Published: May 31st 2012May 12th 2012
At about 6:30 I was awake and feeling good. Sarah was totally fine, the rough seas last night did not bother her at all. The boat was nestled in to Sullivan Bay, between the big island of Santiago and the small island of Bartolome. The seas were very calm.
7:00 breakfast and by 8:00 we were off to Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island. After a wet landing Victor introduced the island and as he was doing so a juvenile endemic Galapagos Hawk (endemic species) flew low over our heads and landed nearby. We got a great view of the Hawk, no more than 15 feet away. Next we walked for about two miles through a recent lava flow, from 1889. It was recent enough that it was generally devoid of life, which was pretty cool looking with the 3 million year old lava flow that created Santiago Island in the background. The two main lava flow types were the Ahoyhoy (slow moving) and the Ah Ah Ah (more viscous and sharper to walk on - hence the name). Along the walk we saw a number of lava lizards, small maybe 6 inch maximum lizards. We saw two females fight over
New, old, and older
New lava flow (black) mixed in with older lava flow (redish) and really old lava flow (green vegetation)
a male. And other than a lava cactus and some really small plants, the lizards were the only living thing on the new lava flow.
Next up was a snorkel in Sullivan Bay. Visibility was probably the best we have had yet. We could probably see 30 feet or more to the bottom. We saw a couple really cool lobsters (Sarah having the keen eye to spot the first). We also saw banded sea snake, which is supposedly very poisonous, but we only saw the back half of the snake as it swum in to a crevice to hide. It kind of looked like this
. The snake was not in any of the guide books we could see on board so I am not sure what it really was, just that it had black and white bands. Sarah had the best experience of the day though, a Galapagos Penguin (endemic) jumped in the water 3 feet in front of her mask and she got to chase it for a bit, kicking hard to try to keep up. I only got to see its head just before it really kicked it in to high gear and was gone. Definitely
hoping to see more penguins later on. On the Galapagos you typically will see one or two, not big groups.
Scandal of the day, when we returned from snorkeling and the captain learned we had seen lobster, he took off in a boat with two mates and two unknowing passengers to try to catch the lobster to eat. Our guide, Victor was pissed and said he is going to report them. We might as well. It is illegal to fish from cruise boats. Very not cool. We were advised that kind of thing has happened in the past, but I figured it was just that, a thing of the past. Real bummer to be on a boat that breaks the rules.
The afternoon started with another snorkel at 2 and it was cold. Sharks!!! Just after getting in the water Dave spotted a white tip reef shark (huge advantage to being the first people in the water). I was already in the water and Sarah had mysteriously appeared next to me despite being in the other dinghy that I thought was well behind us. Apparently she took note of me saying you want to be the first people
in the water because with a group this big if there are sharks they probably won't stick around long. The few of us that were in the water followed the roughly 4.5 foot White Tip Reef Shark. After following it for a little, I passed over a big rock and on the ocean floor, about 15 feet down, hiding in the undercut of a rock was another white tip reef shark. I stopped swimming to look and tried to signal to Sarah to stop, but it was too late. The shark saw us and startled Sarah. This one was bigger, maybe 5 feet long. By now the entire group was in the water chasing the sharks. Most of the group was following the big one, but somehow I ended up following the smaller one which did not seem to mind me much. At one point though, as the shark swam between me and the shoreline it got shallow and the shark ran out room to move. I backed off a bit as I watched it think about what it wanted to do. The choice was to go over some rocks bringing the top quarter of its body out of the
water. I got a great view of its dorsal fin out of the water. The shark kept going, still at a reasonable pace that I could keep up with it, but it was heading out to sea and a bit far from where we were supposed to be snorkeling so I broke off. Incredible!
And the snorkel excitement did not stop there. There were two penguins hanging out on a rock so we got to swim up to them. Then I saw two big Diamond Stingrays laying under some rocks about 10 feet down. One had a body maybe 2.5 feet long and the other probably 3.5. I was able to show the entire group. There was also another lobster nearby.
While I was pointing out the rays, Sarah had swum ahead and got a good view of a smaller sea turtle. She pointed it out to a few people, bit then it took off. I eventually left the big rays to see a couple smaller ones and concluded the snorkel with a bunch of big starfish.
Sarah and I were on the second dinghy heading back to the boat. The first boat had unloaded and there
was loads of commotion on the upper deck. As we got closer we found out there were big sharks in the water by the boat. As we got off the dinghy the people on the upper deck could see the sharks swimming right next to us, but being so close to the water we could not see them. We hurried our way to the upper deck and saw the two big Black Tip Reef Sharks circling the boat. They were about the same size as the one we saw in the channel when we first boarded the boat, maybe 8 feet. After consulting a book, we learned the black tips max size is 8 feet so perhaps they were max size or a little smaller. Turns out the crew was throwing food in the water and that is what attracted them. We ate some tuna fish as a snack shortly after that so maybe they had cut up a tuna? We ran back and forth across the boat for a good 30 minutes or more watching the sharks. Two people with underwater cameras got some nice videos (again which we will post when we are back in the states -
thanks Carly for the photos we can post).
At 4:00 we took off for our dry landing on Bartolome Island. First we swung by Pinnacle Rock and got some photos of two penguins. We were greeted by a baby sea lion, marine iguanas, a sea turtle, blue footed boobies diving in to the water, and a penguin swimming. We took like 10 steps and then saw a sailfish jump off in the distance.
We then continued up the boardwalk. Turns out the mountain we were heading up was a side vent from a volcano that was under water in the cove where we had landed. The landscape was approximately 1.3 million years old so it had a little vegetation, but not nearly what I would expect after such a long time. The new lava flow we had walked on that morning that was only 130ish years old, so that made sense not to have vegetation, but 1.3 million years? Wow.
There were a bunch of smaller cones of volcanoes across the landscape as we climbed. At the top we had the best view in all the Galapagos (not my opinion, that of the guide and books, etc.).
Santiago Island across the water. Volcano causing the new lava flow barely visible in the back left. The beach we landed on in the morning on the right on Santiago and our hike went through part of the visible area. Mangroves make up the green vegetation in the foreground. Pinnacle Rock on the right.
We got a big group photo and took in the view. In the far distance we could see tall mountains on Rabida Island. Just a little closer in the foreground is the volcano that created the new lava flow. It was crazy to see the expanse of the black nothingness of the new lava with the older lava flows that had a lot of vegetation. In the foreground in the same direction was Sullivan Bay, where we were earlier, the snorkel spots, Pinnacle Rock, everything. To the east we could see Daphne Major and Daphne Minor and then further in the distance was North Seymour, Baltra, and Santa Cruz. The view was fantastic.
Back on the boat Sarah and others saw a Galapagos shark in the water. Before dinner the boat motored over to Chinese Hat, our first destination for tomorrow. Fortunately the boat moved slow and seas were calm. Everybody made it to dinner.
There are more photos below