So while we slept, our captain moved our boat northwest to the island of Marchena. Now one of the advantages to being on a smaller than average Galapagos boat (only sleeps 14), is that we can visit areas of the Galapagos that the big boats cannot. In fact, that Samba is only one of two boats permitted to visit Marchena.
Anyway as we approached Marchena, we were awakened at the fabulous hour of 5:30 a.m. Now, the reasoning was twofold, First, the waters can be calmer in the morning and second we only had a half day on Marchena because we had to take the long 12 hour ride to Isabella. As a result, we had to get an early start.
So, once up and a quick snack, we all pulled on our wet suits, jumped in the zodiacs and headed to Punta Mejia on the island of Marchena to do a little snorkeling. Unfortunately, the waters were a tad rough (at least by the previous day’s standard), but still quite warm. Once in the water, we were spotting a lot of hammerhead sharks and white tip sharks (Ugh), but they seemed to be as afraid of us as we were of them.
I also spotted a yellow ray, which floated by so fast that I did not have time to turn on my camera for a video. No matter, I am sure I will see another. James took a terrific video of a spotted ray and he was kind enough to share with all of us.
Anyway, as I paddled around, I saw a myriad of colourful fish and plant life, but missed the sea turtles that a number of people saw.
After about an hour, we got back in the zodiacs and took off our fins. Unfortunately, our timing was bad as four dolphins made their appearance … so back in the water, but the dolphins were faster than our efforts and quickly left us behind. I climbed back on board, but most of the others ended up snorkeling for another half hour by some rocks where there was apparently a lot of sharks.
Once back on the ship, we removed our wet suits and headed off to breakfast. And while it seemed it should be much later, it was only 8:45. During breakfast, our captain moved the boat to Playa Negra for our next snorkeling adventure.
By 10:00 we were climbing aboard the zodiacs settting off for the little lava grotto where fur sea lions and marine iguanas are known to frequent. The zodiacs motored right to the shore and a quick 5 minute hike over lava rocks had us in the grotto.
Now the snorkeling here was far easier than the morning snorkel as there was no wave action and bonus … the grotto was very shallow and filled with algae covered lava making it a very easy to film the variety of mult-coloured fish.
At one point, we spotted a fur sea lion on the rocks, but it was pissed that were watching him so shortly after spotting him the sea lion took off into the waters. Now as luck would have it, I swam to the far end of the grotto to see if there was anything unusual in the waters at the end of the grotto. Instead, the sea lion found me and took two passes around me. It was awesome.
As I swam back, I continued to film in the grotto as the waters were so clear and made it really easy to spot fish. I also ran into a Geert and Jolene who had spotted two marine iguanas. These two iguanas were a fair size and moved very, very quickly. Quite the sight.
I continued to look for unusual fish and before I knew it, we were being called back to begin the trip to the boat.
While we stood on the sand waiting for the zodiacs, Harry spotted a spout in the waters just off the beach. Whales! At this point we weren’t sure what kind of whales, but we were pretty anxious to get in the zodiacs and go take a look.
Once out on the water, we went to the left and immediately had to turn as the whales were actually behind us heading towards our boat. We eventually caught up to them and … ORCAS. We spotted two of them, a male and a female and they were not shy about making an appearance every few minutes. We chased them in the zodiac with everyone whooping and yelling every time one of the orcas surfaced. At one point the huge male orca even swam directly under our zodiac (which reminded me of the time in Antarctica when the humpback whale swam under my kayak). Thrilling.
And unfortunately for two sea turtles swimming nearby, the Orcas were looking for a snack. Once the orcas took down the turtles, the frigate birds began to swoop and swirl overhead looking for leftovers. Fortunately for the birds, the orcas left the intestine (for all of us to see) and the feeding frenzy began.
While the bird extravaganza was interesting, we continued to watch the orcas. After about a half hour of tracking orcas, they disappeared, and we called it a day. Everyone was very excited to see these magnificent mammals up close. And the coup de grace was that Steve stuck his underwater camera in the water as the orcas bobbed and weaved around us and the result is the underwater video of one of the orcas I have included in this blog. We were all thrilled with Steve’s video and that it shared it with all of us.
Anyway, we finally sat down for lunch at about 1:00 and then relaxed for the rest of the day as we headed into open waters and the island of Isabella, where an active volcano, Wolf volcano, is erupting. We were hopeful we may be able to see the lava flow as we reached the area by sunset.
Unfortunately, the trip to the other side of Isabella to see the volcano was incredibly rough. Poor Shelly had a bit of a rough go and was seasick for a good portion of the journey. I was fine with my little ear patch, but I really felt for her. (I’ve been there and it suuuuucks!)
Anyway, just after 6:00 p.m. the sun began to set and our volcano came into view. Because of the enormous ash plume we were not able to see the ongoing eruptions or lava flow, but the reflection of the lava on the ash cloud was incredible. We spent about an hour at the site hoping the ash cloud would lift, but no such luck. However the site of the orange glow on the ash clouds was memorable to see the least.
The captain eventually turned the boat around and we headed north back around Isabella to the northern tip of the island where will be spending our day tomorrow kayaking, hiking and snorkeling. It had been an incredible day!