Day 3: Isla Espanola and Punta Suarez
Overnight, we sail away from Isla Santa Cruz and anchor in Gardner Bay off Isla Espanola. From the boat, I can tell we are in for a treat. Pale blue water and pure white sand littered with sea lions and pups.
It's a glorious morning to stroll along the beach and watch the mums tend to their young. They are the sweetest things ever.
A pup sits at the water’s edge crying out for his mum. Moments later, an equally distraught mother spots her baby. They run desperately to each other, lovingly dive into the water together and there is a collective sigh from the audience.
Reluctantly, we leave our paradise and sail to a new spot for our first snorkel. The water is a frigid 17 degrees and visibility isn’t great either. It's clear enough to see baby sea lions swimming playfully around Meg. A pup swims right up to my face before dashing away.
I’m so in love with the beauty of this place that I don’t notice the water is freezing or that everyone is calling me in for hot soup.
Several hours of sunbaking later and we arrive at Punta Suarez. This island is a bird sanctuary and it’s the breeding season. We haven’t yet stepped off the boat when Darwin steers us a different way because a sea lion has just given birth on the dock. We gingerly make our way past the exhausted pair, scrambling over razor sharp volcanic rocks so as not to disturb them. The pup looks desperately small and fragile.
On land it’s a wildlife haven. Partially blocking the path is a cluster of perhaps 50 black land iguanas all stacked on top of each like beanbags and snorting salt water out of their nostrils.
Beyond the iguanas sits a blue-footed booby watching us with beady eyes. I can’t stop staring at his bright blue feet.
There is an abundance of birdlife here. Blue, red and grey-footed boobies, albatrosses and their chicks, and frigate birds with their bright red, puffed out chins.
Darwin tells us about the albatrosses – how they fly to New Zealand to feed before returning to Galapagos to nest, how they mate for life, how the live for 50 years - and how they always find their way back to their mate.
A wandering albatross swoops in towards us, its enormous wings spread wide, landing on unsteady feet. Darwin believes it’s been at sea for a while. The bird makes its way past the hundreds of nests before approaching a female. They dance shyly around each other and he realises she isn’t the one. He moves on. We watch as he wanders through the crowd looking lost.
Eventually he spots a lone bird on the other side of the breeding ground. Darwin motions for us to silently sit and watch. What unfolds before us is the most romantic, precious thing in the world.
An albatross finding his mate.
The wild surf crashing over the rocks in the background adds to the drama. But the stage belongs to this loving pair who clack beaks in perfect unison, wail, duck and weave around each other, dance, bow, curtsey and kiss, for what seems like forever.
It’s too precious to photograph. Geezer tries.
As we solemnly make our way back to the boat, I notice that Darwin has a delightful spring in his step. I love it when a guide is so passionate.
We arrive back on the boat hours late. The crew don’t seem to mind and absorb our energy.
What a magical day. Beers and bed!