Galapagos Day 3: Espanola excursions (trying not to trip over the iguanas!)

Galapagos Islands Travel Blog

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Look at that face!

Last night was our first night onboard, so I think the ocean should have given us a break. But that was not the case... we rocked the night away. Luckily, I didn't feel seasick, just annoyed that the bed kept moving. It was hard to sleep, although Steve was helped greatly by a anti-motion tablet.

After an early (and really good) buffet breakfast we all boarded two Zodiacs bound for Gardner Bay on the island of Espanola. The beach -- which seemed like white sugar, but it was actually pulvarized white coral -- was COVERED in sunbathers. More Galapagos sea lions, of course! Daniel walked us down the beach, stopping frequently for informative lectures about the species. Very interesting. He then let us explore on our own (within boundaries, as the park service limits where humans can and cannot tred).
I think the Iguana could use some moisturizer...
At the end of the beach I spotted my first Marine Iguana, still as a statue and splayed out on the sand. They have to sun themselves frequently to stay warm and tend to really stretch out for maximum exposure. Near him were several other iguanas, and we excited tourists clustered together, snapping photos like crazy. As if they were going to run away or something. The iguanas stared and blinked, but otherwise didn't move. Bizarre looking creatures. No one knows why they are red.

Steve was still kind of dazed by the anti-motion pill he had taken and opted out of the next excursion -- snorkeling at Gardner Island. The water was deeper here, and colder than yesterday. Jumping in was quite a shock to the system! After just a few minutes we were joined by two sea lions -- they are so playful! I could swim with these guys every day and would never grow tired of their antics.
Sea lions and snorkelers, playful as ever.
I didn't last long today, though.  It was too cold, so I got out of the water after they left. The others in our group snorkeled into  a large cave where another guide was playing with a sea lion. He would swim down deep and do a somersault, then the sea lion would mimic his actions. I am sorry I missed that show!

After lunch and "siesta time" (most of us read on the sun deck) (Steve was STILL passed out), we had another excursion. This stop was at Suarez Point, on the other end of Espanola. The ground there was blanketed by iguanas (we had to watch where we were walking lest we trip over one!), and sea lions roamed freely as usual. Right away we noticed a couple of dead baby sea lions. We speculated that maybe this island was unhealthy for them or something, but Daniel explained that the babies die on every island (sometimes when the mom goes fishing she gets eaten instead.
The perpetually perplexed Blue Footed Booby.
If the mom dies, so does the baby), but the tide usually takes away the bodies. The tide here does not reach this beach, so the carcasses are left to rot. Bummer.

The path we followed from the beach was very rocky, and I quite nearly fell down when I saw the first Blue Footed Booby sitting RIGHT on the path. Oh, I just love these birds! They have a perpetually perplexed countenance, and of course, those cute blue feet. We walked right alongside many of them, including some who were sitting on eggs, seemingly right out in the open. (Wouldn't a nest be handy, and more comfortable? Instead, they perch right on the rocky ground). They always looked at us with mild curiosity, and never moved out of our way.

We saw many other birds as well.
"What are we looking at?" "I have no idea. I thought you knew."
I do not typically get into bird watching like this, but it's so easy and fun here because they aren't afraid of humans. It was so interesting! We saw many Red-billed Tropicbirds, which nest in the cliffs. When they return home it looks like they are slamming into the cliff at high speed! They are pretty easy to identify, even for me, with a bright white body and a long tail.

We also met the Wave Albatross, a bird that spends up to four year years in a row at sea, returning to land only when it is time to mate. We were thrilled to spot several babies (again, they nest right next to the walking path and don't seem to mind the tourist traffic at all). The babies are big, brown, and ugly, appearing to be no relation at all to their sleeker parents.
Surprised to see each other? No, just a bizarre mating ritual. (Note the baby in the front between them).
We saw one happy family practicing their courtship. The mom and dad dueled with their beaks, then they would open wide, move to the left, move to the right... do a funny walk. They were hilarious! The baby sat nearby, presumably taking notes for when he finds a mate.

Funny enough, the albatross does not seem to be particularily adept at landing. Many times they would first do a fly-by to check out the situation. Sometimes they would abort on final approach for a go-round. And to take off, they need to plunge off a cliff and catch the wind... we saw one funny albatross waddling along the tourist path from inland, looking for a cliff, I guess.  I just can't explain how incredible it was to see these animals close up like this, unphased by our observations. I love it, love it, love it here!

