Officially, today’s featured creature is the flamingo, but I was far more impressed by the curious young sea lion who wanted to swim with our group.
Unlike most of the other animals in The Galapagos, flamingos are viewed from afar, but their shrimp cocktail color makes a striking contrast against the muddy brown lagoon.
To get to the lagoon, we made a wet landing on a chocolate brown beach tinged with olivine crystals. You could actually see tiny grains of the green glass by sifting a handful of sand. Just 400 meters away, across the isthmus on the other side of the island, was a white sandy beach. (You can see photos of these on my highlights blog.)
Along the way, I also snapped this photo of a pelican. There are many in the islands, but they don’t get a lot of attention because they are not nearly as exotic as their neighbor birds.
This was also another chance to be amazed by the blue-footed boobies. Although numerous, I was never bored by them.
This was also my best shot of a Sally Lightfoot crab. You’ve got to love a crab with a name like that. And they are beautiful, and plentiful.
The white sandy beach is where the marine turtles lay their eggs. Perhaps turtles are like people in this regard, going for the Cancun-type beach view. More likely, it has something to do with tides, currents and the number of predators. I wasn’t privileged to see any baby turtles, or even any moms, but I was amazed at the tracks. If you’d told me this was a tractor, I would have believed it, but there are no motorized vehicles anywhere near this place.
The highlight of the day though was snorkeling at Devil’s Crown, a collapsed volcano, where I got to swim with a sea lion (see highlights blog), but there was much, much more including what seemed like hundreds of chocolate chip sea stars and enormous schools of fish.
The current was strong, so at one point we got back on the panga and our driver, Luis, took us around the other side of the crown where the sharks hang out. At that point, it became somewhat of a drift snorkel, just floating along with the current. That is until Camilo spotted sharks. Then I got some actual exercise by doing a full-on freestyle sprint to reach them. These sharks were far below the surface, maybe 10 feet deep, unlike the one I encountered a couple of days later.
Unlike anyplace else I’ve ever dived or snorkeled, I have to say I was impressed with how well we were taken care of by The Beagle. Each time we snorkeled, Luis, who is one of if not the best dinghy driver I’ve ever seen, would follow along in the panga in case someone got tired or too cold or just needed to get out.
After another fantastic lunch, we navigated to Post Office Bay on the other side of Floreana. There we continued the old whaling tradition by posting our letters in a barrel where other travelers could pick them up and deliver them.
Someone would grab a handful of letters from the barrel and call out destinations. If there’s one nearby home, you call out to take it. Then you have the responsibility of delivering it when you return.
Of course, this is not the way mail is officially posted in The Galapagos. There is a fully functioning postal system in Ecuador, but it makes one feel a part of the larger world community. It’s fun to read messages left by visitors from all over the world. Surrounding the barrel are license plate holders, bumper stickers, luggage tags, placards and even a message in a bottle from a couple of little kids.
I guess it’s one of those places that people just want to say, “I was here.” Since it is also one of the more unique aspects of The Galapagos, it’s also a place for a group photo. Really, a guide’s work is never done. Not only does he (or she) have to know oceanography, geology, biology, history, orinthology and probably many other ologies, he also has to know photography.
After sorting the mail, we were planning to look for more marine turtles on our way back to The Beagle, but the waves were too big, probably part of that big storm that damaged many coasts along the Pacific. This left plenty of time to lounge on deck with snacks and a glass of wine. The motor got a boost from the sails, which gave us a more scenic sunset on the way to our next destination, six hours away.