As the sun came up on day 6, we sighted a few circling hammerheads (yay) and some rather ugly evidence of prior visitors to this bay. It has become a custom–perhaps started by the pirates who frequented these waters long ago–for visiting vessels to paint their ships name and the date. The result is (historically appealing) graffiti covered cliffs, towering over us as we head into shore for our first walk of the day.
Our walk took us past Darwin Lake–a saline pond of blue green algae–and to the top of the hill for an overview of the island and the lake, glistening jewel like far below. From the top of the hill the cameras started rolling, as we all captured images of the Mary Anne far below us. Then it was off to see the mating dance of the blue footed boobies…… their high stepping routine akin to a goose step on a hot sand beach.
Next up was exploring the bay by kayak. It was a surreal experience; paddling slowly and silently along the cliff we watched blue footed boobies, noddies, pelicans, penguins, sea lions and turtles go about their lives, oblivious to our presence.
After lunch we moved north to Puerta Vicente Roca for our dip of the day. The profusion of turtles here was astonishing with always 3 or 4 in sight at any one time. They didn’t care how close you were if they wanted to come up for air, up they came……. giving us astonishing close ups as they popped up beside us. It was here that I spotted yet another shark species. The highly mottled guy swimming beneath me was a seldom seen (thanks to all that camouflage) port jackson shark. With a full evening yet to come, we wrapped up with a panga ride for close ups of boobies, noddies and terns.
Tonight was the night we crossed the equator! It could have been choreographed. A pod of dolphins decided we were fun to follow for a while and as the sun set with an impressive ‘green flash’ we hit 00.00 on the GPS.
Day 7 dawned with sadness, it was our last full day and there was not a minute to waste. We had motored overnight to Santiago Island and anchored at James Bay in Buccaneer Cove and what a sight it was. Santiago is an older island and the effects of waves and weather on this volcanic shoreline was dramatic. Towering fingers of rock jutted from the sea, testament to how strong these lava cores are.
We eagerly took to our kayaks and went exploring amongst these rock pillars. Our guide pointed out a baby fur seal waiting for mamma to come home and a juvenile sea lion having a hard time hanging onto his breakfast fish. We then traded kayak for snorkels and examined the same area from a different perspective. These pillars rise from deep water, making them attractive to pelagic’s and they are! Along with sea lions, we saw white tip reef sharks cruising the drop off and a large manta ray filter feeding near the surface, right at the end of the snorkel. Cold, yet elated we headed back to the Mary Anne for lunch and a short motor to our next port of call.
Up until 1963 Santiago had a working salt mine and the remnants of the drying pools and channels are still evident. Our walk included not only the mine but a series of tidal pools, some of which housed nursing sea lions or pup crèches. These pools were home to an astounding variety of birds including: oyster catchers, great blue herons, mocking birds and a Galapagos hawk. As we climbed higher the pools became grottos–each one formed and fed by the crashing waves—and home to an adult fur seal, sea lions by the dozen and a yellow night heron.
As we looped around to return to the beach and the waiting pangas, we spotted marine iguanas feeding on the seaweed in the surf. As each wave came crashing in they disappeared from view, swept away we assumed but no, as the wave receded they reappeared firmly anchored with their strong claws and calmly carried on regardless.
Our last day starts bright and early with a brisk walk on North Seymour Island. Here we come across more ‘domesticated primates’ than we had anywhere else, accountable to the short distance from here to the hub of Baltra Island no doubt.
North Seymour is famous for its rookery of young frigate birds, each chicken sized youngster perches ungainly in a low bush or tree. Although already almost full grown they are still dependant on their parents for food as they cannot yet fly, so they sit and wait, calling out each time an adult wheels overhead. Dancing blue footed boobies were next and then a forest of magnificent frigate birds, with neck pouches inflated in crimson glory they show off to the ladies.
Replete with vistas, visions and stories, we head back to pack and to say our farewells. Our Galapagos adventure has come to an end, yet the Galapagos dream lives on, thanks to the dedicated guides, crews and locals these magical islands survive. Long may its uniqueness live on!