June 15, 2011: Islas Santiago and Rábida
Trip Start Jun 08, 2011
10Trip End Jun 17, 2011
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We were back into our routine, getting up for a 7:00 breakfast. Boarding the pangas at 8:00 for a wet landing we headed for shore at Puerto Egas. We had to disturb a loafing sea lion to store our snorkeling gear in the vegetation above the high water line since it was nearly high tide. We had a beautiful view of Alcedo, Darwin, and Wolf volcanoes on Isla Isabela.Victor explained that salt was mined from a natural salt flat. It prospered until more efficient artificial salt basins were constructed on the mainland. The economics doomed Puerto Egas and it was abandoned. When the park was formed they cleaned up the mess that was left behind. Recently, they completed a successful feral goat and pig eradication program on the island.
We walked along a vegetated path to some interesting basalt outcrops where partially collapsed lava tubes entered the sea, leaving several natural arches
At the landing, we put on our snorkeling gear and headed into the water swimming out to the rocks on the south side of the cove. Thousands of green spiny sea urchins discouraged us from swimming through the shallow water over the rocks. I finally found a channel through them that took me out to the main channel that appeared to be at least 15 m deep. I swam intermittently with Al and Kaye, David and Took, and Maddy and Olivia. At the bottom of the channel were hundreds of meter-long slender gray fish, all of which were pointing upcurrent. Because I was above them, I never got a look at one in profile so I could not identify them. I did see a solitary bonita. It was swimming on the far side of the large school below. It's bright silver color flashed brilliantly, even at a distance.
Maddy, Olivia, and I swam with two sea lions for a few minutes as we returned to shore. This activity is everybody's favorite thing to do while snorkeling. Once our playmates took off, we swam back to the beach, boarded the pangas, and headed back to the Floreana for lunch. As soon as we were on the boat, we weighed anchor and headed south to Isla Rábida. The water was really choppy. Elena spotted a school of dolphins following us off our starboard stern. We arrived at Rábida about two hours later and did another wet landing on a red beach. It gets its color from the highly oxidized, high-iron, basalt flow on the shore.
I had never been to Rábida
We climbed a low rise to get a good view of the shoreline and the volcanoes on the south side of Isla Santiago. The island is heavily vegetated. For the first time we saw black mangroves. Lava lizards seem to be the primary denizens. When we returned to the Flamingo Lagoon, the flamingo was gone but a juvenile Galápagos Hawk was standing on the ground. He graciously allowed us to approach within a few meters and posed for pictures.
We returned to our landing for our last snorkeling excursion. To my surprise, most decided to return to the boat. Only Elena, Alice, Josie, Olivia, Maddy, and I stayed to swim
As soon as we left the cove, we were hit with small waves that kept flooding my snorkel. Elena and I were ready to get out so we signaled the panga to come get us. We rode, chatting with Ivan and huddled low, sitting in the bottom, to stay out of the stiff, cool breeze, while the others swam back to the landing. It was a good finale to our snorkeling adventures.
The Floreana weighed anchor and headed for Isla Santa Cruz as soon as we returned. It was very choppy for the first hour and a half. We saw a National Geographic ship steaming northward. A beautiful sunset was a fitting farewell to our last full day in the islands.
At dinner, Victor and the crew received their tips and offered us a toast, hoping we would all return to sail with them again
We tried to figure out a way to upload Victor’s pictures to my computer but its great age made it impossible so we will rely on Took’s Ipad to get them safely back to the States. I only use this thing for word processing when I travel. If it gets lost or stolen, it doesn’t owe me anything.
I returned to my cabin to write after talking with Olivia about a variety of Brevard-related topics. Tomorrow will be an interesting day, culminating with an overnight flight back to Atlanta.