When we surfaced the next day we were alongside the island of Espanola. This is considered to be the oldest of the Galapagos Islands and supposedly now in decline, effectively dying as it drifts further and further away from the heart of the archipelago over the course of millions of years. We won’t be throwing a funeral for it any time soon however and at the moment it seems fairly packed with wildlife to me.
Pictures tell a thousand words here and as I write this I’ve yet to decide how I’ll whittle down and organize the countless photos I took of the wildlife on the islands. For now I’ll throw as much detail down in words while I remember and we’ll see what happens.
We were ferried over to Punta Suarez on Espanola via the Zodiac and scaled some precarious rocks to the trail. Tiny juvenile sea lions sat in and amongst the black lava rocks drying off and completely unperturbed by our presence. We set off walking and before long were surrounded by Marine Iguanas on every available inch of dry land, sunning themselves to raise their body temperatures to the magic 37 degrees required for them to take the plunge into the sea and set about munching on the wealth of red & green algae formed on the submerged rocks.
Danny regaled us with info on the spectacular creatures as a little sea lion stomped through them, nipping at their tales as they begrudgingly scattered, unwilling to play.
Our trail hugged the coast and took us higher. Before long we were surrounded by nesting Blue-Footed Boobies. Some were courting, some protecting eggs, some sat on chicks and all angry when 2 Galapagos Hawks arrived and perched a few meters away, happy to pose for us and far more interested in new booby for breakfast.
Further along we were amongst Masked Boobies and while you’d be forgiven for thinking I was talking about girls in bikinis I’m referring to another type of bird. Their outstanding characteristic was their exceptional tight white ‘fro; style was not absent in the Galapagos.
With Danny’s guidance we carefully avoided an area marked by stones where Marine Iguana’s nests have been located by rangers. We simultaneously passed another group whose guide had failed to point out the boundary and would have aimlessly trampled the eggs had Danny not had a word.
Atop the hill we were greeted by Waved Albatrosses. The rearing cycle for juveniles was reaching the end – a little earlier than usual thanks to good conditions for breeding this year – and we were lucky that there were still a few around. We even got to see the fabulously awkward take-off run (think Orville’s take-off in Disney’s The Rescuers – and yes I had to look that up, but that’s all I could think of while watching them) where they look in all likelihood like they’ll never get off the ground. Interestingly one juvenile Albatross had a distinct ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ look going on.
More walking took us along the sheer cliffs with a blowhole firing water into the air, birds swooping in and around and another Galapagos Hawk sat on a rocky outcrop as we passed Albatross Airport.
The path continued round back toward our starting point at which point I think we returned to the boat.
Our first snorkel of the cruise came next; we got kitted out and then were spun out to snorkel. El Capitan joined us and spent a lot of it leading the way, pointing out the odd turtle or ray or shark as they passed by. It was far from warm and when the offer came to call time and head back it was met with a unanimous yes.
Back at the boat it was lunch time and another feast was dished up but not before the acutely aware crew greeted us with a batch of Chocolate Caliente to chase off the chill. While we stuffed our faces the boat set off toward our afternoon stop – Gardner Bay.
For anyone still reading at this point it’s time for an apology from me. You see, when you’re in the Galapagos Islands, on a tour, surrounded by cool people, wonderful weather and amazing wildlife the compunction to take notes / write anything at all departs quite quickly. I find myself here, some 3 and a half years later, attempting to build a narrative from roughly 10 pages of single word lines. On account of this the story may become even sketchier – from what I can tell normal service looks like it will resume in mid-Colombia but hell, we’ll give it a go eh?
Post lunch we took the opportunity for a cheeky nap – essential to keep running on top form when each destination was reached.
The travel didn’t take too long though and soon we’d reached Gardner Bay and were ferried ashore in the Zodiac to spend some time with the natives – a colony of Sea Lions. It felt great to get another opportunity to walk amongst them as they huddled together in groups snoozing, waddled about playing and generally enjoyed themselves.
A slightly more sobering element is the nature of how these groups occasionally ostracise weaker runts, or how new mothers sometimes effectively walk away from their children – like seemingly every David Attenborough documentary always pulled your heart strings with. Amidst the sand was a tiny pup alone and seemingly abandoned to die. As guests adhering to our obligation not to interfere it’s difficult to come to terms with, but this is the natural order of things for these animals and it doesn’t matter how it makes us feel.
The sun slowly setting on a great day we sidled back to the Zodiac for our reconnection with the Galapagos Vision. Another spectacular meal ensued, the whole group eating out on deck around a large pair of tables while the crew moved back and forth keeping things ship-shape.
After dinner we all crammed together at the back of the boat, playing card games and drinking beers. In a rare turn of events I actually won at one point I think. It was a lovely evening spent in great company.