Monday, April 27, 2009

Winning a race with the dolphins! - Floreana Island, Galapagos


Destination: Floreana Island, Galapagos

Best of: The dolphins put on quite a show as we sailed away from Floreana and towards Santa Cruz

Worst of: The flamingos refused to come and greet us and stayed on the far side of the dare they!

*With the islands being so diverse, we decided to post each one separately. The Galapagos Islands will be an 8 part series. Here is Part 3.

Day 3: Floreana Island: Punta Cormorant / Post Office Bay

Punta Cormorant was the first hike of the day. After a wet landing, we walked up from the beach to the salt water lagoons that serve as stopping points on the flamingo tour. Dotted across all the islands are shallow, salt water lagoons where the flamingos like to call home. While there are a large number of flamingos in all of the Galapagos, only a few of the lagoons are open to visitors and they migrate from lagoon to lagoon in search of food. On this particular day, there were only about six and they remained on the far side of the lagoon the entire time we were there. There was one small one however, that was all alone and closer to us; albeit not as colorful as the full grown ones.

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After walking past the lagoon, we arrived at the other side of the island. This side is an important nesting area for sea turtles and there were several deep depressions in the sand where they dig and then lay their eggs. The sea turtles lay over 100 eggs and bury them in the sand. The warmer eggs end up being females and the colder eggs are male. Their survival is a result of strength in numbers. Of all the eggs that hatch, only a few survive. From the moment they hatch, it's American Gladiators, turtle style. Amazingly, they all seem to hatch at about the same time and begin running the gauntlet. Birds circle the air and dive down to pick them off, both on land as well as in the sea. If they make it out to sea, it will be 20 years before they return to this beach once they reach sexual maturity. Amazingly, research has shown that they will travel all over the ocean, swimming thousands of miles. And yet somehow, they can find their way back to this very same beach, twenty years later.

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Snorkeling for the day was in a place between a place called Devil's Crown and the island of Floreana. Devil's Crown is a rock formation jutting up from the sea with some pillars above the water and some below. The area is home to several white-tipped and black-tipped reef sharks as well as the occasional stingray. We did see one white-tip sleeping, but aside from that, this was the least eventful snorkeling adventure of them all.

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Post Office Bay was our afternoon excursion. Not really noted for its wildlife or scenery, it's more of a discovery of the history of people on the islands. It's also home to an unofficial post office where people drop off post cards that are picked up by other travelers and then either delivered by hand or mailed upon their return home. It's the only place where reading someone else's mail is not against the law and is actually encouraged.

After sorting through a few of the cards, we got a history lesson on the human aspect of the islands. Floreana was the first island to be inhabited due to the fact that it has a small amount of fresh water up in the highlands. Serving as mainly a stopping point for whalers to pick up fresh meat in tortoises (more on them in the next posting) a German couple thought it would be a great island paradise and moved to the islands. They soon realized that the island had very little water and was unbearably hot most of the much for paradise. Meanwhile, another German couple heard about the islands and also thought it would be nice to share this island paradise with fellow Germans. Well, the two didn't exactly get along and with resources tight, tensions flared. While it is not known what exactly happened, people began disappearing until there was only one original settler left with a couple of descendents from the other families. Today, there are around 100 people living on the island running a small B & B and fishing/farming. Also, as a result of all the whaler activity, there are no tortoises left on the island as they were all hunted and killed for meat.

After an unbearably hot, but short walk up, to the post office below we had some free time and Jason watched the crew of the Beluga plan in a futbol (SA soccer) game while Tracy went for a swim with some of the other travelers from the Beluga. Sadly, the Beluga team did not win the futbol game but the swim was a welcome respite from the heat and while swimming a young sea lion came out and put on a show porpoising in and out of the water while the swimmers clapped! The more clapping the higher he jumped! As a finale a blue footed boobie appeared and dive bombed into the water emerging with a fish which he gobbled up instantly. Just another amazing afternoon in the Galapagos!

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The highlight of the day was actually on the way from Floreana to Santa Cruz, dolphins decided to put on a show for us. These bottle nosed dolphins leaped out of the water and raced along side the bow of the ship for a good twenty minutes before calling it quits. What an awesome way to end our day!

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To see a video of our dolphin race click here!

To see more photos from Floreana please click here!

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