Darwin Lake, Isabela Island
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
15 Days In The Galapagos Islands
We had arrived at Punta Moreno (aka Moreno Point) overnight. Today was Linda's birthday and, after breakfast, we were ready to go. We took the Zodiacs out and did a dry landing.
Moreno Point Lava Walk
The morning’s first excursion was a lava walk. Since the same information that we had heard the prior week (Day 4) was being conveyed again, I admit I wasn’t listening. That was a downside of combining itineraries - the spiels of the guides are repeated for the new guests that hadn’t heard them before.
But at least we were in a new location, and this lava walk had some interesting characteristics. There were saltwater grottoes with green vegetation in the middle of the black lava providing a nice contrast.
And many of those grottoes had fish and birds. We saw more White-cheeked Pintails, another Common Gallinule, and another flamingo.
Eventually, we headed back.
Walking back to the landing spot, I scanned around and noticed that there were five volcanoes surrounding us, four of the five volcanoes on Isabela (Sierra Negra, Darwin, Alcedo, & Cerro Azul), and one on Fernandina Island (which is also named Fernandina). That was a pretty impressive sight. In hindsight, I should have done a 360-degree video pan.
Moreno Point Zodiac Ride
From the landing, we took the Zodiac around some of the rocks where we got to see the largest Marine Iguanas we had seen to that point and a couple of penguins.
Then we got our first look at a few Flightless Cormorants, an endemic species that looks very much like the cormorants we have in the U.S. except they have stubby little wings that are useless for flying. They are just another example of evolution in the Galapagos.
In addition to those animals, our new group got its first good look at some Blue-footed Boobies.
Next, we went back to the yacht to prepare for snorkeling.
Moreno Point Snorkeling
Soon, we were back along the shoreline where we plopped in the water. Yikes! The water on the western side of Isabela is a lot colder than where we had been. We were very grateful for the wetsuits, and some of the other guests couldn’t stand it (even with wetsuits), so they hopped back in the Zodiacs.
Linda & I got used to the water fairly quickly and started swimming around. Soon we were among several Green Sea Turtles that were feeding. It was wonderful watching their gracefulness, and they just ignored us as we floated over and around them.
Here's a video of that first turtle encounter.
When we finally pulled ourselves away from the turtles, we were joined by a Flightless Cormorant that began pecking at Linda and pulling on her wetsuit zipper. She loved it. I took pictures and video as the crazy cormorant harassed her, and I could hear her laughing the whole time.
Then the cormorant went after a young lady in our group who was terrified of birds. She screamed and swam as fast as she could, and the cormorant followed her in a big circle while the girl’s mother laughed hysterically from the safety of a Zodiac. Several of us couldn’t stop laughing as the cormorant finally gave up on its victim.
After pulling ourselves together, we found more feeding turtles. Here's a longer video that also includes the return of the cormorant.
When the cormorant appeared again, it went after me, and I just balled up, hid my hands from its sharp bill, and let it peck me in the rump. It pulled on my zipper, and then changed its focus to Linda when she approached.
Here's a video of Linda's entire interaction with this gregarious bird.
Linda was ecstatic with that encounter, and it was the best birthday present she could’ve gotten. As wonderful as the trip had been to that point, the crazy cormorant episode was far and away the highlight for her.
We snorkeled around a while longer looking at colorful fish, and Linda spotted a small group of Golden Cownose Rays. That was another new animal for us. Well, at least it was the first time being in the water with them.
Eventually, after one of our best ever turtle snorkeling excursions, it was time to extract ourselves from the water. The Zodiacs took us back to the yacht, and the hot chocolate was more welcome than ever.
We cleaned up and had lunch as the crew lifted the anchor. We then started a short trip to our next destination, Elizabeth Bay.
When I heard the yell “Whale!”, I grabbed my camera and ran up to the top deck as quickly as possible. There, directly in front of us, was a single Humpback Whale. I’m a whale guy, and I was so hoping we’d get to see some. We followed the Humpback for quite sometime, and I got some good photos and a little video of it blowing.
Here's the video of a couple of surfaces and blows out in front of our boat.
We were only half way into the day, and it had already made up for the last two days in the town harbors.
Elizabeth Bay & Mangroves Zodiac Ride
After anchoring in Elizabeth Bay in the afternoon, we once again boarded the Zodiacs for a barefoot tour around the small, rocky islets and back into the mangroves.
On one rock, we saw a penguin, crabs, Blue-footed Boobies, and Flightless Cormorants with chicks.
Here's a video showing the beautiful surroundings and just how close we were able to get to these birds.
As we continued toward the mangroves, we saw Brown Pelicans diving and floating nearby, penguins in the water, and Brown Noddy Terns flying alongside.
Entering the narrow channel between the mangroves, ....
we had a sea lion playing under the boat, and we saw sea turtles ....
and more Golden Cownose Rays. Linda got a little underwater video of the rays.
It was another area that would have been great to have a kayak, but it isn’t allowed. We saw several more Green Sea Turtles and got a brief glimpse of a Hawksbill Turtle tucked back in the trees.
Eventually, we headed back to the ship with the setting sun in front of us.
When we got back to our cabin, we saw that the crew had decorated it for Linda’s birthday. Very nice.
We had a beautiful sunset ....
on a gorgeous night, and we convinced the staff to serve us dinner outside on the back deck.
What a fantastic day!