November 27th, 2008 – by: gwmccull
This morning we headed to James Bay on Santiago Island. We saw a lot of sea lions and even some Galapagos Fur Seals. Galapagos Fur Seals are not true seals. They are actually a species of sea lion but they were hunted for their fur once upon a time. Galapagos Fur Seals look pretty similar to Galapagos sea lions. The main difference is the nose is a bit more squashed and the fur is darker and longer than the sea lion. They are also mostly nocturnal so when we saw them they were sleeping.
We saw the funniest juvenile sea lion today. It was energetically swimming around a shallow tide pool chasing fish. The tide pool was so shallow the sea lion wasn't even fully submerged. The fish it was chasing were a type of puffer fish that has no spines.
When caught, the puffer swells up with air so that it can't be swallowed. This forms the perfect ball for a young sea lion to play with. Ours would grab the puffer-fish ball up in its mouth and squeeze it hard so that it would squeak. Then it'd slap the ball down on the water so that it'd bounce a bit. We watched it play for quite a while, oblivious to all the surrounding tourists with their cameras. We never did see the sea lion eat any of the puffer fish. Generally, it would lose its 'toy' every 5 minutes or so and have to find a new one.
We also saw sea turtles and marine iguanas. We got to watch as some of the marine iguanas swam out to sea to feed. If you're not familiar with marine iguanas, what they do is after warming up on the hot rocks, they swim out into the ocean, dive down and gnaw at the algae & seaweed growing on the ocean floor.
Rabida Island red sand beach with tourists
The iguanas in the Galapagos are the only ones in the world that do this. In the process of feeding they ingest large amounts of salt. To get rid of the salt, the marine iguanas let out these big snorts where they blow concentrated salt water out. It looks like they´re sneezing out big salty boogers! Some of the salt water falls back down on the iguana's head, forming a white, salty crust. Ewwww, they have crusty boogers on their heads!
Santiago Island is a fairly young island so it still has large swathes of black lava rock and it has black sand beaches.
After the island tour, I went snorkeling again. This time I saw a whole bunch of sea turtles. They were all feeding on the sea weed in the relatively shallow water.
At one point, I looked around and counted 8 sea turtles! I also saw an octopus. It was firmly attached to a rock on the bottom of the ocean but the funny thing was the fish that was harassing it. The little fish would swim to one side of the octopus and give it a nibble and the octopus would shrug it off with swing of a tentacle. Then the fish would swim to the other side of the octopus and give it a nibble and the octopus would swing another tentale to shoo it away. Then the fish would swim to the other side....well, you get the picture. That little fish harassed that poor octopus for at least 5-10 minutes before I got bored and left. No doubt the fish continued.
After lunch we headed to Rábida Island.
Rábida is known for its red sand beaches. This is caused by a high percentage of iron in the lava which has oxidized and turned red. The cacti on Rábida look similar to those on other islands but since there are no land iguanas trying to eat the cacti pads, this species of cactus has soft spines. We also saw a tree called the 'holy stick'. The wood of the tree is pleasant smelling so the locals use it for incense in their churches.
After the tour of Rábida, I went snorkeling again (twice in one day!). I didn't see much new except for a lobster! That was pretty cool.
See videos below!!