Day six was a big day – we had in store for us two snorkelling sessions and an island visit to Rabida.
The morning snorkelling session was not really worth a mention, except that I lost a diamond earring mum bought me for Christmas. GUTTED!!! I was so upset. The visibility was low, the water was not freezing freezing cold, but cold enough for me, and it wasn’t teaming with life. A big school of small sharks, and other big school of fish, few star fish, blah blah. I didn’t stay in the water for too long – after copping one flipper too many in the head, I decided I’d had enough of being in the water and not seeing anything new. I was also upset at losing an earring that I just wanted to be out. [Sorry Mum! I should have taken them off… boo hoo :(…]
Our island visit of Rabida was cool – we saw two hawks close up. Totally amazing how close we can get to them and they are not scared by us. I thought that was super cool.
There were heaps of sea loins on the beach, but amazingly, there was a mother sea lion starting to give birth. We watched her try to give birth for 20 minutes or so, then went for a walk and returned an hour later. Upon return, it was apparent that she was having a breach birth and her waters hadn’t broken. She looked in pain, exhausted, and had stopped pushing. Our guide and the guide of another group there, said that she would die if she didn’t push the baby out, and it was most likely that the baby sea loin was already dead. Oh how sad! They went about assisting her to get the breach baby sea loin out. It was one of the most traumatic things I have ever witnessed. This poor female sea loin was simply exhausted, but still trying to attack Washington who had hold her unborn calf by the back flippers and was trying to pull it out. The other guide was trying to distract her and the poor mother sea loin seemed so tired and confused.
Oh my God it was a gruesome sight. I felt so so so sad for the sea loin. Finally, after huge tugging efforts by Washington, the baby calf was out and slumped on the beach, seemingly lifeless. The mother sea loin turned back to her newborn, looked at it, sniffed it, shoved it with her snout, and it didn’t move. That look on the mother’s face will be etched in my mind forever – the poor mother! I swear she looked distressed. It brought me to tears, I couldn’t hold it in any more. It was one of the saddest things I have ever seen.
The lifeless baby seal was a little too close to the shore line, the water almost reaching its little body, so Washington dragged it by the back of the neck up the sand. Then a miracle!! The chest of the little fella heaved! Not once! Not twice! But over and over again. The baby was alive!! A miracle!!
But sadly, the baby probably won’t live – the way it works in the sea lion world is that a female will have a calf, and she will feed that calf milk for two and a half years. In order for her to keep producing milk and keep feeding her calf, she needs to get pregnant every year. The eldest calf always kills the new born – it is one of the cruel ways Mother Nature works.
It was a traumatic thing to witness for both Hubs and myself.
Back on the boat for quick rest and then we went snorkelling for the second time in a day. This time we went off the coast of the island Santiago – joy! The water was warmer, the visibility better, and there were heaps of fish! We saw marine iguanas under the water feeding on algae, penguins swimming, and loads of fish – a huge school of yellow tailed sergeant fish that I swam along with for a while. Yeah, it was a great snorkelling session.
We then went to Chinese Hat Island and saw naturally formed lava tunnels, dramatic coast line, and some mighty waves! The lava formations were pretty cool, given they are about 300,000 years old – you can still see the ripples in the lava where it set.
We did a dingy trip around one side of the island and saw penguins! Cute black and white penguins!
Back on board for dinner – which was a disgrace – cold spaghetti with no sauce, served with some green beans and some chicken cooked in a gravy kind of sauce. Everyone complained – and the Italians on board were mortified that someone could mutilate their national dish to such a huge degree. Yep, it was gross.
More dominoes after dinner, Hubs and I played on a team, taking it in turns (both of us were getting a bit over dominoes i think)…
We woke up at Bartolome Island. We went to a lovely beach that had reddish sand and saw a couple of ghost crabs – the funny looking crabs with the eyes sticking up above their shell. They feature in Finding Nemo at the end of the film when Nemo is going through the drain pipe after he escapes from the dentist surgery. Anyways…
As we were walking along the lovely beach, I noticed some sand being flicked further along the beach in the sand dunes. I asked Washington if it was a turtle nesting and he got very excited when he realised it was! Yey! We went over and sat and watched this big sea turtle cover over her eggs (or a fake hole – which is what they do as a decoy for predators). Sea Turtles will lay up to 1000 eggs, and only one baby from those 1000 eggs will survive to be a grown sea turtle. The eggs get eaten by nasty pirates of the Galapagos, the frigate birds, the baby turtles also get eaten by hawks, frigates, and other predators. Once in the ocean, the baby turtles get eaten by sharks and boobies.
