After lunch the boat moved to Post Office Bay. Besides M/S Cachalote there were already three other boats anchored in the bay and soon after we arrived several crewmembers from the boats hopped into the pangas and went ashore. It turned out there is a soccer field there and that gives the crewmembers form different boats a good opportunity to meet and get some exercise.
On the boat we rested until 15.00 when it was time to go ashore to visit the sites. There is a wet landing on a sandy beach and from there we walked up to the Post Office, an historical place, which I have written about in another tip on this page, so I won’t do it again.
From the Post Office we walked a few hundred metres further, to a lava tunnel. Along the way we passed the remains of a fishing village and canning factory. It was established in the 1920s by Norwegian fishermen, but it was soon abandoned.
A ladder leads down to the lava tunnel and we all climbed down. In the first part of the tunnel there is no water but soon we had to wade in super cold water,. We came to a narrow passage on the side of the tunnel and here I, another tourist and our guide put on our masks and snorkels and swam inside, using waterproof torches. In the passage we had to swim in a line, but soon it opened up to a cave. The brackish water was very clear and did not feel cold anymore, only refreshing. Somewhere there was a small opening to the sea, which you can scuba dive through if you have taken off the tank and BCD, but I didn’t see it.
After visiting the lava tunnel we walked back to the sandy beach to swim, snorkel and just relax. We were the only group at the beach as all other groups seemed to have returned to their boats.
Devil’s Crown is said to be one of the best sites for snorkelling around the Galapagos Islands. Here the cone of a small submerged volcano has been eroded to look like a crown. The rocks of Devil’s Crown are situated just a few hundred metres of the coast from Punta Cormorant. So after visiting Punta Cormorant, we went back to M/S Cachalote to quickly change to swimwear and wetsuit and to grab out snorkelling equipment.
The current at Devil’s Crown is quite strong so we drifted with it while snorkelling. And as always when we snorkelled Roberto followed with the panga (dinghy).
Here are some of the species we saw: King Angelfish, Yellow Tailed Surgeonfish, Moorish Idol, Mexican Hogfish, Blue-chin Parrotfish, Cornet Fish, Guinea fowl Puffer, cardinal fish, triggerfish, wrasses, an Eagle Ray, a Sting Ray and a White Tipped Reef Shark. Two persons saw a Galapagos Shark, but I didn’t, I wish had though as I have never seen one before. We were looking for Hammerhead Sharks which can be seen here, but unfortunately we didn’t see any. To see a Hammerhead Shark is still high on my wish list!
When we were in the panga going back to Cachalote to have lunch, one of the tourists said that he had dropped one of his fins, so we went back to the place where he thought he had dropped it. Our guide Darwin threw the other fin into the water to see how it moved with the current. He dived in after it and it took quite long until he came up to the surface again with the fin. Then he went back down to look for the other fin and after a long time he came to the surface with the lost fin in his hand. Very impressive!
After breakfast we took the panga ashore to visit Punta Cormorant. Here there is a wet landing by a dark sandy beach. This beach is dark because it contains crystals of olivine, a green mineral. On warm days the sand can be very hot and that is something the sea lions don’t like.
From the dark beach we followed a trail some hundred metres over the isthmus to a small white sandy beach where a Great Blue Heron was standing and Sally Lightfoot crabs were running over the black lava rocks. In the shallow water of the sea we saw a few sting rays. Because there are many sting rays here swimming is not allowed from the beach.
We walked the same trail back and now stopped at the Flamingo Lagoon. Unfortunately there was only one flamingo there at the time (so I’m glad I saw more flamingos later on Isla Isabela). In the Flamingo Lagoon there is also a chance to see other wading birds, like the Black-necked Stilt.
The vegetation at Punta Cormorant consists of Palo santo, Palo verde, Leather Leaf, Floreana Daisy, different mangrove species and much more. The isthmus and lagoon is situated between two volcanic tuffs.
