Voyage Journal 7924 Day 10

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Day 10 - October 15, 2009 - Isla Gorgona, Colombia

By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: 02°58.037N 078°10.172’W
Air Temperature: 28°C
Sea Temperature: 26C
Wind: 5-10 knots - A gentle breeze blowing from the NE at 10 knots

Today we were arriving into Colombia – visiting the small island called Isla Gorgona, located off the coast of Guapi. It is only a small island (9km long and 2.5km wide) but it has a rich history and wonderful wildlife.

Until 1984 it was a prison, where the prisoners were unable to escape due to the poisonous snakes in the inner island jungle, and the sharks that patrol the coastline. Once it was decommissioned, the prison was allowed to go to ruin. Today, the jungle has taken it over, and it is an eerie place to walk around.

Soon after the prison closed, the island was declared a National Natural Reservation Park and has recently been UNESCO World Heritage Listed for its large number of endemic species.

A couple of years ago the government allowed a private company to build a small, but beautiful, tropical resort on the island. This was where we were basing our activities for the day.

Guests could come and go as they wish between the resort, a stunning white sandy beach about 3 miles away on the other side of the island, and the snorkeling site. We, the Expedition Team, ran Zodiac shuttles all day.

On the island, the resort had designated one of the houses for us to use – so we could lounge on the couches, take a shower or nap in the hammocks. Their pool was amazing – they had redirected a freshwater stream coming down from the mountain into the pool, so the water was cool, crisp and incredibly refreshing.

The wildlife around the resort kept us fascinated! Without having to walk very far we could watch groups of monkeys playing in the gardens and chasing one another around. In the underbrush, hundreds of Jesus Christ lizards scurried around. These lizards, when startled, raise their bodies up and run on their long back legs. They got their name for the fact that they can get such speeds up that they can actually run over the top of water!

The highlight, though, was definitely the large boa constrictor snakes that we saw. These snakes are non-poisonous and relatively placid, so we could get a really close look at it and the beautiful patterns on its skin.

In the afternoon, the keen snorkellers came out to where I was stationed. Unfortunately, due to all the rain that the island has received over the past few weeks, the visibility was pretty poor, but there were still plenty of fish to see, the seas were calm and the sun was shining. BUT…never underestimate the wonder of Mother Nature…without any warning a large humpback whale surfaced not more than 20m from us. It was amazing! But, even more beautiful, were the whale songs that we could hear underwater. Obviously there were several whales in the area, and they were singing all afternoon. This was a real treat for the snorkellers because the sounds are so melodious, and even a bit haunting!

We were all back onboard by 5pm watching the sun go down as we sailed away from this beautiful tropical island. Recap & Briefing was earlier than usual since we were having a BBQ on the outer deck starting at 7pm. And what an amazing BBQ it was!

Robin West, Expedition Leader, had told us at Recap & Briefing that there would be a big surprise for us – and there was! The Crew Band was playing at the BBQ! And, they were fantastic! They played classic music that we could all sing and dance along with them. At one point nearly everyone, guests as well as crew, was up in a long conga dance line weaving their way through the tables.

It was a wonderful night full of good cheer and lots of laughter. A night to remember forever!

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