Darwin Lake, Isabela Island
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
15 Days In The Galapagos Islands
Day 11 - Punta Suarez, Gardner Island Snorkel, & Gardner Beach - Espanola Island
We woke up this morning off the coast of Espanola Island. Espanola is the southernmost island in the Galapagos and it's one of the oldest and flattest islands.
After breakfast our first excursion was at the western end of the island at the Visitor Site known as Punta Suarez.
Punta Suarez Walk
Per last night's briefing, we were informed we would have a "dry" landing at Punta Suarez, so Linda & I wore our hiking boots. However, the tide was out when we arrived on the Zodiacs and the dry landing wasn't an option. Rather than having us take our shoes and boots off, the crew decided to just carry us onto the sand. It was pretty amusing.
One of the first things we noticed when we arrived was the color of the Marine Iguanas. Here the mature adults have various shades of red and blue and they are often called "Christmas" iguanas due to their brighter colors.
We encountered the iguanas all along the trail.
Near the water, the Sally Lightfoot Crabs in the rocks added their splash of color.
As we walked along we went by an area that looked to be sea lion day care. There were several pups playing here.
We spent several minutes enjoying their antics. The following videos continue to make us smile.
Soon, we were treated to Espanola's endemic mockingbird, the Hood Mockingbird also now known as the Espanola Mockingbird. It's a distinct species separate from the other three species in the islands.
The Hood Mockingbird is known to be the boldest of the mockingbirds, and it is not uncommon for them to land on people's heads or go after their water bottles. Of course, that just endeared them to Linda, and I enjoyed the ability to get nice close-up photos.
We took several more sea lion pictures as they scuffled.
Moving on, we found some Lava Lizards which, like the Marine Iguanas, are more colorful here than anywhere else we've seen them in the islands.
We left the beach area and walked up the hill to walk along the western cliffs of the island. That's where we got our first look at a Waved Albatross. This is a young one.
They are named "Waved" Albatross due to the wavy pattern in their feathers as you can see above.
We weren't sure if we would see any albatross because December is the last month they remain. Almost the entire Waved Albatross population breeds and nests here on Espanola from April to December, then they leave for three months to fish along the western coast of South America.
So, we were happy to see some birds remaining. I'm not sure these chicks are going to be mature enough to leave by January.
We would get to see a few of the remaining adults later.
For a short stretch, we dropped down in the rocks where we found iguanas, sea lions, and Nazca Boobies.
This Nazca Booby had a fluffy chick.
This one had a chick that had just hatched and still has an egg.
Unfortunately, if that egg hatches, the chick won't live. Nazca Boobies only raise one chick. If the second egg hatches, the older chick will push the younger one out of the nest (or aggressively attack it) and the mother doesn't intervene. It's known as "obligate siblicide" meaning one sibling invariably kills the other sibling.
And on that sad note, we walked back up on top of the cliffs.
There is a "blowhole" here on Espanola when the waves are crashing, and this is the viewpoint for it.
But, on this visit, the tide was out and the sea was calm, so no blowhole spout today.
Still, there were some nice vistas looking out toward the part of the island that is off limits to visitors.
Looking up we saw a Frigatebird, a Galapagos Hawk, and a Waved Albatross (with its eight-foot wingspan) against the gray sky.
This young albatross was testing its wings for its first flight. It will likely take a running start off the cliff when it's time.
We made a left turn on the trail going away from the cliff side. Soon, we came to the albatross colony where there were still a few adults that hadn't left the island yet.
After watching them for several minutes, we finally got to witness the mating dance we were hoping to see.
There were a few pairs that sort of gave it a half-hearted attempt, but this pair treated us to a great show.
That was very cool.
We continued around the trail making our way back to the beach.
Before heading back to the boat, we took more photos of iguanas and sea lions.
By then, the tide had come in and we could board the Zodiacs at the steps.
At about two miles, the Punta Suarez loop trail is one of the longer walks/hikes we've done in the islands, and we're really glad it was included in our itinerary.
Back on the ship, we had lunch as we moved around the north side of Espanola and anchored just off of Gardner Island. We then prepared for snorkeling.
Snorkeling Gardner Island
Visitors are not allowed on Gardner Island, but there is a cove that is great for snorkeling, especially snorkeling with some playful young sea lions.
The Zodiacs dropped us in the water, and we were immediately greeted by three of the graceful, fast pinnipeds.
We spent a long time swimming with the sea lions. It was a fantastic experience, and we documented it in the six and a half minute video that follows.
In the video, you will see a large bull swim through, and our guide told us to be careful with them as they can be aggressive. He got a little too close for comfort a couple of times, but thankfully he passed on by.
You will also see the younger sea lions playing keep-away with what looks like a piece of reflecting tape off of a life jacket. The Galapagos Islands are pristine and there is no trash outside the towns, so we're not sure where they got the tape, but they made a game of it and it enhanced our viewing experience. Hope you enjoy the video.
There is nothing else I can add to that. What an experience.
The Zodiacs picked us up, and went back to the Domenica where we changed and got ready for the last excursion of the day.
We did a wet landing on Gardner Beach on the north side of Espanola Island.
I would say it was definitely the prettiest beach we had been on.
Our guide went with us, but he pretty much just turned us loose. Walking the beach was all there was to this outing.
We saw a couple of turtles in the surf, and Linda talked to the mockingbirds.
The group from our sister ship was interacting with the sea lions on the beach.
After a short time, the Zodiacs retrieved us.
Back on the yacht, we got cleaned up and joined the others for the evening briefing and dinner. The crew pulled up the anchor, and we started our overnight journey to our next destination.
Another great day in the Galapagos.
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