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After spending a little time on the beach, photographing the sea lions against the strikingly coloured backdrop, we followed a path through the pale Palo Santo trees. The trail here is just one km in length, and is rated easy / moderate, as it involves a little bit of climbing but is generally easy going with a red gravel-type surface.
The redness of the soil and rocks here is due to the very porous lava, which has combined with rain, salt water and sea breeze to act as an oxidising agent. It makes for a great colour scheme, offsetting the dusty grey-green of the Palo Santo and Opuntia that form the main vegetation. The former in particular looked stark and almost dead, as it was the dry season – in the wet they would be covered with green leaves. These are plants of the arid zone, and we saw another typical one of these, Cordia lutea or Yellow Cordia, which added some bright colour to the landscape.
The path led us at first to a point on the cliffs immediately above the beach, from where we has a good view of the lagoon that lies just behind it, the red sands, the bay and the Angelito moored just off shore. The colours and the views are the main attraction here, as there are fewer wildlife species than on some other islands. This is due in part to the introduction in the 1970s of goats, which probably led to the extinction of several native creatures including geckos, land iguanas, and rice rats. Goats were eradicated in 1971, reintroduced in 1975, and finally eradicated by 1977. Since then the island has remained goat-free, but there remains a problem with introduced Norway and Black Rats, which have negative impacts on both native vegetation and birds and reptiles. In January 2011 a rat eradication project was launched which hope to clear Rabida of these and allow native plants and animals to thrive.
Despite this, there are the sea lions to be enjoyed, marine iguanas, and plenty of birds. On this part of the trail we saw several Cactus and other Galápagos Finches, pretty Yellow Warblers and a Galápagos dove.
From this high point the trail forms a loop, following the cliffs on the east side of the island, subject of my next tip.
Written Dec 22, 2012
The trail we had been following through the Palo Santo led us next to another even more spectacular viewpoint on the cliffs where the contrasting colours of red rock, green Opuntia , blue sky and turquoise sea made for great photo opportunities. In the distance was Santiago, where we had spent the morning. There were various sea birds fishing off the cliffs, including Brown Noddies skimming the waves and a few Blue-footed Boobies with their characteristic bullet dive. But as before, for the most part of our time here the scenery was the greater draw, with its dramatic colour contrasts and texture too – craggy rocks, spiny Opuntia, liquid ever-moving sea.
We had already spent some time here, admiring the views and taking photos, when someone spotted what they thought at first might be a dolphin or shark, but which on closer inspection by Fabian proved to be a manta ray.
Written Dec 22, 2012
Rabida’s small red beach is lined with mangrove trees, and behind the first of these lies a saltwater lagoon. In the past this has been home to flamingos, but none were to be seen on our visit, and Fabian explained that it was likely that they’d been driven away by the groups of bachelor Galápagos sea lions who have chosen this spot as a place to chill out, undisturbed by the alpha male who throws his weight around on the beach. With each group of females presided over by a single male in this way, there are always plenty of bachelors who are unwelcome in the main colony and who need to find their own space. Maybe after some R & R here they will feel ready to fight for the right to rule a beach themselves. Meanwhile I can see why they favour this peaceful spot. The lagoon is surrounded by more mangroves, a bright green line below the grey-green of the Palo Santo trees, and has enough water for a leisurely swim to cool off in the midday sun, while the sea is only a short distance away when they feel the need to do some serious fishing for food. All the same, it is a little disappointing for us as visitors that they have caused the flamingos to leave.
I had hoped that we would have had time for swimming or snorkelling here, as had been the original plan, but time was getting on and the Angelito had to sail that afternoon for Santa Cruz, so we said goodbye to the red cliffs of Rabida and headed for our next island.
So this is my last tip on Rabida. Please click here to return to my intro page.
Updated Dec 22, 2012
Rabida lies immediately south of Santiago, and we came here directly from James Bay where we had spent the morning, arriving in time for an early lunch with a backdrop of this striking red island.
There is just one visitor site here and a visit here begins with a wet landing on the island’s only beach, which is dramatically red. As usual there was a welcoming committee of Galápagos sea lions, but I think maybe they too had just had lunch, as they were pretty sleepy and uninterested in the two-legged visitors disembarking from the pangas nearby! But they made great foreground interest for our first photos here. We also saw some shore birds such as oyster-catchers, and there were frigatebirds wheeling overhead
This was the one day when I chose to wear sandals for the wet landing, rather than wade ashore bare-footed and dry off on the beach before putting on socks and trainers. This was partly because Fabian had recommended sandals rather than his usual “tennis shoes” (I think the red sand here is a little grittier and less comfortable than the soft white sand in many other places), and partly because I had carried them all this way and I was determined to wear them at least once! But it proved to be a slight mistake – the grit of the beach continued for much of the path and found its way easily inside the sandals, and in addition, being unused to wearing them, I had forgotten to put suntan lotion on my feet and they reddened rather in the bright sun we had for part of our walk.
Anyway, the sandals did mean that I was quickly ready for to hit the trail through the palo santo trees.
Written Dec 22, 2012
Fondest memory: Earlier in the week I had been disappointed to hear that I missed the opportunity to see a Manta ray which had been spotted by some others in our group while on deck on the Angelito. But on Rabida we all saw a manta ray! We were up on the cliffs on the east side of the island, admiring the fantastic views, when someone spotted what they thought at first might be a dolphin or shark, but which on closer inspection by Fabian proved to indeed be a huge Manta Ray in the sea directly beneath us. He stayed for a long while, turning languidly in the waves. This is likely to have been an Oceanic Manta Ray, and as these can grow to seven metres wide, it is not surprising that he seemed really big even viewed from so high up on the cliffs above. He was patrolling up and down the coast and I imagine looking for food there. Many rays are bottom feeders but others filter plankton from sea water passing through their mouths and out of their gills as they swim, and I think “our” Manta Ray was probably doing this. We watched as he moved slowly along, from time to time lifting a giant “wing” above the surface. It was hard to tear ourselves away (not for the first time on this trip) but eventually he left, and so did we.
We followed the loop trail away from here and back down to the beach to visit the saltwater lagoon, as described in my next tip.
Updated Dec 22, 2012