Luis "Champi" Rodriguez " - Champi's nickname is certainly well-deserved because, like all of the naturalists on board, he is a "champion" and expert at all things related to the Galapagos. His enthusiasm for the islands was infectious, and often tinged with a bit of humor (who knew a presentation on barnacles could be so funny?). And in the water, he almost keeps up with the sea lions - both in speed and breath holding ability. Incredible!
Waved Albatross - Found only on Española, the Waved Albatross is the largest bird in the Galapagos, with a wing span approaching 8 feet. Couples mate for life and breed after an elaborate courtship dance that involves much castanet-like clicking of bills and vocalization (see video). Only a single egg is
laid and much attention is paid to rolling it around during the 60 day incubation. Newborns fledge in 167 days, with the high cliffs of Española providing a perfect launching platform for their new and unsteady wings. The birds are completely absent from the Galapagos from December until early April while they feed in the waters off of Peru.
Galapagos - The islands take their name from the Spanish word, Galapago, which means saddle. Apparently, the early Spaniards believed the shells of the giant tortoises resembled saddles; indeed, some of the islands have what is still referred to as "saddleback" vs. dome shaped shells.
Day 2 - Española
We awoke to find that the ship was anchored off the shore of Española, the southernmost island in the Galapagos, and one of the oldest. Unlike some of the clearly volcanic-like islands that we visited later, Española had scrubby vegetation and beautiful white sand beaches.
Early morning risers had been encouraged to sign up the night before for a 6:15 a.m. sea kayaking trip along the coast line to observe wildlife. We opted to be lazy slugs instead (heh, what are vacations for?) and merely greeted the kayakers as they returned before breakfast.
Breakfast was followed by a quick session to outfit passengers with wet suits and snorkeling equipment, and then we went on our first snorkeling adventure off of Gardner Islet!
The sea lions are totally unaffected by the presence of people. Park regulations prohibit visitors from touching or approaching them too closely, however the young pups are curious and sometimes choose to ignore the regulations, as the photos and video below demonstrate.
Susan, a fellow Atlantan, was just sitting on the beach when this young pup wandered over to take a closer look at her and her backpack!
During a delicious Ecuadorian lunch, the ship repositioned to near the southern coast of the island at Punta Suarez. Here we had the privilege of visiting the only nesting site for the endemic waved albatross (see details to left), as well as numerous other species. This was not your usual hide and seek birding adventure. The birds were EVERYWHERE along the trail. In fact, at times you had to step around them. Some of my favorite photos from this hike are in the slide show below. And I also captured the famous bill-clacking courtship of the albatross on a video below the slideshow.
Here's the video of the albatross courtship:
The updrafts from the southern cliffs allow the ungainly birds to take off with relative ease, and makes a great place for newly fledged chicks to take their first flight.
What a fantastic second day! Follow our adventures on Floreana on Day 3.