With the end of the trip approaching, this is the only day we visit two islands. Isla Santiago was the second island visited by Charles Darwin. At that time, a group of Spaniards was living there, but it is uninhabited today. We stop at Sullivan Bay, on the east coast, where the land is comprised of pahoehoe lava, formed by a volcanic eruption in 1897. Those who have been to Hawii recognise it, but I have seen anything like its strange, rope-like shapes. We see nothing but lava, an occasional piece of driftwood , tiny grasshoppers and one fly, although there some vegetation on the hills.
Jose leads us across the rocks, sure-footed in bare feet. We feel the heat although it is still early. C. forgot to bring a hat, so has borrowed an umbrella for sun protection, giving her a somewhat ethereal air. Although the lava appears homogeneous at first sight, there are different shapes, crevices and holes. We look for patterns and images and find faces, animals and countries.
We snorkel back to the boat. I wanted to have a free swim without wet-suit. Jose doesn’t trust me, after observing my initial disastrous experience in a sand-filled wetsuit and asks me to carry our safety flotation ring. I agreed, but it impeded my longed-for sense of freedom. In many ways I’d rather swim than snorkel – just to play in the water like a sea lion; but that is heresy here. The water was refreshing, not too cold at all, though another hour might have done for me.
We were promised the slight possibility of penguins, but they did not appear. We did see many fish, some familiar, some new to us, including a beautiful blue and white spotted puffer fish and a little something curled in the crevice of a rock – maybe a seahorse. I had made the decision not to hamper myself with underwater camera or Go-pro, knowing that David Attenborough already has it mastered, but seeing Jose take people’s cameras and swim deeper than we can, I have some slight regrets.
Our last afternoon is spent on Isla Rabida. Here the red sand, coloured by the presence of iron, is hot. Jose wears shoes for the first time since he met us. We see the saltwater lagoon that often hosts flamingoes, but today is not one of their feeding and breeding days. As we walk on the red earth, although it is darker than that in Australia, I feel a sense of familiarity. To those from North America and the UK, it is an alien experience.
The cacti here are smaller than those we have seen on other islands. I am becoming somewhat blase about birds, but the view of the turquoise water at the foot of the cliffs is spectacular.
We return to Daphne to pack, have farewell drinks with the crew, and exchange email addresses. Tomorrow is an early start before we return to Baltra aiport and fly to Quito. The dream is ending.