My trip to the Galapagos was “West, Central and East Islands”; 7 nights aboard the Monserrat. In the west – Isabela; the East – South Plaza, Santa Cruz & San Cristobal and central – Santiago, Chinese Hat, Baltra, Rabida & North Seymour. I was particularly excited to go to Isabela, this is where the largest populations of Galapagos penguins can be found.
Well, that’s what it was supposed to be. At our welcome briefing the night before we left Quito, we were informed that the boat had a minor mechanical issue (a part needed to be replaced) and, in the interest of safety, they didn’t feel it would be wise to make the crossing to Isabela.
The next morning we arrived in Baltra and were quickly aboard the Monserrat. Ushered to the lounge area, we had our safety briefing and went over the planned events for the day. A little time to get settled and then lunch. I have to say, the food was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting it to be just okay, but it was actually very good. Off to a good start!
After lunch we congregated on the top deck, waiting to sail to our first landing. We watched in surprise as they loaded the part that needed replacing…
Okay, so yes, it is a part, but minor? I don’t think so. The boat did have 2 engines and the other one was fine, but we were all feeling a little misled at this point. Even so, watching them load this heavy engine block on to the boat was quite entertaining.
As we waited, great frigate birds circled around the boat and perched upon the arms for the winches just waiting for their photo to be taken. This is a female. You can tell its a great frigate bird (as opposed to the magnificent frigate bird) by the green sheen on the shoulders.
The male has a red pouch that is inflated during mating season.
Finally, at 3 pm we set sail for Mosquera Islet, a tiny spit of sand just north of Baltra. We received our snorkel gear and got ready to hit the beach. With Sausimo at the helm, we boarded the panga and headed for our first wet landing.
The beautiful white sand of Mosquera Islet
There is a large colony of Galapagos Sea Lions on this islet. The first we’d seen and they didn’t seem at all bothered by our prescence.
The Yellow Warbler is pretty common in the Galapagos, I think we saw one almost everywhere we went. This is a male, the females are considerably less colourful.
The colourful Sally Lightfoot Crab is found in the Galapagos Islands as well as along the Pacific coast of South & Central America. As these crabs age, their shell becomes brighter and stronger. Conversely, when they are young, their shell is not very strong. Because of this, the juveniles are brown/black so that they can blend with the rocks; one can be seen in the top right corner of the next photo.
They hold water in their shell and pour it over their gills when needed to keep breathing; this enables them to spend a considerable amount of time on land.
A Galapagos Lava Lizard is a common sight in the islands; they’re very tiny and you have to pay attention or you could easily step on one.
The Marine Iguana, endemic to and found only in the Galapagos, is the only iguana that feeds in the sea. Much darker in colour than their land cousins, they can also be identified by their spiky mane and longer, flatter tail.
We snorkeled off the beach and were joined by a playful sea lion. I was trying to get away from it to get a photo, but the sea lion wanted to nibble on my flipper so that wasn’t possible!
Back to the boat just in time for sunset, and the local pelicans and frigatebirds put on a display for us. A few silhouettes to end the day.