Weekly Photo Challenge: Serene

It could be difficult to find conditions that lend themselves to having a feeling of serenity during a somewhat hectic holiday trip, but we did nonetheless experience some such moments during our visit to Ecuador.

We stayed at the Finch Bay Hotel on the island of Santa Cruz while in the Galapagos.  We spent our evenings at the hotel while making many day-trips to different places to take in the sights.  While at the hotel, you could sit out in the open area next to the swimming pool and look out over the bay.  On a clear night, one could see the cruise ships resting in the bay under the peaceful light of the moon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne was also likely to be greeted by the great blue heron (who seemed to have set up residence in the neighborhood) in the quiet early morning, and one could also join it in greeting the dawn of another new day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack on the mainland, on our way from Quito to Otavalo, we stayed in cabins beside the San Pablo lake. The lake was beautiful in the early morning light.  A light mist rose over the quiet waters.DSC00838The awakening birds flew low over the waters of the lake as we looked out over it.  It was very peaceful.DSC00821At Papallacta, a little village situated in a mountain valley high in the Andes,  we could see the the lazy clouds floating across the sky in the evening light, past the snow-capped Antisana volcano, as the sun began to set.IMG_20171108_175132120_HDRIn the morning, while we were taking a lazy walk, we saw the cows grazing peacefully on the mountain pastures with not a care in the world.DSC00983We traveled further east to the Amazon region of the country.  In the evening light, under the gently rising clouds, we could see the winding Napo river wend its way towards the Amazon, just as it has been doing for thousands of years.  This was the view from our room in the resort where we stayed.DSC01058We experienced the sunset on the Napo river.  The river and its surroundings, and even the repetitive phut-phut sound of the engine on the boat, have a calming effect, as we head back to the resort for an evening of relaxation.DSC01055Our hacienda on a mountainside near Patate was also located in very serene surroundings. The view included the Tungurahua volcano in the distance.IMG_20171112_062806676_HDRIMG_20171112_053700918


The visit to Galápagos Islands and the rest of Ecuador was a great experience overall, but it did not go off too well from a perspective of my ability to take pictures during the trip.  My DSLR camera which had been showing signs of some mechanical distress (a problem exacerbated by software in the device that I think could have been better designed to compensate for the situation)  finally gave up the ghost on the islands.  Fortunately, we had bought a point-and-shoot camera with an extended zoom as a backup.  I had to quickly learn how to use it properly.  This plan worked decently for a couple of days until I found out the deficiencies of the new camera.  It was chewing up battery power at an unimaginable rate whenever I tried to use its zoom capability!   You would think that the fact that the camera used standard AA batteries would be a plus in this situation, but the problem was that we were traveling in areas where availability of such batteries was limited.  Indeed, the only batteries I was able to find in some of the places were of dubious quality, some with a local brand name,  and some others with a date of expiry that had long passed.  I did try out some of these batteries and they failed in the camera within no time.  My last line of defense was the camera on the smart phone, a device that produced pictures of marginal quality.  Anyway, I managed to get some pictures during the trip using both the smart phone and the point-and-shoot camera, the latter in a somewhat more judicious manner than I would have done otherwise.

Galápagos is an amazing place!  The government of Ecuador has shown great foresight in establishing more than 90 percent of the land on the over hundred and twenty islands (of which only five are inhabited) as an ecological preserve.  They have taken significant steps to make sure that the flora and fauna are not contaminated from the mainland these days.  Although the ecology of these volcanic islands has developed in isolation for thousands of years producing unique species of flora and fauna (a circumstance that allowed Darwin to work on the theory of natural selection), the coming of man in recent years had begun to contaminate and change the place.  Indeed, some of the islands have changed significantly because of human habitation (including the effects of cultivation and meat consumption, and the impact of the non-native flora and fauna that have been introduced on purpose or inadvertently), but amazingly there still are places you can see nature in its purest form, places where the birds and the animals are still not afraid of the humans.  Visits to such places are managed carefully with a goal of preserving the local flora and fauna and their ecosystems.  Where indigenous animal and bird populations have been depleted because of human encroachments, there are attempts at recovery.  The giant tortoises of the Galapagos are making a comeback with help from the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz island.  There are regular attempts to eradicate the rats and other pests that have been introduced on some of the islands, pests that are killing off the local species slowly.  Some local species have disappeared completely over the years but there is still hope for many others.

Here are just a few of the pictures I took during during our visit.  (More will be posted in a regular photo gallery elsewhere.)

We stayed at the Finch Bay Resort near the main town of Puerta Ayora on Santa Cruz Island for three nights.


We visited a few places on the island to see the local flora and fauna.

A Sea Lion on a beach
A Marine Iguana
Close to a Marine Iguana
Baby Galápagos Giant Tortoises being raised in the Charles Darwin Research Station
Sally Lightfoot Crabs next to the sea
Flamingos in a lagoon near the sea

We took a boat ride to North Seymour Island to see the birds and the animals that even to this day have not developed a fear of human beings. Here are some pictures.

The pictures below are of frigatebirds nesting.DSC00375DSC00329DSC00330DSC00334

Immature Great Frigatebird

Here are some frigatebirds in action.

A courting male Magnificent Frigatebird
Feeding its young one

Other creatures on the island.

A blue-footed boobie
Blue-footed Booby
A Land Iguana
Closeup of a Land Iguana