Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Punta Carrion and North Seymour

Sometime during the night we raised anchor and sailed from San Cristobal to the channel between Baltra and Santa Cruz. The boat has strong engines and they could be heard very loudly in our cabin. From midnight onward I kept waking up due to the noise.

Around 5:15 I gave up and climbed out on to the deck. It was pre-dawn with minimal light outside. I watched as we anchored next to the cliffs.

Frigate at dawn, a sign of things to come

At 6:00 the bell rang and people started to come up to the saloon. We had a short briefing and started to get ready for the dive.

Dive #1: Punta Carrion

This dive here is along the cliff wall. As we got down we saw a small white tip reef shark cruising below us. Along the wall there were many medium size “bushy” corals. 

A sea lion crossed our path going quickly from one diver to another.

We continued and run into a huge marble ray between two rocks. Robert and Ilan both swam onto him very quickly. Not surprisingly, the ray started swimming away and I did not get a chance to properly photograph it.

As we came toward the end of the dive we reached a shallower area with many big rocks. William, the dive master, started to go between them searching for sharks. After a bit of search, he pointed relatively big white tip was cruising between the rocks, but again was not very conductive for photography.

After a breakfast and an hour’s rest, we organize again to dive. 

Dive #2: Punta Carrion

We dive in the same area, but with somewhat different path. We start going further from the cliffs looking for pelagic animals. I am going next to William, and he signals “hummer shark”. I can barely see the silhouette in the blue depth. After a minute it disappear and I cannot see it any more.

Soon after we run across a big male sea turtle. I try to follow it a bit for a photograph, but the results leave much to be desired.

William make a sign I am not used to. He insists on pointing onto something, and then I realize this is an octopus. Apparently a big find here, but something I am used to see almost in any dive.

We suddenly run into a mild-medium current. I thought it might a temporary thing, but William signals to turn around and let it take us. We float in the current, past the rocks and schools of fish. I am low on air so move upward and float above the rest of the group.

Odd fish
I see a large conch with its body out (I thought they only come out at night) and get few shots of it.


We eat lunch while the ship is sailing toward the fueling station on Baltra island. We rest for an hour or so while the ship is fueled and some supplies are loaded on board.

Next, we move to the nearby North Seymour Island for a walk. This island is reminiscent of our trip in Genovesa. However, here there are also a lot of land iguanas, and so we get a chance to come close to some of them.

Rock star!

The area is busy with nesting birds and youngsters that still need their parent's help.

We encounter a parent feeding its child on one of the trees. It was pretty amazing to see the young bird insert its whole head into the parent’s throat. Given that the youngster has a large pointy beak, it also seemed a rather hazardous operation.

We see boobies with chicks. Few of them had a pair of chicks. It turns out that the boobies lay two eggs, mostly as an insurance policy -- incresing the chances that at least one of them will hatch. If two hatch, then the larger chick will eventually push the smaller one until it dies. The parents cannot support two chicks.


Lava lizard

Feeding land iguana

Blue-footed booby
Another nice surprise here is to find male frigate birds in full mating display. They puff a red sack under their throat. Some of them were flying with a fully inflated sack, which seemed unwieldy.

Seeing these up close, it seems that the sacks serve the same purpose as the peacock's tail. If the male can survive and perform well with this huge handicap, than he must have good genes.

The western short has larger waves and active wind, showing us a nice display.

On the shore we meet few sea lions.

Mom & pup resting

Older female sleeping on the trail

Toward the end of the circular trail we encounter few more iguanas.

We return to the boat after what was a very nice land tour. Even for Ilan and me who spent a week of such tours. For the others’ it was flabbergasting.

Hezi and Ilan (and Williams' back) on the way back to the boat

We are supposed to sail north-west toward the remote islands of Wolf and Darwin. But, instead we sail back to Baltra, and the panga goes off with one sailor. We hypothesize that we need to get permits, but are not sure. After about half an hour he returns, and we start heading north.

Most of the crowd is sitting downstairs, but I remember that this where we saw sea life last week. And so stay on the top deck.

We do see dolphins pass us. We even see the tips of wings of a large ray (probably a manta ray). A flock of frigates accompany us for much of the afternoon and provide wonderful opportunities for photography.

Action on the water, probably fish
Daphne Major

The radar dish is a great place for perching.
Arguments about who gets to sit there.

Toward sunset the sun escapes the cloud cover, and we get a beautiful light on the birds and the boat.

Flock of shearwater 

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