Saturday, June 25, 2016

Whale Watching, 2016, Puerto Lopez,Ecuador

It's that time of year – when the humpback whales come from the antarctic to the equator!! 

Every year around June, the humpback whales take a trip to the warmer waters around the equator. While here, they have babies and mate. The gestation period is 11-12 months, and the babies are 13-16 feet long at birth, growing quickly. After the babies are born and the next bun is in the oven, they head back to cooler waters and eat until time to come back to the warm, equatorial waters and do it all again

While the females are busy giving birth and taking care of the new calves, the males tend to put on spectacular displays of high breaching acrobatics and tail slapping meant to attract the females for mating.

I went out today looking for some whales. I was not disappointed, but once the season starts, the whales are everywhere. They've been seen close to shore, where people can watch them from upper stories of houses at times. The local fishermen task one person to watch for the whales this time of year. They say one would have to work hard to be on a boat and not see at least one pod of whales!

On the way out, we went past Gorilla Rock.


We didn't see any breaching males, but we did see several pods of cows and calves. I took the waterproof camera, so I got a lot of shots of water – just after the whales breached. But I did manage to get a few good ones.

One tail slap, and I missed it!


But, I did get a few of the mammas and babies coming up for air and some nice tails as they were smoothly returning to the water.




This camera won't allow zooming while it's shooting video. These clips should show you just how close we got.


video


video

After watching whales, we headed to Isla Salango for some snorkeling. I saw some wrasses, damsels, and tangs, but this is not reef snorkeling, so there isn't such a huge variety. Unfortunately, the water was too murkey today to get any decent pictures underwater.

So, a little swim to the island was in order. It's a beautiful island, and you can see the black, volcanic sand mixed in with the bleached sand.




Some lovely rocky spots with lots of crabs hanging out.



It was a long swim back when they called us back to the boat. We were the last ones back, and they wouldn't break out the food until everybody was on board.


It was definitely a great day, and this is an activity I will miss when we leave Puerto Lopez. I do hope to see these guys again (and their cousins) when we get to Tierra del Fuego!


Monday, June 13, 2016

A Few Days in Quito, Ecuador

We took a few days and visited Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Because we forgot the travel oxygen tank, we ended up cutting the visit short, as the altitude was bothering Bruce. It's a beautiful city, even when you don't get to see everything you planned. Some of the things we missed were the Old Town and the teleferico up the volcano, especially since I learned they had closed the oxygen bar that was up there.

The drive up and back was pleasant while we were out of the earthquake damage on the coast, and it was nice to put that behind us. At one point, Bruce pulled off on a wide spot in the road so I could get out and take pix of a gorgeous waterfall. Lots of horn honking while drivers were trying to warn me that I was probably shouldn't be standing where I was. But, this was a beauty!





I got some others as we drove by. I got pretty good at holding the camera over the roof of the car and guessing when to snap the shot! Shame the camera wasn't always level!


It was a very twisty road,


But the scenery was beautiful, especially the way the clouds were hanging on the mountains in the background while we were driving back.


Of course, most of my shots look like this.


Instead of this.


These people thought it was chilly enough for a fire.  I was still in shorts, though.


I did have a wonderful day at the zoo. I went with the wife and son of the bellhop at our hotel. The little boy was 3 years old, and this was his first trip to the zoo. He was a blast! Making sounds like the animals and following the paw prints. He really enjoyed riding the saber toothed tiger!


All of the animals in the Quito Zoo are either endangered and used in the breeding program to preserve the species or are not releasable into the wild for some reason. With some exceptions, the enclosures are ample for the animals, though they could use more enrichment activities. They are not, however, made for picture taking, so I didn't get very many good shots. The animals appeared to be in good health, though there were some that were recuperating with plans to be released in the future.







They had a clear separation between animals that could be pets and animals that were to remain in the wild, and lots of educational activities separating the pets from wild animals with a wide array of animals in the petting zoo for the children and other patrons to feed and pet, such as rabbits, llamas, cows, horses, chickens, goats, etc.


The view from our hotel was spectacular, both day and night. And, from the conference room at the end of the hall, we had a very nice view of Cotapaxi one morning after the cloud cover burned off.




We spent quite a bit of time at the Basilica, which was awe inspiring! The detail on the stained glass all over the place was fabulous, and the architecture easily rivaled many of the basilica and cathedrals in Europe. I would have liked to get some more shots from outside, but it started raining as we were leaving.


 








We saw the legislative plaza and the Presidential Palace. Our driver tried to get us in to tour the palace, but they were booked for the day. I did get a shot of the guards. Missed the changing of the guard ceremony, though, which I understand takes place on Mondays. We also toured a couple of museums in the area.





And just some general shots of around Quito, both walking around and until our driver made me roll up the window in fear that someone on a moto would try to snatch my camera. Of course, I had it wound around my arm so much that a thief would have had to take part of my arm with it. I'm sure they wouldn't mind though.






We spent some time in the Middle of the World, as well. This the place along the equator that is supposedly the magnetic center of the Earth's surface. Because of the combination of the centrifugal force and the magnetic changes, this is the place on the Earth that you weigh the least, though anywhere on the equator gives you less weight. There's apparently about a small but measurable difference between the equator and the poles. I'll take it!