Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - South Plaza Island
The Galapagos Archipelago is composed of 13 main islands, six smaller islands, and over 40 islets located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, on the equator. The islands are known for their large number of endemic species - plants and animals found nowhere else in the world - and the observations by Charles Darwin that led to his theory of natural selection.
Opuntia cacti (prickly pear)
It was a short motor to South Plaza Island - our first visitor site! South Plaza is a small island, just a couple of hundred yards long, off the east coast of Isla Santa Cruz. When we first stepped ashore, we were surrounded by playful sea lions, colorful Sally Lightfoot crabs, and freaky marine iguanas. The land is covered with Opuntia cacti, better know to me as prickly pear, and other succulents. Geological uplift has formed seaside cliffs with stunning views.
Sally Lightfoot crabs
On the rocky walk to the cliffs we saw lava lizards, marine iguanas, large yellow-and-brown land iguanas, and lots of different birds, including the famous blue-footed booby, swallow-tailed gulls, and of course some of Darwin's famous finches. What a great introduction to the islands! It was amazing to be in a place I had read so much about.
Marine iguanas... just good friends!
Just looking for someone to stack myself on!
After South Plaza, we motored to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, where we anchored for the night. Tom and I saw several rays off the bow. The crew came down to the dining room in their dress uniforms just before dinner, and we had a welcome cocktail where the passengers and crew introduced themselves. The cocktail contained curacoa and was called a blue-footed booby. Poor Richard, our waiter, had to dress up every night to serve us dinner. He'd be out of that fancy get-up and into a t-shirt and shorts before the dessert forks hit the plate.
Rainbow after a shower
One passenger was seasick and didn't come up for the cocktail and dinner. Poor thing - she was sick most of the trip. I took meclazine (Bomine) and ginger throughout the trip and thankfully didn't feel bad at all. And since leaving the big-city pollution behind, my sinuses had cleared. Just before cocktails Tom got pooped upon - bienvenidos from the frigate birds! Tom was the second person on our yacht to be so blessed. I'm not going on deck without my hat.
The briefings: Every night after dinner Juan would give us a briefing of our next day's activities. Typically, breakfast was served each morning at 7:00. We'd land at a visitor site at 8:00 and go for a hike and sometimes a snorkel, then return to the yacht shortly before noon for lunch, generally break for a couple hours while we'd motor to another site, and then around 2:00 or 3:00 we'd land for another hike or snorkel. By national park regs, all visitors have to be off the islands by 6:00. Dinner was at 7:00, and then another briefing. We were busy! Typically, between 8:30 and 10:00 each night everybody would drift off to bed, tired from a long day and preparing for an early morning.