Thursday, June 11, 2009

Farewells - May 3

Some final farewells and a short panga ride to the port of San Cristobal, Baquerizo Moreno. We had some time to search the local shops after visiting the Interpretation Center. Sea lions entertained us as we waited for the bus ride to the airport. Efren and Janet (crew and guide) were on the same flight and departed when we stopped in Guayaquil. Miguel (crew) too.

It was cold when we arrived in Quito and actually a nice change from the heat of Galapagos. Our group dined together and talked about our favorite birds, locations, food, crew members, and more. Some had early flights so we said more farewells with vows to keep in touch.

I can clearly see why the Galapagos are "The Number One Natural History Destination." Being the home of evolution, Flightless Cormorant, the most northern penguin, an opportunity to swim with sea lions, geologically outstanding, uniquely scenic, and so much more... it is understandable. This is a true "bucket list" top five! I hope the experience will be something Sam will draw on for the rest of his life. I suspect it will be.

Espanola and the "Blow Hole" - May 2

We arrived at Espanola Island abut 330AM. I awoke to find the boat sitting calmly and quietly. After our usual grand breakfast, Sam and I kayaked to the cliffs nearby and were thoroughly mesmerized by the antics of four sea lions who were cautiously curious about us.

From here, we paddled back to the boat, took a short panga ride to the beach which has the best collection of sea lions we had seen so far. Stacked together like logs, the sea lions where up to their usual antics of voicing their opinions on everyone one else, lots of lounging, and insistent playfulness directed at humans. These islands are truly the best place to swim with these energetic and character rich pinipeds.

From the beach, we could see Letty and two other boats not far off. Sam and I did some sand sculpting, first starting out to do a castle, but ultimately ending up with a Giant Tortoise.

Back on the boat, we motored to one other stop on Espanola for a 3km hike over to the well known "Blow Hole" which was preforming famously. The spray greeted us even before the "Hole" was in sight. Albatross, boobies, frigatebirds, tropicbirds, Swallow-tailed gulls, and Galapagos Hawks hung in the wind by the "Blow Hole." Albatross had just set-up for nesting season, our group finding the apparent first egg to have been layed. The expectant mother looked exhausted.

Blue-footed Boobies walked the path, marching with raised feet in courtship and territorial battle. We watched very closely (six feet) as two females argued over the accommodating male stuck in the middle. Comically fascinating and fascinatingly comic!

With a four hour motor back to San Cristobal and about one third of the way there, I figured this was a good time to catch a quick shower. With soap in my hair, the announcement came from the captain (Pablo) that we now had a whale off out bow. Nice timing! I got Sam to go off by himself to see the whale and he came back within a couple of minutes to report that the mighty beast was at 30 yards and giving great views. I managed to finish my buffing and polishing in a personal best, get out to the bow, and see the Bryde's Whale just as it crossed the bow for our best look. I think I may still have some soap that needs some rinsing.

We arrived in San Cristobal harbor at about 9PM and started a fine "Farewell Ceremony" that for some went on to midnight. Dancing, certificates for crossing the equator (four times!), lots of joking, smiles, and appreciation were expressed. We will certainly miss our friends and hope that our paths may cross again.