Galapagos Islands Day Eight: Black Turtle Cove and “See Off Day”

The Beagle has a clever way of getting guests up and out early so the crew can begin to prepare for the next round of guests arriving that same afternoon. We will be up before sunrise for a boat tour around the estuary, Black Turtle Cove. No sweaty hikes requiring another shower. No swims requiring the packing of wet clothing. Just a cool morning ride around the lagoon in the zodiacs.

Btack Turtle Cove, off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, is a mangrove estuary teeming with little hideaways for mating sea turtles, rays, and sharks. As we speed across the open water to reach the mouth of the cove, the sky beginning to take on a rose-colored glow, I remark to Tom sitting beside me, “Whenever I get up at this hour, I always wonder why I don’t do it more often.” The sunrise across the flat calm water is glorious.

Soon, we are within the mangroves in the estuary, and we begin to see turtles heads popping up left and right. Fabian grabs a branch to anchor us while MotorMan kills the engine. We sit at the mouth of one of the inlets as the marine life rushes out to sea with the tide. It’s like an ocean highway as one of us shouts, “Here comes a shark!” “There’s a turtle!” “And a ray!” as they each cruise through the shoot of water emptying from the cove. Fabian tells us when we see the turtle shells come to the surface, it means they are mating. And we see them often. But perhaps the best sighting is watching the blue heron, lit by the rising sun as he hunts in the golden waters. He leans way over on his side with eye focused on the water, plucks out a silvery fish, and gobbles it down as the shutters snap furiously like the paparazzi we are.

Back on board for breakfast, our final meal on The Beagle. I didn’t realize how much I would miss those daily plates of fresh papaya, pineapple, oranges and melon until I was back on the mainland, fending for breakfast on my own.

The remainder of the group is headed to the airport, but I am going back to Puerto Ayora, so I catch a ride in the zodiac with Daniel, aka “MotorMan” on his dirty laundry run. This will allow me to cut out the bus from the airport, as well as the ferry across the canal. The only catch is that I must leave 45 minutes before the rest of the guests. As I head to the zodiac, I manage to choke out a few bars from “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when.” But once we speed away and I can no longer see them waving, as The Beagle gets smaller and smaller on the horizon, I can’t hold it back any longer. Eyes straight ahead.  Must not let Motorman see the tears now streaming down my face!

Leaving the safety of my little cocoon was tough, particularly still feeling so vulnerable after being robbed of my most personal of possessions. I felt safe and secure in my single cabin with a place for everything, and everything in its place.  But equally tough was saying goodbye to my new community. When you share three meals a day and three to four excursions with 12 other people, you get to know about their lives, their families, their routines back home. I didn’t realize how much I talked about my family until Walter from the Netherlands planted a goodbye kiss on each cheek, saying “One for your mother, and one for your brother.” We had two cancer survivors on board, each sharing their stories, not of surviving, but of thriving.  It would take a couple of days to no longer hear their Dutch, Swiss, French and Ecuadorian accents echoing in my head. I think when one spends so much time alone, companions are more easily imprinted into one’s memory.

My time in the Galapagos touched me like no other place aside from Antarctica. It’s so difficult for me to explain, but in both cases, it was a paradigm shift that occurred once I was there. In both places, I went feeling like the top of the food chain; Man’s Superiority. And in both instances, I left feeling like an insignificant, outside observer of something much greater than me.

In both cases, I also came back with a very different perspective of the place as a whole than I had going in. I expected to be wowed by the wildlife…the whales, penguins, the seabirds of Antarctica, and the booby birds, land tortoises and marine life of the Galapagos. But in both cases, I was moved by something completely different than anticipated. In other words, the sum was greater than its parts.

For Antarctica, I was overwhelmed by the vastness of miles and miles of ice. Stark black and white contrasting mountains looming overhead. And certain death depths of the foreboding sea beneath me. But for the Galapagos, it was the sheer pristine nature of it all. Being able to walk a beach with no one else but our group in sight. Sitting on the top deck looking out across a calm, idyllic anchorage and seeing no other boats around. And in walking among the wildlife, impervious to my presence, I felt more like the zoo animal was me, not them. It’s not something I can describe with words, or even photos…it’s a feeling.

