Galapagos - Espanola & Floreana

Trip Start Oct 29, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of Ecuador  , Galapagos Islands,
Sunday, December 4, 2011

Right then Day 4 and we have pretty much got into the swing of things.

Our day : So it's breakfast at 7am – cereals (of course the obligitory granola and yoghurt and very disappointing - not Kelloggs cornflakes). Then there's fruit and some form of eggs or pancakes and toast (well warm bread anyway). We then head out at 8am on the panga’s – for either a wet of dry landing – see something amazing and head back to the boat for snacks and squash at 10.30am (crisp type product). Then another walk or a bit of swimming/snorkelling and back to a 3 course lunch at 12pm. Bit of a sleep until 2pm. Another activity then back at 5pm for more snacks (some doughy type things, chocolate, cheese), get the beer/wine in at 6pm and then a  2 course evening meal. More beers and then it’s off to bed – None of us managed to stay up past 9pm (I must have been catching up on sleep from the previous trip where it was an average of 4 hours a night). On this trip I averaged about 10 hours of sleep a day. I think that the altitude on the last trip kept me up. The motion on this one sent me to sleep.

Anyway – Day 4 and we woke up to Espanola Island. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were anchored in the stunning Gardner Bay. We got the panga’s over to the beach and were met by a glorious white sandy beach covered with sea lions. We took at walk up the beach, taking photo’s of the sea lions and then went to try to find the green turtles in a shallow area. Interspersed with the sea lions are hood mockingbirds and marine iguanas.  After a bit of a stroll we did a bit swimming from the beach. I even managed to brave the water without the wet suit. It was amazing to play around in the surf with the sea lions. Then back to the boat, snorkelling gear on and out on the panga’s to a big rock and the most amazing snorkelling. Within the first 5 minutes were saw a white tipped reef shark. Then, when I just about to get back into the panga, Caroline shouted me over because there was a turtle. It was one of the most amazing 2 minutes of my life to be able to swim with this amazing creature. Caroline and I were nearly in tears when we surfaced (snorkel and mask managed to cover that one up). So back for a shower and of course lunch. So after a well deserved nap (it was a very exciting morning) the boat arrived in Punta Suarez  and other beach with more sea lions and more red and green marine (grey ones) iguanas. These iguanas liked company and we all huddled together with their arms (legs? Paws?) around each other so they can keep warm.  We walked around for a bit and then came across an albatross colony. Now I am not normally bothered by the birds but this was amazing. Here there were also albatross chicks and we were extremely priviledged to witness the mating ceremony called the dance of the waved albatross.

One of the largest of flying birds, albatrosses have been described as "the most legendary of all birds". The Galapagos Albatross or the Waved Albatross is the only member of the Albatross family that lives in the topics.  Albatross come back to find the same mate every year until one or the other dies. The mating ritual begins with the couple engaging in a series of beak jousting moves where they circle each other raise and lower and then clack together. They then built a nest typically on the rocky surface. The couple will produce 1 egg per year which is raised in a nursery with other chicks while the parents head out to sea to feed. In December when the chicks are big enough to survive on their own entire colony will head out to sea where they live over the ocean along the coasts of Ecuador and Peru.

We then walked onto the the nesting area of the Nazca boobies. Boobies are a part of the sulidae family made up of ten species of long-winged sea birds the size of geese. Their feet are completely webbed including hind toes, not free as in a duck. Boobies live near tropical and subtropical islands around the world, coming ashore only to breed. At sea they can be seen diving from the sky to catch fish. The Galapagos is home to three varieties of booby the blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca boobies  or Masked Boobies. The origin of the name booby is less than100% clear, but it is probably derived from the Spanish "bobo", or clown, in reference to their habit of landing on ships at sea and being easily approached - and killed - by sailors.

The Nazca booby is the largest of the Galapagos boobies growing to 30 to 35 inches (76 to 89 cm) in length with a wingspan of 5 to 6 ft (1.5 to 1.8m). Adult birds are easily identified with their beautiful white head, body and wing coverts, dark tails, masks, and patches on their backs.
The next day we headed to the island of Floreana . We first landed on Punta Cormarant which is a greenish beach (green because it contains crystals of the mineral oliverine from the lava – just looked dirty brown to me).  More sea lions, mating turtles and a couple of birds.

The most famous of the boobie is the blue-footed booby. Named for their blue legs and feet these are the most common and non-descript of the Galapagos booby -fabulous blue feet.  

We then headed on Devil’s Crown, which is one of the most outstanding marine sites of all of the Galapagos, a ragged semicircle of rocks that is actually a semi-submerged volcanic cone. poking up out of the ocean.  The rest of the youngsters (it's all relative) went off for a snorkel but Sam and I decided it was just too much on the nippy side. And boy did we win out. One by one they clambered back in, exhausted from the strong ocean currents and having seen a few fish. We on the other hand had sat in the panga having a good chin wag, getting the full low on each other’s life stories and topped up the tan.

After this we then went onto Post Office Bay to the north of the island. This was a functioning mail box for British and American whalers that began in the late 18thcentury.It still functions today. The idea is that you leave a postcard and then hopefully someone else will come along later whose home is near to where it should be posted and will deliver it for you to their actual house. So we dutifully went through the selection of postcards and picked up a few postcards with lots of good intentions of delivering them to people near where we are from when we return to the UK. But let's face it -  the reality will actually be that they will get crumpled up in the bag for a few days (in my case a few months) and then sit on the side when we get home until we completely go against the idea of delivering it personally and shove a stamp on it and put it into the regular post.  Either that or just not bother at all.

We then went to visit a lava cave, which is a blocked up lava tube. As lava flows downslope, the top often cools and forms an insulating crust that keeps the interior lava hot and running. As the eruption subsides, the molten lava drains out of the end, living a hollow chamber that can be many kilometers in length. These tubes have smooth sides with grooves that show different levels of lava.We descended into the tube down the ladder. It's completely dark inside so a torch is needed. Inside is full of water so you have to do a bit of wading, but it was a pretty impressive site.

So the day was shaping up to be ok and then we did the final activity, which was snorkelling off the beach. As I got in (in reverse due to the my complete inability to walk in flippers) I suddenly came across a turtle. Caroline, Jake and I trailed it for a good 10 minutes.  Then I headed over to the rocks to get  a few photos of some fish in shallower waters. All of a sudden this turtle virtually crashed into me and I was just overwhelmed by the next 5 mins. I was too far away from the others to get their attention, so it was just me and one of the most beautiful creatures to grace this planet. It was a complete priviledge to swim with this phenomenal species. I managed to get the camera onto video and made a it of a film - please do have a look - especially the last 30 seconds - the turtle was incredible (I doubt the BBC wildlife unit won’t be on the phone just yet).  Jsut click on the picture and it will play it.

So the boat moved on again and we all headed up on deck for a couple of cocktails and Sam took the opportunity to do a faceback and condition her hair (as you do). Then we were joined by several dolphins swimming along with the boat and leaping out of the water (and soaking one the French in the process – they are such clever animals). There was the most amazing sunset and finally I had the moment (Yes that one Georgia). I think it finally dawned on me what I had achieved to get where I was. After leaving, the job, selling the house, buying a plane ticket I had made it to this boat, in the Pacific, 1000km off South America. I finally gave myself an ounce of credit for what I had achieved so far. Then I got back to what was important – it was afternoon snack time !!!

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Mum on

Forget David Attenborough. It is now Liz Sandell on Wildlife on One.
Amazing turtle video. You are one lucky lady to have experienced doing that.

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