Sandy – We started the morning with a great breakfast that included French toast. Every morning we have fresh fruit juice; usually we have no idea what fruit the juice comes from, but it is always tasty. After breakfast we disembarked via the Zodiac to the beautiful sandy beach, loaded with sea lions, at Gardener's Bay on Española. We were intrigued by the territorial war being fought between about a dozen mockingbirds. I have been surprised by the dearth of sea shells on these islands. Apparently they're here but must be seen on dives. This afternoon was, perhaps, the highlight of our trip – an arduous hike on Española at Punta Suarez. We were greeted by lots of sea lions and marine iguanas. These dark iguanas were molting and looked pathetic, and had red areas on their skin from their diet of red algae. They kept sneezing all over each other to rid themselves of excess salt and lay on top of each other in big, smelly piles. Right away we saw frigate birds, mockingbirds and warblers. As we started our walk, a pair of blue-footed Boobies was acting out their mating dance just off the trail. Many gulls and Nazca Boobies were on the rocks. The trail was quite rock strewn and uneven, but Samuel, our excellent guide, said this is the best possible birding trail. John, one of our crew, had come along to help me succeed on this adventure. At this point, my knee was better and allowed me to attempt the hike. John and I got almost half-way until we reached a boulder-filled ravine with a steep downgrade. We turned back toward the beach. Meanwhile, we saw waved albatross doing mating dances- what big, beautiful, amazing birds. We also saw various gulls, Darwin finches and ground doves. Sam was right, the bird life was amazing. It should be noted that fragrant Sandalwood trees are on many of these islands. Back on the boat we watched 3 sea turtles cavorting about 20 -30 feet away.
Leif –A relatively late breakfast started yet another day filled with wonder and excitement in one of the most exotic areas of the world. We boarded the Zodiac and headed for a wet landing on the beach on Española. We saw a colony of at least 40 sea lions snuggling together, waddling around and swimming. Our group was fortunate enough to witness a territorial turf war between two families of Galapagos mockingbirds. Samuel informed us that Española Island is the only place in the world where this behavior can be observed. They continued to fight to within inches from my feet. I stood motionless capturing the whole thing on video until they disbanded and flew away. Compared to this, the rest of our time was uneventful. I found marine iguanas nestled together under a small shrub. I took some pictures but left in a hurry when flies began to swarm around me. We made a quick turn-around before lunch to participate in a snorkeling expedition. I saw sea lions feasting on the millions of small red fish that lined the rocky coast. Our group swam past a partially underwater cave carved into the vertical rock cliff along the coast. We reached a relatively shallow inlet with an abundant amount of multicolored fish. The water became overwhelmingly cold so we swan back to the Zodiac. Once we were on the raft, we headed back for a delicious lunch of baked chicken, cheesy potatoes, salad, fruit, vegetable soup and bread. A full 2 ½ hour break later, we left for a 2-mile hike on Espanola. We found both sand and rocks covered with hundreds of marine iguanas. Patched with red and gray areas on their bodies from their algae diet, these iguanas lay in piles to keep warm. Farther down the trail we were presented with a rare and fascinating sight. We saw the famous blue-footed Booby courting dance. This dance, depending how well it's performed, attracts females during mating season. I was surprised that the male continued the dance while we were present, but Samuel said he must not stop or he will lose the female to another male. We came across hundreds of Nazca Boobies; many had their heads tucked under their wings, appearing headless, and the mighty Albatross. Once we reached the Albatross' mating ground, we were fortunate enough to witness their courting behavior. Both the male and female would walk around in a circle swaying their heads side to side. Then they stand facing each other and begin mimicking a sword fight with their long, hooked beaks. After watching this behavior, we began the mile hike back to the dock by an alternative route. After another wonderful meal and teaching session, I went right to bed.