Day 12 |
Oct 17, 2009

Isla De La Plata, Ecuador; At Sea

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 01°16. 034S, 081°03.7W Weather: overcast

A cloudy sky and fresh air welcomed the Prince Albert II when she anchored in front of the 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.

For getting ashore, this time 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 than our guests were used to on this voyage. Luxurious green vegetation was our first sight when we arrived at our destinations, until now. Today, brownish grey trees, most of them without leaves, thorn bushes, and cacti formed the vegetation on the hills of Isla de la Plata.

Together with the local guides, we offered our guests different hiking possibilities. A long walk lasting 2.5 hours, a short walk for 1.5 hours and a birding walk with my colleague JJ and a local birder guide. After a short introduction we headed off along a good and clear marked trail into the semi-arid vegetation of the island. Looking at the different plants now closer, I was able to see that some were flowering. During our hike we were able to see Yellow Geiger flowering in beautiful yellow clusters beside the path. As we got further up, there was the Desert Lilly with its shining red flowers. A plant well adapted to these dry conditions, having only a green stem without leaves for photosynthesis. Scattered between were Palo Santo trees, and some really old Stenocerus cacti with a height up to 10m rising above the rest of the vegetation. From the sponge cucumber were the only fruits to see, looking like spiny small apples, and our guide told us that this fruit is used by the locals for making handicrafts.

But of course the vegetation is 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 during their mating behavior. It is really fascinating when the Blue Footed Booby are rising to their feet, throwing their head into their neck and gaggling just to impress some female flying over the nesting ground. Not very different is this behavior in the Frigate Bird. There, the male sits on the nest up in the tree, throwing his head into his neck and thereby pumping up his bright red throat pouch when one of the females passes over his airspace. The Frigate Bird colony 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 are not getting too close and disturbing them in their breeding effort.
Additionally to the Boobies and Frigate birds species, our birding group was able to observe the Short tailed Woodstar (the only hummingbird on the island), the long tailed Mockingbird, Turkey vulture and Colored warbling Finch.

Around midday I got back with my group at the landing site where refreshments in the form of fresh fruits and drinks were waiting for the guests. At 12.30 the last Zodiac went back to the ship and the Prince Albert II set sail for our final destination – Guayaquil in Ecuador.

In the afternoon our onboard photographer Richard presented his DVD on the voyage in The Theatre. It was again an excellent work and a beautiful memory of Voyage 7924 from Puerto Caldera in Costa Rica to Guayaquil in Ecuador.