Flying Frigates, Huge Turtles and a Lava Tunnel

Trip Start Oct 07, 2005
Trip End Oct 12, 2005

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Thank goodness my right pupil was back to normal this morning. Tuesday's excursion had us visiting North Seymour, which is a small island that has the largest colony of Frigate birds. Although the 1st wildlife we saw was a Land Iguana which are also common here. Our guide was Bree (from the first day). The landscape where we first stopped included the ground was brown, most of the trees had no leaves and also the presence of Prickly Pear Cacti. Next, we saw a Blue-Footed Booby standing by itself on the ground. It was our next stop that we got to see the Frigate Birds. (This was the name of our group) Male Frigates inflate their red throat pouches (over 20 minutes) to attract a mate. The females chose their man by pouch size and color. Because the biggest and brightest red is supposed to have the best genes. UH HUH, sure!  We saw alot of males with their red pouch fully inflated. The males like to show off to the females by shaking their pouches or rattling their bills! He he! They were quite entertaining to watch. So you definitely know when the breeding season is occurring! We could barely hear our guide talking due to the rattling of the birds. I had to do some video of this, it was crazy! The video came out better than the pictures. 
There were at least 3 males with red inflated pouches, so there must have been a few females around! We then saw some juveniles in nests and they are white with rust colored faces and some black feathers. We walked a path along the water, where we saw fur seals and more sea lions and big gray rocks. I was happy to see a big blue booby standing on a rock in the middle of the path. I took this as a photo opportunity for the Two of us. I squatted down near it and then it turned its head toward me and squawked. Needless to say, I left quickly after Bernie snapped the picture! We were looking at the sea lions and another booby when Klaus said he'd take our picture with the booby. That ended up on the TV screen later in the day and also on the ship's picture CD. UGH!

Anyways, after lunch the evening part consisted of going to Santa Cruz to see the Giant Tortoises! Bernie was most excited about this one! As we were going down the steps of our ship to the dingy boat, I saw something fall in the water and heard a PLOP! My water bottle had fell out the side of my backpack and into the water. I was stressed and nervous thinking that now I am destroying the environment and some poor turtle or fish may die from it! Everyone was stressed also including the dinghy drivers! I was like "Oh, Oh" and then my backpack went flying too! Luckily it latched on to the end of the rail and I grabbed it! Mauricio was like "Calm Down" and being the guide he was, he somehow got my water bottle out! He said, "I thought it was your camera". I was embarrassed because our group of 10 people were watching along with a couple guides. And it just had to happen in front of Mauricio, who was our guide for the evening. Lil We joked about that on our way to Santa Cruz.

The dinghy took us to Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz where after our dry landing, we boarded a bus that took us to the Highlands. People do live here and it has the largest human population of all the islands and is in the middle of the archipelago. There are about 40 Giant Tortoises that live here. When we got off the bus, it was misty and we basically hiked through a forest. It started drizzling rain on and off but never a heavy rain. Mauricio told us to watch out for turtle "dung". lol While walking, he told us about the types of vegetation and then we came upon our first Giant Tortoise right in the middle of the path! It just stayed still with it's head tucked in while we gathered around it. My favorite was when he was explaining how they mate and he even made the noises to go with it! Hmmmm! We didn't see any mating though. We came upon a couple more tortoises and then a muddy area without grass surrounded by a swamp-like area where about 15 tortoises were resting. He said they like it there because it keeps them cool. We got our picture beside a lone one in the grass and then hiked back to the bus. The hike was none too pleasant with slugs on leaves of bushes that we sometimes brushed up against to go through while also avoiding the dung, and it was muggy.

We then approached a Lava Tunnel where we were given a choice to either go through or stay behind. Most everyone did it. These were formed during a lava flow when the outer lava cooled and the inner continued flowing. We were told to bring flashlights and I thought mine was ready to go with a new battery, but obviously not because it didn't work. Mauricio had his and guided us anyways. First we went down steps that led into the tunnel. We were able to walk through most of it and there was one area with lighting.
One pitch black area, we had to walk while crouched down because the top was low, so Mauricio let each of us know when we could stand again. After our tunnel experience there was an open area that sold souvenirs and refreshments. We all got Coca-Cola that was in the "old time" bottles. We hadn't seen those since we were kids! lol It was still misty out when we boarded the bus to go back. For that was our last excursion.

Back on the ship at the dining room, our great Waiter had our iced teas waiting for us. We had a farewell dinner with our new friend, Suki joining us. Three of us had the shrimp skewer which was pretty good but Suki had to show us how to eat it. After dinner, there were festivities in the lounge with South American music. We had a few laughs when some people did karaoke. I couldn't believe this was our last night. It went by so fast!
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