|05 Feb 02
We flew from Quito, Ecuador to Baltra Island, with a stop in Guyaquil, on TAME, Ecuador's largest domestic airline. On arrival at Baltra Island, a former US military base built during World War II, we took a shuttle bus for the short ride to Baltra Harbor. A Brown Pelican and a Blue-footed Booby were on the dock to greet us.
We rode a small boat - locally called a panga - from the dock to the M/Y Samba. She appears to have originally been a fishing boat, but was rebuilt in 1993 to her present configuration, with cabins that sleep 12. She has a crew of five: Captain Pepe, Engineer Enrique, deckhands Moises and Manuel, and cook Walter. Our guide is Desiree Cruz, a former official with Parque Nacional Galapagos, now an independent contractor and, I would judge, given the pick of the tours. She seems to work fairly often with Andando Tours, the company that operates the Samba.
After orientation and an emergency drill, we lifted anchor and motored to North Seymour Island, immediately north of Baltra. A short trip, but we were joined by 25-30 Bottlenose Dolphins, some of them surfing the bow wave. After dropping anchor, a panga full of Alaskans, and an amazing amount of camera equipment, motored to a dry landing. North Seymour is mostly flat, and looks to be an uplift artifact. It's quite arid, with salt bush, Palos Santos and cactus. We spent 3.5 hours walking the two kilometer loop trail, through an amazing variety of fearless or habituated sea lions, birds and iguanas. There was a lot of film shot. The list of critters is below.
After returning, I sat on the upper deck and watched Brown Pelicans diving for fish along the lava cliffs of the small bay, with both Great and Magnificent Frigatebirds circling overhead. Blue-footed Boobies beat their way back in the fading light, and on the beach Galapagos Sea Lions squabble and talk. The air was soft and the stars, many in new constellations, were very bright. Orion was standing on his head. The Great Bear was at the north horizon, and Polaris was below the horizon.
After supper and orientation to tomorrow's activities, I went out on deck. The water around the boat was strongly bioluminescent, and the sea lions playing with us made rocket streams of light in the water, astonishing lighting effects. I think the sea lions enjoyed it was much as I did.
Shortly after 11 PM, the Southern Cross rose in the east. The first time I have seen it. We really are in a different hemisphere. It's odd to be warm and see stars...
Desiree Cruz, Naturalist III
A good guide makes a big difference; we had one of the best
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