Saturday, March 12, 2005 - Floreana Island: Punta Cormorant / Devil's Crown
One of the few Galapagos islands with an adequate water supply, Floreana has been visited for centuries by pirates, whalers, convicts, and colonists. It has an infamous history. Juan told us to be sure to keep together today because 21 people have disappeared on Floreana over the years, including the self-proclaimed empress of the island and two of her love slaves. Today the island has 85 residents - better them than me.
We landed at Punta Cormorant at 8:00 a.m. on an olive-green beach surrounded by black hills supporting scrubby green trees. A short walk through lush vegetation brought us to the largest flamingo lagoon in the Galapagos. It's a very peaceful area, and we managed to snap several photos of the beautiful birds before the rain started and we had to pull out the ponchos. We saw one flamingo youth which had a whitish color. Flamingos aren't born pink; they turn that color from eating lots of shrimp. You are what you eat! We also saw big, goofy great blue herons, which we also have in East Tennessee, and a cute little yellow warbler.
Another short walk took us to a white-sand beach, and soon the rain stopped. We walked along the beach looking for sea turtles and stingrays but didn't spot any. We made our way back to the first beach, and just before boarding the pangas, we saw our first penguin!! It was swimming just offshore. I want to see more!
Back to the yacht for a clothing change, then we pangaed to the Corona del Diablo for some snorkeling. The Devil's Crown is all that's left of an extinct volcanic cone that's been eroded by the ocean. Reputedly, this is some of the best snorkeling in the islands. The currents here are strong, so the pangas followed us while we swam. Juan told us to look for sea lions, rays, penguins, Galapagos sharks and hammerhead sharks. Sharks?!? Not to worry, he says, sharks here don't bother people. Well, okay, if you say so...
Corona del Diablo
So because of, or in spite of, the reassurances about the sharks, we therefore snorkeled anyway. The currents were strong and the water was a little murky, but it was extremely cool! I took my camera this time, but the underwater pics weren't great. I'll try again next time. We saw a bunch of colorful sea stars, surgeon fish and other fish, and at the very end, right before I swam as fast as I could for the panga, a five-foot Galapagos shark! Wow! Fabulous snorkeling session.
This afternoon we were scheduled for a short visit to Post Office Bay, also on Floreana. In 1793 the first post office barrel was placed here by an English whaling captain. Sailors from all over the world left letters here to be picked up by passing ships and in turned picked up letters they could deliver on their way. Tourists keep up the tradition today, leaving postcards and hopefully taking some to deliver. It's a historic site rather than a scenic site, but I'd read about the place over the years and was interested.
When it came time to leave the yacht, it was raining and the sea was pretty choppy. With much trouble, Juan loaded one panga, but then the powers that be declared it too rough to land. I believe it. The eight passengers on the panga got soaked, and Juan almost went face first into the Pacific. Better safe than sorry. Lucky for Tom and me we weren't quick enough to be on the first panga this time.
We immediately started our 14-hour cruise to Isla Isabela. It was extremely rough and rainy for the next three hours, and the crew advised against going outside, lest we be swept away. I went to the cabin and tried to read a book, but the Gilligan's Island theme kept going through my head. After the rain stopped, most everyone went out on deck. I think we all had cabin fever. That's when we saw splashing in the distance. When we got closer, we witnessed a school of hundreds of long-nose spinner dolphins jumping and frolicking. Amazing! We watched them for a long time, until the sun set. It was a beautiful sunset, with Isabela in the background. A fine way to spend an afternoon!
Long-nose spinner dolphins
Spaghetti marinara was served for dinner tonight, our first meal while motoring instead of anchored. A bad idea in the rough seas, it turns out. The swell was pretty bad and the food was sliding everywhere. We managed pretty well though, and all we lost to the floor was a plate of cauliflower and cooked carrots - no great loss.