Day 143: January 5, 2008 Puerto Ayora to Bartolomé

Trip Start Aug 15, 2007
Trip End Mar 01, 2008

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Day 143: January 5, 2008 Puerto Ayora to Dragon Hill to Isla Bartolomé

The boat weighed anchor at 2:00 AM and sailed clockwise around Santa Cruz to a small bay at the northwest corner of the island where it anchored at around 5:00. We got up at 6:30 and assembled in the dining room at 7:00 for a delicious breakfast. Right after we finished, we loaded into the panga (motorized raft) and were ferried ashore for a dry landing at Dragon Hill. The big attraction here is supposed to be flamingos and land iguanas. Unfortunately, the flamingos were elsewhere. Almost as soon as we were on the trail, we started seeing large orange-brown male land iguanas and a few of the smaller black females. We also walked past numerous giant cacti and saw several finches and mockingbirds. [PHOTO_ID_L=p1050099.jpg ]

Eventually, we climbed a small tuff ridge that gave us a view of the bay. Several small islands offshore also appeared to be comprised of tuff. I surmised that it was perhaps the eroded remnants of an old tuff ring, similar to Hawaii's Diamond Head.

Back on board, we began the 4-hour crossing to Isla Bartolomé, passing the small islands which are known as the Guy Fawkes Islands. Todd, Sara, Kathy, and I were on the upper deck scouting for manta rays. We were accompanied by a Great Frigate Bird. We must have amused him because he was soon joined by six others. Todd and Sara went to a lower deck while Kathy and I talked geology. Suddenly, we started seeing dolphins jumping in the distance. Within minutes, everyone was seeing them all around us. There were at least 50, I estimate. These were bottlenose dolphins and proved to be every bit as fotogenic as the dusky dolphins I saw on the Straits of Magellan a couple of weeks earlier.

We approached the archipelago of eroded cinder cones on the southeast side of Santiago and everyone came onto the upper deck in hope of peering into a small eroded cone whose crater had a small lake in which flamingos are often seen. This time we were in luck. About 20 bright pink flamingos were in there. The crater would be a fun place to explore.

We sailed counterclockwise around Santiago to Bartolomé where we dropped anchor not far from the Pinnacle. An hour after lunch, we made a wet landing on the beach and walked across the narrow, sandy isthmus to the shark bay on the north side of the island. A large eagle ray was playing just beyond the surf when we arrived. It was high tide so there were no sharks but there were a lot of large, female, green sea turtles. Antonio speculated that they would lay their eggs in the evening. Several, exhausted from mating, sought refuge on the beach from the males. We saw one couple coupling in the surf as pelicans and blue-footed boobies dove into the water a little farther offshore.

We returned to the south side of the island where we donned our snorkeling gear. The surf was kind of rough so visibility was near zero. I gave up after about ten minutes. So did everyone else. Ken discovered four sleeping female sea lions hidden under a tree right next to where we had left our gear.

We returned to the yacht and the crew rinsed the sand off of us. After a quick clothes change, we returned to the panga and headed for a dry landing to walk up the 370 steps to the top of the small cinder cone from which the most famous Galápagos view is seen. The surf had gotten rougher. Antonio and Kathy were able to get off but then the waves got really big. After five minutes of failing to get anyone else ashore, except for one of the crew, Todd mentioned that we might not be able to do this. I told him I was ready to call it; he agreed. I gave a signal to Antonio. He seemed relieved to see it. We managed to get the three onshore back into the raft and decided to just take a ride around the island. I'm glad we did. We saw quite a few Galápagos penguins, the world's northernmost penguins, living just south of the Equator. We also saw boobies, herons, shearwaters, sea lions and a pastel sunset.
After a shower, back on board, we had a welcoming party from the crew, toasting each other all around. Another excellent dinner carried us into the evening briefing on the next days activities.

Antonio and I talked a little bit about volcanoes before I went down to my cabin to write. By 10:00 I was done and slipped into bed.
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