I have an impossible night. This time the air conditioning in the boat is on, at the request of those in the inner cabins. The vent is above my bunk and I cannot regulate the freezing draft. At 5 o’clock in the morning I give up and lug my mattress to the top deck. After a comfortable hour’s sleep I hang over the rail to watch a bevy of magnificent frigate birds, sweeping and swirling at garbage released from a yacht moored ahead of us. The red bag of one frigate is inflated, looking ridiculous beside its streamlined companions. They are followed closely by storm petrels dancing daintily on the waters like delicate butterflies, and a single lava gull joins the fray as they snatch up the fish which are tempted by the garbage in the water.
We are called into dinghies and motor round the island. Sea lions congregate near our dry landing place. Frigates swoop overhead and swallow tailed gulls squat in rock ledges. Billie leads us right handed along the rocky lava, and we see numerous young frigates on nests, while the parents fly overhead, some with full-blown red pouches. They take twenty minutes to inflate, Billie tells us.
Backtracking, then heading inland, we see several enormous iguanas in strategic places, and cameras click madly. Billie thinks they may have recently been released there, because he says they are Baltra iguanas, and not native to Seymour. He’s not seen so many there before. We pass through a colony of frigates. The males build the nests, and try to entice the females with their display; one lone male with fully inflated balloon waits forlornly on a sparse nest of twigs.
“He’ll fail,” says Billie, “because no self-respecting female will want to sit on that nest for the best part of a year.”
Gradually the lava stones and boulders give way to sand and rocks, and we come across a colony of blue-footed boobies. Some young in various stages pant in the intense heat. We pass two more tourist groups.
We pause to sit on boulders, looking out to sea, and watch a sea lion nursery, guarded by a jealous honking male. Bodies sprawl and slap everywhere. It is extraordinary how the babies manage to flounder clumsily over sharp boulders and through crevices without wincing. Their blubber no doubt protects them. Sizeable breakers crash against the coast, and sea lions play or wallow in their path. I watch two actually surf the waves in a long run right onto the shore! They don’t mind us a bit, and wait patiently for us to get out of their way before flopping through to the group. Some small babies vie with each other as their mother wallows in the shallows, turning over lazily to offer the tiny tight nipples.