Soaring Wonders and a Giant Blowhole
The Galapagos Islands Aboard the Millennium
Man am I cold!! We just got back from snorkeling and it was very chilly. Normally, the sun is out and helps to warm you as you float around gazing at wildlife, but today there was no sun in sight. I can't speak enough kind words about my wetsuit today. Adam must have been freezing...
This morning we had a wet landing at Gardner Bay on Espanola where there is a large sea lion colony. I would have to say that these guys were the definite highlight of this landing.
For some reason, this colony had quite a bit more young sea lions than the previous colonies we had seen. I guess it goes without saying that with youth comes energy and curiousity.
The young sea lions had no issue waddling right up to you and sniffing your leg. I guess if they liked what they smelled, they'd plop right down at your feet and lay down, because that's what several did to myself and Sarah, one half of the German couple that was with us. If the sea lions had an ounce of timidness in their bones, they weren't showing it!! This allowed Adam to get some great close-up shots.
Just like the sea lions, the Galapagos Mockingbirds are not afraid to get right in your face, literally. One of them tried repeatedly to hop up onto Adam's back when he was squatting down to take a picture.
Snorkeling today, as mentioned before, was cold. But, that was quickly forgotten when we were joined by five to ten sea lions that were in the mood to play. It was funny to watch Jaime dive down below the water and imitate the sea lions. When Jaime did this, it made the sea lions even more playful. A couple of times I swear I was within an inch of getting a sea lion kiss!
I can't wait for this afternoon; Jaime says it's his favorite landing on the whole trip.
Punta Suarez was fantastic!! Our dry landing was extremely diffcult going into big waves and then it was a hard walk all along rocks, but we saw Nazca boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropicbirds, many types of finches, and the Waved Albatross. Almost all of the world's 15,000 nesting pairs make their home on this island. Their wingspan can reach in excess of 7 feet; they are absolutely enormous!! I'll get back to the Albatross in a minute; let me tell you about the hike.
From our disembarkation point, we made our way along the shore to an area where there were large cliffs. It was a perfect nesting spot for numerous species of birds. We also walked right along a sandy area of the beach where the marine iguanas made their nests. From there, we made our way slightly inland to see the multiple nests of the Waved Albatross. I had heard of their immense wing span, so I was surprised to see that when on the ground, they were about the size of a swan. It wasn't until I saw one flying low overhead that I was absolutely floored by its wingspan!! Jaime explained that these birds have been known to glide for forty-eight hours without flapping their wings once!
We continued to walk through the nesting area. Off in the distance Adam noticed a rainbow that kept appearing and disappearing. It wasn't until we got closer that we noticed the water forming the rainbow was from a blowhole that had been made in the rocks from the waves continually smashing into them for thousands of years. As we neared the blowhole we began to realize just how high it reached. I'd say that with a good wave, the water that was ejected out of this hole easily reached over 100 feet in the air. Jaime decided that we would sit here for awhile to take the sights in; what a tranquil place.
After the stop, we continued along the cliffs to what was called "The Runway." This spot was a flat surface that led up to the edge of the cliff where the Albatross would take off from. Some of the Albatross would walk hundreds of yards just to get to this place, where a strong headwind and a steep drop-off aided in their launch into the air. I can only describe their take-offs as something like a hanglider. The Albatross would line themselves up perpendicular to the cliff, extend their wings, get a running start, and launch themselves off the edge. Very entertaining to watch!!
Making our way back inland, we came upon a dense Albatross nesting area. It was here where we witnessed their mating dance. What a sight it was! A male and female would stand facing each other and begin by clacking their beaks together. They would then raise their heads, open their beaks, pause, then bring their heads back down and clack their beaks once again. I'm not doing the dance/ritual justice, you should just check out the video I shot. Ignore my laughing; I just couldn't help it.
After witnessing this dance several times, we headed back to the boat for our debriefing and dinner.
Next day - Cormorant Point (Floreana) and Post Office Bay (Floreana)