comes with a Leica lens (more info about this camera here). I have two Nikons and several lenses, but for its size this camera is hard to beat. The entire things fits in my t-shirt pocket. It has 30:1 zoom. I’m sure the folks with the DSLRs and humongous lenses got some excellent photos, but, if I do say so myself, I think I got some pretty good images with my dinky little camera. To be completely honest about this camera, it does have one downside. It has five bazillion features… way to many. I have many times gotten myself into a completely untenable mode. The saving grace is that it has a feature that will restore the default settings.

Moving on to Genovesa Island…

Genovesa Island is also know as bird island… Well, duh!!!! If there was just one more bird on this island, I’m sure it would sink into the ocean. The birds are so habituated to humans that they don’t bat an eye. They seem to think of us as just another island inhabitant.

Nazca Boobies tending to their rather spartan nest.
Female Frigatebird on her nest
Male Frigatebird, “Hey Baby, check this out. Pretty sexy, huh. Wanna make some babies?”
Red-footed Booby
Oh yeah… here are some red feet to go with that Booby image above… Different bird, but you get the idea.

And now, a little anthropomorphism…

“Me hungry… Feed me!” — The focus is a little off, but the image is too cute to pass up.
“I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine.”
ZZZZZZZzzzzzz…
Mmmmm… Oh… Sooo good…
Oh… this rock is soooo comfy…
Mama, that big creature is so close… Make it go away…
Do you mind??? She is not dressed…
We found this extremely rare variety of Hammerhead Shark had taken over our bed.
After a long day of very interesting and exciting adventures, I struck up a conversation with this fellow who says he is applying for a a job as a naturalist/guide on the next Quasar tour.

Okay… now I’ve lost track of which day it is… Oh well… Onward…

The next day was actually quite interesting, but after bird island, the photo opportunities may seem kinda sparse. Anyway… Here are a few…

Galapagos Hawk
Galapagos Finch — There are many variations, so I am not sure exactly which one this is.
Oystercatcher
Prickly Pear Cactus (maybe??)
Prickly Pear Cactus
I’m not 100% sure, but after looking at several images online, I think this might be a Galapagos Black Widow!!!
On the way back to the boat, this fellow jumped up on the trail marker to point us the correct direction.
After an exciting day of exploration, I decided to join my new friend, Iguana IPA, to watch the sunset.

One thing I forgot to mention earlier… We completely abandoned taking any underwater photos. Our underwater camera was untenably complicated, and about the size of a sugar cube. But if you decide to go on this amazing adventure, be sure to bring along a decent underwater camera. Several of our fellow adventurers had perfectly good underwater cameras that looked more or less like my pocket size Panasonic. The underwater scenes are every bit as spectacular as the above water scenes.

One of our naturalist guides, Roberto, our panga driver, and Ellen

On day 10 we went out for an exploratory panga ride. To be perfectly honest, it started out kinda hum-drum. After a while Roberto told the panga driver to take us back to the Grace. On the way back, off in the distance, Roberto noticed something. He told the panga driver to turn the panga around. Shortly after getting it turned around we could see there was a pod of large creatures coming our way… and fast. I think they might have been Orcas or something similar, but they didn’t look exactly the the Orcas we have in the Northwest. Anyway, Roberto told the panga driver to “punch it” (or something similar in Spanish). We were absolutely flying along, and these large creatures caught up, surrounded us for a while, and then gradually left us in the dust… well, I guess it was actually sea-spray. It was truly amazing, and a wild ride. The following are some of the photos I managed to capture. Most of them are kinda blurry cuz, well like I said, it was wild and fast moving. But I am showing you what I managed to get, cuz it was absolutely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Just coming up behind us.
Now they are all around us, including right next to us.
Now they are starting to pull away from us.
As I said, it didn’t take long for them to leave us in the sea-spray.
A very cute sealion pup and its mother…

We came across this very cute sealion pup and its mother… actually, they were either either sealions or fur seals, I’m not sure which. Roberto said the pup could be only a day old or so.

At one point a large bird was approaching and momma moved away from the pup to shoo the bird away. The pup started freaking out when momma wasn’t right by its side. So momma hustled right back to comfort it.

Great Blue Heron — This bird managed to snag two iguanas. This iguana put up a good fight for quite a while, but eventually, down the gullet it went.
The iguanas came in small, medium, and large…
And there were really a lot of iguanas… In fact, staying on the designated trail required carefully stepping through a vast mine-field of iguanas.

Near the end of this amazing adventure we went through this wonderful mangrove swamp where we saw many amazing and beautiful creatures.

Carlos, one of our naturalist/guides, and one of our panga drivers.

Well, that kinda wraps it up. I tried to take a group photo of the entire crew on our last night, but my camera was being uncooperative. I do want to reiterate how much we appreciate the fabulous service provided to us by all the crew. the guides, and the captain.

Many thanks to Roberto and Carlos, our excellent naturalist guides.

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Mal

On the internet they can’t tell that you’re actually a dog…