AM: Rabeda Island
Things to see:
Written by Alex
The night ride to Rabeda was not as bumpy as our last night crossing, though everyone had prepared themselves for the worst with Dramamine or some sort of magic pill the crew had offered. We arrived at the Red Beach of Rabeda Island and were greeted again with a few lazy sea lions, warming themselves through the heat of the sand. We walked to one of end of the beach, saw the usual Sally Lightfoots and a few sea iguanas. Supposedly this would be the island to sneak a peak at a ghost crab, but we were not lucky enough to spot one of those.
Another boat of visitors had arrived just as we were making our way to the path leading to the interior of the island. As soon as the sand stopped and the brush began, we were greeted by another sea lion, who had literally just given birth. Her body was heavy and tired, you could feel her exhaustion. Oblivious to the state of its mom, the little pup began to move awkwardly, easing its way into the world. We stopped for a moment, amazed again at our luck and the proximity of this new life - we were literally feet away. Victor said we should keep our distance this time, just in case. He also mentioned that she would be dragging the baby to the water soon, for its first bath. I was awestruck and I wanted to see how this new mom was going to get that new baby to the water's edge, some 50 meters away. Victor was eager to keep the group moving and letting the mom alone, so we continued on the path.
A few feet up the path, we found the perfect example of the heart cactus - a cactus that grows leaves in the shape of this symbol of love. It was uncanny how perfectly shaped it really was and Victor said we were lucky to find a stem at eye level. I could not get that mama and baby out of my mind, so I told Patrick that I was headed back to the beach and that I would wait for the group to come back. When I arrived back at the beach, the mama had made it about 1/3 of the way to the water and a crowd had gathered. And what followed, is one of my favorite span of 30 minutes from this trip.
Mama and baby looked asleep, but I realized they were just resting side by side. A moment later, she grabbed her pup by the neck skin and in one quick motion, flung him in the direction of the water. He didn't go far. And then inched her way towards him and they rested. Next, she scooted toward the water and when she was a few feet in from of him, turned around and yelped in his direction. I figured she wanted him to follow her voice - but when he didn't, she scooted right back to him and started the process all over again. For 30 minutes I watched this.
At one point, a tourist from another boat (I recognized him by the 2 foot long camera lens that was sticking out of his face - we'd seen him a few times before), put himself between the mom and the water. I wondered how long it would take for him to realize that he was actually impeding her course - he didn't notice until his guide told him to get out of the way. I just sat in the sand and watched. Slowly, she made it to the water's edge and left the baby in the perfect spot for the next wave to gently caress its body and wash away the afterbirth and membranes. And with one quick swish, in a matter of seconds, the first bath was done, the water was retreating in low tide and mom and baby could sleep for the next several hours, again lying side by side. I felt as though I had just been witness to one of the most pure and primal interactions on earth.
PM: On the way to Genovesa
Things to see:
On route to Genovesa, the island farthest north and usually not included in tours of the islands, we did a drive-by of the Chinese Hat crater. This huge rocky island actually does look like a chinese hat. This was shortly by a crater Island with a lagoon and eco-system inside its high walls. Our captain was able to get us so close to the wall, that we were able to peer inside. As all of us clamoured to get a view, from the highest deck on the boat, we realized that Victor had indeed told us the truth - over the ridge, there was lush plant life, a blue lagoon and a flock of flamingos. Yes, you read that correctly - pink flamingos.
Everyone snapped their pictures, our captain put the engine in reverse and we were soon again on the way.
We arrived in the bay of Bartolomea Island and it was indeed like none of the other islands we had seen. It was vast and hilly - it almost looked like dunes and soft sand rocks that had been swept by the wind. And, we were all alone in the bay. There was only one thing that would get me back in a wet suit and into the cold water - penguins. If we were going to see some Galapagos penguins, it would be here. We went through the stress of finding our wetsuits (I always found mine because it had a huge hole above the ankle where all the cold water always leaked in) and were soon in the water. We hugged the edge of the rocks, were caught off guard by a huge bull sea lion (who can be quite territorial and seem REALLY big in the water) and kept searching. Around the edge, there they were. And if you have never seen penguins under the water, please find a way. And even better, be in the water with them - the speed at which they travel is extraordinary and completely entertaining. Above water they are equally adorable but sight was one I would not soon forget.
Back on the boat, we got warm and dry before heading onto the island for a hike to the highest point. Before heading to land, we had taken the dinghy to the rock where we had seen the penguins and we able to snap some pictures of them. On the island, we walked towards the newly constructed boardwalk and continued to watch the view expand as we ascended. Here Victor told us a story about how serious the restrictions in the Galapagos are. A few years before, he and an Canadian man from his group had raced up this hill - to see who could make it to the top and back first. After the fact, the news reached other boats and then some officials, and Victor was given a hefty fine for horseplay on the islands. Months later, Victor received a check from the man in Canada- to reimburse him for the fine he had paid. I suppose it was the Canadian's idea and this was his gracious way of saying sorry for getting Victor in trouble.
Needless to say, there was no running this time. The view from the top was breathtaking - especially since the landscape of this island was so different. The coves, the bays, the inlets - all were visible on this crystal clear day. The horizon was crisp and ever reaching. In the distance we could see the tumultuous splashes of the Manta Rays. That the splashes were visible to our naked eye meant these rays were huge - and we had the perfect vantage point from which to watch this afternoon play.
Back on the boat, it was nearly time for dinner, which would be followed today by a dance party. Someone started the salsa music, someone else made some mixed drinks and that's all there was to it. It was very clear who had rhythm and who didn't - though the rocking of the boat could have thrown anyone off. Before going to bed, Patrick, Lori and Sarah made a date to wake up in a few hours to watch the GPS right as we crossed the Equator.
And at 1:30am, right on the nose, we hit 00.00.000 - we had just crossed into the Northern Hemisphere.