Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 3: Iguanas!

Note: Because I had no internet connection on the boat, I'm posting these about a week after they actually happened. I'll post one Galapagos post each day, followed by Machu Picchu posts, so you can live vicariously through my diaries and photos.

The theme today was iguanas, though it may seem as though it was sea lions. They're very photogenic. Galapagos has four species of iguanas that all descended from a single ancestor species. 

1. Marine iguanas are strict vegetarians, and dive to feed on algae. They're black and blend in with the rocks very well. They live on several islands.

From Galapagos1-Baltra and Bachas

2. Land iguanas of about the same size as marine iguanas are found on five islands, including South Plaza. They are more brown than black, and they love to eat opuntia fruits and pads, but they'll also eat flowers and other stuff.

From Galapagos2-South Plaza and Santa Fe

3. Santa Fe has a separate species of land iguanas that are larger and lighter in color--white/orange/yellow/brown. They are endemic to this island.

From Galapagos2-South Plaza and Santa Fe

4. The northern slope of Wolf volcano on Fernandina is habitat to a pink iguana. There are only 101 known adults, and they were only recently recognized as a separate species. Tourists aren't allowed to go there, but they're under active research.

Today, we saw all but the pink iguanas. 
First, we had a dry landing at South Plaza island, which is one of a pair of small islands shaped like parentheses (the other is North Plaza) off the east coast of Santa Cruz. We watched baby sea lions frolicking in the nursery while their moms were out fishing. Sea lions live in harems, with one large male, several females, and their pups. These pups were relaxing in the tidepools and the hot sun.

Moving around the island, we also saw some land and marine iguanas and some gulls. Crossing the island the short way, we got to cliffs on the other side, where lots of birds nest, and we could see into the water. Other people saw a hammerhead shark, but I didn't. I did see some surgeon fish, though. They had bright yellow tails. It was really hot and hard to concentrate on the animals.
After lunch we booked it over to Santa Fe island, which is to the southeast of Santa Cruz. The ride took a few hours and the water was choppier than my stomach would have liked, so I sat on the upper deck and ended up napping. While awake, though, I did see several sea turtles swimming in our wake. Awesome.
We snorkeled in the afternoon, near a rock wall next to Santa Fe. Sea lions came to swim with us. We saw plenty of fish, and birds (out of the water) too. Then we moved into the open area between the island and the rock wall, where we found a sea turtle! I followed it for a while, and at one point it sat on the bottom for a long time, then finally came up for air, and I got a good look. It was beautiful. I also saw a pair of rays, but not the stinging kind. I liked snorkeling, once I got used to breathing through a tube.
After a short break (in which I learned to play Pinochle), we went over to Santa Fe, where a bunch of sea lions were lying on the beach. A few of them posed for us, so we took lots of pictures. Then we went for a little hike along the coast to see the land iguanas that are endemic to Santa Fe. Those were the ones I remember from the videos, the ones that climb to the volcano's rim to lay their eggs. They were big.
Tonight we have another long ride out to Espanola Island, further southeast, and one of the oldest islands.

Click here for the whole day's album.

See vacation summary (with links to each day).

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