Day 7: Santiago Island (James Bay) & Rabida Island
We were warned that the night’s sailing to Santiago Island would be the roughest yet but we were pleasantly surprised to barely have felt it. We left early in the morning to Santiago Island armed with our snorkelling gear and wetsuit for later as we wouldn’t be returning to the boat until lunch time. We first went off for our morning hike. The tide was low creating lots of tide pools along the rocks where we saw quite a few young sea lions sleeping and playing within them. We saw lots of Sally lightfoot crabs and even a couple who were foaming – apparently this means they are ready to shed their shells! We spotted a couple of our first Fur Seals in the Galapagos. Though called seals, they technically are still sea lions as they have the little ears, however their eyes and whiskers are much larger than the Galapagos Sea Lions. They are also the only animals in the Galapagos to fear humans as they were once hunted for their fur by whalers and pirates.
We came back to the beach and put on our wetsuits which proved to be quite the challenge when trying not to get any sand in them. The water temperature was warmer than when we swam on the west coast of Isabela and the types of fish were reflected in this: they were more tropical and colourful. There were lots of huge parrot fish like we saw in Thailand. The highlight was without a doubt a little baby sea lion who played and swam around Dave and I for about 10 minutes! He was by far the most playful sea lion we had encountered yet and even came to bump his nose on the GoPro twice and even tried to playfully bite it once – we have an awesome still from the video! What was even more amazing was that he picked up two different sea shells from the sandy bottom, his behaviour was so dog-like, it was crazy!
We hopped back on the boat for lunch and headed to Rabida Island, a short 3 hour navigation away. Rabida island, at just 5km², is famous for its distinctive red sand beaches due to the high amounts of iron found in the lava rocks. We saw lots of flowering cacti and a couple of endemic Galapagos Carpenter bees buzzing around them. The females are all black whereas the males are yellow/brown. We have seen the Prickly Pear cactus on most islands in the Galapagos, however, on Rabida island, the cactus has evolved to have soft spines due to a lack of predators. We did a short 30 minute hike up to one of the viewpoints before returning back to the beach to snorkel for our last time in the Galapagos. We snorkelled along the cliff line alongside a myriad of fish and even one ray sleeping on the bottom. As we were returning to the shoreline, the most adorable and friendly sea lion pup came to bid us farewell. By this point there were only 4 of us left in the water and he seemed to be enjoying our company while pirouetting and blowing bubbles at us underwater.
Join us next time as we head to our final destination in the Galapagos, North Seymour island.
Sophie & Dave