Gardner Bay and Punta Suarez, Espanola Island
As the sun rose over the horizon at Gardner Bay, we began to see the white sandy beach in front of us. However it could be observed that several of the “rocks” on the beach moved, and also got into the water! Well those rocks were sea lions that covered part of the beach, and soon we were going to have a closer encounter with them. After we got all our snorkeling gear complete and ready to go, it was time to get into the Zodiacs and explore the neighborhood. Some decided to go to the deeper waters and encountered sharks and sea lions, others decided to go to the beach and start their discovery from the shore.
The beach was covered with sea lions and all of them looked great, but we biased our preferences for the playful pups. They moved around us both in the water and on land. You basically never get tired of having one around you, their expressive eyes and clumsy movements caught our attention. Several had a real close encounter with the curious and playful pups, and I mean close, so close that the cameras could not focus on them, unless you go in the “macro” mode. Among the sea lions several mockingbirds moved, removing the sand to get some worms to eat.
During the afternoon we had a long walk on Punta Suarez, and the expectations built up when we saw some waved albatrosses gliding around the area. After disembarking it was overwhelming, as there were so many things to begin with: several marine iguanas, among them some male iguanas with bright green and reddish colors, sea lions nursing by the trail, a Galapagos hawk that landed close to us, and a group of sea lion pups playing in a small tide pool - all this in the first hundred yards. The iconic blue-footed boobies were nesting a few feet away from the trail, and then as we continued our walk a strange creature with something that looked like a not well finished haircut, one of them had what looked like a 1980’s punk haircut; they were young waved albatross chicks, losing their down and getting the feathers they will need for that amazing moment when they take off for the first time from their homeland, Espanola Island.
As expected before this flight occurs there is the need to practice and build up those muscles, so some of the young albatrosses performed their exercise routine in front of us. Of course each one had its own “hairstyle” flapping those wings and getting strength for those long days out in the sea, before the return to their homeland in a few years.
To give this day even more endless memories, a hawk perched on the rock close to our trail during the walk back to the landing site. For some seconds the clouds on the horizon opened and the sun rays gave a golden color to the clouds behind the hawk. Instead of shooting another picture I moved my camera down and stopped looking through a viewfinder. It was the time to just enjoy the view.