Gardner Bay (Española)
"This morning, step onto Gardner Bay, ESPANOLA (HOOD). Walk along seemingly endless stretches of sandy beach where you’ll find colonies of sea lions. Swim and snorkel with the sea lions and enjoy the colorful diversity of sea life near Gardner Islet." -Itinerary
Gardner Bay is home to a beautiful white-sand beach, half of which is off-limits due to turtle nesting. We had a nice time walking along the water, watching hundreds of sea lions go about their daily activities (the adults sleep, the big bull chases things, and the juveniles play). Blue-footed boobies dive-bombed birds not far from us, giving a spectacular aerial performance. Unfortunately, there were also many flies on this beach, making it hard for us to relax. Galapagos flies are extremely persistent, and will stop doing whatever it is that they are doing on your skin unless you physically swat at them with something (waving the body part that they have landed on does no good).
Suarez Point (Española)
"This afternoon, we disembark at Punta Suarez, ESPANOLA, where we witness the highest rate of endemic species in Galapagos. Sea lions noisily green us as we land on their beach. Curious mockingbirds peck at our shoelaces. From April to November, the waved albatross, found only on Espanola, perform their wild mating rituals. Colonies of blue-footed boobies engage in 'sky-pointing' to show off for potential mates. Masked boobies busily care for their young. Stunning swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropicbirds take shelter under the cliffs. We also find Darwin’s Finches, Galapagos Doves and Galapagos Hawks. Observe a unique specie of marine iguana identified with traces of red and green colorings. Colorful sally light-foot crabs crawl along the shoreline near to the famous 'blow hole'." - Itinerary
Suarez Point gave us a sort of recap of our time in the Galapagos -- with a twist or two. The marine iguanas here had nice, red patches on them, and the lava lizards were large, with fiery, red heads. The blue-footed boobies, whose presence both on land and over water we have become quite accustomed to, were also at Suarez Point. We saw a couple males dancing for females; one of the females promptly went to sleep when a male danced for her. We all thought that going to sleep was pretty rude! :)
Also here were waved albatrosses. They have a wingspan of up to nine feet (!), and aren't able to take off or land very easily. We didn't get to see any try to land, but we were told by Renato that they often tumble a few times after hitting the ground. Like all baby birds on the Galapagos islands, the waved albatross chicks were really, really ugly.
When we finally reached the cliff (after walking for awhile), there were two blowholes spouting water and breathing loudly in their hollow voices. All sorts of birds were flying around in the updraft, including many red-billed tropicbirds, which had so far been a bit elusive on our trip. Their long, thin tail feather dips down when they are slowing down, giving them an elegant curve in the air.
We've finally started to become annoyed at the Galapagos mockingbirds, whose persistent desire for bottled water showcases the effects of our presence here. Two people in our group gave them water while we were on another island, which I thought was irresponsible (they were yelled at by Renato, thankfully).
And finally, we were given a friendly farewell by a few sea lion pups, no more than a couple of weeks old. They don't seem to be able to see very well, and communicate mostly by braying at their mothers like sheep. They were some of the cutest critters on the islands.