Friday, March 11, 2005 - Espaņola Island: Gardner Bay / Tortuga Rock

I raced upstairs just before 6:00 a.m. to see the sunrise, but it was raining. Hopefully, it will quickly pass. We've got a landing at 8:00. I dressed in a bathing suit and nylon shorts for the outing so that if it rains, at least I'm dressed to be wet. Also, Juan said we could swim off the beach this morning if we want to. The group doesn't have to stay all together for this stop and can freely roam the beach with the sea lions.

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Wet landing at Gardner Bay

Paradise found: If it's white sandy beaches and beautiful turquoise colored water you're after, Gardner Bay is the place. It is the most magnificent beach in the Galapagos. The half-mile stretch of sand is home to several sea lions colonies. They are very playful and come right up to you. If I was a sea lion, I'd definitely prefer to hang out here as opposed to the other places we'd seen them, where they use rocks for pillows.

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Jana and friends

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Preening pups

Gardner Bay is brilliant! In addition to the sea lions, we saw a few birds, lots of Sally Lightfoot crabs, and some hermit crabs. The bright red crabs were a striking contrast to the black volcanic rock covered with green algae. A unique species of marine iguana makes its home here, identified with a red-and-green coloration. We saw a sea lion nursing it's calf, completely unperturbed by the iguanas surrounding them.

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Colorful crabs

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Espaņola marine iguanas

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Sea lion feeds while marine iguanas stand guard

It rained off and on during our visit, but we didn't let it dampen our spirits. Overcast days make for great photographs.

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Looks like rain

Back on the yacht, we were assigned our snorkeling gear and then took the pangas to Tortuga Rock, an islet near Gardner Bay. This was my first time to snorkel, and I was more than a little nervous. Tom, however, was an experienced snorkeler, having done it once before. I'd bought a marine bag for my camera but opted not to take it for this first snorkel; I figured I had enough to deal with as it is. Happily, all went swimmingly. Snorkeling is awesome. There were lots of colorful fish and sea urchins, and some people (hurray, not me) saw a shark. We swam about 45 minutes. The pangas followed us and picked us up when we were done. Several of us got jellyfish stings today, nothing too bad, just a little irritating.

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Why am I in a tree?

 

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