Galapagos Cruise Report: Española

From the National Geographic Islander in Galápagos June 5, 2010

Our day started to warm up as we had a pre-breakfast kayak excursion. Being surrounded by deep blue water, frolicking sea lions and a rugged volcanic coastline truly wakes us up for another incredible day in Las Islas Encantadas. All were surprised to find out that the dark boulders on Gardner Bay beach were over one hundred sea lions basking in the sun. This beach was to be our eventual destination however we needed to explore the undersea world of Galápagos with our last snorkel.

Those darn sea lions never cease to amaze in their playful and curious behavior as they blow bubbles in our masks and disappear in a flash. All coalesce on one of the most beautiful beaches found on earth, pristine in every way and a proper home to this large colony of sea lions. Española mocking birds descend upon us immediately upon our landing on the beach and with utmost fearlessness proceed to poke their heads into our backpacks and snorkel gear. As we enter into dry season this species continually searches for water sources and our guests seem to have an inside connection on how to obtain water. Upon our departure we are sent off with the arrival of a some ruddy turn stones and American oyster catchers that land on the beach gleaning for possible prey.

The National Geographic Islander repositions along the western coast of Española as we have saved the best for last. Punta Suarez waited for us with a dreary dry coast and with heavy waves curving around the point that is prominent here. Looks can be deceiving but upon landing we are surrounded by unrivaled beauty and diversity of life. An apparently lazy sea lion greats us on the landing platform by opening one eye then prominently shuts it as it accepts us as a normal addition to her home.

The bolder terrain is home to marine iguanas, lava lizards, blue footed boobies and an occasional Galápagos snake. We continue along the trail with care as it appears that the wildlife uses the trail more then we do. As we reach the southernmost point in Galápagos we find a cliff and a convenient boulder or two for us to take a seat and watch the “show”. Shore and pelagic birds fly by, each with their destination in mind whether it be returning to feed chicks, looking for coastal food or taking the step off the cliff heading out to sea for various days. “Speeeeeeeesh” is an interesting sound but more interesting is the display as waves crash along the shore and send water vapor up to 80 feet in height as it is compressed into a blow hole.

Further along this cliff we meet one of the most special areas in Galápagos, a waved albatross breading colony. Waved albatross only nest in the Galápagos Islands and only on Española Island. We were very lucky to be able witness this majestic species in all of its grandeur. Neck swaying, sky pointing, and beak jousting reaffirm their bond as they breed for life and both take equal care for the chick which appears to be a miniature version of “Big Bird”.

The sun drops quickly with its equatorial trajectory as we return to our floating home and it is hard to accept that this journey here in the Galápagos has not been a dream.

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