Ecuador and the Galapagos Part 7: Santiago Island and Rabida Island

Friday, March 20, 2015

We lived!

When I last left off blogging, our tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew….. well, sing it for yourself. After taking her anti-nausea medicine, Genene slept for 11 hours straight and woke up refreshed and hungry. I slept pretty well myself, at least until the muscle relaxer wore off. At some point in the wee hours of the morning, I woke up and realized that the boat was back on smooth seas, and we were not going to end up on Gilligan’s Island. Whew! We met Greg at breakfast and found him no worse for the wear. Everyone was hungry for breakfast and glad to be back on glassy water. There was a palpable feeling of relief as we gathered around the breakfast buffet. One of our guides said that on a scale from 1 to 10, last night’s rough seas were about a 7. Greg, our Coast Guard veteran, says that’s a Galapagos 7, but it’s a Coast Guard 4. I’m sure if we asked a Navy man, he would call it a 2. Every enlisted man likes to wag his….tongue.

The white board:


We and our shipmates were all beginning to function like a well-oiled machine. At panga boarding time, everyone was ready. They had all grabbed their snorkeling gear bags, camera gear and backpacks, and each person boarded the panga like a professional. It was a shame our trip was winding down, just when we were all getting good at it!

Our first stop was Santiago Island. There was a salt mine ruin here, and some of the evidence of the development remained in the form of warehouse remains. Hernan told us some of the crazy stories of the Galapagos. The tales are too involved to tell, but there was a baroness who arrived to the islands with two German lovers. There were some vegetarians already on the island who had removed their teeth to avoid the temptation to eat meat. One of the ladies “really, really loved” her donkey, and Hernan shook his head and made “tsk tsk” sounds when he mentioned it. It all ended badly, when several of these settlers were murdered or disappeared. Years later, the mystery around it all remains. The last family on the island remained there, and the descendants are alive today and own extensive properties. Of course there is speculation that their ancestors were involved in murdering some of the folks who disappeared. I think there is a movie on the subject called “The Galapagos Affair.” Perhaps I will rent that one some time.

There were beautiful lava rock beaches with grottos all around.

Marine iguanas hang out on the beach.
The Flamingo waits for us patiently. While we hiked, snorkeled and swam, shiphand Richard went into each of our cabins, made our beds perfectly and got us ready for the day. Genene brought her stuffed animals Senior and Andrea, and we would always come back to find them tucked into our bed snugly.
The beaches seemed like moonscapes on Santiago Island.
How many sea lions can you find in this photo? I see at least three, including a large bull in the shadows on the right.
Genene took this very interesting photo of iguana tracks.
I think this is a yellow-crowned night heron.
Galapagos flycatcher (I think).


There was a short guided walk just off the beach. Hernan showed us the chala tree and told us of the medicinal value of the juice from its leaves. He asked if anyone had an open sore. I pointed out a small wound on my finger, and he offered to squeeze some of the juice into it. I decided to take a chance. He took the chala leaf and squeezed until a teardrop appeared on the stem. He put the drop onto the open wound. Then he said, “It will begin to itch and burn in a few minutes. Don’t worry. It will only last 4 or 5 days.” Then he smiled and I realized he was kidding, at least about the duration of the symptoms. He was right about the burning. It reminded me of the old-time remedies my mother and dad used on us: mercurochrome and methylate. I remember how we dreaded to show them any open sore. They would apply that red paint, and it would burn like fire. Then it would scab up and get better. Or maybe I was just so glad when it quit burning that I thought it was better. Anyway, the juice of the chala gave the same burn and itch, but after a few minutes, it passed. (I am looking at my finger now a couple of weeks later, and it is completely healed. Perhaps it would have healed anyway, but the chala plant seemed to work for me.)

We strolled to the beach, with beautiful grottos all around. The water was incredibly blue and clear. We saw fur seals and sea lions playing in the surf.

We watched these two swim and play in this beautiful pool:

The crew of the Minnow…ahem, the Flamingo:
Two fur seals commiserate. “Did you hear the one about the baroness and the donkey?”
“Hee haw!”
“Go ahead and jump.”
Hernan strikes a pose. Can you see the marine iguana in the shadows under his foot? Don’t tell the National Park, but I think Hernan may be violating the six foot rule.
A sea lion carries some sea weed in his mouth.
Moe, Curly, and Larry:
Another lava lizard strikes a pose for me.
The lady lava lizard indicates her willingness to do the coochie-coochie by turning red. James likened it to wearing lipstick.
The beach floor looked like this all around. The colorful evidence of life was everywhere.


