Thursday, April 30, 2009

Galapagos, Day 4: Bachas Beach and Santa Fe

Day four, we disembarked on Bachas Beach, snorkel gear in tow. Bachas Beach is a beautiful white sand beach punctuated by lava formations.

As we were preparing for our hike, we were surprised by this guy leaving the beach in a big hurry.

You can't tell by the picture, but this was our first sighting of a sea turtle. Bachas Beach is a known hangout for the turtles, and if you get there early enough in the morning, you can catch sight of one. As they return to the ocean, they leave trails in the sand like this:

The turtles, like the tortoises, were busy mating while we were in the islands. Their sessions took place in the water, however, so I was unable to get a good picture. Unlike the tortoises, the male turtle is much smaller than the female, which allows him to sort of float on top of her as they do their thing.

The females use Bachas Beach as a nursery, burying their fertilized eggs in the sand. Our guide and others carefully mark the nests with rings of stones like this, so that tourists don't unwittingly crush the precious eggs.

Bachas Beach is also home to the ghost crab, which buries itself in the sand in holes like this.

Unfortunately, my camera lens wasn't powerful enough to catch it, but I could see the white legs of the ghost crab in the hole.

Bachas Beach has some interesting plant life, including the white mangrove.

Galapagos is home to three different types of mangrove: the white, black, and red varieties. I'm proud to say we saw them all.

We continued down the beach to find out where the beach got its name.

And this is why.

Long ago, a barge beached itself here and was slowly buried by the elements. You can still see, and if you're not careful, trip over, parts of the barge sticking out from the sand. "Barge" became "Bachas" to the inhabitants of Galapagos, hence "Bachas Beach." It was amazing to stand on the beach and imagine the huge ship below our feet.

We found our way to this brackish lagoon, where we were lucky enough to spot a flock of flamingos.

While flamingos are not native to the Galapagos, they are found in a few spots in the archipelago. Their pink color comes from a certain pinkish algae that they feed on.

Since there are very few native predators, the herbivorous animals can live together very peacefully, like this flamingo and the harem of marine iguanas.

The big iguana was the male, and all the smaller ones were his females. If we got too close to his women, the male would start nodding and bobbing his head in order to stake out his territory and keep us away. The marine iguanas would also spit water from their nostrils, which was pretty funny.

Acting very cat-like, Gato got up close and personal with the iguanas.

After getting our fill of the flamingos, we returned to the beach for a snorkel. I learned that I much prefer snorkeling from a boat to beach snorkeling. Sand finds its way into everything: in the mask, in the flippers, in the wetsuit. But I did see a sea turtle up close for the first time during this snorkel.

Isaac finished snorkeling. I love this picture.

After lunch, we napped while the boat took us to Santa Fe, home of the land iguanas.

These beautiful yellow specimens are unable to swim like their marine cousins. They are able to mate with them, however, producing a hybrid iguana.

This might be my favorite picture of the whole trip.

This is what I felt like after a whole day of hiking and snorkeling.

The land iguanas feed on the Galapagos prickly pear. But unlike the prickly pears I know from my childhood, these are giant and tree-like.

The prickly pear can grow to about twelve feet high, and as you can see, the bottom is trunk-like. There is no way the iguanas can reach high enough to get to their fleshy food. So, in order to get enough to eat, the land iguanas just sort of hang out under the pricklys all day long and wait for a fruit or pad to drop. What a life.

Santa Fe is a small island carpeted with salt bush. This plant turns vibrant orange and red in the hot months. It's gorgeous, and unfortunately, my camera doesn't do it justice.

Because Santa Fe is a young, small island, we didn't have to hike too far to reach its apex. But for its height, it was surprisingly windy, and I had trouble keeping my hat on for this picture.

And that was the end of another day. Here's one last picture of the impressive Galapagos prickly pear.

Come back tomorrow to see San Cristobal and Isla Lobos.

1 comment:

rydandy said...

Great story and photos. Thanks for sharing.