Our story resumes at sea some six hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador , in the Galápagos Islands, moored off Isla de Genovesa on this, the first day of April, in the year 2015. Yesterday, we flew from Guayaquil to San Cristobál Island, where we boarded our small expeditionary yacht, the Isabela II. Our cabins are very comfortable, if small, and there are only 22 cabins. We spent the afternoon and evening being briefed on safety and ecological protocols, which are very strict here. Here is the map of where we will go.
Generally, we landed on San Cristobal island, and in this order, will visit Geneovesa, Santiago, Isabella and Fernandina and back to Isabella, Rabida, and end on Santa Cruz Island.
The day began with a panga (which is what the locals call the small Zodiaks we use) tour along the cliffs of Genovesa Island, to our landing spot at Prince Phillip steps. We climbed up some challenging stone steps about 150 yards to get to the lava fields on the top of the island which are nesting grounds for the frigate birds and the Nazca boobies and red-footed boobies, among tons of other bird life.
Right away, we saw the frigate birds who were at the height of their mating season. How do we know this, dear readers?! Because the males have a huge red air sac under their necks which they inflate into giant bulbous balloons as they are hunting for female frigates with whom to mate. Some of them stay in this condition for very long periods of time, which led to many funny Viagra jokes amongst our fellow travelers. We also saw a bunch of fur seals right on the rocks next to the stairs, resting after a big morning swim.
As soon as we got to the top of the stairs, we were virtually surrounded by horny frigate birds, in the sky, on the ground, and in the bushes. In many cases, even when you couldn’t see the frigates, you could see these giant red balloons sticking out of the bushes.
We also saw the Nazca and red-footed boobies nesting in the bushes and on the ground. While some were building nests or sitting on their nests, we also got to see baby boobies being fed. It was pretty cool. However, the height of the morning for me was that as we hiked across the lava fields, we found an owl hiding in the lava crevices hunting for its prey. We stalked it long enough, we even got to see it leave its hiding place to attempt an attack.
Then we returned to the ship to do some some snorkeling off the pangas. The snorkeling was pretty awesome, and the water was about 78 degrees. Jim got to see a manta ray, but I was elsewhere. I had fun helping one of our tour members overcome her apprehension, so we could expose her to the wonders of the undersea world. Some of the seal lions came very close to us and played around where we were snorkeling. How cool!
We returned to the ship for lunch, and the Captain moved the ship to another part of the island, where we went to see more boobies and frigates, and to see if we could spot some fur seals. Score on all three counts! We had a wet landing this time on a small secluded beach where we were the only people. right away, we saw some nesting red-footed boobies. This part of the island has completely different terrain than our landing site this morning, with lots of tide pools, low mangrove trees, sandy beaches, and lots of cactus. In some of the larger tide pools, we could see small sting rays flitting around, and as we looked over, there was a baby fur seal playing in a rock crevice!
We walked along the beach and saw hundreds of frigate birds, all puffed up and looking for their mates. There were also jillions of Sally Lightfoot crabs, which are so attractive with their bright orange and blue coloring. Finally, we took advantage of the lovely secluded beach, and took a plunge while we were waiting for the pangas to come to take us back our floating home. tomorrow promises to be another great day!