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A stack of marine iguanas on Fernandina
A stack of marine iguanas on Fernandina
We woke up for a beautiful magenta sunrise, and watched a small shark fin cutting the water next to the boat. After breakfast, the boat anchored off Isla Mosquera (Fly Island), along with four or five other cruise ships. The pangas took us in through the surf to another gorgeous beach, this one a long spit of sand edged with jet-black lava. Here we saw sea lions. They looked like great languid furry sacks as they kept themselves busy sunning, playing in the surf, hanging out, or sunning some more.

We’d been told that by the regulations of the Galapagos National Park, we were not to go closer than six feet to the animals. The animals were not under similar restrictions, it seemed. If we stopped at the appropriate distance to look at them, or take photos, they galumphed over to have a closer peek at us. And I’ll never forget the sound of a baby sea lion nursing on a very relaxed mama.

The black lava at the edges of the beach were covered with Sally Lightfoot crabs, each one a work of art in an oriental shade of red with blue underpinnings. Heaps of black marine iguanas casually lay on top of one another while they enjoyed the sun. A gray lava gull stood by. It’s a real treat to see one, according to Diego, as there are only 400 pairs in the world, all in the Galapagos, of course. Also the eponymous flies, although luckily they were interested only in the sea lions, not us.

The pangas then took us to the Canal Norte on Seymour Island, where we had our first proper bout of snorkeling. I gave up attempting to count different species of fish we saw—at least 40—every one as bright and beautiful as I could have wished. Sea lions came over to investigate, sloshing in and out among the rocks along with the surf and the snorkelers. They are curious, playful, and incredibly fast, agile swimmers.

After lunch, the Angelito motored on to Cerro Dragon, while we passengers lounged comfortably and watched the world go by and chatted. (By the end of the week, all the German-speakers had regained their actually very good English; I gave up trying my schoolgirl German.)

The pangas took us in for a “dry landing”. This meant that we could step from the panga directly onto the rocky shore, with Juan or Fernando or another sturdy crew member taking each one by the wrist to ensure that we couldn’t fall. We hiked through an overgrown pasture that was in the process of returning to its natural state, after the eradication six years ago of all the feral goats on the island. We saw huge orange land iguanas, as big around as your arm. They ignored us completely, but never lost their marvelous scaly smiles. The thin little trees were a-twitter with Darwin finches and mockingbirds, a wonderful sound to someone who had come from a long New England winter.

It was hot on Cerro Dragon, which is what you get during the rainy season when the skies are clear. So when we got back to the Angelito, the crew made time for us to have a swim off the platform at the stern . Then we motored to Rabida Island for the sunset, our nightly briefing with Diego, and supper. Then off to bed.

We were rocked gently in our bunks while through the night we traveled halfway around Isabella, which is by far the largest island in the Galapagos. While we slept, we cruised northwards across the equator, around the northern end of Isabella, then southwards across the equator again and down along the island’s western side—a good night’s work!

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