Day 6

April 28, 2007

Post Office Bay, Floreana

We had breakfast at 7 AM with Naranjilla juice. Luis, the bartender, explained that naranjilla is not an orange, as the spanish name suggests, but it does look like a small orange on the outside. The juice was very tasty. Its my new favorite juice.

Overnight we sailed and arrived at Post Office Bay at Floreana Island. The bay is named for a centuries-old "post office". First used by pirates, whalers, and explorers the post office consists of a barrel into which mail is placed. It is a cooperative system - each person dropping off mail checks the rest of the mail to see if it is destined for his or her own country, in which case you take the mail back and eventually it gets delivered. Today, the same things happens, but now it is tourists mailing postcards. It is interesting to see all the postcards from people from all around the world. We took a few to mail, even though none were destined for Bermuda. We also saw some remnants of a Norwegian fish canning operation and our guide told his version of the Floreana Story, an unsolved mystery about the disappearance of some of the early, eccentric settlers.

Post Office Bay in the MorningPost Office Bay BarrelMailing Postcards at Post Office Bay

Snorkeling at Devil's Crown

At 11 AM, we went snorkeling at Devil's Crown, know to be one of the best places to snorkel in the Galapagos Islands. Called the Devil's crown because it looks like a crown jutting out of the water, it is a volcanic crater in the water off the the island of Floreana. We started on the outside of the crown, where the current is quite strong. Hundreds and hundreds of fish were there, some deeper than others. The water gets deep fairly quick as you move away from the crown. At times I saw down about 15 feet amongst the schools of colorful tropical fish. We swan with the current and then swam around so that we we inside the crown (crater). The water was shallower inside, but the current still strong. We saw several interesting starfish and large schools of sardines. Then I saw a good-sized shark. When I turned around again to try to take a photo, it was gone, nowhere to be found. There are also a few sea lions swimming around as well. Overall it was the best snorkeling we had seen in Galapagos (so far).

Flamingos at Cormorant Point

After lunch we sailed to Cormorant Point on Floreana Island. One of the main attractions her is lagoon frequently by pink flamingos. This is one of the few places in the Galapagos were flamingos live. In this lagoon or "brackish pond", there were about 30-40 flamingos, most of the m were far away and hard to see. Later there was a couple that were much closer, including a baby flamingo, who has not yet turned pink.

Pink Flamingo LagoonFloreana Flamingo

We then continued walking over to the other side of the point, to a beach known as "Sting Ray City", a favorite place for large schools of stingrays. At first we saw more white-tipped sharks than stingrays, and even a few sea turtles swimming in the bay. Later we did see a bunch of sting rays, many with their wing tips out of the water. It was interesting to see sharks, turtles, and stingrays all in the same area. Our guide also showed us the green sand beach -- although in a different way than our guidebooks described: to see the green sand, he had to dig down about a foot through the white sand.

Baby Turtles Hatch and Run for the Water

Before arriving on the "Sting Ray City" beach on Cormorant Point, our guide told us there was a small chance that we might get to see a baby turtle, as there is a sea turtle nesting area at the back of the beach. He explained that the frigate birds flying overheard would provide the clues. With excellent vision, the frigate birds hover back a forth over the turtle nests, looking for some moving sand or a tiny turtle sticking it head out of the sand. Most turtles hatch and come out of the nest during the night, and this is why. They have almost no chance of survival in the daylight.

Several times I saw the frigates swoop down towards the turtle nesting ground, though I couldn't tell if they caught anything. Later, as we were taking photos of the stingrays, our grouped was gathered together. Not only had a baby turtle emerged from its nest, but two of them had. By staying very close to the baby turtles, the frigate birds were prevented from swooping down and picking up the turtles. The baby turtles were tiny (see the photo below with my hand and camera to get a sense of the size). Every tiny little divot in the sand seems like a huge dune, and obstacle in the turtles' path. Instinctively, baby turtles know to head directly for the water, even though they have never seen water nor swam before -- the mother turtle is long gone by this point, there is no one to tell them what or where to go. And they seem to know that they have to move fast, as the little guys can really move. Here are some photos:

Turtle on the MoveBaby Turtle on the RunBaby Turtle Almost ThereBaby Turtle Heads for the SeaTurtle in the SandBaby Turtle Photo Shoot

Within a few minutes, the turtles reached the edge of the water, one and then the other. Warning: if you don't like sad story endings, you should stop reading now. Once we got closer to the edge of the water, our group began to spread out, every so slightly, as the first waves washed over the tiny turtles' backs. That was just enough, apparently, as a frigate bird dove quickly and snatched the baby turtle from the water, so fast that we didn't even have time to react. This happened to both turtles, unfortunately. The cute little turtles, running for their lives a few moments ago, had become a meal for the frigate birds. You have to wonder if the frigate birds had not gotten them, whether the school of sharks, just meters away, would have went after them.

Note: According to Wikipedia, sea turtles lay between 70-190 eggs up to 9 nines per year and only 1 in 1000 baby turtles make into adulthood.

Rough Seas from Floreana to Espanola

On the Beach at SunsetAfter a nice sunset as we left Floreana, we had dinner and the boat set sail for Espanola, 7 hours away. Now out in the open ocean, the swells grew. At least one member of our group became seasick, probably a few others as well. before going to bed we went up onto the foredeck and sat in the deck chairs, staring out at the rolling blackness ahead. No lights, no land, just darkness. We then saw a couple of noctural birds fly by the boat, which may have been the only noctural gull in the world, known to live in the Galapagos. As we went to bed, the boat was really rolling, kinda like sleeping on a rollercoaster. Fun stuff.

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