Our first excursion from the M/S Galapagos Legend was just 2.5 hours after getting onboard. This was beginning to look like what we experienced in the Amazon Basin — we would be very busy with excursions. Anyway, the first excursion was to Bartolome, an island closeby Baltra (the one with the airport). Our trip to Bartolome involved hiking along a boardwalk and up some wooden steps to the highest point on the island. This wasn´t the best island for wildlife but we did see a dozen or so lava lizards. Our guide pointed out the difference between the male and female lava lizards. Basically, the females have red-orange coloration on the sides of their face and neck and while the males also sometimes have a bit of orange around the neck, it isn´t as dramatic as that on the females. Here is a picture of a female lava lizard…
Along the path up to the island´s peak, our guide stopped to explain some of the lava formations to us. One of these was a small lava tube formed by lava rushing to the sea.
The wind was incredible on this island and more than one person lost their hat. While near the peak, the skin on our bare legs was nearly sandblasted off. At the peak Michele managed to take this nice panoramic of the island. We arrived on the island near the beach to the right.
After the hike, we spent about 45 minutes snorkeling in the waters just off the beach. I swam with a few sea lions, while Michele swam with a penguin. Together we dove to get a closer look at a green sea turtle that was feeding on algae growing on a rock on the sandy bottom below. Unfortunately, we don´t yet have underwater housings for either of our cameras so there are no pictures of these aquatic creatures.
About 2.5 hours after disembarking for Bartlome, we got back in the Zodiac to re-embark on the Legend cruiseship to relax for a couple of hours before enjoying a fantastic dinner.
The next morning we were up at 6:30 for the 7:00 breakfast before disembarking on the zodiac for what i consider one of the best islands in the archipelago.
The morning excursion was to Fernandina Island. As the boat was nearing a small wooden dock pertruding from the lava. We spotted the stars of the the island — the marine iguanas. While the marine iguanas are found on most of the islands, we felt this one had the highest concentration of the largest iguanas. At some points it was difficult to avoid stepping on them.
These are some of the world´s most interesting reptiles. They feed exclusively on green algae that grows (mostly underwater) on the rocks. After warming up in the morning sun, they swim out just a short way and dive in search of algae. While underwater they bite off as much algae as they can get in one dive (they are lunged air-breathers that have to hold their breath) and if that´s enough, they return to sun bathe on the lava rocks. Because these iguanas, like all reptiles, are unable to regulate their body temperature internally, they have to use the sun. So, in order to digest the algae, they essentially ¨cook¨it in their stomachs with solar power. (this analogy was adopted from the Kurt Vonnegut book Galapagos) Here´s one of our friends trying to decide if he´s/she´s warm enough for the morning swim. Check out those lips! Goth Iguana, perhaps?
There were also many lava lizards running around on the lava and across the backs of the resting marine iguanas. They are even harder to avoid stepping on.
The other big star of Fernandina was the Sally Lightfoot crab. Again, while these are found throughout the Archipelago, we felt this island had more than the others. Here´s my photo of one of these colorful creatures.
Unfortunately, about halfway through our hike on this island, one of the members of our group, Ruth (85 year old lady), fell and twisted her ankle. This injury was to plague her throughout the rest of the cruise. While we are pretty sure Ruth understood this cruise was going to involve these kinds of hikes over uneven terrain, we understand that many people book a tour on the Legend cruiseship without realizing what it is. This is not your typical, luxury cruise with late night shows, drinking and gambling. The main purpose of the cruise is world class wildlife viewing and experiencing the interesting landscapes. It often requires hikes of 2.5-3.0 hours over uneven lava.
After our hike, we went snorkeling off of the zodiac boats. We swam with sea lions and cormerant birds that dive in the water in search of food. While in the water we also saw huge sea turtles and big schools of brightly colored fish. The only drawback was that the water was extremely cold – so cold that Michele´s hands and feet became numb while in the water.
Shortly after returning to the Legend, we had our fantastic buffet lunch followed by a siesta before preparing to disembark for our afternoon excursion.
The Legend remained anchored at the same spot for this next excursion to nearby Isabella Island and we rode over in the zodiacs. On Isabella we saw many birds including cormorants, yellow warblers, pelicans, blue-footed boobies and frigates as well as some more lava lizards. One part of the excursion was a zodiac ride along the shore of Isabella. During this ride we saw a handful of penguins. Seems strange to see these birds right on top of the Equator since they are normally thought of as being arctic or antarctic. Here´s a picture…
After the zodiac ride, we hiked to the top of Isabela Island. From the look out point, we could see the island´s one salt lake and the massive lava flows frozen in time. The island is covered with cacti and while hiking down the other side we saw sea turtles swimming in the ocean and a baby sea lion with its mother.
The Galapagos adventure continues in Part III…