Friday, January 04, 2013

South Plazas and Santa Fe Islands

South Plazas Island
6:30 Breakfast
7:15 Dry Landing – 
closed shoes, rocky trail, hybrid iguanas
9:45 Back on boat > sailing

Santa Fe Island
12:00 Lunch
1:30 Snorkeling
3:00 Back on board
3:30 Wet landing – closed shoes, rocky trail, Giant cactus forest, land iguana expedition 
5:30 Back on board
6:30 Dinner
Briefing for tomorrow

Waking at 6 am to get ready for breakfast was a no-brainer. At 4:30, we could hear the anchor being lowered; it is right near our room. Asking others, it was just as apparent for them as they have lower berths. The chains passing by on the way to the sea have nothing on the ghostly rattling of chains sounds in a haunted house.  

Meals are buffet style. Breakfast held choices for fried eggs, bread, pineapple, cantaloupe, and two types of cereals to gear us up for the day. Buffets can mean trouble, but it looks like this crowd is well aware that everyone needs to get through the line before returning for seconds. 

 Our dry landing meant that we were to take the dinghy from the boat, but land at a dock once at the island. As soon as we approached, it was apparent that some sea lions were using the dock for sunning themselves causing us to share the space. Sea lions are ubiquitous and this being a government park the rules are to stay 6 feet away whenever possible. On the rocks are red crabs with blue backs; the contrast is quite beautiful. Large cacti in numerous configurations spread out over the landscape like an old western movie, but they are accompanied by a low growing plant called something like carpet wheat. We were not sure if the guide was saying carpet or copper. Regardless, in the rainy season, it turns green, letting the land iguanas know their meal has been served; it is filled with water. During the dry season, the red color shows there is no moisture so don’t bother to nibble. 

We were given a number of lessons regarding the different types of rocks on the island including their formation, none of which I care to repeat here mostly because I could not take notes, so don’t remember. As we were seeing different birds and having them identified, my camera batteries had given out. I had bought 2 sets of 4 Eveready batteries in Otavalo and had them with me in case. None of them worked after multiple attempts, making me furiously fretting over the Kodak moments that were passing me by never to be captured again. Just by pure chance, I put my rechargeable batteries in once again; though I knew that I had already really squeezed the juice out of them. It worked just as we spotted our first Blue Footed Booby and I was able to shoot him amicably. 

Dozens of land iguanas posed for our cameras; here they are the brown or golden colored ones in the pictures. The marine iguanas are black and dive into the sea for their food, then climb the rocking walls to return to shore. Marine iguanas are smaller than their land cousins, living only about 40 years, where the others have a lifespan of 50-60 if no hawk makes lunch of them. We were told we would see marine iguanas on another island on another day.

On our return to the dinghy, I was able to capture a baby seal nursing from its mother. They were right on the dock, making it easier and both appreciated that the capture was on the camera only. This was the end of the morning’s excursion, back to the boat we went.

The afternoon snorkeling was a disaster for me. We were taken by dinghy out a ways and dropped into the water to return to the shore. Because we cannot all fit on the dinghy, it was returning for the rest, returning with a ladder to climb back into the dinghy if anyone became tired. After about ten minutes, Ron was tired and signaled for the dinghy before its round trip for the ladder. This panicked me, worried about him and then I could not breathe. From that point on, I had difficulty breathing with the snorkel; forty plus years of smoking taking their toll. They had to drag me onto the boat like an oversized tuna. Captain Ahab had it easier. Humiliation set in. Thankfully, there was a young Finn guy who did not snorkel at all, because he was not a good swimmer, so I had company when Ron jumped back in the water. 

This afternoon, we had a great outing on trails where there were dozens of sea lions, land iguanas of a different variety than we saw in the morning, and lots of birds. The cactus on this island grows like big trees, to keep the iguanas from eating its spiny pads until they fall to the ground. If there were turtles on the island, the pads would be even higher since turtles can climb on their back legs and stretch their necks to reach farther. I was able to get some fun videos of the sea lions here and great pictures of pelicans. 

As we were getting ready to leave the island, Ron spotted a guy that was at Hostel Joshua with us in Guayaquil. Ron said he was on the same plane with us, but I don’t recall seeing him.

Dinner was pizza, cabbage salad, zucchini in a sauce and chocolate mousse for dessert. When I refused the dessert, he gave me fruit instead. Most of us sat around the lounge on the main deck or the smokers went to the smoking area on the upper deck open to the sky. With the early mornings, the rocking boat, and a sense of peace, we retire much earlier than normal to read and then doze off.

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