Monday evening after dinner, we pulled anchor and traveled in a south easterly direction towards Espanola. http://www.ecuadorexplorer.com/html/galapagos_interactive_map.html
It became apparent that the ship’s ‘start up’ was a pain the you-know-what, because each time the engines started humming, fuses would blow and the lights would go out! Now, if you were lucky enough to be on the sun deck before this happened, it became a magical experience as it was pitch black and the stars dripped like diamonds in the sky.
The big and little dipper continued to hang upside down, no matter how many drinks one had!
Enough about last night, this is the morning of our last full day in paradise! The schedule was posted and we were looking forward to land activities as well as sea activities.
There’s a photo of the breakfast buffet. You can see that there was no shortage of food!! It was fun to sample various fruit grown in Ecuador.
We were going to have an exciting day, snorkeling in Gardner Bay in the morning and hiking around Punta Suarez in the afternoon. Fish and birds, what more could one ask for!!
Like ‘ol pros, we gathered our equipment and promptly boarded the dinghy anticipating a wet landing onto a sandy beach.
The sight of the beach was spectacular, and those fat ‘ol sea lions made no effort to get up or get out of our way.
The “Traveler’s Guide to the Galapagos Islands” by Barry Boyce turned out to be a good purchase as he offered insights / advice for all of the visitor’s sites in the Galapagos.
This island is known as the ‘gateway’ into and out of the Galapagos islands for many seabirds. We were too early for the nearly 10,000 Waved Albatross that were due in April (my one disappointment).
But we did see other birds such as the Galapagos Dove (#908) and also watched a hermit crab (#902) in a very pretty shell scoot around the beach.
Our guide gave us the option of staying on the beach a little longer or climbing into the dinghies to go deep water snorkeling. We emphatically elected to try another snorkeling site. (#979).
When we returned to the boat, the moment I had dreaded had arrived.
Liz said “give me your equipment, you won’t be needing it anymore.” :o(
We had 4 hours until our next excursion, so we took the time to hang our laundry up on deck, read, have lunch & travel to our next site, Punta Suarez which is on the west side of Hood Island.
Hood Island / Espanola is the oldest southernmost island in the Galapagos. Since this location is so remote, some of the species are quite different from the species on the other islands and creatures such as the Waved Albatross, Hood Mockingbird (#67, 69) and Lava Lizards (#117) are endemic to Hood Island itself.
We were prepared for a dry landing and were just nicely settled in the dinghy when suddenly ‘mama’ Liz climbed aboard and decided to join us.
Our arrival at Punta Suarez had to be the most memorable landing of the entire trip. Not only were we greeted by all types of critters, but our guide actually ‘encouraged us’ to take our time & take pictures.
We were greeted by a variety of birds such as the ‘balding’ Yellow-crowned night heron (#58), the Galapagos Hawk (#70), and the Hood Mockingbird (#78). They literally posed for photos.
Since we returned from our trip, I’ve checked out other photo sites by people who were there a few years back and have seen similar photos of the same species of birds! Do you think these creatures have been ‘conditioned’ over the years to pose for photographs – would Darwin consider this an adaptive response to humans with one visible eye, crouched down on bended knee?
I’m trying to imagine 18th century whalers standing where we stood!
Needless to say the many sea lions were on display, but nothing prepared me for the sight of the marine iguanas!
Boyce talked about the remoteness of the island and how there was a “high degree of species differentiation”.
Nothing was more apparent than the colors of the marine iguanas.
They looked like Christmas ornaments with their bright colors of red and green / aquamarine. They were larger than the other marine iguanas and there was no way they blended in with the lava rocks (#34, 37).
Even the Lava Lizards (#116, 117) were different from the others we had seen on other islands. These lizards were larger and the female’s red coloring was more pronounced.
We spent a long time there and had no idea what was in store for us as we reluctantly left the posing animals and birds to follow the guide.
We navigated the trail and found ourselves climbing up towards some cliffs (#133). We were on our way to see the newly named Nazca Boobies (#163)!! They were formerly known as “Masked” Boobies.
Is it my imagination or does there seem to be a lot of species / sub species identification going on?
Onwards and upwards, and I was right behind the guide when we came to a young Nasca Boobie whose neck and head was drooped over the edge of a rock (#175).
My immediate reaction was “Oh! No! He’s dead”!! I asked if he was dead and said “No, he’s sleeping”.
I no sooner confirmed that we did indeed have a live chick here when the baby woke up and responded to mom’s preening.
During this time you folks were catching up to us :o) and all the while the guide was talking, the baby was enjoying mom’s attention.
However; it was obvious that his neck& head was too heavy because, before long, his eyelids started to droop and lo and behold his head was hanging over the edge of the rock once more. (# 184, 206, 211)
At this moment Sharyn caught my attention and asked me if I had seen the newly hatched chick! Newly hatched chick? Where?
She helped me get into position, which was ~ 2 -3 feet away from mom ……… absolutely unreal!
The chick was nekkid, the egg shells were nearby and mom stood over it and had him on top of her feet to help control his temperature (#213, 214 & 215)
We continued on the path and were appreciative of Liz’s help. She stopped to show us things / answer our questions.
You’ll notice that there are several photos of the Nazca Boobie juvenile. There were a lot of young birds along the way. I thought they were rather ugly.
Their location high up on cliffs is not coincidence. They are a larger bird and need some assistance from the wind when taking flight.
We also found out that the Boobies will only raise one chick, and will go so far as to have the chicks fight each other to the bloody end, usually it’s the older chick that is meant to survive. They call this siblicide.
We followed the path until we reached the shore. There the Blue-footed Boobies were positioned to bid us farewell.
I have lasting memories of a male Blue-footed Boobie desperately trying to woo his lady, only to be shunned by her walking away from him.
That did not seem to bother him because Liz was crouched down wanting to take his picture …… he thought that she was pretty cool and started his mating dance in front of her and her camera.
After watching the sunset, the uniformed staff joined us for our farewell cocktail party. It was sad to be leaving, as this adventure was incredible.
Everyone was leaving except the new couple who joined us on Sunday.
Dinner was very good as usual. I do believe we had squid.
We made it an early night as we had packing to do as well as preparing for our last tour in the morning. We were going to the Highlands to see turtles in the wild and had an incredible experience ahead of us.