Santiago & Rabida Islands

What a truly wonderful day it turned out to be today!  We got up at 7.00am and enjoyed a good breakfast in the Darwin Restaurant, before making our way to the stern of the ship to collect our lifejackets for the Zodiac ride ashore.  We also wore water-shoes as it was a “wet landing”, and carried our snorkelling gear, wetsuits and some trainers and socks.  We were just so excited and mildly euphoric with the anticipation of what we would see and experience.

Our Zodiac ride took us to Puerto Egas, Santiago Island.  This island is also known as James, or San Salvador.  We would spend the next couple of hours exploring this unique territory on foot, looking for birds and other wildlife.

When the Zodiac reached the shoreline, we all took turns in sitting on the side and swinging our legs over, splashing the last few yards through the water onto the black volcanic sand.  Immediately in front of us were a couple of Galapágos sea-lions, relaxing on the sand.  One of the rules of visitors to the islands is that you are not allowed to get closer than 8’ to any wildlife; the sea-lions did not seem disturbed by us at all though.

We then dried our feet off and changed into dry socks and trainers ready for our walk.  The terrain alternated between sand or fairly flat rocks, some of which formed natural steps.  We set off at a gentle pace, accompanied by Marvie, our guide and naturalist for the morning.  He pointed out the different birds and plants to us; we saw yellow warblers, mockingbirds, lava herons and pelicans.  Several times small lizards darted across the rocks in front of us; you can to keep your eyes peeled as they were so well camouflaged, blending perfectly into their surroundings.

As we walked along, my eyes were wide at Mother Nature’s rugged beauty, and the sounds of the waves and the cries of the birds.  Several rock formations jutted out of the sea and the waves crashed against them; we could see blue-footed boobies, more pelicans and lots of red crabs atop them.

Because of the constant movement of the restless ocean, several blue-water grottoes and been formed, and we could hear the sea washing around hollowly below us.  We saw several black marine iguanas, some of them basking on the rocks and some swimming in the various rock pools.

We also saw some more Galapágos sea-lions; some of them came right up to us curiously.  One of them shuffled along and launched itself into a grotto with a tremendous splash.  We stood at the edge and looked down at him swimming away, before he dived down in search of fish.  😊

We saw quite a lot of sea-lions; some half-grown pups were playing and frisking in a rock pool, making little grunting and barking sounds.  We also saw a female lying on her side, suckling her little pup; it was just so cute.  This is the only way to see wildlife; forget about zoos, seeing animals in their natural habitat and marvelling at the miracle of life is unbeatable, and I felt so privileged to be here, breathing in the fresh sea air, and feeling the breeze in my hair.

Further along the shore we saw a large group of fur seals basking on the rocks, grunting, snuffling and barking.  I couldn’t get enough of these animals; I took absolutely loads of photos and video footage.

On the way back, we saw a massive alpha-male sea-lion, a real “beach master”.  He was driving another, smaller seal away, barking loudly and shuffling along.  We later learned that these beach masters can weigh up to 500 pounds, and this one was a real whopper.  The smaller seal prudently retreated, and plopped into the ocean out of sight.

After about a couple of hours, we returned to the beach where the Zodiac had landed and we changed into our wetsuits ready for snorkelling.  I waited until I was at the shoreline before putting on the fins, as it is impossible to walk in them.  Then we donned our masks and tubes and took to the water.

Wow! It was totally amazing.  We swam out to some nearby rocks, and passed many shoals of colourful fish, some of which I later identified as king angelfish, Mexican hogfish, Panamic sergeant major and bicolour parrotfish.  We also saw many crabs and starfish, and Trevor spotted a shark.

Swimming along gently with my face in the water, looking at this wonderful array of marine life was tremendous.  Every now and again we had to look up to make sure we didn’t inadvertently swim out too far, and we had to stay with our group.  A couple of the Zodiacs were anchored nearby in case anyone got into difficulty, but there were no problems.

We spent at least half an hour in the water before swimming for shore once again, and getting out of our fins and masks; we had to keep our wet suits on until we were back on board the Xpedition.

Collecting our clothes and shoes, and changing into our water-shoes once again, we waited on the beach for the return of the Zodiac.  It was only a five-minute ride back to the ship, and we had to return our lifejackets and change out of our wetsuits; these were rinsed in a tub of clean water before being hung on coat hangers with our stateroom number on them.  We then had to hose ourselves down to get rid of all the black sand (it seemed to have gotten in every nook and cranny imaginable!)  Then it was back to our cabin for a long, hot shower and clean clothes.  What an absolutely fantastic morning it had been!  😊

We enjoyed a light lunch in the Darwin Restaurant before sitting out on the rears decks, enjoying a cold drink and socialising with our fellow passengers.  Everyone was excitedly regaling everyone else with tales what they’d seen and done and it was a happy, party atmosphere.  Then I went along to the tiny ship’s boutique and bought a t-shirt featuring a blue-footed boobie and the words Celebrity Xpedition on the front.  After all, a holiday wouldn’t be a holiday without buying the t-shirt.  😉

At around 3.30pm we assembled on the rear deck once again, and descended the steps into the Zodiac for a scenic boat ride along the shore.  The dinghy sped and bounced over the waves as we tasted the salt seaspray on our lips – it was exhilarating.  When the reached some of the rocky outcrops our driver slowed the boat right down, and was able to get right up close to allow us to see whatever there was to see.

We identified more pelicans, lava herons, blue-footed boobies, lots of red crabs and several more sea-lions, some of them basking on the rocks and some swimming in the ocean.  We also saw some sea turtles and kept our eyes peeled for whales or dolphins, as we had spotted the tell-tale spouts earlier on.

The ride lasted about an hour and a half and we returned to the Xpedition about five-thirty.  We were welcomed back on board by Captain Fausto Pacheco personally, and each given a glass of well-chilled prosecco and some canapés.  Honestly, this trip has completely surpassed all my expectations already, and it’s only our second day!  😊

We spent a very pleasant hour sitting and relaxing outside and talking with Alvaro, the Hotel Director, about different places we’d been to and different cruises we’d done, while enjoying some more glasses of the free fizz.  Then we reluctantly had to return to our cabin to get washed and changed for dinner.  When we got back there, we found a dish of strawberries dipped in chocolate, as well as a bottle of prosecco on ice.  What a nice touch; we’d enjoy it later on.  😊

We then returned to the Discovery Lounge where they were having a pisco sour cocktail party and we sat with Jeff and Jan and listened to the briefing for tomorrow’s activities, and signed up for the ones we wanted to participate in.

Dinner was spent in the interesting company of two American couples; Tom and Lee-Anne, and Neil and Gail.  I enjoyed a delicious filet mignon and fresh vegetables, washed down with a crisp sauvignon blanc (I know, I know – you’re ‘supposed’ to have red wine with steak but I enjoy my whites!). We then finished off with a glass of amaretto and made our way back to the Discovery Lounge to participate in the “Latin Night” music and dancing.

The music featured the infectious samba and salsa beat, while members of the Ecuadorian staff got up to show us how it was done.  One lady taught me some salsa steps, and I enjoyed the music and the dancing; I just love that sort of music as well as Caribbean soca; the type of music where you just can’t keep your feet (or your hips) still for a second.  It was a great evening.  😊

The lounge seemed to empty out fairly early (before 11.00pm), so Trevor and I finished the evening off with a nightcap at the bar, where we spent some time talking with the barman.  Then it was off to bed, on a high, after a truly great day.

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