The next morning was begun with another early wake-up call. The cruise ship had followed us once more, but this time to Floreana Island. We barely had time to wash a bit of crackers down our throat with coffee or tea, and stuff a banana down as well before jumping into the zodiacs to head ashore on Punta Cormorant. It was another wet-landing, so I decided it would be a flip-flop day. No sun had broken through the overhead clouds and reached the beach yet, so the trio of sea lions had taken an early morning swim in the bay and huddled together keeping warm on the sandy shore.
On the horizon you could see a group of mountains that reminded me of Arizona. Most would call them hills compared to other more dominant ranges like the North American Rockies or the South American Andes. They seemed light and fluffy, as if they were covered in dandelions that could be blown away by wind to leave the mountainous hills bare.
We gathered and headed up a slight hill, surrounded by the bare-limbed, white colored dandelion trees on both sides. Just so you know, they’re really black and white mangrove trees. An occasional bird – each a different species – could be seen perched or fluttering about on the the branches. Eventually, we reached the first stop on our exploration of Floreana Island, which was named after the first president of Ecuador, Juan Jose Flores, who took control of the Galapagos Islands. It was a lookout point constructed of wood and resembled a patio at the back of a house.
The group crammed together on the patio lookout and glanced at the landscape. A lagoon was slowly rippling with the slight breeze. It’s surface was able to keep the glassy reflection of the trees that lined its edges and the clouds. Tour Guide George explained how the Galapagos Islands never receive rain. When the clouds pile up overhead, they release a mist, but that is all, according to Tour Guide George. Hence, there being no fresh-water streams, rivers or lakes. Simply, lagoons that connect to the ocean. However, my own research had told me otherwise.
Apparently the Galapagos archipelago experiences some frequent rain showers. The islands also take part in the El Niño phenomenon, which brings heavy rains along with it. From June to November, known as the Garua, there are drizzles that last all day and from December to May there are some strong rains every once in a while. Maybe I just misheard the endemic Tour Guide George while I was taking pictures of the breath-taking nature around me at that moment.
This lagoon is known to have pink flamingos visit from December to May. Sadly, we missed out on seeing the sophisticated creatures. After the quick educational lesson, we continued on the path toward another bay – this one being very special. A little ways up the shore, a pattern could be seen in the white-sand beach. A number of rounded dugouts had been made, separated by mere inches from one another. Tour Guide George explained that these were sea-turtle nests and had just been emptied, pointing out the baby’s tracks that led to the ocean water.
I could see pieces of hatched eggs still sitting in one of the nests. We walked along the shore, the first feet to touch the sand that day – a perk of waking up at 5 a.m. – to try and look for any sea turtles that didn’t make it to the ocean. Overhead a black bird, most likely a Frigate, was soaring with its peering eyes to hopefully beat us to a baby to make it breakfast. Unfortunately for us and the bird, but lucky for the sea turtles, we did not find one. During the search party, I did get to see a sea lion basking in the sun, a Yellow Warbler prancing around on the sand and a Least Sandpiper running around on the beach.
We spent some time here exploring. I got to inspect my first set of tide-pools, which were sadly mostly empty but there were plenty of Sally Lightfoot crabs picking at the rocks for food. Tour Guide George had us gather around again to tell us that this bay area was known for having plenty of sting rays in the shallow areas. He had us go up to our knees in the ocean water to look at them. At one point, he grabbed my arm and pulled me around pointing at each one of them. I stood still enough that I felt them nibbling at my feet – either that or it was seaweed but I didn’t see any floating seaweed.
When I felt them, I pulled my leg up in fear, making myself look like a flamingo standing in the water. The waves were carrying the stingrays right up to us and some of the group actually said they stepped on one or two. Eventually, I walked back a bit to some of the more nervous bystanders, and was even lucky enough to see a stingray flap its “wings” on the surface of the water before disappearing beneath it once more.
After we all decided that we risked our lives enough, we headed back to the other side of the island to wait for the zodiacs to arrive. The sun had finally made its appearance and Tour Guide George was able to show us the crystals that give the beach its green olivine color.
The crystals glistened underneath the sun and with a close eye, I could really seen the hint of green against the dark sand on the beach. Some sort of chemical reaction with lava creates the green crystals, which add to the majestic beauty of one more Galapagos island. Not too much later, the zodiacs rushed ashore to pick us up and take us for a nice breakfast on the catamaran before we would put on our wetsuits again. Next stop: Champion Islet for another snorkeling opportunity – this time with some special friends.