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Day 10 - October 21, 2008 - Paita, And Isla Foca, Peru

By JJ Apéstegui

Noon Position: 05° 04.9’ S, 081° 06.5’ W
Weather: Clear skies most of the day, cool temperatures, with a cold breeze coming from the sea in the afternoon.

We arrived in Paita, Peru around 8 AM, docking at the pier of this, the fifth busiest port in the country. Ignacio, our Expedition Leader, made announcements regarding the arrival of the authorities to clear us into Peru, where we will spend the next few days.

Afterwards, when allowed by the authorities, we went to the gate of the port to arrange for transportation on local ‘motorcars’ consisting of a motorcycle with a small two-seat arrangement behind the driver’s seat, for a short visit of the town, the new Basilica dedicated to the Virgin of Mercy, and especially the older part of town including the Plaza de Armas, or central square. Throughout the trip, from the port to the town and back, we saw many a species of birds not seen before in this voyage, like Great Grebes, three species of Gulls, and several species of Passerines.

Some people decided to walk back from there, while a few others looked for the house where Manuelita Saenz, confidante and lover of Simon Bolivar, lived the last years of her life. In September 1828, she saved Bolívar’s life when political rivals tried to assassinate him in Bogotá. This earned her the title “the Liberator of the Liberator.” She is still considered a national hero in her native city of Quito, Ecuador, even if at the time she was not liked by Bolivar’s political rivals.

At 1 PM and after the usual announcement of having all of our pre-departure safety checks completed, we sailed out of Paita to our next destination that afternoon, Isla Foca. On the way out of the port, the quantity of birds was extraordinary, including some very interesting seabird species, such as the Wilson’s Storm-petrel and the Peruvi an Diving-petrel, that like the breezy conditions that were present.

Around 3:30 PM we arrived at Isla Foca, where we went on a Zodiac tour looking for wildlife of which there was plenty. We found many bird species, including Blue-footed and Peruvian Boobies, Brown Pelicans, three species of Cormorants: the Neotropical, Guanay and Red-legged, and our first sight of the Humboldt Penguin. We hope to see more of these penguins as we progress south since they like the cold waters of the Humboldt current, waters that we are now sailing and that surprised us with a lowering of the temperatures. We also encountered our first South American Sea Lions, swimming around the island, and one lazily sunning on a rock.

After returning and refreshing ourselves, Toby began recap with a short overview of the Tropical Dry Forest we saw yesterday in Isla de La Plata in Ecuador, and Claudia and I took turns explaining how the Humboldt current influences the climate and the abundance of wildlife in these waters.

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