Some days I am really glad that I woke up early!
–Day 4–Chinese Hat-Santa Cruz Island-Whaler Bay–
After breakfast we go for a walk on a gorgeous beach. Lots of Sally Lightfoot Crabs. Many sea lions. We see a pup nursing. Several sea lions are swimming in the surf as well as two Marine Iguanas. I sit and watch a baby pup playing in the water for maybe 30 minutes, just totally in the heart of the moment.
After a snack break back on the boat we go for a snorkel, probably the best one yet. The water is turquoise and incredibly clear. There are dozens of fish of course. I spot a shark on the bottom.
I get to see a bunch of living coral this time and free dive around it. We see some sea iguanas under water playing tag with some fish and climbing up some rocks toward the surface. It’s an amazing snorkel day.
Back on the ship we eat a hearty lunch, then pull up anchor and head toward Whaler Bay, a three hour trip. Arriving in Whaler Bay, we take the Zodiac for a beach trip, checking out some baby sea turtles swimming in the breakers and some American Oyster Catchers on the shore.
Then I go for a snorkel, joined by Jackson and Tatiana. While snorkeling, I spot two giant sea turtles swimming close by. I keep a respectful distance, but they don’t stay long. With a flip of their little flippers, they take off like a rocket under water and are gone. Great fun! We return to ship for a relaxing evening.
–Day 5-Isabela Island-Breeding Center–
First we hike along the beach on Isabela, seeing gazillions of marine iguanas. There are plenty of Blue Footed Boobies as well.
Then a snorkel with a bunch of large sea tortoises.
Moving to another location we snorkel again and see a black sting ray. Then, it’s lunch on the boat and a trip to town. Passing a lake, I see five pink flamingos chilling.
We visit the Isabela Breeding Center and learn about the reproductive habits of Giant Land Tortoises. Did you know that it takes them three to four hours to breed?
–Day 6–Fernandina, Lake Darwin–
6-8 am hike. Hiking along the beach at Espinosa Point, Fernandina, we are treated to the sight of a Galapagos Hawk resting on the lava rock. He agreeably stays while I shoot some closeups.
Then it’s lots of Marine Iguanas. Victor says the population is over 500,000!
Also sea lions playing and pups nursing. We pass some marked nesting sites of the Marine Iguanas. Sea lion pups can nurse for three years. The mom can give birth every year and has four nipples. So it is not uncommon for a mom to nurse pups of different ages or for a mom to nurse a pup who nurses her pup! The Marine Iguanas pile on top of each other to conserve heat until the day warms up sufficiently for them to take to the water and cool.
We also see some Flightless Cormorants. These birds originally could fly but after they arrived in the Galapagos they evolved heavier bodies and shorter wings, losing the ability to fly. They are strong swimmers; however, and dive for fish.
Fernandina is the newest island and as such has virtually no introduced species (such as goats, rats, etc.). A unique place to see evolution in action! Back to the ship for an 8 am (late) breakfast. At nine we go for a snorkel. It is amazing and the clarity and visibility are great.
For the first 20 minutes I follow a giant sea turtle and a medium size one. They swim lazily along under water while I follow alongside, occasionally diving below and around the turtles. Priceless!! I see a Flightless Cormorant dive below and swim and watch while he catches a fish next to the giant turtle. The water is colder today and I use a short wetsuit for the first time.
During lunch, we move across the strait to Isabela Island. After lunch another snorkel and dive off of Isabella. This time I am surrounded by five sea turtles.
Back to the boat and a change to dry clothes. Then we Zodiac to Tagus Cove, Isabela and hike up past Darwin Lake to the top of the extinct caldera, Vulcan Darwin. Darwin Lake, although very close to the ocean has no connection to it. It is about seven meters higher at the surface and is salty but has no fish or birds. It is theorized that originally the seas were 100 meters higher and the two were connected. later, the sea level dropped and the lake eventually evaporated leaving a large salt block. Subsequent rain years rehydrated the lake which became salty from the salt block.
At the top of the caldera we see an incredible view of the northern island with variations between barren lava flow and areas of vegetation. During dinner we depart for the all night trip around the top of Isabela Island for Santiago.