While I didn’t do that much research prior to the Galapagos cruise, I did do quite a bit upon return, mostly for the purpose of accurately describing the things I saw in this blog. Fact is, I just didn’t have much interest in iguanas and tortoises until I had actually seen them up close and personal. In reading about every single piece of flora and fauna that I wrote about in these posts, there was some threat to their existence, much of it at the hand of man.

The most over arching cause of the endangerment of these species is rising sea temperatures. It’s so easy to see how the whole chain can easily collapse at the demise of one food source. Rising ocean temperatures threaten the cold-water schooling fish such as anchovies, sardines and mullet. Depletion of this food source impacts the booby birds, the penguins, which in turn impacts the sea lions. Over 70% of the penguin population has been depleted due to lack of this food source. Rising temps also impact the marine iguanas, as the algae they feed on can’t grow in warmer ocean temps.

It’s taking the easy way out to dismiss climate change is a natural phenomenon. Much harder to admit we all have had a hand in the eventual demise of the extinction of a species. A comment I read on Twitter got it just about right, “Unfortunately Game of Thrones receives more attention than the Exodus of the species.”

If you are a follower of the news, you no doubt saw the article published yesterday regarding the UN report warning that one million species is facing the threat of extinction. You can find that article here or here. Among the most shocking takeaways for me was the fact that the earth’s population has doubled since 1970!  No wonder I keep asking myself “Where are all these people coming from?” We are literally eating ourselves out of house and home.

The other sobering highlight was the tenfold increase in plastic pollution since 1980. According to the Galapagos Conservation Trust, an estimated 12 million tons of plastics enter the ocean every year, with many of the local species found to have either been entangled by it, or to have ingested it. Just because it’s not littering my photos doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The National Park Service, Naturalist Guides, and the Galapagos Conservation Trusts’ Plastic Pollution Project spends countless hours locating and removing it.

So what can we do? Well, for one, we can increase our awareness about what we consume, particularly in the area of plastics. Do we really need all those plastic balls, bells, and bows to feel good about the holidays? Mylar balloons in order to celebrate? A dozen plastic toys for the dog? Whenever we buy something plastic, we should do so with the end in mind. Where will it end up when it has outlived its purpose? And does the end justify the means?

It’s not enough to just “reuse,” but we must also try to “refuse” when we have that option. If you don’t need the plastic lid, bag, etc, don’t take it just because it’s offered. Choose cardboard over stryofoam when possible. Consider other options when “disposable” isn’t truly disposable.

And lastly, VOTE OUT those who do not support the call to action (Sec Pompeo today on the crisis in the Artic: “Melting sea ice presents ‘new opportunities for trade”)

Many might take the stance that one person can’t make a difference. And that’s true if everyone feels that way. But in the end, don’t you want to feel like you’ve done all you can do, before the whole world becomes a zoo?

I hope that you have enjoyed the tour through this magical place. I feel blessed to have experienced it, and delighted to be able to share it. Thanks for all your support, interest, and well thought out comments.

(My only remaining photos of the Galapagos Islands, taken with my vintage android, due to my now busted Canon G7X.)

What my cabin REALLY looks like…

Puerto Ayora’s fish market

Heron waiting for a hand out.

I never could understand the name of these fish (sounds like “bruga?”) but they had been harvested in great abundance. I was told their eyes are bulging, because they were brought up from the deep.

Puerto Ayora’s “Los Kioskos,” outdoor fish market where tables line the entire city block, and seafood is grilled to order.

And finally, my personal favorite from the entire 8 day adventure…

“Nature once determined how we survive. Now we determine how nature survives.” ~Sir David Attenborough

18 thoughts on “Galapagos Islands Day Eight: Black Turtle Cove and “See Off Day”

  1. You had me hanging onto every word!! I will refuse plastic from now on, too. And that seal taking a snooze, is it for real or did someone teach it tricks????

    • Thanks, Terri! The sea lion was completely legit! This was an ocean front hotel in Puerto Ayora where I walked in to use their restroom. Sea lions were lying around everywhere around the pool! This one just happened to score the primo seat. Looks like he has been there before. haha!

