We had an extra early wake up call today, at 6am sharp. There were some snacks instead of a full-on breakfast, and then we set off for shore at 6:30 . The idea was that the hike we were going on would get very hot if we left at the usual time, and some of the animals would not be visible either. At the beach, we saw evidence of sea turtles laying their eggs. It wasn't nearly as hot as usual, but the flipside was that there were mosquitoes. The walk was very easy and not very long – we were basically hunting for land iguanas on the western side of Isabela, the largest island in the Galapagos. At first, we weren't sure we'd see any, but then slowly but surely we saw a bunch. The first couple were a little hidden, but then we started to see some that were out in the open. One was so out in the open that people got very close for photos. One lady got so close that she scared it away, which ticked a bunch of us off because we wanted to take close-up photos as well. The good part, however, was that the iguana slowly walked away and started munching on some apples (poison to humans), so we got some video and some action shots. On the way back to the beach, we saw something very interesting – a marine iguana using the home of a land iguana. Usually marine iguanas live on the rocks right at the ocean, but this one was living in the small cave of a land iguana a couple hundred meters from the shore.
We came back to the boat and had a real breakfast, with Val & Marijke and John & Phillip. We had a small break after breakfast – Justin took an opportunity to sleep while Crystal took a short class on folding towels. Every day we walk into our room after an excursion, our towels are folded into the shape of some sort of animal. Crystal wondered how they did it, and learned a little bit at the class. At around 11 we went snorkeling, which was hit and miss. We were at the Marielas, which are probably some old volcanic vents. They stuck out of the water as two small islands, kind of cliff-like. So snorkeling was good only right along the perimeter of the islands, because the water level dropped off quickly from there, and the water was kind of murky. That being said, there was a lot to see just by sticking our heads out of the water. On the land, right in front of us, were several penguins, crabs, blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, and pelicans. In the water itself were some fish, including a couple of schools. Justin finally saw a penguin in the water – he watched it waddle down the land and hop into the water, then stuck his head under water to watch it swim quickly away. Also, Justin got to swim with 3-5 sea lions, like the day before. Today, however, there were less people around, so they were swimming basically with just him.
We came back to the boat for lunch. We ate with the three British people from the night before (as far as we can gather, it's a couple and the wife's sister), plus two other people we hadn't met yet. The British people asked us about our pets, and when we said we had a Great Dane their eyes lit up, because they had one also. This is their fourth Great Dane, and they've had good luck with all of them.
Our excursion in the afternoon was a little different – we went out in the pangas in search of sea turtles in the mangrove swamps. It was high tide, so the panga went into an inlet bay where the water was completely still. We used the engine only a little bit, most of the time the driver and Elizabeth were rowing the panga around so as to not disturb potential turtles. We would see turtles every so often, but they wouldn't stay up for long. We did manage to see some penguins and a sea lion in a tree while looking for the turtles, however. We kept trying to get video and pictures, but it was a lost cause. After over an hour, Justin finally got a halfway-decent photo.
We got back from the excursion a bit earlier than usual (no snorkeling in the afternoon), and everyone congregated at the back of the boat in the pool area because the air conditioning was not working. A couple of people, including Justin, brought their computers and shared photographs from the trip. One gentleman, Tom, had taken several outstanding photos, including some that we had not managed to get. He graciously shared some of his photos with us in exchange for our picture of the Galapagos Hawk. Tom is here with his son, Luque. They recently moved from New York to North Carolina , and just finished construction on their new 11,000 square foot house that they told us all about. It sounds amazing. We also spoke with John a little bit about work and Hawaii . We asked him about his favorite island, and he went on for about 5-10 minutes on the attributes of each. At the end, we asked, "so the short answer is they're all equally good?", which he answered affirmatively.
There was a gorgeous sunset off the front of the boat, so a bunch of us went up to take pictures. After the sun went down, we decided to put on some nice clothes. We packed them, thinking we'd go to a nice dinner sometime, but it never happened, so we had yet to wear them. We figured we might as well wear them once, so we got dressed and went down for the talk about the next day and then dinner. At dinner we ate with Laurene and Chelsea, a mother and daughter from Long Beach . Chelsea has been down in Ecuador for six months, taking a year off between high school and the start of college. We talked a little bit about college, and the benefits of getting the best degree possible since neither one of us are actually practicing in the field we received our degrees in. We felt we may have actually been doing something productive and having a positive effect on someone, so we made sure to counter that by telling Chelsea that her mom put us up to this and that we were actually drug dealers. We don't think it worked though, and we may have had inadvertently done some good on our vacation.