This morning started with a hike in an area of Isabela that was part of the sea floor until it was uplifted in the mid-1950s. We landed on section of Urbina Bay where sea turtles nest and as we continued further in had our first chance to see a giant tortoise! So we were well set in terms of Testudines varieties. One of groups ahead of us must have had a sharp eye, because scribbled into the sand we saw "TORTUGA" and an arrow pointing to a juvenile soon-to-be-giant tortoise sleeping under a tree a several feet from the path.
After the walk we had time to relax and swim at the beach among penguins and sea lions. I technically understand the logistics surrounding the presence of Galapagos penguins, but it still very odd to see them at the equator.
While repositioning ourselves at Tagus Cove mid-day, we got to listen to one of our favorite naturalists, Celso, give a lecture. Something that I had noticed for the first view days is that there had been very little mention of Darwin and evolution in the lectures. At first I assumed that was for political reasons, but it became clear that they were saving the fun for Celso! As someone who has been so intricately involved with biology, it was really nice to see how well the naturalists have been able to make complex science digestible without oversimplifying.
When it came time to sign up for kayaking, me, Leigh, and our new friends O'Shannon and Caitlin, arrived to see that there was only one double-kayak left for the taking. So after a confusing round of rock-paper-scissor failed to clarify anything, we somehow settled on O'Shannon and me taking the kayak. It was a pretty calm around the cove and we were able to leisurely paddle and try to decipher the old sailor graffiti spattering the cliffs.
As the afternoon progressed the water really started to swell, so unfortunately the visibility for our snorkeling was pretty poor. Clearly, the lack of clarity doesn't bother flightless cormorants though, since one decided to plunge into the water and start fishing about a foot from my face. It was mildly terrifying until my brain deciphered what had just zoomed by my head.
We wrapped up the day with a quick hike up and around Darwin's lake. The hills here look like Johnny Palo Santo Seed walked through the island with a meter stick and perfectly spaced out each tree. It was stunning!! There was also a bush with bright red berries on it that our naturalist, Pato, had very strong feelings about. Here's the conversation as I remember it:
"Don't eat the berries. Seriously, don't eat them. Did you eat the berries? No? Good, that would be a bad idea. Don't eat the berries!"
"Are they poisonous?"
"No, they taste bad"
So clearly, that was a close call!