The trip we had planned to do while in Puerto Lopez was to visit Isla de a Plata, home of the Blue-footed boobie. Also known as the Poor Man's Galapagos. The boat ride to the island cost $35 U.S. per person and took an hour and a half by boat. There were 2 authorized guides on board the boat which is a government requirement. There were 15 people on the boat a group of kids from California, a lady from Germany a. couple around our age who were from the Netherlands, and a few kids from Argentina. When you land in the Galapagos you pay a $100 U.S. fee per person which allows you into the parks at no fee. This I fee goes towards the maintenance of the parks. Island de la Plata was at one time privately owned but later purchased by the government. A good thing since the farmers were battering the albatrosses on the island with bats in order to stop the albatrosses from eating the fish. So, although there were albatrosses on the island we did not have access to them as they are protected and there were not many of them left.
AN UNEXPECTED SURPRISE (and a first for me)
I would guesstimate that approximately 15-20 minutes into our boat ride the boat slowed down and we were told by the guides that they suspected there was a whale nearby as there were air bubbles in the water. Sure enough, and for the first time in my life I saw a whale, although it was not totally out of the water. The guide thought it was a great humpback whale but the next day I showed the owner of Hosteria Mandala my picture of the whale and he pulled out a book he had on whales (I never knew that there was so many types of whales) and based on the dorsal fin he suspected the whale we saw was a Bryde's whale. So, I looked it up on the Internet and this is what I found out. The Bryde's whale is not seen that often and when it is spotted it is in waters near the equator. Other facts I learned were: this whale is between 40-55 feet long, weighs 90,000 pounds, they can reach depths of 1,000 feet, and worldwide there are between 90,000-100,000 of them. Wow, were we ever lucky!
When we arrived on the island the group was divided into two. One group was for the English speaking and the second group was for the Spanish speaking. There were 3 trails in the park and each trial offered a different focus. For example, one tour focussed on tropical birds, ours was blue footed boobies and frigates. Also the 3 trails had different levels of difficulty and were different lengths. None of the two groups went on the longest trail as there was not enough time. The toughest part was the climb up to the trail. Along the way up the guide showed us a twig that was a natural incense and he also showed us a plant that acted as a natural antiseptic for a cut.
When we reached our trail's starting point we had just turned a corner and out waddles a baby blue-footed boobie, no fear whatsoever and the walk was comical. The babies do not have the blue feet. You know, we had read that there are a lot of blue-footed boobies on the island and you think, okay whatever, but it was true, wherever we walked there were blue-footed boobies. We learned that it takes several months for the boobies to learn how to fly and at times we saw the youngsters spreading their wings trying to fly. The mother boobie lays between 2-3 eggs but each egg is laid at different times which creates a hierarchy birth order. I read that food given to the youngsters is given to the first-born which ties into the theory of survival of the fittest. We were also told there are best times for mating and if a boobie mates later than the best time, there is only a slim chance that the eggs will hatch because it is too hot out. We also learned that the male courts the female by spreading out his wings and doing a mating dance. The male may have to wait for up to 2 weeks to be accepted by the female. Tom said that the male is very patient. The guide also pointed out to us that the boobie's beak is quite long and pointed and could hurt a predator especially if she is nesting or protecting her young.
As we were leaving Isla de la Plata we saw several marine turtles that came up to our boat. I had never seen marine turtles ever before, never mind in their natural habitat...how exciting. And I have turtles (i.e. earrings, necklaces, carvings) I have collected over the years.
After we finished our hike on Isla de la Plata, we went to another location and did some Snorkeling. I had more trouble getting my leg up and over the ladder when I was returning back to the boat. Snorkelling-wise, I had had similar snorkelling experiences in Thailand and in Bali. I can tell you though almost all of the younger tour group members had Go-pros...I think if you are into water sports a Go-pro would be a great thing to have.
We arrived back to land around 2:30 p.m. and as Tom and I made our way back to the Hosteria, we found a place that sold blue-footed booby t-shirts that had Puerto Lopez written on them. We decided that before we left Puerto Lopez we would each get a t-shirt....which didn't turn out to be as simple as we assumed it would be.
The size of Bryde's whale
Isla de la Plata
Isla De la Plata
Isla de la Plata
What a view
Our first boobie sighting
A young boobie.....no blue feet...yet
Another view of the young boobie
Tryin' to do some flying
Mom and her babies
Blue-footed boobie mom to be
Will this boobie be able to take off
getting ready to take off
Mom and young blue-footed boobie
Birds of a feather stick together
Nearing the end of our walk, we see these two
Staying close together
A cosy twosome
Adult blue-footed boobie
Hidden behind the shrubbery
Rhonda & Tom with frigate birds in the backgroun
Marine turtles Isla de la Plata