Saturday in the Galapagos Islands
I entered the dining room at 6:55 a.m. and I was the only one there! Must’ve been a rough night for everyone and they were all sleeping in! Strangely empty and quiet. Sergey, the Ukrainian, arrived at 7 on the button, and then the others started showing up.
Tatiana called us all together before breakfast and announced the news: Chile had just had an 8.8 earthquake and the Navy had ordered all the ships to leave coastal areas and head for deeper water until further notice. Our yacht was underway as she was speaking. We all had breakfast and discussed the possibilities of a tsunami and what it would look like to us. After about an hour she said our Captain had heard that we could follow our regular itinerary, so we all got ready for the first snorkel of the day as the yacht headed for the coast.
Once the yacht was back nearer to shore of Isla Champion (a small islet just off the coast of Isla Floreana), we donned our life jackets and boarded the “panga” for a ride to the cliffside of a large outcropping of lava rock. There was a fair amount of current at this area, but once overboard and into the water, we had visibility of at least 100 feet. There was not as much particulate matter in this location, and it was stunning. Saw so many fish I can’t remember all the species, but there were parrotfish of every color, sea turtle, tube fish on some sort, electric blue fish, and many that are in the fish guides and many that aren’t. It was truly wonderful! Also saw both a black-tipped and white-tipped reef shark. The white-tipped shark was probably at least 7’ long, whereas the black-tipped was probably only about 4’ long. Saw tons of star fish on the bottom, plus a bright purple skinny legged one. I tried to remember every fish I saw, but when looking through the guide books for pictures and names, they all looked so different.
Back onto the yacht via the “panga”, we showered and freshened up while the yacht motored down the coast of Isla Floreana to a place called “Post Office”. This is where, during the years after Charles Darwin, travelers would leave post cards (sans stamps) and other travelers coming by would check the postcard stash to see if there were any to be delivered in the direction they were going. If there were, those secondary travelers would hand deliver the previous traveler’s mail. The tradition has continued, so we “panga’d” over to the area, landed, and walked into the unique “Post Office” area. We were each handed a stack of post cards to look through and see if there were any we could hand deliver, or at last resort stick a stamp on and send once we’re home. Somebody from California had just left tons of postcards for all their friends in CA, so I ended up with probably 12 postcards to either hand deliver or stick a stamp on! What a hoot! Of course I left one at the post office, too – for Mom! I have more postcards for the rest of my family, but I wanted to make sure everyone really got one, so those I am sending from home, including another one for Mom.
After the postcards, we jumped into our snorkel gear and dashed into the lovely water. We saw a penguin swimming around right near us, and a small sea lion, and a good-sized sea turtle, and many more fish of every kind. There was also a blue-footed boobie watching all our antics. The water is such an azure blue that you feel like you’ve really entered an ideal heaven. Except for the king-size horse flies that think you are the best thing they’ve tasted since the last touristas. One of our group, the Italian man, got bit three times very badly, and one of the welts swelled up to two-inches in diameter!
I finally tired of snorkeling – the visibility was not as good here as during the earlier morning outing, so I swam in to the beach and started exploring by foot the side areas to the cove. Believe it or not, there is a soccer field and a bench and quite a bit of litter just behind some bushes from where we snorkeled! What a shock! I told Tatiana later, and she said it is where the crews of some of these tourist boats play in teams against each other when they have the time and no tourists on board! I mentioned they should at least pick up their litter, but she didn’t respond. Sheesh! It’s so typical of what one sees everywhere. Sell the front, don’t check behind the curtain.
Back on the yacht, we freshened up again and had lunch – starting with spinach soup and popcorn, then shrimp and pepper steak and lots of veggies, finishing with a bowl of sweetened peaches (probably canned) for dessert. Pretty delish!
The yacht changed location again and was positioned just off Punta Cormorant. Around 2:30 we all panga’d to the green silica beach and hiked inland to see the flamingos. The inland shallow lake is brackish – part fresh water and some salt water influence from the tides. The flamingos originally flew here from Florida, and decided they liked it, and stayed. Tourista Flamingos! It happened a long time ago, so now they’re considered indigenous.
Tatiana gave us some human history of Isla Floreana, regarding the first people who came here (Germans), and the intrigue that occurred during their stay (murder by poisoning, etc.). We hiked on around the small lake, and the path headed downward and we were back at the ocean again – a lovely white sandy beach where the sea turtles lay their eggs. There was one lone bachelor sea lion, and we also saw several golden rays and sea turtles as dark shapes in the water. Lots of colorful orange, red and blue crabs scurried over the beach and lava rock, and frigate birds winged overhead checking for buried eggs.
We turned around and headed back up the same trail and were met by another tour group coming in. Tatiana took us on another short trail to an area right on the side of the lake where the flamingos were within a stone’s throw. After a short time there of photo opportunities and gawking, we went back to our snorkel bags at the beach edge and donned our gear – this was my last snorkel for my Galapagos trip. It was excellent!
The water started off with not much visibility, but as we got further out along the cliffside we got up to about 70’ visibility. Saw a sea snake digging its way into the sand until it disappeared, puffer fish, trumpet fish, sea turtle, incredible star fish, camouflaged fish, and so many more – I am in the process of IDing them.
Finally, we had to head back – the rest of the group had already returned to the beach and Kristina and I were the last ones out. We headed back and saw a two baby flounders, and lots more interesting fish. Loaded into the “pangas” and got back to the yacht. We were met with snacks and juice. This time in the snack department there were meat and cheese in fried pouches. They were delicious.
Took yet another shower and this time washed all the salt out of my hair – it’s the last time I’ll shower before returning to Quito. And it’s such a great shower – the best I’ve had my whole time in Ecuador – better than any in hostels I’ve stayed. Took a cervesa up to the top deck and started getting eveyone’s email address while the most spectacular sunset was under way.
Tatiana gave us a briefing again before dinner regarding tomorrow’s activities, especially for those of us leaving, and we had a complimentary cocktail again from the bar. We toasted everyone – Tatiana, the crew, the bartender, and each other. What a great group it’s been! Then dinner was brought to the buffet! A beautiful roast Turkey, quite well decorated with carved colorful veggies, and lots of yummy hot dish vegetables and potatoes and even green beans that were excellent! I was very impressed and we all ate quite heartily. For dessert an incredible chocolate cake with chocolate icing was served! What a great way to end this trip to the Galapagos – the “last supper” was superb!The rest of the evening was taken up with the details of preparing for Sunday’s departure. There was tipping the crew and guide, paying off the bar bill, catching up the journal, packing, checking flight times and making sure I still had all the proper legal paperwork to fly and pass customs, of which there is a bit. And we had to set our clocks early as we have one more hike tomorrow – Sunday – before those of us leaving must depart. We have to rise at 5 a.m. tomorrow and be on deck ready to board the “panga” by 6.