Tuesday, March 15, 2005 - Santiago Island: Puerto Egas (James Bay)
Santiago Island was a favorite hideout in the 1700s and 1800s with pirates and buccaneers, who hid in its sheltered coves. In fact, there may still be booty buried here! We came here to see the Fur Seal Grotto. This would be our only chance to see Galapagos fur seals. They're mostly nocturnal and need cooler water, so they hang out in the shade of the lava tunnels, close to the sea. They've got thick fur coats, long whiskers, and huge eyes.
The walk to the grotto provided very interesting and dramatic seascapes. Once again we saw hundreds of marine iguanas, colorful crabs, various sea birds, and more sea lions. There are no land iguanas left on Santiago because the sailors ate them all. Luckily for the marine iguanas, they aren't very tasty, and they have thrived. A baby sea lion, eight to ten weeks old, was swimming in a tidal pool. He wasn't ready for the ocean yet. So cute!
Baby sea lion in the kiddie pool
After our walk, we snorkeled off the beach in James Bay for about an hour. The water was very clear and the visibility was great. We saw brightly colored fish, a great big sand dollar, and an octopus slithering around on some underwater rocks. We swam with sea lions again, and Tom saw a shark as big as he is. Very cool. They rounded us up a little after 11:00 so we could motor to Bartolome Island.
James Bay is a great snorkel site, but it's better to snorkel off the panga than off the beach. Despite our best efforts, we still had sand in our clothing when we returned to Quito. And this is after attempting to rinse off in the ocean, hosing off on the deck, and showering with our clothes on. It's forbidden to take anything from the islands, including sand, but believe me, we didn't do it on purpose.