Galapagos Islands; Part IV

Some days I am really glad that I woke up early!

Sunrise, Chinese Hat,

–Day 4–Chinese Hat-Santa Cruz Island-Whaler Bay–

Chinese Hat, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

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.

Even This Guy (About my Thumb's Length) Posed For a Photo

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.

White Tipped Shark, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

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.

Click Here for Galapagos Marine Iguana Snorkel Video

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.

Baby Sea Lion, Galapagos Islands

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.

Galapagos Marine Iguanas

Blue Footed Boobies, Iasabela Island, Galapagos, Ecuador

Then a snorkel with a bunch of large sea tortoises.

Click Here for Galapagos Sea Turtle Snorkel Video

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.

Pink Flamingos, Isabela Island, Galapagos, Ecuador

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?

Giant Land Tortoises

–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.

Galapagos Hawk

Then it’s lots of Marine Iguanas.  Victor says the population is over 500,000!

Galapagos Marine Iguanas

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.

Flightless Cormorant, Fernandina Island, Gaapagos, Ecuador

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.

Snorkeling, Fernandina Island

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.

Darwin Lake with Pacific Ocean in Background, Isabela Island, Galapagos

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.


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5 Responses to Galapagos Islands; Part IV

  1. The Travel Chica June 14, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    After all of these Galapagos posts, I must find a way to get back to Ecuador and see it for myself. Amazing photos!

    • Philip June 17, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

      Thanks. I have only published a tiny fraction of what I recorded there. Really was one of my favs so far.

  2. Judie June 18, 2011 at 7:08 am #

    Amazing, awesome photos my friend!
    Love, love, love it.

  3. Brian June 20, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    Beautiful picture’s and video’s Phillip. Thanks for all these great post’s, it’s the next best thing to being right there with you!

    • Philip June 20, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

      You’re welcome Brian. Glad you are enjoying.

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