Outside the populated areas visitors are only allowed to visit certain sites, and then always accompanied by a certified naturalist guide. When visiting these visitor sites you can only walk on the trails or on the beach. But even there you should be careful where you put your feet. On the beach at Post Office Bay someone had put stones in a circle to indicate the place of a turtle nest (you can see there is a small cavity), so don’t walk over it! Usually the turtle nests are a bit higher up, where you are not allowed to walk, but sometimes the nests can be found on the beaches where many tourists walk.
There is a population of about 400 - 500 flamingos on the Galapagos Islands. They can mainly be seen on Floreana (Punta Cormorant), Isla Isabela (Villamil), Isla Santa Cruz (Las Bachas Beach), Santiago and Isla Rábida.
As you can see in the photo there was only one flamingo in the lagoon when we visited Floreana. That was a disappointment, as there usually are many more to be seen. However, I got the chance to see the flamingos again when I visited Puerto Villamil on Isla Isabela after the cruise with Cachalote.
The Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is a big wading bird with a bright pink plumage. The legs and neck are long and it has a big curved bill. It can be up to 120 cm tall and the wingspan is about 140 cm. The flamingo flies with its neck extended and then you can see that it is black under the wings.
Flamingos feed on crustaceans, algae and small water plants. It is actually the pigment carotenoid which is found in the crustaceans that gives the flamingo its pink colour. When the flamingo is young the feathers are white/light grey. The flamingo feeds in shallow coastal lagoons and because their feet are webbed they can walk in the mud without sinking to deep. When the flamingos eat they move their head upside down under water and filter the mud and water. If you have taken photos of flamingos you have probably, like me, been waiting long for them to lift their head above the water surface. It seems they can keep their head under water for ages.
Post Office Bay on Floreana is visited because of its history. Already in 1793 British whalers put up a Post Office Barrel here. At this time the whalers could be on the ship, away from home, for as long as two years. Crew on outbound ships could leave a letter in the barrel and it would be picked up by members on a ship returning home.
This tradition is now continued by tourists who leave postcards without a stamp in the barrel. At the same time they go through the postcards already in the barrel to see if there are any they can bring with them home to deliver. A man in my group found a postcard to someone living near Boston, where he lived. While we were still standing there looking through the postcards a group passed on the path and a woman asked if someone had picked up the card she had just left. It was the postcard the man from Boston had picked up. So he got the woman’s telephone number so he could call before delivering the postcard, and she could prepare coffee. So, if you are mailing a postcard to yourself it can be good to write down your telephone number on it.
I thought the postcards were supposed to be hand delivered, so I didn’t take the postcards in the barrel that were to Sweden, as the persons were living about 500km away from where I live. But yesterday I got the postcard I mailed to myself with the mail, and with a Swedish stamp on it. I have no idea who brought it to Sweden and it would have been nice if the person at least had made a little note on the postcard. It would have been much nicer though to get a hand delivered postcard, its not the same to get it with a Swedish stamp on it. Anyway it took 11,5 weeks for the postcard to reach me and I’m happy I received it.
If you see a small bright yellow bird on the Galápagos Islands it will be a Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia). The Yellow Warbler can be found all over Galápagos Islands and in all habitats.
The male has a bright yellow breast with reddish streaks, and the upper part is more yellow-green. On top of the head there is a reddish patch. The females are usually paler than the males and they don’t have the reddish patch on the head. Juveniles are greyer and only have a little yellow in their plumage.
The Yellow Warbler feeds on insects which it finds in vegetation or on ground. It is nesting between December - May.
The Black-neck Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) is a graceful wader which can be seen in shallow pools of saline water or freshwater. It can be found on several of the Galapagos islands, in the lowlands near the coasts. The Black-necked stilt is also found in many other parts of America, from California and Florida in the north to Peru in the south.
The male and female look very much alike. The length is around 35-40 cm. The wings and back are black as well as the crown and the back of the neck. There is a white patch above the eyes and the underparts and tails are also white. The bill is black, long and thin. The pink/red legs are very long. I wish I had seen one flying as it looks beautiful with the long legs stretched out behind it.
