Day 7 |
Mar 22, 2012

Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 01°16´S, 81°03´W
Weather: sunny, partly cloudy
Air Temperature: 30°C

A partly cloudy sky and humid tropical air greeted the Silver Explorer when she anchored in front of Isla de la Plata. Due to the Humboldt Current, which brings up cold water from the Antarctic Sea, the climate around this island is dry and cold regarding the latitude. But over the last weeks, heavy rainfall has fallen on the island. This changed the whole face of it, and lush green vegetation covered the slopes. For me it was heavenly day, as a lot of plants were flowering, even species that are brown and grayish without leaves when we visit in the dry season.

For getting ashore we had to use the local boats instead of our Zodiacs. At 8:30 am the clearance was finished, and the local boats were ready so that we were able to start our excursion on this island. The first impression was very different, with luxurious green vegetation instead of dry leafless vegetation. Some candelabra cacti still gave evidence of a dry forest that normally covers the landscape of Isla de la Plata.

Together with the local guides we offered our guests a choice of hiking possibilities: a long walk lasting 2.5 hours, or a short walk for 1.5 hour. After a short introduction we headed off along a trail that followed a riverbed washed out by the heavy rainfall. Looking at the different plants closer now, I was able to see for the first time some 8 different species all in bloom – what a amazing day! During our hike we were able to see Yellow Geiger, flowering in beautiful yellow clusters beside the path, and different species of Morning Glory, Mimosa and Euphorbias. Scattered between the Palo Santo trees, some really old candelabra cacti with a height up to 10m were rising above the rest of the vegetation. From the sponge cucumber the green fruits looked like spiny small apples, and our guide told us that when these fruits are ripe they are used by the locals for making handicrafts.

But of course the vegetation was not the main attraction on this island; the birds are the main reason to come here – especially the Blue Footed Booby and the Magnificent Frigate Bird. Both species are breeding on the island and our guests could get as close as nine feet to watch them. It is really fascinating when the Blue Footed Booby are rising their feet throwing their head into the neck and gaggling just to impress some female which was flying over the nesting ground. The colony of the Frigate Bird consists of some hundred individuals of all ages, from the two month old juvenile to mating male and female. Boobies on the other hand are nesting on the ground, and sometimes we had to make a circle around them so that we were not getting too close and disturbing them in their breeding effort.

In addition to the Boobies and Frigate bird species, our guests were able to observe the Vermillion Flycatcher, the long tailed Mockingbird, Turkey vulture and Colored warbling Finch.

Around midday I got back with my group to find refreshments were waiting for the guests at the landing site in the form of fresh fruits and drinks.

After the walk we offered to our guests a boat tour along the coast to get also a view from the sea side at the colonies of the different sea birds. Around 45 minutes we drove along the coast observing the Frigate Birds, and three species of Boobies: Blue footed, Red footed and Nasca Booby.

At 13.00 the last local boat arrived at the sidegate of Silver Explorer and we set sail to our next destination: Isla Coiba in Panama.

In the afternoon my colleague Uli Kunz, our marine biologist on board, held a presentation on “Amazing Ocean – A Dive Into the Unknown”. Later on, Expedition Leader and Head of Silversea Expeditions, Conrad Combrink, presented a look at the history of our ship “The World of the M/v Silver Explorer”.

One highlight of our voyage was the Equator crossing, which took place at exactly 19.03 and beneath a beautiful sky. The sun set in the west as the Silver Explorer sailed into the northern hemisphere.