Posted by: tim ellis | January 18, 2009

Ecuador – Saturday 19th July 2008 (Isla de la Plata)

We are ready at 8:45, but there is no sign of the “little cars” – the taxis that are supposed to collect us and take us down to Puerto Lopez. Eventually the hotel manager decides she will have to take us, so we all pile into her car and drive down the track to the road, where we encounter three motor-trikes – the missing taxis! We change vehicles and proceed to the Mantaraya office in town where our national park guide, Hugo, is waiting. He leads us down the beach to our boat, which is waiting for us, the last passengers – but before we can board we have to push it further off the beach – the joys of being late. Alan had recommended that we sit near the back, but of course all those seats are taken. There is a second national park guide, Julio on board. Neither Hugo or Julio speak English, but Janice translates – we will take about two hours to get to the island, stopping off if we see whales, if we don’t we will spend longer looking on the way back. The sea is “pleasantly undulating”, but the captain steers mostly along the waves, so we have a relatively smooth ride.

Breaching Humpback

Keeping an eye out for whales, I spot a couple of blows off the starboard bow – we head in that direction, and see probably 5-8 humpback whales, either in small groups or separately – mostly just leisurely swimming, though we do see a few flipper slaps, a few lunges and a couple of spectacular breaches as part of the show. Eventually we depart for the Island , arriving approximately midday – we celebrate with banana-cake and banana!

Once we are all ashore we split into two groups. Hugo takes a group of students, while the rest of us go with Julio – in addition to Tom, Nancy, Janice and myself, there are a French couple from Dijon, an Irish couple from Waterford, and a young Ecuadorian couple. Julio shows us a map of the routes, and much discussion ensues, as we have been told there is a “long” 3 hour walk and a “short” 2.5-2.75 hour walk, and it isn’t clear which route is which, or what offers the best opportunities to see the most things (which is obviously what we all want). I suspect it is slightly moot as Julio “recommends” a route which I am sure is where he always intended to take us. (The “best” route probably depends on the time of year, and which species are present or most abundant at the time). Since this route takes us to the frigate bird area, and we never really saw them up close in the Galapagos, this suits me fine.

We climb the 180-odd steps to the top of the island, then set off, pausing to examine various flora (including something that looks like a bit like a horse chestnut, but turns out to contain a little loofah) and fauna (like a friendly stick insect). After side-stepping blue-footed boobys that have decided to rest in the middle of the path, we come to an area populated by magnificent frigate birds. Some are flying about, while many are resting in the trees including some males who obligingly puff up their throat sacs and display for us. Julio then gives us the choice of walking further and seeing more of the same birds, or returning to give longer for snorkelling. I’d sooner go on, but as I am in an obvious minority, we return back to the boat.  

Magnificent Frigate Bird

Hugo is waiting for us, but the students have returned on a different boat, so we have more room now. We sail round to below where we were watching the frigate birds, then have lunch of fresh fruit and “doorstop” sandwiches, before those wishing to snorkel take to the water. Although the sun came out while we were on the island, it has clouded over again, so I suspect that visibility won’t be brilliant, and several fish have come close enough to the surface that I can probably see them clearer from the boat with my glasses on than I would in the water without. Tom and Janice also decline. The swimmers don’t stop in too long, and confirm my suspicions by reporting there wasn’t much too see, so we head for home. We head back taking the faster, more direct route across the waves, making for a much bumpier, and wetter, ride than the journey out. None the less it is still broken by an encounter with 3 or 4 whales – not quite as active as this morning, but they come much closer to the boat – however in view of the amount of spray and water about, I decide to just watch and not photograph the encounter.

Tom and Nancy leave tomorrow, and initially we think that we will all be going to Los Frailes beach in the morning, but at dinner Janice tells me I will be with Adam again tomorrow, visiting Agua Blanca in the morning and Los Frailes in the afternoon.

As I approach my room, I spot a small gecko on the floor. He runs and hides under the door, then invites himself in – it’s a good job I’m not scared of lizards! I’m busy filling in my diary before going to bed when suddenly all the lights go out – power cut or generator failure? The lights outside soon come on again, and my bedside light starts working, but the main light does not come back on (nor the bathroom light).



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