Friday, May 8, 2009

Love is in the can feel it everywhere! Santiago and Bartolome, Galapagos


Destination: Santiago (James) Island and Bartolome Island, Galapagos

Best of: More penguin more ways than one!

Worst of: Camera started to fog up just as we got to the penguin lovin'

*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 7.

Day 07: Santiago (James) Island: Puerto Egas & Bartolome Island

We started the day on Santiago (James) Island at Puerto Egas. On top of the hill overlooking the bay is the remains of what once was a house and salt producing factory. The company was short lived as the owners declared bankruptcy, abandoned the island in the middle of the night, leaving behind all the workers...unpaid! The workers were rescued after a couple of weeks from Santa Cruz, but they took everything they could carry from the house as a form of payment.

Further along the path, up off the shore is where Darwin studied his now famous finches. There are thirteen varieties of finches, all endemic to the islands. To the naked eye, the finches are virtually the same, no differences can really be noticed. Darwin started to study their behavior and noticed that each one had a different length of beak. One finch in particular feeds on a nut that is too hard to crack. The finch has adapted it's beak to be able to pry open the shell and is the only animal that feeds on the nut. This adaptation ensures that the finch will not have to fight with other animals over a common food source.

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Returning back to the coastline, we came across the Fur Seal grottos. Unlike the sea lions who enjoy sunning themselves, the fur seals prefer the shade and lay in the the crevices and under overhangs. The fur seal is much smaller than the sea lion and there are not as many either. The fur seal, much like the tortoises, were prized by humans. Nearly hunted to extinction, they are now protected and making a comeback. This little guy, however, was the only one we managed to see.

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We think this guy is a Galapagos Night Heron. It may look like he only has one leg, but he is in fact just standing on one leg. They sleep standing on only one of their legs.

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Hard to tell in the picture, but similar to the Blowhole on Espanola, there is Darwin's toilet. as the tides go in and out, the water go gushing up and back down a hole in the ground giving it the appearance of a toilet.

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Back on the beach, we donned our snorkeling gear and jumped in the water. The only thing from this snorkel to report was we were so afraid of this bull seal, that we turned around and cut our snorkel trip short. They can be very territorial and since he was a much better swimmer than we are, we decided to let him have this part of the water.

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After lunch, we moved the boat over to the island of Bartolome and jumped in the water for more snorkeling fun! With its Pinnacle Rock, Bartolome is one of the most visited islands in the Galapagos, and one of the most scenic. Our snorkeling took us around the edge of the island and in between the pinnacle and the main island. The highlight of this snorkel trip came at the end when we came across more penguins on the rocks. The Penguins here decided to put on a show...mating style! Sadly, the housing started to fog up about the time we got here, but Tracy managed to get a few shots through the fog. It was still entertaining in that uninhibited animalistic kind of way.

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Bartolome is one of the most visited as well as most photographed of all the islands and for good reason. It's not very big, but it packs a lot of geological features into a small footprint. The trail leads to the top of the hill for a great over view of the surrounding ocean and smaller islands. The island receives so little rain, that footprints in the volcanic soil will remain years after they were left. Due to all the tourists, they have since installed a walkway over most of the path to prevent erosion. Like most of the islands, Bartolome is a volcanic island. Aside from the lunar type landscape of red, dry soil, the island also boasts fine examples of spatter cones. When a volcanic eruption is occurring, the lava finds weak spots in the side of the main cone and the pressure becomes so great that it eventually forces it's way out the top and causes a secondary eruption.

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Once at the top, we were treated with grand views!

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Back on board, we had our last night on the Beluga and got ready to disembark the next morning.

To see more pictures of Santiago Island, click here.

To see more pictures of Bartolome Island, click here.

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