So today we woke up just off the shore of Isabella island, which is the largest island in the Galapagos chain. We had spent all of yesterday on Isabella, but were now positioned at a different point on the island. By 6:00 a.m. we were loaded into the zodiacs and off to hike up to a viewpoint on Isabella. Once we approached the shore of Tigris Bay, we did a “dry” landing, said hello to two sea lions lounging on the rocks, and began the hike up a series of stairs before transitioning to a rocky, dirt path.
We did not pass any wildlife (other than the two sea lions) and only saw a few birds, but as we climbed higher, a lake came into view. The lake was actually the crater of a volcano that had filled with water over the centuries thanks to underground tunnels carrying the ocean waters into the crater.
We continued to climb the path through the spindly trees with tiny, tiny leaves and eventually reached a clearing where we could see the lookout. I was beyond happy when we reached the top. And the views were indeed spectacular with the added bonus that two spatter cone volcanoes (offshoot volcanoes) were right next to the lookout.
We spent about fifteen minutes at the top before we began the descent, which was far more pleasant than the climb up.
Once back on the boat, the Captain raised the anchor and we headed across the waters to the island of Fernandina. We had a quick breakfast and got ready for our second hike of the day at Punta Espinoza on the island of Fernandina, which is the youngest island in the Galapagos at 30,000 to 100,000 years old.
As we approached the island, a number sea lions came to greet us as well as a solitary penguin. Once ashore, we began our hike across the lava field, which was teaming with marine iguanas and little lizards, We had to be very, very careful not to step on the iguanas because their colouring matched the lava rocks so closely that you were often only inches away before you realized there was an iguana in front of you.
Our walk around this part of Fernandina was marked making it very easy to follow the approximately one mile path. We stopped to watch the iguanas and two sea lions frolicking in a small pond for a bit as well as the Sally light foot crabs, which were everywhere. As we wandered the area, I noticed a herron off in the distance and walked a little closer for a look.
Eventually Harry corralled us all and took us to an area that I named “iguana town”, located on a cliff high above the ocean. There were dozens and dozens of marine iguanas basking in the sun with the males challenging each other for rock territory. Periodically a short like fight would break out before one of them tossed in the towel and slunk away to find another rock. It was an awesome sight.
We continued to hike across the black lava fields to a small lagoon with two sea lions and a wall of iguanas. Literally a wall. We also saw a giant turtle in the water along with a handful of marine iguanas. And at the top of the wall we spotted the Galapagos hawk, which is the only predator on the island and has a liking for young baby iguanas. We did not see any iguana fall prey to the hawk, but it was interesting to watch to say the least.
At this point, we began the hike back across some rather slippery lava stones and were back on board the boat by 10:00 a.m. After a quick snack, we pulled on our wet suits and headed back out for some snorkeling. (And yes, I was getting tired, however, the jump into the ocean shocked that right out of my system. This was definitely the coldest I had been in the waters.
We snorkeled for about an hour, but only saw a few turtles, schools of minnows and the odd brightly coloured fish, including the parrot fish.
Back on board, we showered to get the salt water off us and finally took a break for some lunch. I planned a nap after lunch before our last excursion of the day back on Isabella, but it was not meant to be. I had no sooner got into my cabin when Harry announced over the loudspeaker that they had spotted a Bryde’s whale at the front of the ship. So up the stairs and outside to the bow of the ship. Unfortunately, after waiting and watching for a bit, it appeared the whale had chosen another direction.
So down the stairs I went to my cabin again, and then a few minutes later… whale near the bow. I raced up the stairs with my camera and sure enough, the whale was appearing every couple minutes. The whale was so close we could hear the air being pushed out the blow hole. It was awesome. We watched for about 15 minutes and then lost the whale again.
By now we were approaching Isabella again so it was back in the zodiacs for the trip to Urbina Bay. And as we approached shore, we spotted a spotted a ray in the waters near the shoreline. We circled a couple times watching it swim around before we moved to shore.
After we hopped out of the zodiacs (wet landing meaning we had to wade through the water to shore), we began a hike on a well marked path to see if we could find the giant tortoises and land iguanas. And as luck would have it, we spotted two not more than five minutes into the hike. These were juvenile giant tortoises, but nevertheless, HUGE.
As we continued our hike, we spotted a number of land iguanas. The first we spotted was an incredible yellowy orange colour. We also spotted orangey brown iguanas and then some more yellowy orange iguanas. The colours were simply amazing.
Once we completed the circle around the area where the giant tortoises and land iguanas are known to inhabit, we got back in the zodiacs and headed to the boat for some well earned rest.
By dinner time I was really ready to eat. Dinners on board (in fact all meals) have been terrific. Lots of and lots of salads (which make salad fanatic James very, very happy) rice, potatoes, as well as a meat or fish dish and always, always desert. And this dinner turned into a bit of a special occasion. Nancy had purchased wine for both tables and asked us to toast her late cousin who was an avid traveler and encouraged Nancy and Steve to travel. He had even left Nancy some money in his will, which Nancy and Steve used for this trip. It was incredibly special that Nancy and Steve shared this with us. So cheers to Nancy’s cousin. I am certain he would have been a kindred spirit with many of us on the boat.
So tomorrow we only have a couple excursion and then a 12 hour ride to the island of Floreana. I am really looking forward to lazing around on deck watching for whales and dolphins while taking a break from our daily excursions.