Posted by: tim ellis | January 1, 2009

Galapagos – Tuesday 15th July (Santiago and Bartolome)

We arrive at James Bay, Santiago overnight, so it is nice and calm when we awake, and although the top of the volcano is shrouded in dark clouds, it is otherwise clear and bright. As it is our last full day we have three landings today, a wet one this morning, and a wet and a dry one on Bartolome this afternoon.

We have not got far off the beach at James Bay, when we come across a great blue heron stalking his prey – we watch for a while, but don’t actually see it strike. Once we get to the other side of the headland, we are looking for fur seals, though finding mostly marine iguana. There is an interesting geological feature there, known as Darwin’s toilet – a natural bowl in the lava that fills and empties as the waves roll in and out, complete with an authentic flushing sound. We eventually find a young fur seal pup swimming in a small inlet. He puts on quite a show for us, but will insist on staying in the darkest corners making photos more difficult. Just before we leave, he is joined by a young sea-lion, seeing them side by side makes it obvious they are different species.

In another inlet Franklin spots an octopus and we all rush to see it, just in time as it is heading back to the sea. We also encounter a couple of lava heron to go with the great blue we saw earlier.

The beach is quite busy (by Galapagos standards) when we return, and we are only one of several snorkelling groups – which makes it difficult for me to spot who is part of our group once I take my glasses off – especially as part of the beach is “off limits” for snorkelling as there is a young male sea-lion there who may prove aggressive (and no-one feels like going to find out).

As soon as everyone is back on board the Cachalote we set sail again for Bartolome, having lunch on the move. We are just in the middle of our pudding when dolphins are spotted. It is a huge school of maybe 150 bottlenose dolphins who swim around us, some leaping out of the water, and several bowriding along the front of the ship. We all rush out to watch them – lunch will have to wait!

The ship anchors in the bay off Pinnacle Rock at Bartolome. We have two trips out here this afternoon. A wet landing to explore the beach and swim/snorkel (making two snorkelling trips today as well), returning to the ship for a quick shower, then back to climb up to the peak opposite the pinnacle (by means of a boardwalk and steps, not real mountaineering) to look down at the parasitic cones (or fumaroles) left by previous eruptions. We stand at the peak and watch the sun go down over the bay.

Pinacle Rock

We have hardly got back on board when it is time for our farewell dinner. The captain and crew join us to say goodbye, receive our vote of thanks, and share another of Richards “secret” cocktails. Pudding is another surprise, a magnificent chocolate gateaux with a special message iced in to the top “Galapagos thanks you” in Spanish. Franklin then shocks us with the news that we have a 6 AM start in the morning for a dingy cruise through some mangroves, and he wants to get there early before the other boats scare the roosting egrets. Since everyone still has to pack and there doesn’t look like being much time in the morning, this soon breaks the party up.

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