Boobies, Frigates and Land Iguanas, oh my!

We left the hotel for our first full day adventure and headed down to the sea once more. The highlands, home to our hotel is often misty and grey in the morning. Heading down to the water, we passed land that looked overtaken by the trees, plants and cacti, and it soon was bright and sunny.

The process of getting to an island, while not tedious, can be a bit time consuming. From bus, to zodiac to our boat took about 10 to fifteen minutes and we went in two groups.

Once upon our little ship, named the Santa Fe, we were brought to our first stop, North Seymour Island. A small, uninhabited island,divided into two parts by a little bay, it is rich in wildlife. As soon as we disembarked we saw a few sea lions on the rocks.

We jointly shot over 300 pictures from this 1 ½ hour walk so suffice it to say that this post will contain a few pics. Our outstanding guides, Xavier and Jose, both Galapagos natives, each took one group and headed in opposite directions, passing in the middle.
Xavi taught us along the way how each island’s habitat is unique, as is its animals and birds. This is a truly unique environment and the natural park service goes to great lengths to protect it from invasive species of plants and animals.

Land iguanas eat mostly cactus, and the amount they eat affect their color which is varying shades of brown and yellow. Iguanas are usually found around the cactus,and as our eyes adjusted to looking for them, we saw many. The iguanas in North Seymour appeared to be pretty healthy, and many large ones were noticed.

We were extremely happy to find out that this time of year is both mating and nesting season. The infamous, adorable blue-footed boobies were soon noticed all over, many with the mama or dad, and occasionally both, guarding the nests of the newborn chicks. In one case, the nest was so close to our path, we could see the mama both sitting on a remaining unhatched egg, while preening her other chick, probably less than a week old. There were lots of families, and we couldn’t stop photographing them.

Frigate birds are another awesome sight. They are large and black, constantly flying around near cliffs, and over land and water.

We had seen them yesterday, but today’s sightings brought a surprise. The males have a red little balloon like pouch on their neck. When they want to attract a female, the blow up this pouch with air quite large and keep it that way for up to 45 minutes. We even saw a couple through bushes where only the heart-shaped pouch was visible and not the bird.

Lava lizards, and some Sally-light foot crabs rounded out our animal sightings, as well as some cute sea lions.

We headed back to the boat for a nice fish lunch on board and got ready for our afternoon activity, snorkeling! For this activity, our boat took us to Bachas beach, a beautiful spot with blue-green water and trails for non snorkelers to also enjoy.

To get us to the snorkeling site, we had a "wet landing", that is, landing in water that was about a foot deep. It’s been quite a while since we have been snorkeling. Although it isn’t hard, we both had a few problems adjusting. Jim’s mask didn’t fit well (moustache problems) and he kept inhaling water. He eventually just swam with just the mask and no snorkel and looked, picking up his head to breathe. But the water was wonderful and it was fun to swim and explore.

It wasn’t deep, but we saw a variety of fish near rocks. Someone saw a small sea turtle, and Wendy saw a small 2-foot shark. They don’t harm people though, and like to find little wells under rocks to hide in. We did not bring an underwater camera with us, so unfortunately, no pictures.

We repeated the boat to zodiac to bus experience on the way back. Most of us slept as it was a wonderfully exhausting day. That evening we had our daily briefing, enjoyed a delicious dinner at our hotel, and headed to bed to get ready to do it all again tomorrow!