Last night, we had eight hours of navigation in open water. It was very rough and choppy and the Daphne was tossed around a lot. It was difficult to sleep. Eventually we arrived at Puerto Vallamil in the south of Isabela Island at about 5.00 am. I think I slept the most soundly for the next hour out of the entire night. I had taken a pill for seasickness before I went to bed. Who knows if I needed it or not, but I didn’t feel the least queasy so it may have helped. I certainly didn’t want to have to get out of bed in the middle of the night as I would have had trouble standing up.
This morning, we first zodiaced around to a headland to see some white tipped sharks that rest in a narrow chasm between the rocks and then as we walked around the park we came across dozens of marine iguanas.
They were everywhere and it was hard not to step on them. They didn’t mind us walking by, sometimes only a few steps away from them.
There are lots of baby sea lions around here and one was newly born. We could see the calf trying to suckle on the mother and some sea birds were pecking away at the placenta. It will only take a few weeks until the mother is pregnant again and in nine more months she will have her next calf.
Then we went ashore at the town jetty and traveled by van up to the National Park at Sierra Negra Volcano. It was a drive of 14 kilometers and we gained about 800 meters in height along the road. The volcano is a massive shield volcano, so named because its flat dome shape looks similar to a warrior’s shield.
Along the way. The vegetation changed significantly. In, and near, the town, a recent lava flow covers the ground and nothing grows at all. Further on, the lava is beginning to support grasses and small bushes and about halfway up the volcano, people were growing quite lush gardens with crops like bananas, oranges and paw paw. At one time, we drove through a grove of tall avocado tees. At the top of the mountain, only ferns and small bushes covered in lichen were growing.
From the car park, we walked for about a kilometre up a steepish path to the rim of the caldera. At this point we were just over 1000 meters above sea level. The Humbolt current brings cool moist air to the Galapos at this time of year and the top of the volcano was shrouded in mist. We waited for half an hour but we only got a short glimpse of the caldera. This is the biggest caldera in the Galapagos and possibly the world. The caldera (crater) is 10 miles wide and 12 miles long. The cloud cleared from around the volcano for a few seconds so that we could see some of the way across to the other side.
We were back on the boat for lunch at 12.30 with a break until 3.00 pm until our next activity. Then, we were back into town to visit the National Parks tortoise breeding centre. They have about thirty mature tortoises that they use as breeding stock. These have been rescued from the slopes of the volcano during and after recent eruptions. They breed these and collect the eggs for incubation. When the tortoises get to about five years of age, they are released into the wild. So far, they have released over 2000 tortoises at a survival rate of sixty percent.
We walked back into the town following a walkway and boardwalk along the shoreline. We had been looking for flamingos for many days and we finally spotted two in the lagoons along the way. These birds are not native to Galapagos but have flown in from other places in South America. If there is insufficient food here, they will return to the mainland again.