At breakfast there were some green-looking passengers. One of the passengers who had been on from the previous group told us that that was the worst night so far – that was a big relief. Our first stop was a wet landing in Gardner Bay on Española. As we approached we saw and heard the beach filled with sea lion beach bums. Many were snoozing in groups, young were nursing, some were frolicking in the waves. We saw blue-footed boobies dive-bombing into the water to fish, lava lizards zipping away across the sand as we approached, and a mockingbird hopping after us chirping away. It was a feast for the eyes. Galo had told us the rules were that we could not approach closer than meter, and I thought we would be lucky to get within one meter of any wildlife. I was wrong. The sea lions pretty much didn’t move as we approached. One of them had what looked like a tight collar around it’s neck from getting caught up in garbage left by people in the ocean. We followed the path of a sea turtle who had laid it’s eggs just two or three days before our arrival. Wandering down the beach, we stopped to sit on some rocks and soak it all in.
Snorkeling after lunch, we decided to rent wetsuits so if we thought the water was too cold we could stay in longer and enjoy the view. They were only $30 for the trip. We snorkeled by Isla Tortuga, staying close to the rocky shore. Our initial fear that we would be swept away by strong currents quickly disappeared. There were thousands of small fish in the water, some brightly colored red with yellow stripes. Bigger fish were here and there, spiny sea urchins dotted the floor, and a few sea lions joined us frolicking in the water. Forty-five minutes and time was up – it flew by quickly and we were never cold. We smacked our salty lips as we climbed up into the panga.
In the afternoon, we had a dry landing at Punta Suarez on a beach/rocky area filled with marine iguanas and sea lions. The marine iguanas were everywhere, draped over rocks and each other. The colors surprised me, they were shades of red, pink, turquoise, and green. It was smelly from guano, but the smell soon seemed to disappear just a few minutes after we were there. Sally lightfoot crabs were scuttling over the rocks, their babies still black and hiding from their predators in cracks between the rocks. If we approached, they scuttled quickly away to safety. Lava lizards were playing a game of statue tag. We followed a path that was marked with small wood posts painted black and white through waist high saltbush. Around the first bend was our first view of blue-footed boobies. The male was slowly raising one little blue foot and then the other, doing his mating dance, and we were right there, only a few short meters away! Overhead screeched a group of red-billed tropic birds, red beak with all white feathers ending in a long slender tail feather. They are beautiful in flight but made a loud screeching sound over and over again, announcing their arrival as they wheel past above. As we were watching the blue-footed boobies, a group of tropic birds screeched by overhead, and plop, poop splattered on my hand. As I laughed, Galo told me that if you get pooped on by a bird, it is a sign you will have a lucky day. He was right, it was a I never knew I could get so close to wildlife lucky day indeed.
We continued on our hike and saw Waved albatross’ sitting with their downy chicks. The chicks breathed in and out like a dog panting to help keep them cool. Waved albatrosses mate for life, so we saw many pairs and others waddling by. At one point we stopped and looked in just one direction and saw 14 sitting on their nest.
At the blowhole, we stopped to see it blow, shooting 25 feet into the air with an exploding sound. A Galápagos hawk was perched on a nearby branch, looking majestic like an eagle. We saw many ground finches, a brown pelican, and frigatebirds floated by above, pumping their wings intermittently
As we sat silently on the cliffs edge enjoying our view, Jon commented that this would be a great place for a cottage.