From the National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos, Sunday, May 23, 2010
There, in the clearing, were a male and female Waved Albatross, clacking away with their beaks in a courtship display. We were on the isolated Espanola Island in the far South east of the Galápagos. It had taken us all night to sail here from North Seymour Island. This is the only place in the world where you can see nesting Waved Albatross. They are called the Waved Albatross because on their sides and belly they have a beautiful wavy pattern of brown and white. We even saw an albatross taking off. It lifted its wings and started to run and pump. Finally it lifted into the clean fresh air. The gigantic albatross reminded me of a plane lifting off its runway.
To get on the island from our ship, we took a Zodiac to a small rocky peninsula. There the bright red crabs were dotting the rocks with color. I even saw a crab treat a sleeping sea lion like a rock and climb on top of him. Sprawled on the sand nearby were dozens more sea lions. From the landing site, we trekked across the island, passing more beaches and low vegetation teaming with wildlife. Along the way we saw the endemic subspecies of marine iguana, the endemic species of lava lizard, and the endemic species of mockingbird.
Finally we arrived at the albatross colony at the south coast of the island. There, the waves crashed into the cliffs, sending spray shooting up in every which way. Mist rose in the distance, making the landscape look desolate. At the cliff edge, iguanas were piled up among rocks looking like lava. There were little plants as green as emeralds at the top of the cliff. Albatrosses were flying over the cliffs, swooping down on us to check us out. They are truly huge birds, the largest in the Galápagos. Their wingspan is 2.35 meters, and they are 90 cm long. After a nice long visit with the albatrosses, we hiked back across the island, passing blue-footed and Nazca boobies, and lots more marine iguanas.
After lunch, we headed out for deep water snorkeling at Gardener Island, close to Española. Six sea lions darted in and out of inlets, tantalizing snorkelers who tried to follow. Bright red fish hid in crevices, and a sea turtle swam below us.
After snorkeling, we took a Zodiac over to the big beach on Española Island where sea lions dotted the beach like chocolate chips on a cookie. We took a walk down the beach to have a closer look at them. Most of the sea lions were sleeping, but some pups were nursing, and some were playing in the surf. Every once in a while one of them snorted or grunted.
We did a lot of things at Española Island. We hiked, snorkeled, and visited the beach. I can’t wait to see what new surprises come when we visit Floreana Island tomorrow.
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