From the itinerary:
Today we explore Floreana Island. Upon arrival, we hike along the beach, keeping our eyes peeled for sea turtles, Blue-footed Boobies and reef sharks! In the afternoon, head over to Post Office Bay where you can leave your unstamped postcards in the hopes that they get delivered to their destination via other travelers!
I woke up early this morning, excited to see where we are and what is outside the boat. Heaven only knows what time it is: Galapagos is an hour earlier than Quito, but the ship keeps Quito time! (From now on, the hour I give you for when things happen will always be ship time. It’s all relative anyway, right?)
But the topic of what time the sun rises is interesting because we are so near the equator. The sun rises at 7 (ship time) and sets at 7 (ship time), exactly 12 hours apart. That never changes, seasons in and seasons out, the day at the equator is always equal to the night! That certainly made it easy to get up to see the sun rise. There was never a need to consult my sunrise app (yes, there is such a thing and I have it.) The program on our ship always awakened us at 7, and those who hopped out of bed at the first squawk of the PA system, could go out to see the sunrise as their first act of the day.
“Good Morning Coral I Campers!” Well, not the “campers” part, but you get the feeling. Our wake-up call each morning welcomed us to whatever island we were anchored off the coast of and promised us a wonderful day, just like Robin Williams in “Good Morning, Viet Nam” and in both Spanish and English!
The morning schedule: Wake-up at 7, breakfast at 7:30 and ready to go ashore between 8:15 and 8:30. (Lather, rinse, repeat every day just like camp!)
We landed on a beautiful stretch of beach called Cormorant Point. Our hike took us over the island from the landing beach to another. On the way we stopped to photograph the flamingos in a tidal lagoon and learn about the Palo Santo tree. If you rub the bark (beautifully mottled with pastel lichens) the tree oozes a dark liquid, that has a pleasant smell and wards off insects. Supposedly, the smell will attract romance, too … The single people on the trip perked up their ears at that!
The beach on the opposite side was pitted with sea turtle nests, and I marveled at the tracks the turtles leave in the sand – like “tank tracks” was an apt description!
We had to step around a sea lion sun bathing in the trail. A walk down the beach produced our first close-up look at the Sally Lightfoot crabs – they are beautiful in both their immature and adult coloring.
We also saw two white-tailed tropicbird chicks, but we shouldn’t have. One was already dead and being cleaned off the beach by the crabs, the other, also too young to survive alone outside the nest, was not long for this world. They were the only tropicbirds I got to see close up but it was also a stark reminder that though the Galapagos looks like a paradise, you cannot escape reality except in books.
We walked back over the island to the landing beach and I got a chance to explore the beach and photograph birds before we re-boarded the panga and headed out for our deep water snorkeling.
The snorkeling in Devil’s Crown was amazing. Devil’s Crown is the name of the ring of rocks that figured so prominently in my dawn pictures. The rocks are what is left of the top of a volcano. In places the sides are eroded so you can swim inside. After some initial difficulties with a leaking snorkel, I finally settled in to swim and see what I could see.
Once inside the crater ring, I got caught up in a current that I tried to swim crosswise to, but since I was getting pushed sideways, I decided I was less likely to be pushed into the rocks (and the sea urchins) if I turned to look where I was going. Fortunately, the current took me out of the crater and toward the pick-up boat. Notwithstanding the worried shouting of my spouse, I was ably “rescued” by the pick-up boat and towed back to join the group. I did not see much besides fish, but others reported sea turtles and sharks.
Back on the ship, we have a snack waiting for us, and time to change out of our wet clothes before we go back to the dining room for lunch. Post-prandial free time – rest hour in my camp analogy – lasts until 3-ish, when once again the PA summons us to an afternoon on shore. During our mid-day sojourn on the ship, we have motored around Floreana to another spot, so this afternoon we will disembark at an historic (people-wise) spot called Post Office Bay.
Sometimes the narrative one receives on shore depends upon the guide giving it, so I was somewhat confused as to whether Post Office Bay always served its function and was diverted to its specific role in the history of Galapagos, or whether it was created for that role. An historian’s quibble. The salient part of the story is that this location had a barrel in it and a sign. Whalers and other sea-faring folk who passed through this area could leave messages for people at home or on other ships. Anyone who stopped in would look through the messages that were there, and take with them messages that they could deliver. We did it too. We looked through the postcards in the barrel and picked up one for Puerto Rico and another for Wisconsin. Mind you that the time it takes for the postcard to reach its destination is not important…it doesn’t have a stamp after all!
The story goes that an American, hoping to help the Ecuadorians in their conservation efforts, used the messages left at the Post Office to find out where ships were going and to intercept them. Neither my memory nor an internet search helps me remember whether they were trying to stop whalers, pirates, or what. Sorry about that!
Jairo, one of our guides, also gave us an idea of the colorful history of the people who came to Floreana over the years. I won’t relate it all to you, but it is a tale of eccentricities, greed, and even murder!
While most of the group returned to the beach, Jairo took a few of us through the remains of the foundations of houses back into the Island to see a lava tube. The access looked pretty precarious, so we did not attempt to go down. We will actually see one and go down into it on the last morning of the trip.
Before I get much father into this account, I want to stop and explain about the measures that are taken here to preserve and protect this incredible place. You already know that we are traveling with three Galapagos National Park Guides. We cannot go anywhere on land without them. Though they spend their time with us, teaching us about everything we see, animals, plants, and rocks, they are also protecting those things from us. They make sure we do not take a single step off the designated path – not even for the call of Nature! We cannot touch anything. Ideally we don’t even pick up a shell on the beach. Though we do pick up shells and rocks, we replace them exactly as we found them. Passengers who do not follow the park rules are reprimanded. The guides also pick up human-generated trash whenever they find it.
The rule that prohibits visitors to the islands who are not accompanied by guides, limits the numbers of visitors to this part of the world. That is a good thing! How easy it would be for high rise resorts and big cruise ships to damage this sensitive are and change it to the likes of Cancun or even Puerto Rico. It also means, that for the bulk of this trip, the only people we see are the passengers from our two “Corals” (I and II), our ship and our sister ship.
The Galapagos National Park also has rangers. We see evidence of them but other than a ship in the bay behind us this morning, we never see them. Evidence appears in piles of “artifacts” placed for the guides to use to show and explain stuff to us. The first of these I discovered this morning on the Cormorant Point beach.
Back to the narrative – our day continues as it will for the rest of the trip. We return to the ship, have a welcome back snack, go get showered and changed. Cocktail hour! For us this is usually the back of the boat on our deck where we gather with other passengers from our deck (there are 12 of us out of the total 36 passengers on the boat), or it could be up on the fourth deck with views all around, or down on the second deck in the bar-lounge area. There is no shortage of people ready to chat, and it makes for an extremely congenial way to pass the hour or so before dinner.
Dinner follows the format of lunch and breakfast – buffet of good, well prepared, fresh food, with fish, meat and vegetarian options, great desserts, too. After dinner, fighting sleepiness, we get a briefing on what we’re going to do tomorrow, complete with videos and maps. Then, though it is barely past 9, we hurry off to our extremely comfortable beds, to be rocked to sleep by the movement of the boat as we sail off to tomorrow’s destination. Some nights we are also violently rocked awake and tossed around in our beds – but that’s the Pacific, for you! (The story continues if you click here.)