You win some and you lose some.  
Our first full day in the Galapagos Islands was pretty dreamy.
The next was a little rougher in some ways….
But let’s back up for a second…As we planned out our OSSO adventure we realized we would be as close as we’d probably ever get to the Galapagos Islands.  We waffled back and forth as to whether it would be worth it to try to get there for our remaining four and a half days.  We tried what seemed like a hundred different options to get all eighteen of us there together, and not one worked.  I guess everyone and their dog wanted to be there around the holidays, and apparently there are some interesting rules in the Galapagos and one of them is that you can’t have more than 16 people on a boat or excursion.  This seemed curious to us (like how did they come up with 16??), and even more-so when we got there and realized no one really cared about that rule.  BUT, to make a long story short, we knew we’d be craving some family time while we had Elle home anyway, and decided we better split up if we were going to make the Galapagos option happen.  So we did.  And as much as we love those other families, we relished in being together, making an adventure filled with glory and heartbreak all wrapped up together.
Sometimes I wonder if God tries to warn us when things are going to be tough.  Does he make the best-laid plans run into dead ends?  Does he make things a little tougher to put together to hold us back from some heartbreak that will come our way?  I don’t really think so.  But looking back on how tough these plans were to put together sometimes I wonder.  We gloried in the Galapagos.  But we also sorrowed.  And we grew and bonded as a family and I fell more in love with this family of mine than ever before.
So we split up our new friends at OSSO, and also our friends from the desert (we’d meet up with them again our last night), and took off bright and early for our 3 1/2 hour bus ride to the airport in Guayaquil, then finally to our flight, and suddenly we were there: San Cristobal Island.  (Excuse the blurriness at the beginning of this video…and just focus on the excitement 🙂

I’m going to add some excerpts from my journal to tell this story to speed up this process or this post is never gonna make it.  Here we go:

By that afternoon we were on San Cristobal Island, checked
into our little “Casa Iguana” hotel, and had walked to Playa Mann to sunbathe
with the sea lions.  At first we were
amazed how many there were (and that yes, even in the Galapagos they are still
as stinky as can be), but within an hour we got used to their presence.  They waddled up and lounged out right next to
us…one mom nursing her baby, one guy with the longest whiskers very
boisterously yapping away in that burping/belching kind of language they have.

(Elle is deeply pondering those sea lions up there I think.)

After we had hung out with those sea lions for a while (the sun and the beach felt Heavenly), we walked over to the Centro de Interpretacion, which was pretty fascinating to me.

Lots of information about Charles Darwin and Survival of the Fittest and the history of the Galapagos.

So much information to ponder about the creation and how it intersects with his book On The Origin of Species which led to some discussions about life in general.  I took pictures of a bunch of the interesting facts at that place, but it’s probably more cohesively put together HERE if you want to check it out.

Pretty good introduction to the Galapagos with these straggly-haired darling girls of mine:
…and Dave and Lu who were ahead of us.
Then we were off to find something to eat…

Before dinner we had met up with the guy who was helping us get to Kicker Rock the next day…and he surprisingly agreed that it would be ok for Elle and Grace to scuba dive with me and Dave.  Elle had had an introductory dive a few years ago but Grace had never done it.  But honestly, we found the BEST dive master to train and get them ready.

I just found these pictures today and Dave’s expression makes me smile.

He is the best, most protective Dad and he sure wanted to be sure these girls understood every detail 🙂

We got outfitted with double wetsuits to take with us the next day.  We would need them!

Lucy wasn’t about to wear that thing though…

Back to the hotel for our traditional card games:

We were up bright and early the next day to board our boat to head to Kicker Rock…I was so excited because I had read up well on that thing.  Something about it lured me in.  And it lived up to the hype.
Here we are getting all gussied up in our double wetsuits, double-thick.

You see, December is the beginning of the warm season in Ecuador.  So as a side-note, this is from a website HERE to describe the water this time of year:
Late December to June is considered the warm and wet season…Around December, the trade winds fall and the climactic equator (located north of the geographic equator) shifts south toward the Galapagos, causing the westward-flowing current to slow, reducing the upwelling and allowing warmer water from the Panama Current to bathe the archipelago…During El Niño, [December] trade winds slow in the central and western Pacific causing the warmest water to shift to the east, …When the warm water shifts east, the cold water thermocline layer near South America drops lower into the ocean. The surface water temperature rises significantly and the supply of colder, nutrient-rich water is cut off.

They had told us about this the night before, but it was so interesting to experience it while scuba diving.  The water looked almost gel-like under there with the cold and warm currents mixing…so tough to describe, but in the cold parts man alive were we ever happy for those double-wetsuits!

Our newest scuba divers, ready for their mini lesson before the dive:

We got to hang on a beautiful beach while Jacob, the dive master worked with the girls a little.

It threatened rain for a little while but ended up being a gorgeous day.

Thank Heavens Claire brought an extra book because by this time Lucy had already breezed through all four books she had brought.

There are the big girls out with Jacob:

Then we were ready.

Here’s how Lucy spent her day:

This picture depicts the excitement:

And here’s Claire’s excitement to snorkel with a bunch of strangers who became friends from all over the world.

