In November, Scuba Diver Life set off for two weeks in the world famous Galapagos to see as much as we could both above and below the water. The following series of articles will detail our misadventures from spontaneous bird feeding frenzies, to Nadia’s Internet withdrawal, playful sea lions, entertaining SMB deployment fails, lava flows, long nights on rough seas, wonderful food, penguins with digestive issues, newborn sea lions, schooling hammerheads, and much more.
Day 5 – Isabela
My early morning attempt to catch the simultaneous sunrise and moonset near Isabela Island failed due to overcast skies. But, around 6:30am we crossed the equator and all watched from the bridge as the latitude went to 0.00 degrees. After breakfast, we hopped on a panga to go tour the waters near Isabela Island looking for interesting animals. Fur seals covered the rocks as did tons of marine iguanas. We took the panga out in deeper water and found a few mola molas swimming around. They didn’t hang around in one spot for very long, so it was hard to get good pics or video of them, but at least we got to see a couple of these rarely seen fish and a brief glimpse of one on video. It’s amazing what you can capture when you turn the camera on and hold it underwater while crossing your fingers. A flightless cormorant posed unabashedly for us with its dilapidated wings. The most amusing thing of the whole morning was when we pulled the pangas back up to the boat. On the back deck was a sea lion chillin’ in the shade. Just another day in the Galapagos.
Punta Vicente Roca
Today’s snorkel in Punta Vicente granted us encounters with fast-moving penguins, marine iguanas both above and below the water, more turtles than I’ve ever seen anywhere, and ever-playful sea lions. The black walls had corals and barnacles on them and some typical reef fish called the area home, but the stars of the show were really the penguins. Good footage of the buggers was hard to get due to their speed, small size, and the mediocre visibility of the colder water, but there were several darting around giving us ample opportunity to try. Two penguins poo’d in Nadia’s face. I feel kind of bad for her, all she has talked about for nearly a week is penguins, penguins, penguins. Then, when she finally gets in the water with them, they poo on her. In her face. On video. I hoped that this didn’t send her another step back into crazy land because at this point she’s pretty much a permanent resident there already.
During lunch, the boat headed towards nearby Fernandina and someone spotted a whale. The captain slowed the boat and then turned it around in a large circle so we could try to get a better look at it. It didn’t show much of itself, but just enough for us to tentatively identify it as a Sei whale. An albatross also landed close to the boat and hung out for photo ops. Fortunately, all of the wildlife activity temporarily kept Nadia too busy to remember she still can’t communicate with the outside world.
Espinosa Point – Here there be dragons
Our hiking spot is the only place tourists are allowed to disembark on Fernandina Island since they make great efforts to keep the island pristine. To say it was a sea of iguanas wouldn’t be doing it justice. I have never seen so many reptiles in one place. You had to constantly watch where you stepped so as not to tread on any of the many hundreds of marine iguanas that call Fernandina home. Even after a week of hikes like this, it still amazes me how the animals care nothing about our presence. You could literally step on an iguana before it would feel compelled to move. As we continued our walk on the corner of the island, we saw more sea lions. One mother had just given birth only a few hours before we got there, evidenced by the placenta that was still near her and the pup. A little further away was another new pup who was trying to figure out nursing for the first time. I am beyond grateful to have witnessed something so few have ever seen.
Day 6 – Isabela
This day’s hike was in Urbina Bay on Isabela. It was a fairly easy 1.5 hour trek with some boulders to climb over here and there. We saw our first land iguanas and the iconic giant tortoises. Unfortunately, I only saw one giant tortoise but Nadia managed to see another on the ‘short’ version of the hike. (It should be noted here that due to having 2 guides, we were often offered short and long versions of the hikes) Several land iguanas were laying around, though they’re more skittish than their marine cousins so we had to take pictures from a distance. Their yellow and orange coloring make for beautiful pictures if you can manage to get a good shot. Further down the trail we could see the remains of coral reef that was uplifted in the 1950s due to geologic activity. When we got ready to board the pangas to head back to the boat, there were half a dozen or more small rays circling in the shallower water near them. No matter where you look here you see life, and much of it is very close to you.
During lunch after the hike, we were treated to a random feeding frenzy outside the boat. The captain once more slowed the boat and turned around in a wide circle to give us great views of this spectacle. Hundreds of pelicans and boobies flocked from the shoreline to this one spot in the water where a bait ball of small fish had formed near the surface. They circled around the spot and then, all at once, dozens dove into the middle of it and came back out with mouths full while dozens more followed behind them. It was like a large conveyer belt of birds. It seemed the birds were never-ending as they dove straight down into the water like rockets, dozens after dozens after dozens. Since we were eating lunch when it started, no one had their cameras ready, but Nadia managed to run and get her phone to video some of the end of it. What she caught was only a small fraction of what was happening at the beginning but it was still pretty amazing.
Later in the day, we took a panga ride to a protected area of mangroves to see penguins, turtles, rays, cormorants, and pelicans. Nadia was able to get some great shots of penguins out of the water, and I got a brief video of some rays under the water near the panga. During part of the journey, we had to turn the engine off and paddle through the mangroves, making for a peaceful and quiet trip.
When the sun finally set on our way around Isabela, the moon wasn’t quite out yet and the sky was filled with more stars than I have ever seen. I tried to find the Southern Cross, but it wasn’t up yet and I was too tired to stay awake for it. The amount of stars I did see was so impressive, though. With absolutely no light to spoil the view except for a very bright Venus, I felt like I could see every star in the universe. It was breathtaking, to say the least. I laid on the top deck, mesmerized, until I was falling asleep.
You can check out my YouTube channel, if you are so inclined, to see pictures and video from the trip.
Next up ~ We have an adventurous transition to the Aggressor for a week of epic diving, take our first breaths on compressed air in the Galapagos, mola molas and orcas make an appearance, as do wine and hot tubs.