After an absolutely amazing introduction to the stunning Eastern Galapagos islands where I experienced so many beautiful landscapes and wildlife encounters, it was onto the South Islands! Espanola quickly became one of my favourite islands (Though no beach will ever match Cerro Brujo, I’m sure!) I saw so much wildlife there and the snorkelling was undoubtedly the best I experienced in my full week in The Galapagos!
After a rough night at sea, everyone feeling sleep deprived, we rallied ourselves and headed for Espanola in the panga’s. A beautiful long stretch of bright white sandy beach with black volcanic rock. Sadly the weather was a little rainy but for me the highlight was seeing the playful sea-lion pups playing with each other in the sea and sunny weather didn’t seem so important as we watched them catching waves and surfing them! We also saw plenty more marine iguanas basking in the sun (which came out temporarily) as well as some brave little finches and mocking birds which hopped up to us happy as larry to pose for pictures.
Back on the pangas we headed for some rocks to do some deep water snorkelling. This was my absolute favourite snorkelling experience so far – yes even better than the Great Barrier Reef! Firstly I have never encountered water so clear before – the visibility was un-real! Secondly, we were surrounded by younger more playful sea-lion pups that interacted with us even more than on the previous day off San Cristobal! They were spinning in circles and zooming up to us before diving beneath. It was definitely impossible to keep 2 metres away here! I was nose-to-nose with them on several occasions taking videos and photos. One of the guys on my trip had a go-pro on a selfie stick and has amazing footage of the sea lions playfully biting at the go pro! (Glad it wasn’t biting fingers!) Whilst the sea lions were my highlight, the fish were also incredible as was the coral on the deep shelf we swam along! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen coral so colourful! This was definitely an experience that will stay with me for a long time!
The same day we took a panga ride to another part of Espanola island where we had a rare opportunity to see The Galapagos Albatross. These huge birds perform a silly dance to attract a mate which we were lucky to see! The female was having none of it though!
- The albatrosses mate for life – they are not into the tinder game!
- Some albatross babies weigh more than their parents because their parents will leave for several days hunting for food and so they feed up the babies with lots of fish oil to keep them going until their return! They also look huge as they are big brown balls of fluff!
- Whilst the Galapagos hawks are the top predator, the albatross are safe from them as they are too big, including the babies!
As well as Albatrosses, we also saw LOADS of marine iguanas! There were hundreds of them clustered together for warmth. There were so many that you had to be so careful not to step on any! Whilst they look pretty terrifying, they are very chilled out and barely blink when you go near! These particular marine iguanas had been eating a lot of algae as the algae alters their colour! These iguanas were different shades of bright red and green! Another top highlight was discovering a newborn baby sea-lion on our way back to the boat. The fluffy little pup had been born in the 2 hours we were away exploring the island! It could barely open its eyes and looked wet and bedraggled, suckling from it’s mother! What a privilege to see this in the wild!
The next day we were in Floreana west of Espanola. First stop was Santa Cormorant, the salt water lagoon where we spotted a few lonely flamingoes – most had found they way to other lagoons in search of more food. The walk we took led to another beautiful beach where stingrays, turtles and sharks were spotted from the beach.
We did another snorkel from the boat, this time the water was very choppy and there was a strong current which we followed. But despite this, it still felt incredibly peaceful under the water! Here we saw some incredible fish! Parrot fish, angel fish and many more. There were one or two sea lions but these seemed more intent on fishing than playing this time. We did catch sight of our first sea turtle, albeit fleeting.
The same afternoon we headed for post office bay where there is a small box containing postcards addressed to places all over the world. The idea being you drop off a postcard and if any are addressed to your home town then you take it to hand deliver! So Mum & Dad – don’t be surprised if your postcard doesn’t arrived until 2020!
There was just enough time for another snorkel this time off the beach. The highlight here was the sea turtles. I’ve swam with turtles before but these were HUGE! I’m guessing 1 metre long! And at one point I was swimming with 3 of them! The current was strong so it was difficult to move away and I came face to face with the turtle as it swam beneath me just a mere few cm away! Incredible!
With the Southern Islands ticked off, the next stop was the Central Galapagos Islands. Watch this space for the next blog all about orcas, land iguanas, sharks and volcanic, beautiful Bartolome!