Sunday, January 17, 2010

Penguins and Turtles

Volcanoes on Isabela

Cloudy Morning off Isabela Island

I tried to read the heavens tonight, after my great success yesterday when the sky was so clear the Milky Way was visible, as were all the usual stars that are seen in this hemisphere, but it was cloudy and nothing was detectable. It was overcast most of the day, but that did not interfere with our adventures. We started on Fernandina Island where we tripped over marine iguana sunning themselves on the rocks and sea lions frolicking in the tide pools, one chasing marine iguanas out of his own private pool. Many baby sea lions were either hanging on to their mothers or waiting for them. One male sea lion tried to seduce a mother ( apparently only two weeks after a baby is born, a mother is receptive and can have two babies within a year!). The sea lions suckle their youngsters for eighteen months, and often if they have another baby within a year, will allow the second one to die, since they are still taking care of the older one which has a better chance of survival. A few babies were crying for their mothers. A mother will only suckle its own youngster, and after a couple of weeks will leave for days at a time to hunt before it comes back to feed its waiting pup. It the mothers do not return, the babies will die of hunger. A few decomposing babies were scattered on the beach. Survival of the fittest is very clear in this harsh environment.

We were surrounded by volcanoes, most of them active. The Galapagos are volcanic islands, and Fernandina is covered in lava, so walking early this morning was slippery and felt like a moonscape. Tide pools were full of hermit crabs, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, some sea stars, the sea lions and marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, sea turtles, egrets, lava herons, and all sorts of other birds that our resident birder knew all the names for. A Galapagos hawk caught and ate a marine iguana and flew off with the rest of his fresh kill, perhaps for his nest and babies. Nature is happening all around us.

When motoring from Fernandina Island to Isabela Island, the boat made huge circle chasing whales; I could see the blow spouts and just a tiny flipper here and there.

Amparo on Fernandina

My favourite part of the day is snorkeling, today with huge sea turtles, penguins and manta rays, as well as many colourful fish. Maya is entirely comfortable in the water and dives in her snorkel gear as well. It is peaceful and quiet underwater.

Looking Straight at Me

We passed the equator as the sun set, and will pass it again sometime in the middle of the night. I can hardly stay awake, and we have a 5 AM wakeup call, and the boat is rocking me to sleep.


  1. Wow, what a coincidence! I will be in the Galapagos in 2 weeks, also on the Santa Cruz (only for 4 nights though). If you find the space, please post any travel tips you may have along with your experiences.

    Enjoy, and thanks!

  2. The Santa Cruz is well organized and takes good care of you. The food is good, the cabins comfortable (better higher up), there is a doctor available, the crew is ready to attend to your every need. The itinerary is set by some other agency, and I prefer one itinerary to the other, but both are interesting. The guides are variable, some just don't work very hard and could be more informative, but if you ask questions they will answer (although they sometimes make up the answers). I like the snorkeling best, so take advantage of the two or three excursions that are planned. The world under the sea is amazing and you see turtles and seals and penguins and sharks and fish of all kinds. You are kept busy nonstop during your four days and I find myself exhausted! So take any time you can to rest between excursions. Bring a hat and sunscreen! You will have a wonderful time!