Galapagos: Buccaneer Cove, Playa Espumilla, Rabida Island

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Day 9: Another morning, another stunning backdrop of cliffs and tuffs. We took a dinghy ride along the rock face of Santiago Island’s Buccaneer Cove, whose striations were formed by successive volcanic eruptions, combined with the effects of waves and salt. We saw cormorants, swallow-tailed gulls (including a very hungry, continually chirping youngster, almost as big as its parents) and many brown noddies. Also a couple sea lions napping on rocks.

We made a brief return to the boat, followed by a wet landing on the soft-sanded Playa Espumilla. There, ghost crabs made fleeting appearances, skimming a foot or two across the sand before disappearing into their holes. We walked inland a bit to a lagoon, in a near-pastoral setting: rain had transformed the palo santo trees there into a minty green. The lagoon was a home for flamingos until the most recent El Niño event, which caused sedimentation.

We returned to the beach and I passed a very pleasant hour with my dad, walking where the surprisingly warm water could wash over our calves. Turtle trails disappeared into the mangroves here and there, evidence of the females once again tiring of male attention.

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In the afternoon we made a wet landing on Rabida Island, which was unlike anything we’d seen before. The pebbles and sand on the beach were the color of dark brick. (I imagine that this is what Kauai’s iron-rich soil might have looked like thousands of years ago.) Here, our final walk was amid a riot of colors: red rocks, azure sea, turquoise lagoon, whitish-silver palo santo trees, greenish-silver grasses, lime green mangroves, and the yellow pop of little cactus flowers. The upper third of the hills above was also tinged a minty green – not so much from the scant foliage of the palo santo, but more from lichen.

We saw Galapagos doves, medium cactus finches, mockingbirds and black mangrove trees.

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Nice, quick snorkeling dip: saw more King angelfish, juvenile Cortez rainbow wrasse, and Mexican hogfish, and two or three adult blue-chin parrotfish. The adults were usually paired with their initial phase counterparts, who are perhaps even more brilliant, in their costumes of golden yellow with vertical periwinkle strips. Both generations have a friendly, somewhat amused expression.

I also got to add several charming species to my list, including a young yellowtail damselfish. The site of his blueish-black, oval body wriggling into a round crevice, followed by his rippling yellow tail, was arresting enough – but when he popped his head out, with its puckering yellow lips, I couldn’t help but smile.

The puffer-like Panamic fanged blennies were also sweet, with their watchful stances within crevices. The patient, coral-clinging giant hawkfish was beautiful, with its snakeskin-like pattern. There were pink sea anemones and pencil sea urchins – and I finally got to see a white-tipped shark, who glided past me rather unassumingly, as if unaware of all the fuss his kind usually causes.

I was growing concerned that my “waterproof” camera wasn’t as robust as advertised, so left it on shore for this outing – you’ll have to cope with just my words this time.

This is the eighth in my Galapagos travel diary series. See the rest here.

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