On Thursday, we had an even earlier start to the day since our excursion left at 7:30 instead of our normal 8:00AM. I awoke early and again sat out on the back of the boat taking in the view of the islands. The cool breeze coming off the water made for a crisp, fresh morning. After a quick breakfast, we headed out at 7:30 to the island of Santa Cruz, an island we had visited once before. In fact, it was the island we left from on our first day.
This time, we were on the northeast corner where a small beach lay. Near this site is the location of the egg-laying site of the sea turtles. We walked along the beach barefoot eyeing the tracks of turtles, iguanas and lizards. We ascended a sand dune to find a salt water lake. Fishing inside of it, were two pink flamingos. We sat gazing at the flamingos for about 30 minutes. It was not possible to tell if the two were a couple, both males, females, or what. But, the lake supports 5 flamingos and a few black mangrove trees.
We made our way back to the boat. We had to say our sad goodbyes to our shipmates. Only Molly, Sara and Emilie stayed with me. We traded emails with the rest – some of whom we’ll see again in Ecuador or other parts of South America – or even Switzerland. I also hit it off with the Director and Assistant Director of the school in South Carolina. They have a notion to include me and my travel adventure in their school curriculum next year. I told them I would be interested so we’ll see what happens.
Molly, Sara, Emilie and I went onshore to the beach to finish out the morning and await our new shipmates who would arrive this afternoon. We had to make a bit of a switcheroo on the rooms to accommodate the new shipmates so Molly moved in with me.
Our new 12 shipmates boarded mid-afternoon and around 5PM we headed out on the rafts to Black Turtle Cove near where we landed this morning. This afternoon we stayed on the boat as we sought the sea turtles living in the wild. The “Cove” was actually a collection of coves fingering off the main waterway. The coves’ shores were covered in black mangrove trees. So, as we got closer in, the trees roots helped push the turtles closer to the surface.
We saw about 15 turtles swimming around. In the shallower parts of the coves, we could get close enough to see them swimming in the water. In the deeper areas, we had to wait for the turtles to come up to take a breath before submerging again. While trying to get a picture of a large turtle swimming close to the raft, I accidently knocked my sunglasses in the water. I couldn’t catch them in time and they drifted down into the dark water. I hope they are biodegradable! Finally, we also ran into a couple of small white tip sharks swimming in the smaller, shallower coves.
We finally had to turn back for the boat. As we sailed out, we were treated to hundreds of birds making their way to the trees for the night as well as many who decided that it was time to go fishing. We passed by several trees full of white egrets. We then passed by one area where at least two dozen pelicans and dozens more frigate birds were dive bombing the water going after the fish below. It was an amazing sight to see and also to hear. Between the squawks of the birds and the sounds of them diving into the water, it felt like nature at its finest.
When we got back to the ship, we had a couple of beers with our new shipmates and then got ready for dinner. We had a welcome aboard toast for the new shipmates and dined on tuna and chicken with peach sauce, cucumber and tomato salad, broccoli, and for dessert, tres leches cake.
I did suffer a slight injury today – one that could only happen to me. In the closet in the room is a lower compartment that contains a life jacket for emergencies. The magnet that holds the door closed is not very strong and occasionally popped open, usually on my big right toe. Today, it hit my toe but closer to the nail and really did some damage. Luckily the Advil made the throbbing subside, but I was limping around a little and will have to watch it to hope that it doesn’t get any worse.
I woke up early on Friday morning at 6:00AM and went out for my morning coffee on the back of the boat. Overnight we had made our way to Genovesa Island and were moored in Darwin Bay. As I slowing woke up and my eyes adjusted to the morning sun, I saw large packs of birds circling the top of the island. The landscape was black volcanic rock close to the water. The higher the rock went, it was painted with more and more white from the birds droppings. Halfway up, the cliffs started to be covered with vegetation of small trees, grasses and the occasional cactus.
After a quick breakfast, we boarded the rafts at 8:00AM and headed for the cliff walls. We saw several types of crabs, sea urchins and birds – and the occasional iguana. We docked and climbed up a makeshift staircase to the top of the cliff.
Right away we were treated to a bird show. There were several booby nests in front of us. Many of the nests had chicks in various stages of molting. Most were quite large and about 4-5 months old. In this area we saw the Nazca Booby – not so much the Blue-Footed Boobies or the Red-Footed Boobies.
We walked along a path cutting through the dense, dry vegetation to a cliff where hundreds, maybe thousands, of birds circled. Our big prize for this leg was to see an owl indigenous to the Galapagos.
We headed back to the boat, changed and went for a snorkel. We saw several fish today, but the big prize was to see the large parrot fish that inhabited this section of the coast. I got cold quickly in the chilly water and climbed out after about 30 minutes. I had a good conversation with Gabriel, the captain’s right hand man. When everyone else loaded up, he looked at me, invited me to take his seat and I drove the raft back to the boat. It was an unexpected treat that I thoroughly enjoyed.
After a quick lunch and brief rest in the early afternoon, we were back in the rafts for an afternoon hike. Gabriel again trusted me with the reins of the boat and I guided us out to the beach where we made our landing. The hike this afternoon was the most surreal of all that we’ve had so far.
Again the focus of the hike was on the birdlife on the islands. We walked through a small path alongside a salt water stream. The Nazca and Red-Footed Boobies were everywhere as well as frigate birds and several types of finches. The sky this afternoon was grey with cloud cover. The path was white with the bird droppings and a slight breeze drifted through the air. Birds circled overhead of all shades and sizes. We passed by nests at shoulder and eye level. With the narrowness of the path, the birds were often just inches from our face. There was an eerie calm as we walked through this bird sanctuary on the rocky volcanic rock. After a quick time on the beach afterwards we headed back to the boat – this time, without my driving skills.
We enjoyed a great dinner as always. Tonight was had garlic shrimp, curried chicken, rice, red sauerkraut, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and fresh strawberries with cream for dessert. My toe started throbbing again. I looked down and it seemed to be getting worse. So, I got a small bag of ice and headed for the room to put my foot up and ice it down. Tomorrow is the last full day on the ship and penguins may be a part of it. So, I want to make sure I am in fine walking shape so I don’t miss it.
Originally published June 14, 2007