Galápagos Adventure #4 – Santa Cruz and Floreana – August 13-14, 2016

1 Sep
46Santa Cruz Map

Please click on a photo to enlarge it.

I forgot that Dragon Hill and Bachas Beach were on the island of Santa Cruz or would have included this part in #3.

Dragon Hill is one of the newest visitor sites accessible to tourists in the Islands. One of our longest hikes took us along a beach and up a trail to the lagoon lookout where the view is wonderful. On the way, we saw some marine iguanas, black headed stilts, herons, native cotton plants (amazing to see tiny bolls) and land iguanas!

Landing on the beach

Landing on the beach

Beginning the trail

Beginning the trail

And for my next song…

And for my next song…

Marine iguana tracks

Marine iguana tracks

Striated heron

Striated heron

I can see why land iguanas were sometimes mistaken for dragons. They have a long tail, scary looking face, spines on the back, and a scaly skin. They reach only a max length of 3 ½ feet.

I can see why land iguanas were sometimes mistaken for dragons. They have a long tail, scary looking face, spines on the back, and a scaly skin. They reach only a max length of 4 feet

We learned that they don’t have sweat glands and secrete salt from their eye socket. It accumulates around the eye and when there is enough, the iguana shakes his head and off it goes. I saw it happen once and thought that could add to the scary image of the iguana. We walked right by them and they just looked at us. They appeared to be very docile but perhaps they could move quickly when they wanted to. We didn’t find out.

We learned that they don’t have sweat glands and secrete salt from their eye socket. It accumulates around the eye and when there is enough, the iguana shakes his head and off it goes. I saw it happen once and thought that could add to the scary image of the iguana. We walked right by them and they just looked at us. They appeared to be very docile but perhaps they could move quickly when they wanted to. We didn’t want to find out.

Dragon Hill or Cerro Dragon.

Dragon Hill or Cerro Dragon.

Land iguanas are bred under captive protection at the Charles Darwin Research Station on the southern side of Santa Cruz. We saw a few of them in pens the previous day. Once the iguanas have safely reached a size to be able to fend off wild dogs or cats, they are released into the wild on the northwestern side of Santa Cruz, so that the species can again take up residence on Cerro Dragon.

Later that morning, we were able to snorkel in deep water near the Dragon Hill area. I took many underwater pictures, but my best shot was of this pelican coming right at me (not underwater) :-)

Later that morning, we were able to snorkel in deep water near the Dragon Hill area. I took many underwater pictures, but my best shot was of this pelican coming right at me (not underwater) 🙂

Later that day we went to Bachas Beach. Some folks swam and saw some more penguins and sea turtles. BUT, I did get to see a flamingo landing in a muddy marshy area and that was pretty cool.

Flamingo landing in lagoon

Flamingo landing in lagoon

I was so excited about this bird that I took more than 40 pictures of him landing and then walking around. He was quite a distance from me, so the pictures have been cropped a lot, but I think he shows up ok. This was another highlight of the adventure that made me very happy I went to the Galápagos.

Looking for vittles

Looking for vittles

Feeding in a small lagoon

Feeding in a small lagoon

Bachas Beach is noted for a nesting place for sea turtles and we could see tracks of mamas who were going up the sandy berm to find a perfect place to lay their clutch of 100 to 180 eggs. Their tracks reminded me somewhat of a Caterpillar tractor tread.

sea turtle tracks

sea turtle tracks

Karen and Shirley relaxing at Bachas Beach

Karen and Shirley relaxing at Bachas Beach

Floreana

Floreana

A bit more background of the islands before I talk about our visit to Floreana.

They were discovered officially in 1535 by Fray Tomás de Berlanga (Bishop of Panama).

In the late 1500s to early 1700s, the islands were used by pirates as a refuge and base for their raids on Spanish colonial ports. The pirates would stock up on fresh water and tortoise meat, thus beginning the inroads on the tortoise population.

In the late 1700, whaling and hunting of fur seals began in the Galápagos and lasted well into the 1800s. Fur seals were nearly hunted to extinction, whale populations were heavily hit and whole races of tortoises were removed for meat. Some estimates indicate that ~100,000 tortoises were killed during this interval.

The Galápagos islands were officially annexed by Ecuador in 1832.

So why all this background? I wanted you to understand a bit of the history that led up to the first place we landed in Floreana, Post Office Bay. This was the first “post office” on the islands and was established in 1793 by whalers. They placed a barrel just a bit inland and then wrote letters to be placed in the barrel. When another crew came there, they checked the letters and took the ones where they would be going. Sometimes it would take years for the letters to arrive but they did and were delivered by hand.

The tradition still lives on and we were welcome to deposit letters in the barrel and take a letter back to the mainland.

The tradition still lives on and we were welcome to deposit letters in the barrel and take a letter back to the mainland.

All of us sorted through many post cards to try to find some close to where we live or ones that we thought we could eventually deliver in person. I mailed two and took three to be delivered in Reno and California. I wonder how long it will take to get my post cards to Megan and Dalan.

Flo sorting through the many cards to be mailed

Flo sorting through the many cards to be mailed

On our way to Cormorant Point, we stopped at Devil’s Crown to do some deep water snorkeling. This is what Galápagos.com has to say about this place. One of the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos, this volcanic crater has been eroded by the waves leaving the northern and southern sides poking out of the water. The coral reef in the middle is perfect for attracting marine life. Snorkelers enjoy the variety of marine life and exciting currents that rush through the crown, creating an exhilarating experience.

