Galapagos Islands Cruise Day 2: White Tipped Sharks!

We awoke under calm, sunny skies to find ourselves anchored at Puerto Vilamil, the main town on Isabela Island.  The wake-up call sounded at the crack of dawn (5:45) in order to allow us to visit Los Tintoreras, a small island next to Isabela Island upon which cruise ship passengers are only permitted to land between 6:00 and 8:00 in the morning.  Thankfully, coffee and biscuits were served before loading into the dinghies, making the early start a little more bearable.

I couldn’t believe that I awoke with a head cold – how’s that for timing?  I’ve been healthy as a horse ever since leaving Canada, and now I get sick.  Within minutes of getting up, Chris moved his head in such a way that caused something in his shoulder to misalign, causing shooting, stabbing pains that forced him to lie down immediately.   This has happened before and we knew it would take days to heal.   Great!  There was nothing we could do but rely on our trusty little pharmacy bag to manage the symptoms so that we wouldn’t miss a minute of the day’s activities.

At the boat landing, we were greeted by a sea lion who was lounging on the bench meant for visitors. Undeterred, Laura made herself comfortable, and offered a great photo opp next to the sea lion.  Sea lions are plentiful through the Galapagos Islands and are not fearful of humans whatsoever; this would be the first of many encounters.  There are two species of sea lions on the Galapagos: Galapagos Sea Lion and Galapagos Fur Seal.  ”Fur Seal” is rather misleading because these are also sea lions, although this species is less commonly seen.

Los Tintoreras offers a unique and safe way to see white tipped sharks as they congregate in the shallow waters of a crevice. The white tipped shark is so named because of a distinct white tip on their dorsal fin and tail.  There were dozens of sharks sleeping on the bottom of this shallow pool of water and a few were swimming gracefully back and forth from one end of the crevice to the other.  The sharks come to this protected area to rest and sleep.

 

 

 

Marine iguanas similar to the ones we saw at Tortuga beach in Puerto Ayora were sun bathing along the walls of the crevice.

 

 

 

 

 

A small path wove through volcanic rock washed white with bird poop, leading to a beach area where we saw several more sea lions.

 

 

 

On our return, we saw our first Blue Footed Booby – a large sized bird that has, not surprisingly, baby blue feet.

Back to the yacht for breakfast and then a briefing as to the next activities:  a visit to the Wall of Tears, a stop at the lagoon to see flamingoes followed by snorkelling.  After another dry landing, we boarded an awaiting bus.  The bus that would provide our transportation for the day was nothing more than a truck with open air, wooden benches padded with very inadequate cushions.  As we bounced along the bumpy roads, our backs complained vigorously, louder for some than others.  Those with back issues (Chris included) soon made their way to the first row of seats and those of us with more spinal resilience remained in the back taking one hit after another for the team! Thanks to Enrique, our guide, for the photo of our bus.

The Wall of Tears was built by prisoners of a penal colony that was established in 1946 to house Ecuadorian criminals.  The wall served no useful purpose other than to give the prisoners something to do – a task that required carrying heavy lava rocks from the beach to the wall, a distance of over one kilometre.  This was where “the strong cry and the weak die”, a common saying amongst islanders.  The penal colony was built on the remains of a US Naval base that had previously been established in this location during the second world war.

 

The Galapagos Mocking Bird was a common sight throughout the Galapagos Islands.

 

 

 

 

 

At the lagoon, there were five flaming pink flamingoes.  We could not get very close as we were on a cliff overlooking the lagoon.  These were beautiful, graceful creatures – my only wish was that there were more of them!

 

 

 

We had to walk through a mangrove to the snorkeling site.  Mangroves are dense and quite impenetrable so it was an interesting walk along a man-made boardwalk that felt like we were in the middle of the mangrove.  Mangroves are a common site along the edge of water areas.

Snorkeling was good but not fantastic.  The bay was very calm, visibility was good but the water was rather fresh – good thing we all had wetsuits. We saw three sea turtles and three sting rays along with lots of little, colorful fish.

Lunch was served on the middle deck and was quite delicious.  It felt so indulgent and luxurious to be eating lunch in such serene and beautiful surroundings.  The first two meals were somewhat of a disappointment – mediocre at best – but perhaps this lunch was a sign of better food to come.  After lunch we had a couple of hours to relax.  Most guests retired to their rooms for a siesta.  We lounged in the sun for a while on the top deck and then also made our way back to our cabin for a brief power nap.  As I was lying on the top deck I tried to articulate the experience and the best I could come up with was that it felt as though I was sitting within a postcard.  Laura and Stephanie heartily agreed with that description.  The photo below captures the view from the top deck.

In the afternoon, we again did a dry landing, piled into our back-breaking bus and headed to the highlands for a hike to the Volcano Sierra Negra, the largest volcano in the archipelago and one that is still active – the most recent eruption was in 2006.  It was a 30 minute hike to the edge of the crater.  At the top, the clouds danced along the edge, descended into the basin below and then dissipated as they reached the other side.  One minute the entire area was obscured by clouds and then suddenly the view would open up again.

 When we returned to the boat, we were greeted by two new passengers: Dafne and Jasper, a young couple from Holland.  They had just arrived in the Galapagos Islands that morning and had enquired about available tours in the early afternoon in Puerto Ayora.  There were still five seats available on our boat.  But in order to join us, they had to take a boat taxi which departs daily from Puerto Ayora at 2:00 pm to Isabela Island in order to intercept our boat which would be leaving at midnight.  They quickly made arrangements and arrived on our boat shortly after 4:00 pm.  Now that’s what I call flying by the seat of your pants!

By dinner time, everyone was feeling pretty tired; after all, it had been a long, full day of activities. On top of that, both Chris and I were not feeling well.  After dinner, Chris and I headed to bed and slept for almost 10 hours straight.  Some choppy seas woke me during the night but I found the rocking motion to be soothing and was soon rocked back to sleep.

 

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