We took a bus across the island from Santa Cruz to the ferry dock at the northern end. We crossed part of the Santa Cruz highlands and were able to glimpse Los Gemelos, the large volcanic craters formed by collapsed gas bubbles in the lava. At the northern end of the island, we boarded our tour boat. We had a very international tour group comprised of: a French couple, a Korean couple, a Scot, a Swede, a Spaniard, a German, a Peruvian couple, and us. Our first stop was along a point at the tip of Santa Cruz Island for snorkeling. There was some confusion among the tour group regarding the snorkeling excursion (more about that in a separate post); however, some members of the group saw white-tipped sharks and others saw a manta ray. The visibility was surprisingly poor (perhaps because it had been raining recently), but I saw many surgeon fish and a few more parrotfish.
After snorkeling, we were given a hot lunch on the boat and made our way to Seymour Island. En route, we saw tropic birds and boobies nesting on cliffs. As the boat stopped in a small cove (where we transferred to the dinghy to go ashore), two huge Galápagos sharks circled around the boat and dinghy, affording us good views in the clearer water.
Seymour Island is uninhabited and is a nesting ground for great and magnificient frigatebirds. While these species are not endemic (native) to the Galápagos, it is rare to be able to observe them as closely as visitors to Seymour Island can. We took a hike around some of the perimeter and inland areas of the island. Here, we saw the frigatebirds in all their life forms: males, females, juveniles, and even a couple of chicks. Great frigatebirds have iridescent green coloration on the black feathers just behind their neck on their backs, while magnificient frigates have purple colored feathers. Females of both species have white chest patches.
|Male great frigatebird showing iridescent green feathers|
|Male frigatebird with sizeable throat pouch|
|Juvenile frigatebird on nest|
While hiking along the island, we also saw our first Galápagos dove as well as many lava lizards.
Seymour Island is also home to a large number of terrestrial iguanas, which are an endemic species to the Galápagos---although not, as we learned, endemic to Seymour Island. Their unique ochre and rust colored scales/skin provide excellent camouflage for blending into the volcanic soils of the islands, where their chief predator---the Galápagos hawk---strikes from above.
|Galápagos Terrestrial Iguana|
Along the sea coast of the island, there are blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, and Galápagos sea lions. The blue-footed boobies occupy hummock-shaped boulders in order to conduct their mating ritual. The female stands on the boulder while the male tries to get her attention. Some in our group were tempted to compare the ritual to human interactions, because the female booby stands there preening her feathers and looking bored while the male clamors for attention. As we observed in Mexico, the male then "dances" by showing her his feet. Our guide said she is looking at not only the size of his feet, but checking them for wounds and other imperfections, to determine whether he is suitable breeding material.
The photos for this post will be added when we get to French Polynesia. Since the shutter on the good camera I was using broke, and the digital camera was experiencing condensation issues, all of the credit goes to Patrick for the wonderful photos in this post.
Posted from sea via HAM radio.