We navigated north during the night on a calm sea and dawn found us along the coast of the seahorse-shaped island of Isabela. As the sun came up, many of our guests joined naturalist us naturalists on the decks to search for marine mammals and seabirds. Ben and the guests on the sky deck radioed me at about 7:00 a.m. that they had seen spouts and many big mammal bodies to the north, so first mate Giovanny changed our course and we went to investigate. Within ten minutes, we could see dozens of forward blowing white puffs and then dark gray whalebacks! They were sperm whales and there were many of them, well spread out across several miles of ocean! We approached them slowly and they floated on the surface, puffing and then fluked up as they dove. These were all small-sized sperm whales and I have never seen so many small sperms before! There was no way to count them – 20? 50? More? – and no one saw a large individual. We spent a joyous half hour watching and trying to photograph these amazing creatures. I have been working in these islands for 40 years – and I was really excited!
After crossing the equatorial line and returning to the southern hemisphere with a toot of the ship’s horn, we soon anchored at Punta Vicente Roca. This is a spectacular site with dramatic cliffs and much wildlife. We explored the area first by Zodiac, and then we entered the chilly waters for an hour of fabulous snorkeling. The bay was full of jellies; luckily only a few were the stinging types, and they had attracted hundreds of sea turtles and even huge mola sunfish to feed on them. Our intrepid guests swam among the jellies, the turtles and molas – some saw a large shark and playful sea lions, and everyone had yet another unforgettable experience!
In the afternoon, we disembarked on the western most island of Fernandina. The trail, on lava and on coarse salt and pepper sands, took us through colonies of resting marine iguanas and we watched the antics of sleepy sea lions, avoided stepping on scurrying lava lizards and watched alert cormorants protect their chicks from a Galapagos hawk. As the sun began to set and we returned to the ship, everyone had smiles on their faces. It will be difficult to top this day, even here in las islas encantadas!