Day 4 - April 22, 2014 - Baltra to Baltra
By Fernando Ortiz, Naturalist Guide
The western side of the archipelago is a place always vibrant with life. The influence of Cromwell, the nutrient rich undercurrent that triggers the development of an amazing food chain and ecosystem, is noticeable everywhere.
During the early morning zodiac ride we saw large groups of marine iguanas sunbathing, warming themselves up before they go into the water to feed on the ever-abundant sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca). The ocean around Tagus Cove was as flat as a mirror so spotting penguins, Flightless Cormorants, sea turtles and sea lions was no challenge. The Blue-footed Boobies and pelicans rested lazily on their roosting sites at the tuff stone coast line, which had been carved by thousands of years of wind and wave action.
This very coast has been witnessing the presence of many visitors, some famous and some infamous. HMS Beagle anchored in Tagus Cove. Charles Darwin, the naturalist on board, jumped ashore as soon as he could, trying to escape from his personal curse (he was prone to motion sickness), and started climbing the steep coastline amongst the incense trees, and other low bushes and shrubs. Instead of visiting what is now known as Darwin’s lake, a beautiful body of water which is one of the main features of our itinerary, he headed south, eventually reaching another neighboring body of water called Beagle’s lake.
For us there was quite a selection of activities in which we could get engaged: an early-morning hike, a zodiac ride, kayaking and snorkeling. Every single outing was rewarding. A combination of camaraderie and awe led to very entertaining conversations once we were all back on board. A favorite for all of those involved was the snorkeling. The broken and jagged coastline was covered underwater by sargassum (brown seaweed), that served as food for many sea turtles. Everybody kept a respectful distance not to interrupt the turtles’ breakfast. We were overwhelmed by the dense schools of endemic Galapagos porgies, Pacific creolefish and yellow-tailed surgeonfish. Some spiny lobster and a rare orange and black harlequin wrasse were also spotted. Sea lions and penguins were invited too.
Just before lunch, we were all summoned to see kayak racing around the Silver Galapagos. The Sea Puppies team was the first of 6 participants crossing the finish line.
In the afternoon the zodiac ride at Elizabeth Bay took us to a place of rugged beauty. The mangrove swamps surrounded by the impenetrable “Aa” lava of the Perry Isthmus were a new face of Galapagos we were not familiar with. The protected waters of the estuary are resting grounds for green turtles, which were found at the bottom of the clear waters covered by silt. A mild shower -typical of the end of the rainy season- sent us back on board, wet but happy. What a day!
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