After that excitement, we headed back to the boat, had a quick turnaround and headed out snorkelling. I have to admit, I secretly dreaded snorkelling – ONLY because it was usually cold and I hate to be cold! This time however, it was only cold initially when you first jump in the water. We snorkelled around the pinnacle rock on Bartolome Island and the first thing I saw was a shark. Not again. I don’t enjoy seeing sharks in the water. I don’t care if they say they are harmless…they don’t look harmless and I for one was not hanging around to see how friendly it was. So off I swam, ahead of the group. I swam amongst a massive school of yellow tailed silver fish (sergeant fish I think) – some of the fish were almost touching me. There were heaps of other colourful fish around and a few ginormous parrot fish. The biggest parrot fish I have ever seen. I also briefly saw a penguin (told you it was cold!) but it swam too fast for me to keep up with it. Zippy little things they are.
After an hour snorkelling, we sat on the beach, enjoying the warmth of the sun. It was bliss. Back to the boat for lunch before sailing to the other side of Santa Cruz island to go to Black Turtle Cove. The cove is full of mangroves and it was tricky for the crew to manoeuvre the dingys. We saw heaps of turtles, funny that, eagle rays, other rays, and more sharks (this time from the safety of the dingy). It was pleasant in the mangrove.
Back to the boat for dinner. Before we got to dinner we found two envelopes in our rooms marked “tips for crew” and “tips for guide”. That left a bad taste in our mouths – as a group we had already decided to tip them both as a group – but to be asked for a tip is a bit off. After dinner Washington did the briefing for our activities for the next day (our last morning), and then called in the crew, all in their spiffy white uniforms. He then proceeded to give a speech about how the 10 per cent service tax charged does not go to him or the crew, but to the Government and suggested we tip them between 5 and 10 per cent of what the tour cost. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE JOKING!!! Our tour cost A$2200 and there was no way I was leaving a tip for $220, not even A$100. How rude!!! We all agreed to put in between US$10 and $20 per person as a tip – we all thought that was fair enough. And that is a group of mixed nationalities – Italians, Germans, English, and us Aussies.
Like I said, as a group we had decided a few days earlier what to tip the crew and Washington. Italiano Sandro made the tip presentation to Washington and I then had to stand up and explain to him that the tip he just received was from all of us as a group and that we had decided several days ago to leave a tip as a group. Washington looked pissed off and almost angry. It was strange and awkward.
It was unfortunate that the night ended so awkwardly with Washington rude and presumptuous speech and the weird moment when we gave them our tip. Given we had to be up at 5.30am the next day, no one stayed up late to socialise.
Our last day, Day 8:
Up at the crack of dawn and off we went to North Seymour island, one of the most inhabited islands for bird life. We saw some baby sea loins, so cute, and loads of nesting blue footed boobies. We saw a boobie dance – where they lift one of their webbed blue feet up in the air at a time to attract the females. There were heaps of frigate birds too with their red chin sacks inflated – their way of attracting females.
The terrain was rough and full of white bird poo everywhere – this is a way that the birds mark their territories. Still, seeing so many birds nesting and baby birds was cool. It still amazes me how the animals are not afraid of humans. They just sit there as we wander past and don’t even flinch.
Back to the boat for breakfast and to pack the last of our things. At 8am we we heading back to Batras island – the airport island – where we got dropped off more than 3 hours before our flight – bloody incredible. What the F were we supposed to do for more than 3 hours at that tiny little airport with nothing in it and about 8 souvenir shops out the front. Urgh! Frustratingly annoying.
Sadly, we said our good byes to our new friends from the cruise, particularly the Germans Tim and Susan, and Team England who all made our trip so much more fun. Great people that I’ll miss. I hope all goes well for them in their future travels and lives.
Next stop, Quito!