On the first day we woke up and it was still overcast and drizzling
. We decided to go whale watching anyway as we figured the rain probably wouldn't bother the whales! We set off on a boat with a group of about 10 others. The seas were pretty rough and it didn't take long before we both felt sick. Nevertheless, after powering through the rough swells for only around 45 minutes we saw our first humpback whales. It's breeding season so they were really putting on a show, fin slapping and also jumping or breaching completely out of the water. The rough seas and rain made taking pictures challenging although I somehow managed to get some good snaps. After we finished whale watching the boat went to take us all snorkelling, however, the agency we had booked with forgot to tell us this so we didn't have our swimming stuff. When we got back to shore the sickness disappeared very quickly and we tucked in to a hearty fish supper.
The next day dawned grey and overcast again but it wasn't raining so we decided to go to Isla de la Plata. After two passionfruit batidos drinks for breakfast we booked ourselves onto a tour with another agency, Machalilla Tours who seemed very professional. The boat ride out to the island took about an hour. The seas were calmer than the previous day and we had also remembered to take our seasickness tablets. The island was dry and dusty brown much like the coastal dry forest except with bushes instead of trees. Huge numbers of seabirds circled the area
. We set off on foot for a hike across the island. The group divided into two groups depending on which trail you wanted to take. We opted for the tougher trail which followed the cliffs and offered the chance to see Waved Albatross, Blue footed boobies and maybe Sea Lions. The walk followed some amazing stark clifftop scenery and it wasn't long before we saw our first seabird. A blue footed booby is a long winged seabird in the Sulidae family which makes its home nesting on the Pacific islands such as Isla De La Plata and the Galapagos. They are very tame which makes them good photographic subjects. The tour guide was very informative and reminded us all not to get too close as this could scare the birds. Later on the walk we spotted two albatross on their nest in the distance and then a little further on we were very lucky indeed. In the middle of the path sat an albatross just a few metres away. It seemed unconcerned as I took photos. We needed to get past it so the guide had to gently coax it off the path into a clearing where it settled down again. The tour guide seemed as excited as we were as apparently it's unusual to be able to get that close to an albatross. We also saw Nazca boobies, frigate birds and tropic birds, but unfortunately no sea lions although we did spot their footprints.
After a much deserved lunch we went snorkelling. I spotted a yellow Moray eel swimming along the bottom, quite unusual as you tend to just see their heads poking out of a hole. We also saw the usual suspects you would expect to see on a Pacific island, including Seargent Major, Triggerfish, Butterfly fish and Angel fish. On the journey back we spotted several whales, which were again performing full breaches, an incredible sight.
We decided we would leave Puerta Lopez in the morning and head to Cuenca...
We travelled from Bahia on two buses and a couple of taxis to make it to the coastal fishing village of Puerto Lopez, on the Pacific coast. We booked in to a nice hotel with a pool so we could take a dip if we felt the need (although the weather had other ideas!). On the journey we followed the coast through the dry coastal forest of the region some of which is encompassed in Machalilla National Park. The scenery was scrub like with big Ceibo trees and cacti. Machalilla National Park was established in 1970 to protect this endangered ecosystem and its wildlife. Over 40,000 hectares of dry forest is protected and also 20,000 hectares of ocean including Isla de la Plata, one of our reasons for visiting Puerto Lopez. 50km of beach is also included in the national park although thick fog and rain meant it wasn't exactly beach weather.