Galapagos: South Plaza to Black Turtle Cove

Days: 245-246

Total distance travelled: 46,957.6 kilometres (29,166.21 miles)

It sounds like heresy, but by the last day or so of our boat cruise, there were some things we’d unwillingly become rather blase about.

Sure, it’s a sign of how spoiled we’d become, when the chance to see lounging sea lions up close, or swimming Marine Iguanas no longer excites, but that is the plain old truth.

We’d been spoiled, although admittedly, we’d paid for the privilege.

Our morning landing on South Plaza Island got us (well me at least), all excited again.

The landscape was a little different for one, I mean how often is it that you get to see a forest of cactus trees, likely several hundred years old!

The incredible, ancient cactus forests of South Plaza Island (left). For a perspective on its age, the small cactus (right) is around 20 years old...

The incredible, ancient cactus forests of South Plaza Island (left). For a perspective on its age, the small cactus (right) is around 20 years old…

This place also had the appetites of us & our fellow tourists whet for a completely different reason.

Sure, we’d seen plenty iguanas already, thousands of Marine Iguanas in both black, green & red. But yellow, well that’s a completely new experience altogether!

Well in truth, it’s not.

Other than the colour, they look & behave incredibly similar.

Still, they were something novel to see!

The incredible, Yellow Iguanas!

The incredible, Yellow Iguanas!

Unfortunately for the poor iguanas, at least from my perspective they were pretty quickly trumped.

As we wandered this dry, mostly barren cactus forest, we were often to be found with our necks craned upwards, marveling at their great height.

It was during 1 such moment of admiration when it was spied, directly above us, a most regal looking Galapagos Hawk.

A stunning encounter. The Galapagos Hawk!

A stunning encounter. The Galapagos Hawk!

We’d only spotted 1 other during our whole 5 day voyage, & that was about 100 metres distant, so to see this beauty up close was a real delight!

The focus eventually shifted again back to the unique iguanas in their yellow livery, so I’ve included an additional photo & video of this brightly coloured creature.

An even more vivid example of their stunning colour

An even more vivid example of their stunning colour

A late afternoon excursion saw us back on land (sadly our snorkeling off Santa Fe was to be our last dip from the Floreana), our landing depositing us on a rocky land covered in white rocks (my suspicions were confirmed, when Victor our guide explained how they are white from bird guano, which is then buffed with the movements of the sea lions, giving it a marble like sheen).

There were more sea lions & more iguanas (of a slightly yellowed hue), but this afternoons wander was primarily to take in some marine birds on what was another rocky, rather barren isle.

We did still manage to feel a little voyeuristic as we observed a pair of gulls in sex frenzy that was all balance & feathers!

Some worried faces when we stumbled upon a wounded sea lion were soon eased, when Victor suggested that whilst the injuries looked bad, the animal was a much better than even chance to survive what looked to be an encounter with a local shark.

2 birds caught in the act (left), while more proof of the difficulties of Galapagos life, with this sea lion bearing the recent scars of a shark encounter (right)

2 birds caught in the act (left), while more proof of the difficulties of Galapagos life, with this sea lion bearing the recent scars of a shark encounter (right)

Later in the evening saw us headed to a new location where we’d be moored for the night, before our final excursion the following morning.

Although the afternoon remained sun filled, the horizon threatened rain, so much so that we expected the boat to cop a drenching (what would be our 1st rains in Galapagos, despite the season) sooner rather than later.

Incredibly, the expected rains never came, the Frigate birds however, they certainly did.

Not much thought was given at first, to the one or two that landed on the roof of the vessel, however the longer we travelled, so too did the number of Frigates swell.

Incredibly, our small roof at 1 point found 16 of them on its roof, a mix of both males and females!

Then, as we reached a certain point along the coast, a rugged cliff face right near where Santa Cruz Island faces Baltra Island, the all took flight and headed for the rocks.

Although we’ll never be 100% sure, it truly felt like they all just hitched a free ride home!

A Hitchhikers Guide to Galapagos...

A Hitchhikers Guide to Galapagos…

By dinner time, I still feared rain (not that there was anything to be afraid of other than the break in our sunny streak), but somehow it didn’t come, so all we bore witness to was the wonderful skyline it presented for us.

A beautiful sky, but the promise of rain

A beautiful sky, but the promise of rain

Our last morning began before the sun, & importantly for many, also before breakfast, so there was the odd hungry belly on board the Zodiacs I’m sure as we headed towards the shore.

Landfall however, we’d not be making.

This was a purely waterborne excursion, a chance to navigate some of the mangrove channels and hopefully see some cool morning wildlife.

A dawn approach to the mangroves of Black Turtle Cove

A dawn approach to the mangroves of Black Turtle Cove

 

A morning meet & greet with a Green Sea Turtle

A morning meet & greet with a Green Sea Turtle

Despite the glare off the water, it wasn’t long before we were spotting Green Sea Turtles all over the place, whilst several rays gliding about were also a bit of a crowd favourite, especially when a huge Spotted Eagle Ray made a brief cameo as well.

Maybe an hour on the water, or perhaps a little less and we were done, the breakfast to come would be our last group activity on the Floreana before we’d all go our separate ways.

Still, the Galapagos knows how to put on a show, and as we made our way back towards the boat, the telltale sign of a shark (that menacing looking fin) was sighted.

This lady however, like most sharks you’ll ever see, wasn’t all that interested in us. After all, she had a couple of young ones to look out for, so there were far bigger things for her to concern herself with.

This lady and her 2 young gave us an honour guard back to the Floreana

This lady and her 2 young gave us an honour guard back to the Floreana

With breakfast done, we were all ferried to shore where a waiting bus took us, & another group from a bigger, slightly fancier looking vessel, up to the airport where some would connect to flights & us, well we made our way back Puerto Ayora as we weren’t done with our Galapagos adventures just yet!

 

Notes:

* Our cruise on the ‘Floreana’ cost us $1,225.00 US per person for 5 nights/6 days.

* On concluding, our cruise dropped us near Seymour Airport on Baltra Island where we then had to make our own way back to Puerto Ayora (a combination of bus, boat & taxi).

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