My first active day on the cruise started with a Galapagos sunrise, followed by breakfast and a dry landing at Punta Suarez on Isla Espanola. This is the southernmost of the islands, and also one of the oldest and flattest. Being so remote, it also has many endemic species. Like most Galapgeno wildlife, they appear quite oblivious to humans, and sea lions, marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs and cute little lava lizards with their curled, erect tails can be easily seen.
We are fortunate the trip is not rushed, with plenty of time to observe the various animals and birds we encounter. There is a two metre exclusion zone between humans and animals, but the animals don’t seem to follow the rules. Walking from rock to rock, you can be so busy looking at where you put your feet, you almost miss the giant iguana or tiny lava lizard just outside your field of vision, or running towards you. Not to mention the sea-lion poo which is everywhere.
As we walked over the island we came to the cliffs where swallow-tailed gulls and Nazca and blue-footed boobies nest. Having missed the blue-footed boobies yesterday I was hoping for a close look at these quintessentially Galapageno birds, but although I saw them flying, their blue feet were hidden. It was only when I returned to the boat and looked up that I saw the stunning turquoise feet as one flew overhead.
I can’t help but wonder what it was like for those who first saw this amazing range of beings, without the prior experience of BBC documentaries, zoos and Encyclopaedia Britannica. For me there was a strange sense of the familiar mixed with the bizarre. I had seen the vision, but hadn’t smelled the smells, felt the intense heat or heard the cacophony of different calls of the the birds and sea lions.
We returned to the boat boat for a lunch of curried prawns, and a short rest. Then it was back in the zodiacs to what Jose had described, in a mastery of understatement, as a “nice beach.” Gardner Bay ticked all the boxes for idyllic – clear turquoise water, cool white sand (which would have been far too hot for bare feet in Sydney) and lolling sea lions , oblivious to us walking past. Female sea lions have two pups over three years, so it was common to see offspring of two different sizes feeding from the same mother.
Although we were going to snorkel back to the boat, I couldn’t resist the water, and was soon doing my own water baby frolic, relishing being immersed in the cool, clear
The downside was that when it was time to snorkel, I struggled to get the wetsuit on over my wet swimmers and took on sand which weighed me down. so I struggled with my first snorkelling experience even though the fish were amazing.
However, a beer and dinner soon fixed my disappointment. As half the group were leaving the following morning, we had farewell drinks with the crew before Jose’s customary briefing.
And the next day’s early start gave me a perfect excuse for my customary early night.