Santa Cruz & North Seymour Islands

We were up this morning at 7.00am once again, feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep.  We looked forward, with eager anticipation, to what today would bring.  😊

At 7.45 we gathered at the after decks, replete with water shoes, sturdy trainers and socks, sunhats, snorkelling gear and lightweight clothing worn over our swimsuits.  Then we disembarked, 16 at a time, into the waiting inflatables.

Off we roared onto the glittering blue Pacific, with here and there small cresting wavelets, our Zodiac churning up white sea foam with its propeller as we skimmed and bounced over the sea’s surface.  After a few minutes our driver beached the vessel and we clambered ashore, splashing through the last couple of yards of sea before reaching the gorgeous white sandy beach.  A few length of wood were laid on the sand and we were advised that we were not to cross the wooden markers as sea turtles were nesting on the beach beyond.

We changed from our water shoes into our trainers and left our snorkel bags on the beach for later on; it was quite safe to leave them because, after all, who was going to come along and steal them in this uninhabited, unspoilt place?  😊

We followed our guide Cristina along the shoreline, looking at the perfect scenery; the gently-rolling Pacific, the sun peeping out from the fluffy white clouds, the sea-washed black rocks with their crabs and sea-birds, and the scrubby bushes and cactus plants further inland.  We could smell the salt air and hear the crashing of the surf against the shore and the rock projections, as well as the cries of the seabirds.  I could go on about it all day, and still come nowhere near to describing it.  😊

After about three-quarters of a mile, we turned back and make our leisurely way back to where the Zodiacs had dropped us off.  Returning to the rock upon which we’d left our snorkelling gear, we changed into our wetsuits and masks, leaving it until the last minute to don our fins.  Then we paddled our way out until it was deep enough to swim, and made our way to the nearby rocky outcrops, where we knew there would be lots of fish and other sea creatures.

Once again the diversity of the marine life and the colours, shapes and sizes of the tropical fish amazed us.  The water was colder than you’d expect for the latitude, so we understood why we needed wetsuits.  It was pleasant when you put your face, in its mask, into the water and looked around at this beautiful underwater lifescape; you could feel as if you were the only person in the world.

After about 20 minutes or so, I felt a little cold (and quite tired after walking and swimming), so we swam back into our depth again, and offered instructions and help to some people who hadn’t snorkelled before.  Then we just passed the next hour or so on the beach, looking around and talking with other swimmers and snorkelers until it was time to go back to the Zodiac for the return ride to the Xpedition, gleaming whitely in the near distance.

Back on board we hosed the sand off ourselves, rinsed out our wetsuits and returned to cabin 416 for a long hot shower and change into clean, dry clothes.  Then we went and sat out on deck for a cold beer each after a full, interesting morning. 😊

At lunchtime the Xpedition weighed anchor and we set off for North Seymour Island.  We enjoyed a burger each and passed the time with our fellow passengers before returning to our cabin for an hour’s power nap, as we were quite tired out with the all the sunshine, walking and swimming, and we wanted to rest before the afternoon’s activity.

At 4.30pm we disembarked the ship into the dinghy once again, and set off across the sea to the short distance to the rocky shore.  This time it was a dry landing onto some flat rocks, before we handed in our life-jackets and set off over the very rocky, boulder and stone-strewn terrain, which was quite steep in some parts.  Much as I wanted to look around me and look ahead, it really was essential to watch your step as it would be all too easy to twist your ankle or trip over.  I’d borrowed a stout walking staff to assist me over the uneven surface, as well as to help going uphill.

Eventually the terrain evened out into more of a sandy pathway, and we were able to appreciate our surroundings.  We saw lots of frigate birds flying overhead, their distinctive red balloon chests on show.  Some of them landed nearby and went into a sort of little mating ritual, calling loudly and flapping their wings to attract any nearby females.  😊

We also saw lots of basking sea-lions, some lying in the shade of the low, scrubby bushes and one suckling her pup, who looked almost as big as his mother.  We had to be careful where were were stepping in case we trod on any lava lizards or land iguanas, of which we saw many; one of them was perched on the top of a tall cactus; they are obviously good climbers.

We were lucky enough to see nesting frigate birds, and some families with their fluffy white-plumaged youngsters.  We also saw some blue-footed boobies sitting on their nests; they dig out a shallow pit in the sandy-soil and lay their eggs there.  We had to be very careful not to make too much noise or to get too close, remembering the “eight feet” rule which was the closest we were allowed to get (unless the animal or bird approached us).

The walk lasted for about one hour 45 minutes, then it was time to return to the Xpedition.  Ours was the last Zodiac back and some drama ensued when its engine cut out half-way back to the ship.  It appeared that we’d run of petrol!  After a couple of futile attempts the driver had at restarting the engine, he switched to a reserve fuel tank and we thankfully made it the last few hundred yards back to the ship, but not without further excitement when a passenger’s hat blew off and the driver had to retrieve it.  Finally, even our arrival back at the landing-stage was not without note; we arrived a little quickly and bounced quite firmly off the rear of the Xpedition.  Soon we were all safely back on board, however, and we were met with the tantalising smell of a barbecue coming from the Beagle Grill on deck 4.

Quickly getting washed and changed in our cabin, we returned to the rear decks and collected our meal of fresh fish, steak, chicken, langoustine, lobster and crisp salad before going up to Deck 5 and sitting looking out over the ocean at the westering sun above the horizon.

Here we were, dining on freshly grilled lobster washed down with chilled wine as the sun went down in a blaze of reds, pinks and golds over the Pacific Ocean.  Could life get any more perfect than this?  😊

We enjoyed the company of Mike and Susan, another couple from the USA, as we feasted on our delicious meal.  Once the sun was gone, however, a brisk sea breeze blew up so I had to return to our cabin to put on a sweatshirt.

After dinner we adjourned to the Discovery Lounge once again, where our naturalist guides treated us to some local singing and dancing, and everyone ended this fantastic day on a high once again.  Afterwards we sat with Jeff and Jan at the bar, where they informed us they too had been invited to dine at an officer’s table; the ship’s Doctor had requested the pleasure of their company at dinner tomorrow night, so we got our own back by mock-bowing to them.  😊

Then it was back along to our cabin at around 11.30pm, where we fell asleep more or less instantly, lulled by the gentle movement of the Xpedition on the ocean waves.

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