Sombrero Chino and Sullivan Bay, Santiago Island
This morning began with a beautiful sunrise. For some seconds as we arrived to Sombrero Chino the sun was rising over Daphne Mayor Island, right in the middle; a good way to begin this day that will take us through an experience that will be hard to forget. The first activity was a Zodiac ride along the coastline looking for the most tropical penguin in the world.
As we approached the coastline in the Zodiac, it was possible to see a white bellied creature, maybe another blue footed booby or maybe the new species we were looking for: an endemic Galapagos penguin. It was preening itself, keeping those feathers in good condition, standing on a rock; it looked very elegant as it stood on this black lava rock.
Suddenly we saw, at a distance, a bird taking off and chasing another. It looked like an attack, so the choices for the identity of the attacker were few – the greatest possibility was that it was a Galapagos hawk. The attacker was not successful, so it moved to a nearby rock to overlook at the whole landscape. We moved the Zodiac nearby and a juvenile Galapagos hawk was in front of us. Cameras started to shoot as this raptor perched in front of us. It took off again and this time the target was a penguin looking underwater, probably for some fish to eat. The penguin was surprised, as we were. Basically, a penguin is too big for a Galapagos hawk, sometimes even bigger than a hawk – it would be impossible for a hawk to take off with a penguin.
The hawk moved again onto another lava rock, then it took off again, but this time it was after a young brown pelican, again excessively big for a hawk, several times heavier and bigger. Maybe the age of the hawk had something to do with it. Hungry and desperate, it was trying for almost every bird in the neighborhood. It will learn with time, as wisdom usually evolves along with age.
During the rest of the ride several penguins swam and dived along our Zodiacs, just the beginning of a day and so many experiences to remember. Then it was time to go back onboard and get into the snorkeling gear, to jump in the water and hopefully see some penguins in the water near us. It worked as expected and the penguins swam close to the divers, but penguins move like little wing-powered torpedos underwater – really fast. However, several divers still had good encounters with the penguins. This is probably the only place in the world where it is possible to snorkel next to a penguin and not freeze at the same time.
We moved to a new destination for our afternoon visit, however the weather changed and it rained. Then it stopped raining, then it rained again, and then it drizzled. This did not stopped us from visiting Sullivan Bay and appreciating the lava field. It was refreshing to have a light drizzle during the walk, as the black and shiny lava rocks were not as hot as they can be during very sunny days.
We completed the walk and we returned back onboard as the light drizzle fell on the island, starting another season in this centuries old cycle of life.