Galapagos, Santa Fé, South Plaza, Rabida, Santiago, Bartolomé, North Seymour
Landings were made on the islands of Santa Fé and South Plaza mainly to see land iguanas with their yellow and black or brown colouration. They were very photogenic particularly in the red and green vegetation of Plaza. The lava gulls, an endemic species with red rings round their eyes, also provided good photo subjects. Snorkeling from a sandy beach gave us encounters with eagle and goat’s head rays. We were lucky to spot some dolphins on the way between the two islands.
We woke to a view of red cliffs on the island of Rabida. The red colour is caused by oxidation of the lava rock. On landing we first walked past a nesting pelican colony, but marine iguanas were the main object of interest on this day. Particularly in the afternoon on the next island of Santiago at James Bay we could see them in larger numbers and in beautiful settings. They were still smaller than expected but apparently the larger ones are only on a distant still active volcanic island. The same applies to giant tortoises in a dry prickly-pear cactus setting. There were also several types of wading birds including plovers and oyster catchers with their bright red beaks, some of which were accompanied by their young. I was interested to see a large cruise ship with space for 100 passengers. You wonder how they manage when each group of 15 should be accompanied by a guide. WE were glad to be leaving just as they began arriving.
Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé is famous for its view particularly in the early morning light, so we were out before breakfast to get the best of it. The rock is reached by a flight of 370 wooden steps. Afterwards there was another chance to snorkel. We have done quite a lot of snorkling, more than I expected and I have used all five of the old films that I had with my little snorklng camera. There are no corals because the islands are too new, but the rock formations are interesting and covered in anenomaes, barnacles, etc. There are lots of fish including some white tip sharks. Most interesting is to see the sea lions underwater. They swim right up to you sometimes like a torpedo, veering off at the last moment. Even saw a penguin once. Just after we had had lobster for our last lunch I saw the same type underwater. In the late afternoon we landed on North Seymour and stayed there until 6.00pm when one is supposed to leave the uninhabited islands. There were good views of frigatte birds with their red throat sacks. They also escort the boat, hence their name from the first naval boats visiting the islands. The land iguanas were bigger than we had seen before and quite common but do not collect in large groups. Sea lions were all over the place, but the small Galapagos penguins are few and far between.
The ship sailed practically the whole night reaching the small island of Lobos early in the morning. Six people including myself took the opportunity of a short visit to see sea lions and frigate birds before sailing back to San Christobel where we started. We finally disembarked from the ship for the last time and spent the time waiting to be taken to the airport with souvenier purchases and sending e-mails. It is the smaller airport of two on the Galapagos Islands and apparently we were only the second flight of the season when we came. It is the capital but again the smaller of the two towns, the other being Puerto Ayora. The flight took us to Guayquil where we stayed one night in a hotel before returning home. Everybody seems very satisfied with the trip. Some of us returned home directly and some going to the Easter Islands. Two are going to Peru. I was happy to return home after four weeks away.