Monday, March 14, 2005 - Isabela Island: Urbina Bay
Urbina Bay is visited as much for its geological uniqueness as for its wildlife. The area we hiked was completely underwater until 1954, when six square kilometers was uplifted 16 feet in conjunction with an eruption of Volcan Alcedo.
Jimmy the panga pilot
Before every outing Juan informs us if we are to have a dry landing, where we step out of the panga onto rocks or a dock, or a wet landing, where we step out into shallow water. This morning he was more descriptive - he told us we'd have a potentially acrobatic landing! So we all wrapped our cameras in plastic bags, ready for adventure, but nothing went awry. The beach where we disembarked was very steep, but Jimmy and Jorge are skilled panga drivers, and nobody went tumbling.
After landing on a black beach, we took a short walk past uplifted coral formations and young vegetation to a second beach, now inland, which had been the shore of the island prior to the uplift. Along the way we saw many finches and a number of ENORMOUS land iguanas, some as much as four feet in length. Land tortoises also live here, but we didn't spot any. The animals here are more shy because Urbina Bay has only been a visitor site for about ten years, so they're not used to people yet. We had to be very quiet or the iguanas would run away.
Well-fed land iguana
What are you looking at?
Also we saw the skeletons of a few feral goats, casualties of the goat eradication project. The introduced goats compete with the endemic wildlife for food and cause erosion, and a project is underway to hunt them from helicopters. Past efforts to hunt them on foot over the volcanic landscape have proved disastrous, and several men have died trying.
When we returned to the landing site, most of us went snorkeling off the beach. It was a nice, refreshing swim after the hot walk, but we couldn't see much because it was too murky. Tom decided to stay on the beach and made a new girlfriend, a large, attractive marine iguana - at least we think it was a girl!
Tom's new girlfriend
The panga pick-up was slightly more acrobatic than the drop-off, as the tide was coming in, but we again managed without incident. I've been slathering on sunscreen multiple times each day and have avoided getting a burn. The bad part is that apparently my skin is sensitive to sunscreen, and now I have developed a rash on my arms, legs, and face. Grrr...