After our walk, we all went snorkeling from the beach. It was a gorgeous day with good visibility in the water. Genene amazed me with her snorkeling. She acted as if she has been doing it all her life. She couldn’t wait to get in the water and look around. The other kids were equally adept. The water was filled with young explorers.

Genene did not hesitate to dive straight down to explore.

She gets her form from her dad.
Yellow tail surgeon fish.
More schools of fish. The water was teeming with life.
Can you see the ray at upper left of center?
Here’s another look at him with the contrast pumped.
The plants were also beautiful.
Speaking of yellowtail surgeonfish, we saw several schools of them. I like this compilation of footage that Greg took of them. If you watch the whole thing, you can really get an idea for how plentiful they were. We saw many different schools of fish, and I am not well versed enough to name them. My favorite part of this video is when James divides the “herd” at 0:38, and as soon as he swims away, they fill right back in.
The kids enjoyed burying themselves in the black lava sand.
Doug and Melanie recreated the flightless cormorant courtship ritual, while Greg played the part of interloping iguana.



We went back to the boat for lunch. Each day, there was a hearty soup, and several entrees and sides to choose from, all served buffet style. After lunch, the kids played cards or watched videos in the muster area. Most of the parents went to the sun deck or their rooms to read and sleep. I appreciated that most days we got a nice long siesta after lunch.

The view from our dining room:

The kids served themselves on the buffet, while the ever-patient and fabulous Abel tried to keep up with the demands of the hungry sailors.
A typical lunch:



Genene told us that she wanted to sea kayak and we had not taken a turn yet so we put our names on the list. After playing games with her friends in the early afternoon, she came to the cabin about 30 minutes before we were to leave and said that she needed to “recharge her batteries.” We let her nap, and she did not want to wake up at the appointed hour so Greg and I went without her. It was a nice interlude. Greg and I probably do not do enough adult activities without Genene, so we enjoyed this little moment together. We still remembered our seldom used kayaking skills. I was the motor up front, while Greg steered from the back. We paddled along the cliff wall and watched the birds, the marine iguanas and the sea lions. The sea lions were particularly amusing. They laid in the surf and let the waves roll them in and out of the water. Some of them poked their heads up playfully alongside the kayak. We also saw sea turtles swimming in the open water.

We returned to the boat and immediately got ready for a short panga ride to Rabida Island. Genene was hard to wake up, as usual, and we spent a few minutes trying to goad her into doing what she needed to do to get ready. Our panga ride roughly repeated the ground covered by the kayak. We had a wet landing on the beach, and the smell of sea lion poop was in the air. There were a few annoying bugs, which made us want to get into the water that much faster.

The beach at Rabida was rusty red.
Cue the boobies:


We had our last and greatest snorkel off the beach at Rabida Island. One sea lion in particular flirted and played with the kids. He was not the least bit interested in the six foot rule.

It was amazing to watch the kids interact when him. Greg got this GoPro footage. The kids took turns spinning with the sea lion. For my mom’s sake, I’ll point out that Genene is in the blue shirt with the aqua shorts cavorting with the sea lion at 0:19 and again at 0:54. It’s very interesting to see the kids turn flips and in response, the sea lion flips and rolls.
Some of the parents swam around the point in search of sharks. The water got a little more choppy and difficult to swim in, and most of the kids came back pretty quickly and hung out in the panga. I had been following along with Genene and got out of the water when she did. Greg continued on with some of the others.
The kids took turns jumping off the panga. I caught Ellie in a perfect flip.
Genene went in the lazy way.
Greg was one of the last snorkelers to return.

He had some great GoPro footage as a reward. He got several shots of a whitetip reef shark. I am not sure it was wise of him to follow it, but he said it was small. I regret that I did not see this fellow. Greg missed the hammerhead shark that I saw early in the trip, so I guess this whitetip reef shark was his reward.



I compiled this assortment of sea creatures taken by Greg on this day’s adventures: a dead iguana, a fish trying to eat an urchin, some barracuda (maybe), sand dollar, a beautiful spotted ray, and two waving girls.



We ended our last snorkel, boarded the pangas and made our way back to the Flamingo. We had our briefing, and dinner was delicious as usual. We were all beginning to get a little melancholy because James and Hernan had reminded us along the way today, “Last time to see a fur seal. Last time to see a blue footed booby. Last chance for a sea kayak. Last snorkel. ” We all knew that our time together was coming to a close. Tomorrow would be our last full day of adventures together before heading back to reality.

No one wanted it to end.


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