  2. I would comment on just how great this current adventure was, and certainly this last post, sans camera, pays great homage to your skill as a writer- but lets face it- you bring such a zest for life to everything you do that I’ll bet you could make a trip to Walmart enjoyable and exciting!

  3. What a great ending photo to a great trip! SO glad you were able to go. It’s been on my bucket list for quite a while.
    I totally agree with your thoughts on plastics, etc. I work for a packaging company and it is downright sinful what we throw out. (Dumpsters full) When I first started here I was on a mission to get a recycling program in place. I just couldn’t get it to work out; they are not willing to pay someone here to drive a dumpster full of plastic bottles & jars to the recycling plant and companies charge to come pick it up. So, I just take home to recycle what I use.
    And balloons just come down as TRASH! A shame so many don’t think about that.
    Thanks for taking all of us along!

  4. Thank you for taking me along on your trip. I looked forward to each new post. You’re observations , written word and photos are the best ! I agree with you about the plastic and environment and I actually believe that one person , multiplied by many can make a difference. I’m going to do better ! Hope to see you sometime , down the road.

  5. Thank you so much! Loved every photo, description, and observation. Our views on climate change are aligned. I worry about what world my grandchildren will inherit. They’ll have every right to blame me/us. Do the deniers not have prodigy? Or are they so selfish that they don’t care – even about them?

  6. What an incredible bucket list trip! There is a new series on Netflix called “Our Planet” that is doing a good job of pointing out how we are killing our planet and, by extension, ourselves…hopefully many millions of thoughtful people will watch and learn from it.

  7. Well, the seal capped it off. So much I could say about the extinction of our world as we knew it. Hopefully, before it is too late, the people in the USA, who consume the most will wake up and work on change.

    I stopped using plastic when I found out it was a carcinogenic many years ago. Long story about the discovery but suffice to say, there is no need for plastic in our lives. In fact, I’m old enough to remember the time before plastic.

    Moving to Mexico taught me conservation. When I first came one was never
    handed a flyer or extra sheet of paper. The emphasis was on saving what forest was left in Mexico. To this day, I see people taking the back of a label or some used paper to write a note on – not using what isn’t needed.

    Back to your trip. I can understand totally the beauty of the starkness of both places that have been your favorite places to travel. That attracts me as well.
    Especially when there are not a lot of people around, ha.

    I’m so glad the trip turned out to be more then expected. Great move on your part to experience the adventure……..

    Let me know when you’re heading South of the Border – to the fun side, again.

  8. Thank you a million times for this adventure! Your writing tells as much, if not more, of the story as your photos. I think I can imagine the ache in your heart as you walked away from your cabin for the last time. I also make an effort to avoid unnecessary plastic but I’m ashamed to admit how easy it is to fall back into the consumer, disposable mindset. Thank you for the reminder. As for the deniers (and Trump supporters), I find myself shaking my head in disbelief. There’s a woman on a FB RV group who seems to love wildlife and being out in nature but denies climate change…and when questioned her response is that she doesn’t feel the need to explain herself. I wonder, is it just laziness or, as your friend, Marianne, also commented above…selfishness? The Our Planet Netflix series is wonderful but it’s not only the ‘thoughtful’ people who need to watch it and learn. But, yes, we can each make a difference.
    I’m rambling! Thank you again…and I look forward to the next adventure…yours and mine!

  9. So much to fear, so little time to enjoy. Deede and I thank you for a great but sobering conclusion to your trip to Eden.

  10. ” “Whenever I get up at this hour, I always wonder why I don’t do it more often.””
    As do I, but then I remember… lol.

    I agree with all the comments above about your wonderful writing, although I think the Walmart comment is a stretch, at least for me.
    This series has been a terrific joy to read and travel along with you. Thanks again!

  11. Yet another thanks for taking us along on your adventures……. You have a way with words – and even those Android photos rock!

  12. What everyone said above…thank you, Suzanne.

    –Mr. McGuire to Ben: “Just one word: Plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.” ~ from “The Graduate”, 1967

    –My grands quote me on this one, for they hear it often from me: “When you throw something away…what does “away” mean?”

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