The Black-necked Stilt feeds in shallow water where it finds aquatic insects, small fish, crustaceans and molluscs to eat.
The Black-necked Stilt in the photo is walking around in the Flamingo Lagoon at Punta Cormorant, Floreana.
The Galapagos Flycatcher (Myiarchus magnirostris) is also called Large-billed Flycatcher. It can be seen on most islands, but not on the northern islands of Genovesa, Darwin and Wolf. The Galapagos Flycatcher is a common bird in the dry forests and shrub lands of the lowlands. It often come close to humans.
It is a cute little bird, about 16cm long. The head and upper part has a light brown, greyish colour, while the breast, throat and chin are grey. The belly has got a pale yellow colour. It actually looks very similar to the female Vermilion Flycatcher, but it is paler. The Galapagos Flycatcher has got a black and quite thick bill and feeds mostly on different insects.
The Galapagos Flycatcher in the photo was tripping around by the path near the Post Office on Floreana.
The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) can be seen on most big islands of the Galapagos (you can also see them in the West Indies and North- and Central America). The Great Blue Heron is a wader and when you see one it will probably be near shallow water, where they are often seen standing still waiting for prey. They feed on fish, crabs, young marine iguanas, lava lizards, small birds and insects.
With their tall legs and neck the Great Blue Heron looks majestic. The feathers are blue-grey and the head is white with a black strip. The beak is long, sharp and yellow. An adult Great Blue Heron can have a wingspan of over 2 metres and it can be over 1.30 metres tall. They are beautiful birds.
I saw Great Blue Herons on Floreana, Isla Isabela and on Isla Santa Cruz. The one on the photo is from Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island.
The beautiful Sally Lightfoot crabs (Grapsus grapsus) can be seen all over the shores of the Galapagos Islands. With its bright orange colour it stands out from the black lava rocks where you often see them. The young ones are dark in colour though, and this make them well camouflaged on the rocks. The adult crabs can be as big as 20cm. Sally Lightfoot crabs eat algae and small animals. Like other crabs they are moving fast and will run away if you come too close.
The Sally Lightfoot crabs are not only found on Galapagos Islands, but can be found along the American Pacific coast from Peru in the south to Mexico in the north.
The Sally Lightfoot crab in the picture was walking on Flour Beach, one of the beaches at Cormorant Point, Floreana.
Head over to Sand Flour Beach (end of wildlife hike) and stand in the water directly ahead of where the trail comes in. You need to stand still to keep from possibly being stung, but there are dozens of gentle stingrays in the water there. They will swim into the very shallow water - just a couple inches deep. It is an odd sensation when you feel them against your feet. It is actually pretty hard to photograph them because you will get dizzy when looking through your camera. This is a real highlight of going to the Galapagos.
Enjoy the colorful Sally Lightfoot Crabs that are all over the rocks at Sand Flour Beach. They are black and match the lava rock (more natural selection at work) when they are young and vulnerable but start turning dramatic shades of red, yellow and blue as they age.
Near Asilo de la Paz there is a large Tortoise Corral built by the National Park service. You are allowed to go inside and walk among the tortoises, but of course you need to show consideration and not go to close to them, and absolutely not touch them.
The Giant Tortoise in the large corral at Asilo de la Paz on Floreana are sub-species originally from other islands. They have been owned by residents on the islands, but are now all in the corral.
Because of pirates, whalers, early settlers and introduced animals the Floreana Tortoise was thought to have been extinct for 150 years. But recently scientists have found young hybrids on Wolf Volcan (Isla Isabela) and it is thought that one of the parents might be a pure Floreana Tortoise still alive somewhere out there.
You can view flamingos by heading down towards the salt-water lagoon. There are also some waders present. If you scan the vegetation surrounding the lagoon, especially on the side away from the viewing area, you might be able to spot some flamingo nests. You are in a mangrove forest here.