Bird counting and acrobatic dolphins

Galapagos Diary No.

Friday 29/12/04. This time the boat sets off at 1am and we arrive at Floreana at 7am. It is an attractive, hilly island.  We plan an early disembarkation for a wet landing; only two other boats are in the bay.  We are first on the beach, but for some reason Billie keeps us waiting while he recounts a mysterious history of early German colonisers of the island. By the time he is finished, five more groups have arrived to filter inland.

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We have a short walk to a viewpoint overlooking the flamingo lagoon. The birds in ones and twos, bright orange against the waters, look similar to the African lesser flamingos, but much brighter in colour.  We don’t see them in flight.  A heron and some white-faced pintails complete the picture.  Near a lookout far away on the opposite side, with my new Swarovski binoculars bought specially for the Galapagos, I spy a couple of black-winged stilts and spotted sandpipers patrolling the shore.

We walk to the other side of the island, and are allowed 25 minutes to roam the sandy beach.  People everywhere.  Not many brave the sea, as we are warned against stinging jelly fish.  We return the same way.  I would like to go to the other lookout on the far side of the lagoon to examine the sandpipers more closely, but Billie takes us for one more snorkel dive, and he also promises us a treat: a dinghy ride round the rocks in Post Office Bay. There are hardly any sea lions on this island, and not a mockingbird in sight.

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We enjoy a final dinghy ride to a deserted little island off the beach.  It is a beautifully serene paradise of sand, mud and lava rocks, overhung with mangroves, and we are the only people there.  From a special vantage point, Billie points out the deserted ruins of the house the German colonists lived in on the main island, which is out of bounds.  I spot two semi-palmated plovers, bringing my Galapagos count to 41 birds.

Back to another wet landing on the main beach, and a visit to the “post office”, which is a makeshift affair compiled from driftwood and leftovers from civilisation, including graffiti.  Some of us have written postcards, which are duly “posted”, and the contents of the box is scrutinised for missives from other tourists to people in our home towns.  The idea is that we are the senders and the deliverers.  Billie says delivery times range from a few days to several years.  Again, we are given ample free time for a final stroll along the beach and a cooling dip in the sea while the guides and some boat crew congregate at a makeshift football ground for an energetic game.  Billie, by all accounts, is noted for his vocal rather than physical efforts.

We return to the boat for lunch and a smooth, five-hour trip back to Santa Cruz escorted by a school of playful dolphins, which entertain us with their athletic leaps and acrobatics in the sparkling waves.

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