Love that girl so much and her excitement for life.  She thought it was the best day ever.

And then we were off into the deep blue.

These pictures can’t do it justice, but at least they give an idea…we saw tons of these little Galapagos sharks:

We did two dives.

A little from my journal:

The scuba diving was different from any other scuba diving
I’ve done.
  Lots of dark fish, lots of
little sharks (so cool), gorgeous colorful walls on both sides of the main
crevice we explored, and this really strange thermal effect of the different
currents meeting up with each other (normal and freezing water meeting up)
creating this kind of gel-like look.
Really interesting.  We’d be
swimming along all fine and then get in this freezing current.
  We were on the look-out for hammerhead
sharks, didn’t see any, but there was something so amazing about being down
there with Dave and our two girls.
I found out that Dave had been kind of freaking out with worry…he got down
there and went into a panic …worst-case scenarios started catapulting themselves around in his brain
and he couldn’t turn them off.
  But by
the second dive he realized they’d be ok (they had both come out positively
beaming with excitement…Grace was dancing for the goPro under there for crying out loud), and there was something surreal about that dive,
surrounded by those people I adore in that quiet underwater world, sending up
those beautiful luminous scuba bubbles we love so much to the surface where
Claire was snorkeling with her new friends, and Lucy with her nose in her latest book on the boat with the
Spanish-only speakers as her companions.
It was just one of those days where all was right in the world. 

…and the aftermath:

(Yep, still reading…)

Back to land and some marine iguanas waiting for us…

…we’d see many more of them the next day…

In looking at these pictures yesterday Claire told me this was her favorite night.  Which I thought was funny because there were plenty of exciting nights.  But there was a little park right across from our hotel and we hung out there for a while before dinner…swinging and then the girls created an obstacle course.

There was something about the feeling in the air and everyone so happy, helping Lucy on the obstacle course, timing each other and cheering that was just so good.

Then later according to my journal:

Back to walk the little town that had become our temporary home…right along with the sea lions who stretch themselves right across the sidewalk, lounge in the entryways to stores, and belch in the dark on the beach.  We had pizza for the fourth night in a row (not a lot of food options on that island!), saw a sweet sight…two missionaries teaching a discussion to a lady in her little shop, and back to the hotel for our favorite: card games.

The day after this one was tough.  But this one?  It was grand. 


    1. Actually actually visiting Ecuador is much more affordable than most places. Hotels and food super cheap and plane tickets can be super affordable too. Galapagos is exclusive as in few are let in, but not hugely expensive!!

    2. Affordable? What is hugely expensive to you? Besides trips requiring multiple plane rides they did zip linking, diving, animal encounters. All that costs extra. They flew during Christmastime. Add the extra flights to get Elle back and forth. I don’t go to Hawaii to see family during Christmas cause it costs so much compared to the rest of year when it costs a pretty penny already. If they used points it’s cause they spent a lot to earn points. They flew to houston, Ecuador, Galapagos, and then houston, AZ. Maybe an extra flight in there somewhere. Six people. They can spend a lot on a trip. This just isn’t a frugal itinerary. It’s not a character flaw on her part. It’s just amazing to me to spend so much money. This isn’t their one big trip every other year either. I kinda hope they splurged on food to benefit those businesses.

    3. Might as well if you're able. I am hoping I can afford a day at Disneyland (for my daughter) this year. Maybe a hotel stay. But I only live a couple of hours away (I live in Southern California) so it's not a big deal if we can't afford the hotel.

  1. Shawni, thank you for sharing this amazing trip with us. I love to see the world through your adventures, and I love the wonderful memories you are creating for your family. You will never get this quality time with them, the older they get so I am happy that you are taking advantage of the time you do have them, making the best memories! I love your blog and I appreciate you sharing so much with us.

  2. I have always wanted to go to the Galapagos. Thank you for letting me experience it from your perspective. What a great memory to create with your family. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thank you so much for letting Lucy read so much! As the fourth kiddo, I always read books everywhere we went (practices for older siblings, games for older siblings, car trips to see older siblings… you get the picture!), and in hindsight I can see how my mom and dad might've suggested I watch what was going on. In reality, I just loved to read, and still do now. I'm glad you guys indulge her craving!

    1. Right?! I was the first of two kids but my younger sister had soccer practices and games and I always was reading at them. My daughter is 6 and started first grade at a second grade level so she is at an even higher grade level now. I love it. She blows me away with her reading skills. I can't get over how awesome it is.

  4. Hi KMS!
    These trips can definitely be expensive! But what a cool opportunity. 🙂 I’m Ecuadorian and my family owns/maintains the waterfall “Pailon del Diablo” which they visited in Ecuador. It’s actually quite cheap ($1.50 admisssion) and visits from people like them actually hugely supports the economy in Ecuador! We rely on their visits and are grateful for the people that allow us to hire wonderful staff and provide economic development for the town. I fly back and forth from Florida to Ecuador often, with tickets under $150 direct. I’m not saying this is what they paid, but there are so many affordable ways to travel! So everything they are doing in Ecuador is supporting those small businesses, and we are so grateful! 🙂

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