From the itinerary:
This morning we arrive at Española Island and explore Gardner Bay and the Gardner and Osborn Islets. We stroll along the shore where we hope to spot an abundance of birds such as the American Oystercatcher and the Galapagos Hawk. While snorkeling, be on the lookout for marine life such as Manta rays and reef sharks!
This morning we awakened to another picture perfect dawn. These rocks remind me of the “The Little Prince”.
After the usual routine of breakfast and prep for shore, we disembarked from the pangas onto a splendid, white sand beach. We found a good place to leave our gear, and right next to us was a little sea lion with an unusual resting position! We spent the morning among sea lions spread all across the beach. What interesting animals! Our guides told us about the “beach master,” a male sea lion who has won the right to beat his chest and proclaim himself “King of he World” at least for a little while. Unfortunately for him, being the king of the world is
hard work! You have got to keep those pesky youngsters away from your harem! And the ladies, rather than being thankful, are sometimes downright ungrateful and disobedient! They even talk back! Still a bull sea lion in action is a fearsome sight. He’s big and black, and moves with surprising speed. Only the foolish (or a rival) would stand up to his charge and fight back!
True to the hype, the sea lions are not much interested in the humans on the beach. That, however, is not an invitation to get too close!
Besides observing the sea lions, I went patrolling for birds and plants, and also spent some time watching the marine iguanas. We saw lots of crabs.
The snorkeling was great – the water was very, very clear and even with my compromised eyesight I enjoyed looking at the varieties of fish. I followed a couple of rays for a while. They were trying very hard to get out of my sight, but rather than swimming off they would try to swim underneath the plant life on the bottom.
In the afternoon, we travel over to Suarez Point for more wildlife viewing and a hike that takes us through the nesting grounds of Nazca and Blue-footed Boobies.
Our afternoon hike was quite challenging. You had to keep your eyes on the ground in front of you because we were walking over rocks and balancing. With a really limited field of vision, the chances of stepping on an iguana were high and so resulted in a lot of surprised jumping out of the way.
On this hike, we saw the Waved Albatrosses. First, we spotted a single bird nesting, then a field of husbands waiting the arrivals of their mates, and we even saw a recently reunited pair!
The area we walked was fairly flat and was covered with brilliant yellow, orange and red plants. It wasn’t sunny, but the colors were so saturated against the pale grey sky.
We walked to a cliff – an amazing view. Waves were crashing up against the cliffs filling the air with spray and several blow holes produced gigantic plumes of water accompanied by a sound akin to thunder. The sky was filled with flying birds – especially the Nasca boobies, with an occasional albatross soaring by. We also saw white tailed tropicbirds, swallow tailed gulls, brown noddies – names I am sure you think I have made up. (My husband certainly does!)
Below us, the cliffs and rocks were covered with marine iguanas, sometimes so thick it was hard to see the rock.
We walked along the cliff to see one of the more spectacular blow holes, and then followed the trail down to an area near sea. The stench of excrement (sea lion) was only mitigated by the distraction of seeing the Nazca booby chicks. They dwarfed their parents in their fluffy chick feathers! I made the mistake of trying to walk between one of our shipmates and a sleeping sea lion – she told me in no uncertain terms to “back off!” Thinking back on it I realize how much a part of the scenery they had become for me.
Back near the pick-up area, we spent some time watching a sea lion “kindergarten.” The little ones were so rambunctious! They frolicked in the swimming pool created by a semi-circle of rocks, and demonstrated the same sense of childlike fun on the sand. We even watched one play with the tail of a marine iguana! Despite how cute they are, reality is always front and center. We saw dead animals – dead bird chicks already being removed from the beach by crabs, as well as chicks with no hope of survival. Alive today, they are sitting “ducks” for predators, out of the safety of the nest way before their time. Likewise, we saw two little sea lions that probably would not live out the week. Today they were crying and searching for their mothers, but sea lions do not adopt, and still dependent on the milk of a mother who won’t return it was heartbreaking to see them all alone. We were able to see up close the difference between a well-cared for pup and one who isn’t – the amount of fat covering the body as well as glossy, sleek fur versus dull, mottled fur. I wondered what the children on the trip were making of it.
After we got back, we heard that one of our shipmates fell trying to exit the panga. (Though this was a dry landing, the steps were very slippery and covered with crabs. The people who told the story said it was a complete misstep, suggesting that the boat may have moved suddenly.) He had been taken immediately back to the ship, but it seemed that a hospital was in his near future. We have no medical officer on our boat, so our friend Glenn (a neurologist) helped. The story continued to fascinate the entire group. Lloyd was taken off the ship at midnight (so clandestine!) but returned mid-morning to tell of a good experience in a small Galapagos clinic.
We had a beautiful sunset to toast during the cocktail hour!
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