We spent the morning exploring the small island of South Plaza, a small geological uplift with tall cliffs on one side offering spectacular views, the other side, sliding into the ocean gently and as expected, littered with marine iguanas and sea lions.
This time though, we had a new species to discover. The Land Iguana. As we weaved through a trail of Prickly Pear, Opuntia and Sesuvium trees, we spotted the mustard coloured Land Iguanas dotted beneath almost every tree. Obtaining their moisture from chomping on cactus leaves (ouch), these prehistoric creatures are much larger than the marine iguanas we had encountered previously. Varying from a bright yellow to a dirty, almost yellow rust colour, these fattys feature shorter, rounder tails and not to mention bulging bellys.
We watched in anticipation as a dark male marine iguana (who smiled coyly for the camera – above) approached a female land iguana wanting to interbreed. He approached slowly, as we learned that the iguanas mate by the male latching onto the neck of a female with their jaws causing her quite a bit of pain while he does his duties. Once over, the female then seeks revenge to hurt the male in return. We are keen to witness this.
He swaggerd up. She saw him in her peripheral and walked away. He snuck a little closer. She moved further away. This ordeal continued for a few hundred metres until the marine iguana was a little far from the water to continue and gave up. No luck for him.
As we ascended toward the steep cliffs that ran along the back of the island, flocks of shearwater birds flapped in frenzy. There were hundreds of these small black and white birds combined with the odd boobie or frigate. Swallow tailed gulls and red billed tropicbirds also nested in the cliffs.
Schools of yellow tailed king angel fish were visible feeding on the surface of the water below, alongside green mullet.
These fish were too large for the birds so there is no threat to them being eaten, the birds swoop and dive into the waters aiming for the smaller fish.
As we walked along the cliff side, we came to a colony of bachelor sea lions. The dominant bulls splayed along these cliffs are all in various stages of recovery from lost battles for prime beach territory (or rejection) from females and have made themselves at home on these high cliff tops while the blasting sun soothes their damaged egos.
Following lunch, we had the chance for our last deep water snorkel. Visibility was poor and the water extremely choppy. Some of the group saw a small shark, some others an eel and a ray. We witnessed sea lions playing amongst the snorkellers but not much else.
We then had a dry landing at North Seymour, another small geological uplift. We followed a trail that looked like we were walking onto the set of Jurassic Park. Barron, desolate, sunburnt, eerie.
Ensuring we didn’t tread on the sea lions as we walked, we witnessed blue footed boobies dotted on the rocks with the turquoise waves barreling in perfect spirals behind them.
Tangled dead looking twigs and branches interweave to create a nesting home to many frigate birds and their fluffy white chicks. Magnificent and Great Frigate birds were scattered in the barron shrubs before us.
This was our first sighting of the Magnificent Frigate birds in full swell. A handful of males were puffed up ready to attract a female. It looked quite uncomfortable for them as they battled to turn their heads with this massive red balloon in front of them. Their long beaks have a hook at the end – I wonder if they ever accidentally pop their own balloon? Of course that would be terrible but it definitely looked possible.
Apparently once the males have found a female partner, assuming she sticks around and doesn’t search for a better offer, it can take a good few days for his ballooned chest to deflate so they can get to work. Seems like a bit of a nuisance if you ask me.
Wandering on, we again witnessed the endemic land iguanas here, glowing in the late afternoon sun as they basked on the tarnished rocks.
We headed back to the ship for the Captains farewell cocktail party for our last night on board.
Day 8, back to San Cristobal. Our last day in paradise.
We had a short visit this morning to the interpretation centre where we gain a more complete understanding of the natural and human history of the islands. Did you know that Floreana island used to be a penal colony and that many of the inhabitants of the Galápagos Islands are actually descendants of prisoners much like the convicts in Australia?
Perhaps being a prisoner wasn’t so bad seeing as it seems that prisoners were sent to the most exotic locations on earth!
From here it was time to fly back to mainland Ecuador and our time in the enchanted islands was over.
Crooked Compass travelled with Ecoventura on board MY Eric.
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This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.