Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Boobies and Frigate Birds

Our wake-up call was at 7:00 AM, so I guess we slept in this morning. Our morning walk was on an island called 'Rabida', so I wondered if it originated because rabid animals lived on the island, but in fact it was the name of a convent or order of nuns in Spain. That still does not explain why the island was named Rabida, but I did not ask more of our guide. The soil was red, there were sea lions sprawled all over the shore, and our walk was mildly interesting. We saw a sea turle swimming offshore, so I was hoping we would see more during our snorkeling excurison. When we arrived at the island, a young Galapagos hawk was sitting on a rock waiting for us and posing. It did not move as panga after panga arrived. People were madly taking photographs and it continued to sit for us, its head moving around one way and then the other. I wondered if the guides had ordered him for us and placed him there for a photo op. Our walk was not particuarly eventful. I hardly remember if we saw anything. We snorkeled in the deep water and saw lots of colourful fish, an eel, a gorgeous puffer fish, but no sharks.

Our afternoon hike on North Seymour was the highlight. We saw many boobies courting each other with their distinctive dance, and watched great and magnificent frigate birds check each other out. The male frigates had their bright red pouches poofed out in the hopes of attracting females to mate with. The females were flying about, checking out the puffed up males. There were baby frigate birds in nests waiting to be fed and even more juvenile frigates. This was the best day of our trip so far. The boobies were the my favourite experience. Their feet are various shades of blue and turquoise. Apparently the colour of their feet attracts females and they dance to court each other. They were very busy flirting with each other and some were preparing nests for baby boobies. The boobies and the frigates were nesting amongst each other in a circumscribed area and were so numerous we had to be careful not to step on them. We ran into some land iguanas as well.

Waves were crashing on the shore and the sun was setting between Daphne Major and Daphne Minor as we headed for the pangas and back to the Santa Cruz. The guides were urging us along. The National Park has very strict rules about leaving the islands by sunset, which is about 6:15, and we were lingering and not wanting to leave. When we finally were ready to pile into the pangas, the sea was wild and throwing the little crafts about, making it difficult to get into the boats.

Our time has passed quickly. This has been an entirely unique experience for me. Eric has been frustrated because the itinerary is not his favourite. Unfortunately, Genovesa, which he feels is a must for all visitors, is not open to groups larger than 40, so the Santa Cruz cannot visit it. I am amazed that I am seeing so much that I have not seen. Evidently I have, in past years, been on a very different schedule and had seen other parts of the islands, so much so to make this a one of a kind experience. I am imagining all the places I will bring my family and friends to, and am putting together the plan. I am hoping to have lots and lots of visitors to our home in Quito and I am sure that many of them will want to visit the Galapagos. Eric has learned that the best trip is on the Isabella, which has has a maximum capacity of 40 people, and we will make sure we take the 11 day tour and include Genovesa, Fernandina and Isabella.

The pace of the shedule on the boat is exhausting. I can hardly stay awake, and nodded off during Eri'c lecture (which was very good in fact) and through dinner and now again I can hardly keepmy eyes open. Time for bed!!!

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