Galapagos, day 6

Trip Start Apr 15, 2011
Trip End Feb 04, 2012

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

We are spending today on Espaniola, the most southerly and oldest of the Galapagos Islands. The beach we land on for our walk this morning is the most beautiful we've seen.  Turquoise water and vast stretch of soft, velvety white sand curving around the bay.  The beach is dotted with sea lions basking in the sunshine.  It’s the kind of place where I could happily spend a week or two, lying in the sun, swimming with the sea lions and reading a book.  

The visibility of the water isn’t great when we jump in the water to snorkel but there are so many fish.  I can understand why there are so many sea lions here, it’s like they have a huge larder right on their door step. 

We have a short break back on the boat – just enough time to get the sand off and start to get cold.  We’re snorkeling again before lunch and jumping straight in from the dingies around the rocky cliffs.  There are sea lions swimming just near the dingy which is about the only thing that convinces me to jump into the cold water.  There are some fish about but the sea lions steel the show.  There are two individuals and they swim around us, darting back and forward with simple flick of a flipper.  I’m a little worried we’re crowing them but they are so agile and can swim so fast I guess they’d leave if we were bothering them.  The twist and turn in the water, lithe and graceful.  Some times they perform graceful barrel rolls or twirls in the water, other times they hang there up side down, watching us swim around them.  There huge brown eyes almost gleam in the water, the watchers are defiantly being watched.  After several minutes they swim off.  A little bit further along and we discover a cave that goes into the cliff where the sea lions are hanging out.  This time there are four of them and they seam just as curious about us as we are about them.  Some of the others and swimming right up to the sea lions but I hang back and let the sea lions come to me if they want to.  And they do.  As I watch with wrapped fascination and child like glee they swim right up to me time and time again.  At first I am a little spooked, thinking they are going to collide straight into me or I might get bitten, especially when one show’s it teeth to me when its really close. But time after time they flick a flipper at the last possible second and glade away, so close I could reach out my hand and touch them.  We stay in the water for ages, watching and playing with them and generally having a brilliant time.  I could do this all day if I wasn’t so cold.  It has been hands down one of the high lights of the trip, on a par with swimming with the penguin the other day.  I’ve swam with seals before but never for this long and with one’s that are quite so curious and interactive.  It is almost indescribably amazing.

Espanionla isn’t finished with us however.  This afternoon we have a dry landing onto a narrow jetty.  As we approach we see sea lions surfing in the waves crashing onto the beach.  The jetty is long and narrow and the approaching waves look as if they will sweep right over and drench us until they are quickly lost in the black volcanic rocks pilled high next to the jetty.  At the end of the jetty is our first delight for this afternoon.  Espanionla is home to the Christmas marine iguanas, so named due to their distinctive and unique green and red patterning.  They are just beautiful in a weird and primitive kind of way and despite the face I have a hundred pictures of their less colorful cousins my camera is once again snapping away.  There are sea lions on the beach, lying next to the iguanas forming an almost perfect Galapagos picture of its two ubiquitous creatures combined.  The sea lions here are as cute as anywhere else and I’m still taking pictures of them too, especially the babies

I have been hoping to get a closer look at the blue footed boobies, a type of sea bird with brightly colored blue feet.  Espanional doesn’t disappoint me.  As we walk along the path we see Sea Turns, Nazca boobies – pretty but with plain black feet and finally the blue footed boobies.  They are practically nesting on the pathway and you can’t help but get very close to them.  They are bigger than I expected.  I thought they would more like the size of a small seagull but they stand a good 40 -50 cm tall.  They have lovely brown and white patterned heads, blue eyes, dark wings and a white belly and of course those big blue webbed feet.  Boobies got their name from the Spanish word bobo meaning clown.  During the matting season the males dance from side to side, padding and waving their big blue feet and stretching out their wings in an attempt to attract a female.  The birds are a huge tourist draw card of the Galapagos Islands – perfect for tourist tat.  In the small towns there is a huge range of t-shirts with the birds on them and many with the slogan 'I love boobies’ and a pair of blue footed boobie feet, classy.    

I am watching a pair of blue footed boobies not a meter away from me when one of them waddles right over to a large rock next to me and jumps us.  It looks right at me as if to make sure I’m watching then appears to pose for me, almost as if to say ‘ok I’m here now.  Are you watching?  I’m looking at you, I’m looking straight again, and I’m posing.  And I’m waving my feet and I’m looking and you and I’m looking straight ahead and I’m looking and you and I’m waving my feet and I’m done and I’m bored now’ and flights off after about of min.  I think I may have just had a male blue footed boobie try to attract me as mate!  Just amazing.  It kept looking right at me and waving its big blue feet at me.  I know we’re not suppose to get to close but it’s a totally different matter if they come up to you.  The boobies further up are nesting right on the path way and I see parents sitting on eggs and small fluffy chicks.  We are watched carefully but the birds don’t appear to be the least disturbed by our presence.  I see some of them waving the skin on their throats and am concerned this is a ‘back off’ signal from the birds but the guide explains they are just hot and this is a sort of panting behavior to cool off, much like a dog would.    

The landscape here is beautiful.  High, rocky, black volcanic cliffs with the turquoise blue water crashing into the shore line below, forming dramatic displays as the water is forced through small rock fissures by the shear force of the waves.  The various sea birds nest on the rocky out crops and Christmas marine iguanas bask in the sunshine.  We are in for another treat as we round the corner and see the nesting waved albatrosses.  Albatrosses are X.  There are grey fluffy chicks waiting patiently for their parents to return.  Waved albatrosses mate for life and we see several birds ‘dancing’ together.  The dance, a distinctive rhythm of bobbing heads, clicking of beaks, side to side waves and calls to each other is performed both when they mate the first time and their after to bond them together.  Waved albatrosses mate for life and this regular courtship and display helps bond mated pairs together through breeding season after breeding season, if I can I'll upload the video here but the wifi mightn't cope with the file size.  The birds are beautiful with long yellow beaks, snow white heads atop long, almost swan like necks and beautiful ‘waved’ patterned feathers on their main body.      

It has been an almost perfect day, capped off by the most amazing sun set sitting at the front of the boat with some fellow ship mates over a wee drink.  It doesn’t get much better than this. 
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Jen on

It all sounds amazing!!!!!

sarahs_voyage on

It was :) remind me of this when I'm back in Aus and am broke because I spent my 'lving on until I get a job savings' on going to the Galapagos (just kidding, only some of it).

Jen on

Madness! There's no way you can regret it. I think you would have regretted it more if you didn't do it - but then you wouldn't have known what you missed.

And if comes to that then you can hit us up for meals. :)

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