Ocean First in the Galapagos & Amazon River 2018

Ocean First   Jul 05, 2022

In a tour of Ecuador’s greatest hits, Ocean First recently traveled to species-rich islands of the Galapagos and the equally mythical Amazon River. Led by seasoned Ocean First veteran, Roger Young, and our newest trip leader, Kelly Faulkner, this trip turned out to be an incredible land and sea adventure.

The crew met up in Quito, a modern city nestled in a ring of volcanic mountains and smack-dab on the earth’s equator. With only a day in the city, everyone took the opportunity to join an excursion that best fit their interests, visiting museums, churches, the Old Town, and el Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (middle of the earth). The next day, the real fun began as the group flew to the Galapagos and boarded the Humboldt Explorer, their home for the next seven days. Careful management of the human-footprint has allowed the animals to have free-reign on the islands, which was immediately apparent to everyone who witnessed the sea lions boldly lounging on the dock and interacting with the divers in the harbor during their check-out dive.

Time on the Humbolt Explorer was spent diving four times a day and touring around the islands. Wolf island spoiled everyone with schooling hammerheads and Galapagos sharks on every dive, and when the current got strong the divers had to hold on to rocks while the parade of sharks, turtles, spotted eagle rays, and sea lions passed by, more interested in each other than the humans.

Land excursions offered a glimpse at the island’s unique land populations. The group visited a bird sanctuary where they saw blue-footed boobies and frigate birds tending their young, performing their mating displays, and practicing their flying skills. They also got to witness land iguanas, tree climbing iguanas, and marine iguanas. At the Galapagos turtle farm, the turtles ran the show as they came and went at their leisure, stopping to eat, drink, and sleep before heading elsewhere.

The summer timing of this trip was intentional: whale shark season was in full swing and did not disappoint. Before departing, the group agreed that seeing a single whale shark would make the trip a success. As they back-rolled into the waters off of Darwin island, the divers found themselves literally on top of a bus-sized whale shark! This was no random encounter- to their delight, they continued to see at least one whale shark on each of the next seven dives.

After seven nights and twenty dives aboard the Humboldt Explorer, the group made their way back to Quito where some folks departed for home while others switched gears for the second leg of the adventure: Ecuador’s Amazon River.

The group discovered just how vast and remote the Amazon can be as they flew into Coca and traveled by motor canoe followed by a short hike followed by a paddled canoe to finally reach their destination at Sacha Lodge, situated on one of the Amazon’s largest tributaries called the Napo River. Accompanied by a naturalist guide and a native guide, they were introduced to the native Quichua tribe and ate a traditional Quichua breakfast that consisted of raw and roasted weevil larvae (yum!). Via canoe or hiking, they got to experience the wild and wonderful wildlife:sloths, monkeys, caimans, tree frogs, leaf-cutter ants, countless bird species, priañas, anacondas, and more. Every day was filled with more amazing sights than the last and it was hard to say goodbye. “The Amazon was overall a great experience, one that I would recommend to anyone who is traveling to that area of the world. You never know what you might find (or taste!)” said Kelly.

Roger summarized his trip experience: “As is typical on Ocean First trips, we started out as strangers but very quickly bonded into a tight group of adventurous and fun loving friends. It’s hard to put in to words the sights, sounds, and feelings that you experience on a trip such as this. It is something you need to experience. If you have ever thought of doing a trip like this, don’t hold back. Take the next opportunity and go for it.”