IE Art Director Charlie Boyd has just returned from our unforgettable 10-day Galapagos Islands tour. Be sure to check in often over the next week as Charlie shares his thoughts and stories from this Galapagos vacation aboard the Evolution.

The Albatrosses of Española Island

We awoke early on Sunday, ready for our first full day in the Galapagos. Today we would be visiting Española Island — the oldest island in the archipelago, and home to many unique species including the Española (Hood) mockingbird and "Christmas" marine iguanas with green and red markings. Española is also home to the nesting grounds of the waved albatrosses. Our small group disembarked the Evolution and had a short panga ride to the shore where we were greeted by three Galapagos Hawks, and dozens of blue-footed boobies. A leisurely walk over the rocky terrain led to a large area where thousands of albatrosses nest. This time of year was late in the season, so we didn't see the numbers of birds that can be seen at other times, but we were here at a perfect time to get very close views of several chicks in their nests.

espanola coastSoon we arrived at Punta Suarez, and the rocky cliffs that overlook a beautiful coastline. This is the "launching point" for the albatrosses. They are large birds with a wingspan of 7 feet. Their large wings and slender bodies are perfect for the long hours they spent flying, but not so good for taking off. They waddle to the egde of these cliffs and jump, extending their wings and soaring above the ocean. We arrived at the famous Española blowhole and took a break from our walk. The view was simply spectacular from here. I could of stayed all day watching the many albatrosses, red-billed tropicbirds, swallow-tailed gulls and nazca and blue-footed boobies sail past us.

Vinnie and AngelicaContinuing our walk, we had almost made it back to the pangas for our ride back to the Evolution when we came across a pair of blue-footed boobies sitting on a rock. There was another rock just behind them, and everyone took turns sitting and having their picture made with the birds. A professional set designer couldn't of prepared the scene any better.

Once aboard the Evolution we changed into our wetsuits for our first snorkeling adventure. The cool water was rich with undersea life. We had a brief view of a sea lion and saw many fish.

Gardner BayThe Evolution set sail to the white sand beaches and sea lion colonies of Gardner Bay while our group enjoyed lunch and a needed siesta. Late in the afternoon we again boarded the pangas and went ashore. Hundreds of sea lions covered the beach, and we had plenty of time to watch their antics and take pictures as we strolled along the beach. There were many curious sea lion pups, each one seeming cuter than the previous. It was the perfect way to spend the afternoon and the end of another perfect day.

Next: Lonesome George and the highlands of Santa Cruz