Friday, December 14, 2007

Day 4 Galapogas

We started today with a wet landing at Bachas Beach on Santa Cruz for a hike and flamingo search. During the hike our guide told us more about sea turtles. Again, we feel like we are in the middle of a live Discovery Channel show. He showed us the location of many sea turtle nests and we observed the tracks of the mother's path in the sand. In one case, the guide said that the paths were made just this past night and this morning. The paths were so clear that you could easily distinguish the path taken from the ocean up to the nesting area and the separate return path.

We visited two different brackish lagoons. At the first, there were no flamingos. At the second, there were two. We also saw other birds - black necked stilts, white cheeked pintail ducks, and sandpipers. Back at the beach, we watched a couple large great blue herons. We chose not to swim and returned to the ship for lunch and naps.

In the afternoon, we took an hour-plus long zodiac ride to view Bartolome Island. Oh my gosh!!! Right away we saw Galapogas penguins. These are the most northern residing penguins. In total throughout the zodiac ride, we viewed about 20 penguins.

The geology here is quite unique. We observed many volcanic cones which have been exposed by erosion - allowing us to see the central solidified lava flow. We saw cinder cones and small lava tunnels. It was very interesting to be able to see the various levels in the formation of the island.

We then floated out to a small island loaded with blue-footed boobies. It is great fun watching them dive for food. The boobie will soar high in the air scouting the water for food - small fish. Then, the bird will tuck its wings and become like a bullet diving straight into the water. Definitely a high score for diving form and no splash. One after another - splash, splash, splash - we watched as the birds dived - sometimes only a few feet from our zodiac.

In addition, there are schools of some kind of green fish - I didn't get the name of the fish. The schools of the 20 to 24 inch fish number around 50 to 100 each - and we are surrounded by schools of the fish. They are coming to the surface with the mouths open - so I assume they are eating some kind of insect or fly at the water surface.

After watching this for a while, we begin our return ride. Upon entering a small cove where some will climb out to swim or snorkel, our sailor notices a commotion and moves closer. Wow! There is a white-tipped shark half on the beach. Apparently the shark literally throws itself onto the beach in an attempt to grab prey. In this case, we assume the shark had been after a sea lion just beyond its reach. The shark wiggles its body until it gets back into the water. We watch as it swims back and forth - apparently contemplating another attempt. But, it seems to give up and swims away.

This afternoon has been fabulous. Penguins, diving blue-footed boobies, a shark trying to take prey on the beach - wow. We also saw more sea lions, crabs and marine iguanas - but, believe it or not, they have become so commonplace that we hardly notice.

We have been so many places where the goal is to see wildlife but where it takes good eyes and hard work to spot something. Here, the wildlife if literally just sitting there to be seen.

We can't believe that our trip is already half over. But, we have perhaps already seen as much wildlife in a few days as most of our other wildlife trips combined. Can't wait so see what tomorrow will bring. I hear that we may see four-foot long marine iguanas.

Take care.

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