The Galapagos: Morning on Espanola Island

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(Last Updated On: August 4, 2015)

Upon landing at Suarez Point on Espanola Island, learn about lava terrain while crossing inactive lava fields. Aside from the sea lion colonies, this is a great site for bird watching. You may encounter a large colony of Waved Albatross, and might also spot marine iguanas, lava lizards and the colorful Sally Light Foot Crabs. Later, visit the famous blowhole, where water shoots high into the air.

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Suarez Point is a rocky outcrop with a long dock and a hard sand beach. The jagged black rock is splattered with brilliant-colored Sally lightfoot crabs.

Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_07_59_22 Sally lightfoot crabs in waveGalapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-07_08_53_51 add crab pictureThe beach is similarly littered with sea lions of all sizes and ages, including new born babies and youngsters chasing after their mothers.

Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_04_00 sea lions Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_17_02 sea lionThe sea lions seem no more concerned about our approach than were the crabs. They form an obstacle course underfoot everywhere and make no effort to move away from us. It is we who must watch out and stay out of their way.

When taking photos of one, I nearly trip over another that lies sprawled on the sand behind me.

Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_17_03 sea lion Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_17_00 sea lion.0Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_29_57Along with the sea lions, the beach and surrounding rocks serve as resting areas for scores – probably hundreds – of red and bluish-green marine iguanas. They lay about individually and in small groups, glowing in the morning sunshine.

Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_11_03.0Most of the iguanas remain motionless with eyes closed, appearing to be asleep, although one occasionally peers back at me through my camera lens.

Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_10_12_33.0Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_20_51 iguanaGalapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_07_59_55 iguana panGalapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_10_12_30Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_08_40 birdHowever, all is not still as the iguanas also share the rocks with quick little lava lizards. These brightly colored lizards are easy to spot, but never stay still quite long enough for me to get a good portrait of one.

Along with the lava lizards, the mocking birds — though less exotic — are also moving about. They seem friendly and welcoming, moving about under our feet as if eager to greet us. (In reality they are probably hoping we will stir up something good to eat!)

In the highest rocks, a pair of blue footed boobies stands almost out of sight. I stretch as tall as I can in order to see their bright blue feet.

Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_18_49 blue footed booby Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_09_07_45We hike through the rather desolate volcanic landscape and soon find ourselves surrounded by birds, mostly Nazca (masked) boobies. The adult boobies are bright white with long yellow bills and a clear black markings around their eyes. There are also chicks of all ages, from nude newborns still curled in the nest, to fluffy youngsters peering curiously at the world around them and older juveniles ready to head out on their own.

Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_54_11 Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_09_01_13Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_09_05_00 Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_58_45 baby Nazca booby Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_47_51Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_39_29 booby w baby Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_52_21While this sounds like bird heaven with birds everywhere around us, but as was true for the sea lions, this is a harsh environment and the mortality rate must be high. It was not difficult to find the remains of baby sea lions just off the beach and here there are many signs that the fluffy chicks and young adults sitting around us preening in the sunshine are lucky to have survived to this age.

The hike leads up over the rocky terrain to a high ridge, which provides a good vantage point for observing the dramatic landscape.

Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_09_29_31 waterspotFrom here is is easy to see the variation in landscape and plant life that can occur even on an island as small as this one.

We can also look down to the rocky beach and the ocean beyond. Although the water is quite still, the swells are still enough to send water into a blow hole and high into the air every time one surges into the rocky shore.

P1010098 Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_09_29_47 Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_09_32_23 blow hole and shoreGalapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_09_41_51 frigate birdFrigate birds soar around and below me, glossy dark and elegant in the air.

Even from this distance I can see a marine iguana far below me as it swims across a quiet tide pool. Its movements are quick and graceful.

We hike further, as there are still more birds to see, including a late-to-migrate waved albatross family.

Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_09_21_39 baby waved albatrossAlthough it is actually the first member of its family that I spot, the shaggy brown juvenile blends well into the boulders all around it. The large white and brown adults are not so well camouflaged.

This family should have left for the open sea by now, so we are lucky to see them. I just hope our luck isn’t their great misfortune.

Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_09_24_09 waved albatrossFurther along the trail we come across other birds, including a striking oyster catcher.

Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_10_04_07 probably an oyster catcherWe also see a lava heron, its subtle coloring blending into the rocky ridge where it sits keeping watch.

When we return to the beach where we began our tour of the island, the sea lions, iguanas, and crabs are still resting in the sunshine.

Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_30_24 sleeping sea lionsIt looks like a good way to spend the day and I wish I could spend it here with them.

Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_21_06 Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_08_27_01Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_10_05_48 sea lions Galapagos Islands - ExplorationVacation 2006-01-05_09_14_14

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