I think the profile of Devil's Crown looks dangerous and intimidating. How about you?

I think the profile of Devil’s Crown looks dangerous and intimidating. How about you?

Those “exciting” currents were VERY strong currents for the majority of our snorkelers. We got off the Zodiac to the right of the right hand peak and before we could get ourselves oriented to landmarks and such, we had drifted alongside the far (western?) side of the Crown. Those rocks didn’t look friendly. I didn’t see much marine life in that area and kept checking on Shirley to make sure she was ok. I was glad to see that she got back into the Zodiac before we drifted around the left end of the Crown, as I know she doesn’t care for rough water.  She was able to get back into the water when she had caught her breath.  She wasn’t the only one who got out of the water.

The current coming out of the Crown was quite strong but I was able to swim against it and get in the middle where it was a bit calmer and clearer. I didn’t see the advertised white tipped sharks hammerheads or sea lions, but did see some surgeonfish, coral and parrotfish.

Juvenile parrotfish

Juvenile parrotfish

Razor Surgeonfish

Razor Surgeonfish

coral with a Guineafowl pufferfish

Coral with a Guineafowl pufferfish

Just before we got into the Zodiac to go over to the Devil’s Crown, I espied a couple of sea turtles right beside the boat.

Just before we got into the Zodiac to go over to the Devil’s Crown, I espied a couple of sea turtles right beside the boat.

We had time to shower and get cleaned up a bit before we set off for Cormorant Point.   It’s noted for blue-footed booby nesting areas, some flamingos and a green beach. Despite its name, we never saw any cormorants.

This sleepy head is resting on the Green Beach, so called because olivine (a green mineral) is prominent in the sand.

This sleepy head is resting on the Green Beach, so called because olivine (a green mineral) is prominent in the sand.

This blue-footed booby family was nesting on a short bluff above the sea lion.

This blue-footed booby family was nesting on a short bluff above the sea lion.

I loved the expression on the face of the mama booby in the background. “You just did what to those people in back of you?”

I loved the expression on the face of the mama booby in the background. “You just did what to those people in back of you?”

This saltwater lagoon is a flamingo area.

This saltwater lagoon is a flamingo area.

These tiny yellow warblers are all over the islands. This was the first time one was close enough to get a decent picture. He was hopping around on a dried portion of the flamingo lagoon.

These tiny yellow warblers are all over the islands. This was the first time one was close enough to get a decent picture. He was hopping around on a dried portion of the flamingo lagoon.

I got such a kick out of Julia when she called this Ariel’s Bustier. Technically, it was a broken portion of a sea urchin, but it could have worked for Ariel

I got such a kick out of Julia when she called this Ariel’s Bustier. Technically, it was a broken portion of a sea urchin, but it could have worked for Ariel

It was getting toward dusk when we made a move to return to the ship. There is a rule that all parties must be off the islands by 6 PM and I think we were pushing it a bit.

It was getting toward dusk when we made a move to return to the ship. There is a rule that all parties must be off the islands by 6 PM and I think we were pushing it a bit.

Our Zodiac jaunt took us by mama sea lion and her one-week old pup.

Our Zodiac jaunt took us by mama sea lion and her one-week old pup.

I would not be my father’s daughter if I didn’t take some sunset pictures.

I would not be my father’s daughter if I didn’t take some sunset pictures.

347Sillouetted pelican

Floreana has been the most altered by human inhabitants. Invasive and feral goats devastated much of the natural ecosystems and removal of these goats from the park was only completed in 2007.

I loved Floreana (as I did all the islands) and felt priveleged that we were able to visit it and appreciate what it has to offer.

 

Coming soon!  The ultimate installment of the Galapagos Adventure.

 

 

3 Responses to “Galápagos Adventure #4 – Santa Cruz and Floreana – August 13-14, 2016”

  1. Richard Schmidt September 1, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

    Oh, Cora… This is another splendid report––until your last line: “Coming soon! The ultimate installment of the Galápagos Adventure.” Not already!? They are great & gripping, and get better each time with history, personal commentary and stunning, right-there photos. I’m not ready for your ultimate installment, when the penultimate installment makes me want a half-dozen more! Kudos to you.

  2. Barb Allen September 1, 2016 at 4:59 pm #

    Woweeeeee! I loved, loved, loved these pictures! What birds!! What a trip!! But I must admit, the iguana you described really DOES sound like a dragon!!

  3. Connie Raub September 17, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

    Brava! Brava! Brava! What can I say? Dangerous Dragons! Intimating Iguanas! Fabulous Flamingos! Wondrous Warblers! Boastful Blue Boobies! Sweet Seal pups! Tremendous Turtles and Tracks! Propelling Pelicans! What more could we ask for? Your photos are stunning, complete with interesting facts, careful labeling and fun captions! I especially enjoyed the singing Iguana; unique and trust worthy postal delivery; eye to eye Pelican; tiptoeing Flamingo; too cute seal pup; underwater fish pictures; and of course, cute Shirley pictures. I REALLY want a pair of galoshes in “Blue Footed Boobie” color! Thank you so much! You are an amazing traveler and reporter! Love, Connie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: