Day 208 of 400: Española Island, Suarez Point and Gardener Bay – Galapagos Islands
Our morning hike on the rocky beach of Espanola Island had piles of lava iguanas to walk around. We saw many of the same bird species from other islands as we hiked along the rocks. Blue footed boobies, sea lions basking in the sun and the swallow-tailed gulls were all over the island. On the coast we saw a rainbow form as the blowhole in the rocks sprayed ocean water high into the sky and the waves came crashing down.
What was most special about today were the Albatross birds, it was the largest colony of them in the world and the largest bird of the Galapagos Islands. Luckily it is mating season and we got to see them court each other. They were massive white birds with long yellow beaks. We saw many of them, but 3 of them specifically stood out…they seemed to be involved in a love triangle until one finally chased out the other. The two birds as if they had practiced this mating dance many times before, began. They stood about 2 ft apart and clicked beaks several times together before they both looked straight up into the air. Then, they would continue with putting their head to one side of their body before looking straight back into the air. They were honking loudly at each other and clicking their long yellow beaks together. This dance routine went on for several minutes…check out our video below to see it! It was truly amazing to watch nature at work. We spent most of our time on the island watching them do their dance, once they find their mate…they stay together for life.
Back on the boat, we had some downtime and lunch before taking another tonga to Gardener Bay. Some people were snorkeling but we decided to take the time to lay on the beach. The ocean was a gorgeous sea-foam green with little masses of land dotting the horizon. In addition, there was a whole colony of sea lions. The colony consisted of at least 60 laying on the sand…some cuddling together and some sprawled out by themselves.
We found a space between them and put down our towels. They definitely didn’t move out of our way and in some cases moved closer for a snuggle. As they barked loudly amongst each other, the tour guides explained that in every colony there is an alpha male in charge. He watches over the other sea lions by swimming back and forth around the area in which the colony is settled. He keeps a watch out for danger such as sharks and makes sure other males don’t get too close to the females. Each alpha male is only the alpha for a short period, about 2 weeks because it is very tiring…and then another male takes over.
We got to see exactly which one was the alpha male in this colony. As we were laying out, we saw the huge alpha come sliding up the sand yelling and moving sea lions away from the others. He was very aggressive in making sure he got his way. As he got closer, we all started wondering if we should move…sure enough he came right at us as well which worked, we too moved out-of-the-way. He continued down the beach past us moving the other males from the area until he finally relaxed and laid down to catch his breath. Although we couldn’t speak sea-lion language, there was no mis-understanding…we understood we needed to move when he barked at us!
Once he settled down…others settled too, laying back on the sand as did we. These sea lions were just so darn cute and we had a lot of fun getting pictures…that was probably the closest we’ll ever get to them!
After sunbathing with the sea lions we were back on board for showers, dinner and a good nights sleep.