The Nina, the Pinto and the Santa Maria?

The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria?

Santiago

(From the itinerary) Today we explore the island of Santiago. This morning we spend time at Buccaneer Cove and Espumilla Beach, surrounded by mangrove forests. Keep your eyes peeled for a variety of Galapagos bird species, including the White-cheeked Pintail.

In the afternoon we travel to Sullivan Bay where we explore amazing, extensive lava flows!

Evidence of sea turtles - recent, too!

Evidence of sea turtles – recent, too!

This is the last section of the journal left to write, and it is now almost three weeks after the fact.  (I wrote about the last day on the plane on the way home, it was till fresh in my mind then.  This portion I will have to rely on both the pictures and a somewhat faulty memory to describe what we did and saw.

By this point in the trip, we were tired and we were sated with all the experiences we had had.  Because each day followed the same format, and each island was similar to the last in some respect, without the pictures it would be nearly impossible to distinguish one day from the next.  By this point, I felt compelled to shake things up a bit in order to change the experience.  I did that via changing my camera of choice. (How daring!!)

Our guide (sunglasses) talks about the hawk

Our Guide (sunglasses) talks about the hawk

As I have mentioned, my “big” camera was giving me problems.  I could not reset the focusing to a single point, and manual focusing relies on my eyesight and the diopter being in synch, which judging from the results, they are not…so today I decided to use my iPhone.

I am the proud possessor of a series of special lenses for my phone compliments of a Mothers’ Day gift from my elder son.  Today seemed like a really good day to bring out the fish eye and the macro and give you some new images of the same old creatures.

Our morning began with a walk on the beach.  Almost immediately, when we stepped foot on shore, we found a gorgeous young, male hawk, right at eye level.  Unconcerned with our scrutiny, he continued to pretend he was patrolling the beach for food, while he posed for our pictures.  (Wasn’t I the one who just recently claimed that we should not anthropomorphize!?)  It was wonderful though, to be able to stand right next to him and listen to our guide talk about him.

saturday (3 of 19)

An American Oystercatcher

Young, male Galapagos Hawk

Young, male Galapagos Hawk

Next we started a long stroll down the beach, now familiar with the signs of the sea turtles having come ashore and returned to the sea.  The nests were just out of the reach of the waves.  Reality again!  Hernan pointed out one nest was not far enough up the beach and had been flooded by the tide.  Those eggs would never hatch.  Probably the result of an inexperienced mother, she didn’t make it far enough into the mangroves to give those turtles a chance.

Ghost Crab art

Ghost Crab art

It was a pretty risky beach anyway. As we walked we could see masses of red-orange creatures scuttling ahead of us on the sand.  Ghost crabs.  They dine on turtle eggs. The guide dug down at a bubbly spot in the sand and pulled a ghost crab up for us to see.  Attractive, this crab has its eyes on stalks (and apparently can shoot water out of its eyes to surprise its enemies.  I didn’t get to see that, but Gerry did!)  The crab has interesting markings on its back, on its shell. Speculation suggests these are the origin of its name.  The ghost crab is also responsible for the artistic scratches and sand balls left all over the beach and which I showed you earlier in the journal.

On the way back up the beach toward our starting point we looped around behind the dunes and the turtle nests among the mangroves, to a lagoon, where we did indeed see the white-cheeked pintail ducks promised in the itinerary. Smaller creatures also caught our interest (like the fiddler crabs) and drove us back to the beach (like the biting flies).

The rest of the morning, I stalked the ghost crabs, trying to get an interesting picture, and I observed the hawk, who had moved to this rocky end of the beach.DSC_6320

From the beach, we loaded into the pangas and took a trip out along the shore to visit Buccanneer Cove.   Geology becomes a front burner feature once again, and we discover a new-to-us Galapagos species – the fur sea lion! These indolent mammals laze around on the rocks, mostly alone or in mother-infant pairs.  They appear smaller and rounder than the beach sea lions, and the fur is noticeably thicker and fuller.

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Panorama of Sullivan Bay

Panorama of Sullivan Bay

The afternoon took us to another bay, Sullivan Bay, and another walk on the lava.  This is the most amazing lava…and I have the pictures to prove it.  Like liquid chocolate, the lava has the most unbelievable forms.  Yesterday, the lava was just another thing on the beach, but on this flow there is just a strip of beach, the lava extends right down into the water in many places. There is more than black here, too.  Silvery grey, blue and purple can be found, as well as reds and browns in the older, weathered sections.

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We saw the lava cacti again too, and even got to taste its fruit. (Good!)

Lava Cactus

Lava Cactus

We had wonderful snorkeling here.  Lots and lots of fish – many of them seemingly giant versions of the same fish we have seen in other locations.  The water was nice and warm, and clear.  We swam until we were cold.

DSC_6546

The pinnacle by day

This evening, on the ship, we had a barbecue dinner on the top deck.  Everyone was quite festive – we also celebrated another birthday, the second of this leg of the trip.  Our moonlit bay is quite dramatic.  It is graced by the oddest pinnacle of rock – an enormous thing that juts up from the water, shaped like a giant crystal but clearly made of different rock.  It looks as if it were man-made.  There is no visible origin for it – for example – it does not seem to have broken off another structure nearby.  Movies have been filmed around it I was told, but which ones have escaped my memory.

Keep reading to finish up the entire journal.

DSC_6570

Our moonlit bay view

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