There is an abundance of wildlife,
lizards, birds, turtles on the islands
From the ship, we were transported to land in pangas. On
several of the islands, such as Española, the ground is covered
in lava rock, and is very uneven. For anyone needing
assistance, walking sticks are available on board. We trekked
about one and a half miles over lava rocks which, if it is
raining, can make the going rather treacherous.
However, we saw lots of wildlife, including sea lions –
some with babies, marine iguanas in shades of red, blue and
green, and blue-footed and Nazca boobies. The babies of the
latter are particularly sweet, covered in white down. There
are two types of iguanas: marine and land. These change in
colour on different islands to blend in with their background.
At one point we saw what looked like smoke in the distance,
which turned out to be a blow hole – a hole in the rock
formation – where a strong wave creates an amazing fountain
of water. On San Cristóbal the sand is white from the coral,
whereas on Floreana, the sand is black from the volcanic lava.
On the latter are water lagoons where we saw flamingos among
other migratory and shore birds. Several days later we visited
Rabida where, because of the high iron content, the sand is red.
Starting early is a necessity as it gets hotter towards midday,
and there is no shade. Where possible, we were allowed
to swim or snorkel. The 40 miles around the islands are
dedicated to a marine reserve, and make up part of the
UNESCO World Heritage Site, of which the islands in the
archipelago are also part. Those who had not brought their
own gear were given snorkelling equipment.
The naturalists who accompanied us are often too busy to
help anyone inexperienced. Initially, I had to rely on one of
the other guests to show me what to do. However, once I got
the hang of it, seeing the marine life at close hand was just
wonderful. Even snorkelling from the beach can be
interesting, particularly near the rocks.
There is also the opportunity to deep sea snorkel, where I
swam through shoals of black-striped salema fish, and even
saw a shark. I was told that as long as no-one antagonises
them, you do not have to be afraid, although I didn’t hang
around to find out!
The islands are still volcanic, and in 1968 there was both an
earthquake and a volcanic eruption on Fernandina, the
youngest island. The surface of the island was lifted, and
different formations to the other islands were created:
‘Pahoehoe’ – lots of ridges – and ‘ahah’ lava which looks like
pieces of dug-up soil.
Algae and rock pools attract fish, and black marine iguanas
sun themselves on the rocks. Because of the cool currents in
the sea, we also saw penguins and enormous sea turtles. The
latter were spied, from our panga, floating just below the
surface of the water. Every two to three years, the turtle makes
a nest by digging a large hole in the sand and lays up to 80
eggs. It then covers the nest with sand.
It is, therefore, very important to only walk in designated
areas to make sure we did not disturb or walk on one by
mistake. In fact, whichever island we were on, we had to keep
to a laid-out path.
Bringing a pair of binoculars is a good idea so that you can
maximise on seeing as much as possible. Even if you thought
bird watching was not of particular interest, as the naturalist
points something out, you too will want to see close up what
they are talking about. For example, there are several different
types of finches on the islands, and depending on the location,
their beaks will vary in length to help them get their food.