Friday, June 5, 2009

Darwin Center and Tortoise - May 1

A short panga ride to the town's pier followed by a 40 minute bus ride put us in the highlands. We stopper to see "The Twins," side-by-side magma chambers where the roofs had collapsed and left the towl massive craters.

Down the road, a magma tunnel was, as one traveler put it, "something right out of Indiana Jones," where you were expecting the giant stone ball to come rolling through at any moment.

A few minutes from here, we visited a finca that had one of the most accessable populations of Giant Tortoise. Our first encounter was with a large male, slowly moving through the woodlands while stopping occationally to graze on guava fruit on the ground. Truly impressive!

The tourist welcome center was tasteful and offered icecream and some gift itiems.

In the afternoon, we stopped at the Darwin Research Cenater and saw many totoises includint the very famous "Lonesome George," last of his subspecies. The young tortoises were very cute, the giants (old ones) impressive in their size, lumbering behavior, and pre-historic appearance. Wonderful to see an animal that so defines the work that Darwin did and that so captured my immagination since I was a child.

Sam and I did some gift shopping in Puerto Ayora; many nice shops. The highlight was the open-air fish market with the sea lions entertaining us and others, including the locals.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bartolome and North Seymour Islands - April 30

We departed last night from "Chinese Hat" and motored starting about 10PM for an hour to Bartolome Island on the east side of Santiago. It was nice to spend most of the night at anchor; much more restful.

Our first adventure of the day was to climb the 364+ steps to the top of the island. The landscape was not like that which we had seen already. Spatter cones and lava tubes were prolific; pumice sand painting the hillside.

At the top is one of the best known views of the islands, including the pinnacle that watches over the anchorage. Time on the beach allowed for some swimming with penguins and White-tipped Reef Shark.

From here we motored to North Seymour Island in search of the Land Iguana. We found three, one of substantial size. The walk was very hot but did allow for great comparison of the two frigatebird species and close view of nest Blue-footed Boobie.

We cruised from here down the east side of Santa Cruz Island with many sightings of rays jumping, a few Galapagos Petrels, many White-vented and Wedge-rumped Storm Petrels, at least one Band-rumped Storm Petrel, all while 3 - 5 frigatebirds escorted us through the progressing sunset. Wonderfully peaceful!

We arrived into the busy harbor or Puerto Ayora after dark, the lights of the many boats giving it an enchanted feel. The Southern Cross and the Big Dipper were both visible despite the glow of the boats.