The evening followed the same pattern as before -- we had some time for relaxing, a long discussion with Daniel (who lectured on human presence on the islands in preparation for our visit to Floreana tomorrow), then a great dinner.
John and Bill check out the baby Albatross.
Then... collapsing on the (still rocking) bed from sheer exhaustion.  What a great big, wonderful day.

lauro says:
youre blog is one of my favorites!
Posted on: Sep 29, 2008
cmgervais says:
Thank you!
The subject matter was pretty spectacular.
Posted on: Sep 29, 2008
lauro says:
you have amazing pics here!!!!
Posted on: Sep 29, 2008
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Look at that face!
Look at that face!
I think the Iguana could use some …
I think the Iguana could use some…
Sea lions and snorkelers, playful …
Sea lions and snorkelers, playful…
The perpetually perplexed Blue Foo…
The perpetually perplexed Blue Fo…
What are we looking at?
I have…
"What are we looking at?" "I hav…
Surprised to see each other? No, j…
Surprised to see each other? No, …
John and Bill check out the baby A…
John and Bill check out the baby …
Misty Espanola.
Misty Espanola.
The days adventures.
The day's adventures.
Great breakfast!
Great breakfast!
Our ride awaits.
Our ride awaits.
On the way to Espanola.
On the way to Espanola.
Landing on Espanola.
Landing on Espanola.
Sea lions bark, yelp, bleat, and g…
Sea lions bark, yelp, bleat, and …
The Seaman II.
The Seaman II.
Synchronized stretching.
Synchronized stretching.
Mother and baby.
Mother and baby.
Sea lions drink sea water, and exc…
Sea lions drink sea water, and ex…
Mockingbird.
Mockingbird.
Sleep, yawn, then back to sleep ag…
Sleep, yawn, then back to sleep a…
Sunbathers on Gardner Bay.
Sunbathers on Gardner Bay.
Do you see why I just cant stop t…
Do you see why I just can't stop …
Finch.
Finch.
Mockingbird, practically underfoot.
Mockingbird, practically underfoot.
Thats right, I am king of the bea…
That's right, I am king of the be…
Mockingbird.
Mockingbird.
Sandy baby.
Sandy baby.
Sea lion pile up.
Sea lion pile up.
Our group at Gardner Bay.
Our group at Gardner Bay.
Marine Iguana.
Marine Iguana.
OK, one more shot.
OK, one more shot.
Sally Lightfoot Crab.
Sally Lightfoot Crab.
Lady, stop staring!
Lady, stop staring!
They are either playing or we are …
They are either playing or we are…
Awww.
Awww.
Sleepy baby.
Sleepy baby.
Having a pleasant dream?
Having a pleasant dream?
Bleating for his mom!
Bleating for his mom!
Me trying to escape sunburn.
Me trying to escape sunburn.
Me with the seal lions.
Me with the seal lions.
Ready for the plunge.
Ready for the plunge.
Sea lion at play.
Sea lion at play.
Sea lion at play.
Sea lion at play.
Two sea lions check out us snorkel…
Two sea lions check out us snorke…
Come back!
Come back!
Cloud of fish.
Cloud of fish.
The cave... too chilly for me.
The cave... too chilly for me.
Swimming Iguana.
Swimming Iguana.
Not the prettiest animal on the pl…
Not the prettiest animal on the p…
Lava lizard.
Lava lizard.
Suarez Point on Espanola Island.
Suarez Point on Espanola Island.
Peek a boo.
Peek a boo.
A nesting Booby.
A nesting Booby.
Preening for the camera.
Preening for the camera.
Curious Albatross.
Curious Albatross.
Our group watches the albatrosses …
Our group watches the albatrosses…
Can you believe they are related?
Can you believe they are related?
Red Billed Tropicbird. This was a …
Red Billed Tropicbird. This was a…
There is a bird in there somewhere…
There is a bird in there somewher…
Snake!
Snake!
Hawk!
Hawk!
A Red Billed Tropicbird hanging ou…
A Red Billed Tropicbird hanging o…
Albatross, coming in for a landing…
Albatross, coming in for a landin…
Abandoned Albatross egg.
Abandoned Albatross egg.
Lava lizard.
Lava lizard.
Blue-eyed Dove.
Blue-eyed Dove.
Was possibly the model for the Big…
Was possibly the model for the Bi…
Bizarre mating ritual of the Wave …
Bizarre mating ritual of the Wave…
Baby Hawk.
Baby Hawk.
The father Hawk tends to the baby.…
The father Hawk tends to the baby…
This is how they keep warm.
This is how they keep warm.
A Marine Iguana hug.
A Marine Iguana hug.
Inquisitive Mockingbird, kept scre…
Inquisitive Mockingbird, kept scr…
The darker the blue, the more attr…
The darker the blue, the more att…
Guide Daniel at the Blow Hole on S…
Guide Daniel at the Blow Hole on …
Me and Steve at Suarez Point on Es…
Me and Steve at Suarez Point on E…
Galapagos Islands
photo by: Melboorn