Little Birds in Tuxedos and a Battle over Food
The Galapagos Islands Aboard the Millennium
Just waking up from a nap while our boat refuels at Baltra Island. Next stop: Seymour Island. Before I fill you in about that though, let me tell you about Bartolome.
I awoke this morning and went about my usual routine of getting coffee and heading up to the sun deck before breakfast. When I arrived on the deck, I couldn't help but feeling a sense of deja vu. We were anchored right off of Bartolome and the scenery was all too familiar. Not only is this spot the most common scenery shot on post cards of the Galapagos, it was featured in the movie, "Master and Commander." I took in the scenery for the next ten or so minutes before heading back down for a quick breakfast and to board our panga.
Our panga didn't just head right to our dry landing today; we went penguin hunting. Jaime had explained to us the night before that, if we were lucky, we may see a penguin as we headed towards the island. As we were traveling towards a cliff-face, Adam noticed that there was a small object standing on the rocks below. The panga moved us closer and closer, and we soon realized that the object was nothing other than the only penguin known to live at areas north of the Equator. I had been waiting the whole trip to see a penguin and here it was, only a few feet in front of me, posing for our photo shoot. We stayed around this little guy for about five minutes before departing towards our disembarkation point.
I was just coming down from the excitment of seeing a penguin in the wild when Jaime pointed to three little bumps moving steadily along the water's surface towards our boat; it was three penguins swimming!! They swam right past our panga and awkwardly climbed/slid their little bodies up onto a nearby rock. The total number of penguins on this rock quickly went from three to five as two of their buddies soon joined them. Our two pangas spent the next 10 minutes maneuvering around this rock trying to get the best viewing angle possible before heading, again, towards the rock dock at Bartolome.
We disembarked onto Bartolome for a 360 step ascent to the top of a long dormant volcano to get a better view of the surrounding area. At the top, Adam snapped a few shots of the surrounding islands (and had pictures taken of us) before we headed back down to snorkel.
We jumped into the water around the corner from where we had spotted the penguin, and before I knew it, Adam had disappeared as he made a beeline towards where we had last seen the penguins. By the time I had caught up to him, he was scouring the waters near the penguin sighting. It was about this time that we heard a shout from one of the Belgians on board; he had found a penguin!!
We swam over to where he was to take pictures and videos of our close encounter with a penguin in the water. Adam and I spent the next 10 mintues following this guy around, enjoying this rare encounter (especially for a couple from NY) with a penguin in its natural habitat.
After a while, Adam let me know that he was getting cold and climbed up into the waiting panga; I wasn't ready to head back (did I mention that unlike Adam, I was smart enough to stay warm in a wetsuit). No sooner had Adam finished climbing into the boat when another member of our group started yelling "Shark, Shark!!" I swam towards him as fast as I could and when I looked down there was a white-tipped reef shark swimming below me!! It's so funny to look back on the situation now and wonder where my fear of water and sharks had gone. When someone screams "shark", aren't you usually supposed to swim in the opposite direction? Then again, nothing is "usual" about the Galapagos. For the next few moments, any fears I had had were completely overshadowed at the amazing sight I was now viewing. I was chasing a shark in water!!
The shark, being much quicker than me in the water, soon disappeared out of sight and I made my way to the panga with yet another amazing snorkeling session under my belt.
Wow... Our group really has been lucky so far - watching a hawk hunt, a manta ray sighting, swimming with sharks, frigate birds on the boat, sea turtles, etc..., and now an iguana fight!! That's right, I said it, an iguana fight!! Let me tell you the story...
We had a dry landing at Seymour Island to see blue-footed boobies and frigate birds nesting, but saw so much more!! As we were walking along the trail looking at all the male frigate birds making their nests and inflating their big, red neck sacs, we stumbled upon a large, male land iguana. Our group began taking pictures as he made his way towards a bush where another male land iguana was enjoying a late lunch.
The larger iguana approached and they both started quickly bobbing their heads to warn the other that they were not happy. I asked Jaime if they would fight, but he said no seeing as it wasn't mating season and the argument was only over food. Well, in this case Jaime couldn't have been more wrong!!
The two iguanas moved into position next to each other with one's head nearing the other's hind leg and vice-versa. They began circling around each other hissing, trying to grab the other's hind leg. This fighting 'dance' continued for several minutes until the larger one gained the advantage by finally grabbing the other iguana's hind leg in his mouth. As soon as he got ahold of the leg, he began to violently shake the other iguana. The other iguana would have none of this and quickly retreated away from the bush; he may not have won this fight, but he would live to see another day. What an amazing experience!!
Once the fight was over, we continued along the trail to witness blue-footed boobies doing their mating dances and feeding their young. Adam was shocked at how close you could get to these nests and the boobies acted as if you weren't even there. Time seemed to fly as we walked along the trail, absorbing all the sights it had to offer. Before I knew it, the group was back at the dock ready to head back to the boat.
Next day - Lobos Island and San Cristobal