Overnight we had motored to Sombrero Chino Island. It is a tiny cone island off the coast of Santiago Island. This is one of the few places you can see the Galápagos penguin. After breakfast we climbed into the pangas and slowly cruised the coastline, but no penguins.
As we pulled up onto the beach, we could already see that this small sandy spot served as a sea lion pup nursery. There were pups playing with each other, as one large male sea lion kept watch.
We saw a mother nursing her pup and Alex, our Naturalist Guide, found the afterbirth in the rocks. This little pup was hours old.
At the end of the trail we had a true photo opportunity with Marine Iguanas, crabs, and beautiful waves.
Making our way back to the Evolution we cruised along the lava rock shore and found blue-footed boobies.
After our morning walk we once again squeezed into our wetsuits for a snorkel. The hope was to possibly see penguins in the water. Today’s snorkel was in cooler and choppier water. The water temp was 21 C, approximately 70 F. We saw more fish, but it felt colder. Thank goodness for the wetsuits. My wetsuit is 5 mm thick, and I haven’t felt much of the cold water. The wetsuits loaned out by Quasar are 3 mm, and some of the other guests felt the cold. One of the crew members helped me remove mine, he hefted it and said “you are a polar bear.” I’m good with that! We saw king angelfish, surgeonfish, another shark and so many colorfully designed Panamic cushion stars (starfish) it was impressive. The current picked up and we just floated along at a good clip.
Back on board we ate lunch as the crew repositioned the boat to the west side of Santiago Island. At 3:30 we took a panga into shore, landing on a black sand beach in James Bay (Puerto Egas). During this walk Alex gave us a history lesson, including that Darwin spent more time on this island than any other. This island is home to many large land iguanas. We saw about 6 large ones.
We walked the trail, then the coastline and saw a large sea turtle and a fur seal in the crystal clear grottos formed of broken lava tubes. We also saw many more marine iguanas. As the sun was sinking and we were walking back to the beach for our pick up, we saw a mass of 17 marine iguanas settling in the the night.
Back on the Evolution we had our customary post walk snack and beverage. Tonight we watched the sunset over James Bay.
Every evening at 7 pm one of our two Naturalist Guides, Alex or Lenin, gives a lecture and then briefs us on the schedule for the next day. Then we have dinner. I owe our guide Lenin (Lennie) a huge debt of gratitude. I accidentally packed only one battery for my Nikon, and unfortunately I packed the bad battery. I was dead in the water. Lennie carries his Nikon on every walk. He loaned me one of his batteries so I could continue to take photos. If it were not for his generosity, I would be stuck with only iPhone pictures. He is an accomplished photographer and has worked for National Geographic, plus he’s funny.
Overnight we had our longest cruise, crossing the equator northbound. We cruised from Santiago Island to Genovesa Island, also known as Bird Island.
The next mornings nature walk along the shore of Darwin’s Bay we saw every stage of chick development, from newly hatched chicks with no fuzz at all, fuzz covered babies, to week old chicks and “teenagers” demanding to be fed. If yesterday was sea lion pup nursery, today was a bird hatchery.
After the morning nature walk we participated in the mid morning snorkel, our third of the trip. For today’s snorkel we were on the western edge of the caldera, more open to the sea. This area is known for hammerhead sharks, and the guides gave us an 80% chance of seeing them. I really wasn’t thrilled about that but everyone else was. And sure enough, we saw quite a few hammerhead sharks, including a few large ones. At this point, a bit late actually, I asked Lennie about the dangers. He assured me, as the sharks cruised about twenty feet below us and I’m trying to talk between the swells, that there has never been a hammerhead shark attack on humans in the Galápagos. We survived the snorkeling expedition and returned to the boat for lunch.
After lunch and a rest, we again took the pangas to the island, but this time to the eastern side of the caldera. We climbed Prince Phillip’s Steps to the plateau about 80 feet above the waters surface.
On the plateau is another bird nursery. We passed many boobie nests with chicks as young as hatched that day to fledglings.
The goal on our walk this evening was to spot a short-eared owl. We had binoculars and scanned the lava field during our walk. We saw one from a distance. As the sun sank in the west and we made our way back along the trail we nearly stepped on an owl. It was the sighting of the day and we all got a good picture.
Very cool red foot Bobbie!
Beautiful sunsets and sunrises and I guess the
Camera Gods are with you again hahaha