This morning we were allowed a generous sleep in and didn't have to be ready to go till 7.50am. We had breakfast at our 'regular' local cafe, and then hopped onto the bus to drive to the north of Santa Cruz, where our boat was waiting to meet us. We were heading for North Seymour Island, a small island to the north of Santa Cruz. One of the features about the Galapagos that makes it popular with visitors is the way each island has its own set of species, so each day we visit a different location to explore.
This time the seas were calm and the boat trip was a bit shorter, so there was no-one looking green and before we knew it we were there. North Seymour's main claim to fame is nesting colonies of Frigatebrids and Blue-footed Boobies. The male Frigatebirds have a red pouch under th eir necks which they puff up to an enormous balloon when they are trying to impress the ladies. It is breeding season, so we saw lots of puffed up males and cute baby chicks. The Blue-footed Boobies have bright blue feet that look quite unnatural. The name booby comes from a Spanish word meaning clown, because of their comical way of walking, lifting each foot high in the air and wobbling from side to side. Birds in the Galápagos have no natural predators, so they are completely unafraid and you can therefore get very close to them for photos. On North Seymour there is a dedicated pathway, but the nests in places are very close to the path. At one point we found a young sea lion lying right across the path and had to choose between straying off the path or breaking the 2 metre rule.
We spend a lot of time on the boat with our eyes peeled, watching for birds, sharks, and any other wildlife, cameras at the ready. Suddenly we saw a couple of huge stingrays jump right out of the water, and do a couple of somersaults in the air before falling back in the water. Very exciting to see but hard to catch because you never know when or where they're jumping and it is all over in seconds. So I was quite suprised and pleased to find a couple of good shots when I downloaded my photos!
After our guided walk around the island we were back on the boat for a short trip to a sheltered bay for some snorkelling. There were not as many fish as yesterday, but I did see a stingray, a turtle and a shark so it was pretty exciting.
Once we were all back on the boat, lunch was served – an unnamed but delicious chicken dish followed by a piece of similarly unidentified but tasty pie. The lunches on the boat have been excellent. The chef has a tiny kitchen (I suppose I should call it a galley) and continues cooking no matter how much the boat is rocking. The servings are generous, and after all that walking and snorkelling we are certainly hungry enough!
Once we dried out we went to another beach where we were able to spend more time with sea lions and fur seals and also went for a little walk to see a huge whale skeleton that seemed remarkably undisturbed.
Worn out by all our activity we headed back to Santa Cruz, but instead of returning directly to the hotel we stopped by the small fish market. While several of us took photos, Keith decided to sit down to change lenses – but didn't see the wet paint sign (it was in Spanish, and facing the other way). Oops!
During our usual pre-dinner drinks in the common room Chris has been giving us a briefing about the plans for the following day, and also a little photo tip to try out, which has been really helpful. Dinner was at a more upmarket (but still inexpensive restaurant. Keith had “Spectacular” Patagonian-style (whatever that is) steak, and I had char-grilled seafood which were both really excellent.