Galápagos Islands – Floreana

Wednesday June 3, 2009

This morning we took a short walk from a brown, sandy beach (Cormorant Point) to a flamingo lagoon on Floreana Island. After watching several hot pink birds wading around, grazing in the water, we traversed the island’s barren interior, covered in dried trees and scruffy shrubs, to a pristine, white-sand beach amongst the volcanic hills – a nesting site for the green sea turtles. Just offshore in the rippling waves, large stingrays were silhouetted in the bright, morning light. We walked along the lava rocks and saw dozens of sally lightfoot crabs before returning to the Cormorant Point for a snorkel, where we saw a number of colorful parrot fish, angel fish, and green sea turtles.

We returned to the boat for a quick 15 minute sail up the northern edge of Floreana to our next adventure – an open-water snorkel at Devil’s Crown. About half of us in the group boarded the panga and headed to a choppy area of ocean around a series of tall, black, jagged, lava rocks covered in prickly pear cacti. The deep water was teeming with countless species of tropical fish. Supposedly, white-tipped reef sharks frequent this spot, though we did not spot any.

Our afternoon was spent at Post Office Bay. The “post office” is simply a small, wooden, whisky barrel in the middle of clearing in the underbrush, located a couple hundred meters from the beach. As early as the 1700s, whalers headed out to sea would deposit letters to family back home; sailors returning to [mainly] Europe would then pick up and hand-deliver their correspondence. We dropped off an unstamped post card for my parents, and also picked one up to deliver to Charlotte, NC.

We continued down a short pathway that led us to a lava tunnel. A set of small wooden steps and guide rope take you into the cave, where you continue down a steep, rocky pathway. It was completely dark in the cave, and devoid of any plant or animal life, and the passageway down was fairly tricky in the slick sand and absence of light. After continuing a short distance further, the lava tunnel opened into a large, cool chamber filled with water. We waded through for a while, until the water was too deep. Apparently no one has ever dived the tunnel, so it is not known how long it is.

We finished the day at the scenic and isolated beach of Post Office Bay, and attempted a final snorkel. We encountered some new marine life here, including bright green sea urchins and vibrant, purple and orange damselfish. Upon returning to our vessel, we gathered around the edge of the main deck to watch a school of reef sharks circling around the side of the ship. As evening fell, we began a leisurely sail northward to Santa Cruz.