Fernandina and Isabela Islands
This morning started early. I was up way before dawn, out on the bow, and a few of us watched the sun come up behind a volcano (Darwin) as if an eruption was under way. A small pod of common dolphins were tempting enough for me to wake up everyone on the ship, but 15 minutes later they were on their way north in a rush – a previous appointment with others, I assumed.
Tropical whales showed up next – distant blows coming closer, but never enough of a view to determine whether they were Bryde’s or Sei whales. These same whales remained in the area because in the afternoon they were around as well, for our navigation after lunch.
By 8:00 a.m. the walkers left to hike over rough, rippled and fractured lava, less than two-hundred years old; then to follow the trail around the point where the wildlife lives and the action was hopping. Flightless cormorants were on nests, marine iguana males are already fighting for territories and access to females and a couple of Galápagos hawks got more than their fair share of photographic time and study as our people wandered the point trail.
The snorkeling later was excellent, though green. This year the Galápagos Islands are feeling the effects of “La Nina”, colder, nutrient-rich waters. Few marine iguanas were still in the water, most above water on black rocks trying to warm up. East Pacific green marine turtles were grazing the green fields below, and a “cleaning station” caught my attention for the longest time; three turtles had their eyes half-closed in massage-ecstasy as small hogfish, damselfish and wrasses cleaned them around the neck, flipper and tail areas.
By afternoon, we had sailed north once more towards Isabela Island and Punta Vicente Roca – an eroded tuff cone with erratic coastline harboring fur seals, penguins and flightless cormorants. This is where we lowered the Zodiacs and went for a ride, close inshore. The turtles in particular were everywhere, the cove perhaps a half-degree warmer than the open ocean.
By 6:45 p.m. we were on the bow, showered, changed and with sunset drinks in hand as we crossed the equator. Our youngest guest had the honor of blowing the ship’s horn, and the rest of us danced under the “equator line” on the bow. Despite an afternoon of cloudy skies in the southern hemisphere, the northern hemisphere broke open for us and the sun dipped below the cloud layer falling into a clear horizon (although no green flash), shining a gentle amber hue onto us.
What a fabulous day in the remote, western region of the Galápagos!