"" Writer's Wanderings: Galapagos Journal - Floreana Island

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Galapagos Journal - Floreana Island

The sun shone brightly but we were greeted by another wonderful breeze as we began our walk on one of the trails of Floreana Island. This island is named for the first president of Ecuador, Juan Jose Florence, who incorporated the islands as a part of Ecuador in 1832. It has a colorful history including pirates, whalers, and infamous settlers. The island is also one of the four islands that Charles Darwin visited on his trip aboard the HMS Beagle.

Fatima was our naturalist for this excursion and the first place she took us was to a lagoon where flamingos spent their morning foraging for tasty marine tidbits in the tidal waters. There used to be more flamingos  she said, but the salinity of the water was changing and they think that it might be discouraging the food source. The fresher the water, the less marine life for the flamingos.

We passed a finch nest and stopped to look at some of the vegetation. Fatima insisted that one of the plants had adapted to the dry weather by making itself a waxy coat on the leaves to keep the moisture in. Several more times along the way she gave interesting points of “adaptation” of plants. I couldn’t understand how she could give so much credit to the plants rather than their Creator.

A frankincense tree that resembled a eucalyptus with its bark and leaves was oozing a fragrant sap. While we stopped to look at a plant that was kin to a sunflower, a small bird happened to perch on a branch. I thought it was one of Darwin's finches but upon later examination of the picture, I think it was a Flycatcher. 

The trail ended at a large beach where others were gathered on near the water’s edge watching a large sea turtle make its way back into the water. The sea turtle was a female checking out the shoreline for a place to lay her eggs. According to our naturalists, the female makes several trips to the shoreline to find a place where the sand is soft so that she can dig the hole to lay her eggs which she does at night. The process takes a while so the night is better to avoid the heat of the day.

Eggs laid in the hole are covered by the female as she begins to climb her way out of the nest. She pushes the sand behind her and thereby covers the eggs. The eggs are left to incubate in the sand warmed by the sun. When the turtles hatch, they have to make their way to the water on their own and hopefully before a predator can swoop dow
n and use them for their daytime meal.

The tracks of the giant sea turtles could be seen in several places along the beach and it wasn’t difficult to see where there had been turtle nests made in the soft sand at the top of the beach. 

Sifting through the sand, you could see pieces of a green mineral that resembles the gem peridot. When the sun was at the right angle the pieces glittered in the sandy beach.

As we watched the turtle slowly disappear into the surf, our attention turned to a blue colored heron perched on the rocks, a watchful eye tuned to the water’s edge for a tasty tidbit.

Fatima led us back to the beach where some opted to snorkel and others, like us, went back to the ship to go on what was called a deep water dive. I hoped the water would be clearer than it had been on our first snorkel in the Galapagos waters.

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