Friday, October 28, 2005

Poor man´s Galapagos

An hour up the coast by road from Montañita and circa an hour and a half by boat out into the Pacific from Puerto Lopez (I´m not certain as I was sleeping off a hangover on the way out and distracted by huge seabound mammals on the way back) lies ISLA DEL PLATA. This differs to the Galapagos as it is part of the continental shelf (and not volcanic) and is lacking in most of the wonderful species that make those sets of islands world famous, but at $42 for the day as opposed to $1000 plus plus for a week it worked out to be a fabulous budget option.

Trekking (or hobbling with my blisters) around the island you see dozens of blue footed boobies mainly on their nests seeming jolly confused at what these bipedal camera clicking things are. You can walk within a foot of a nest (you have no choice as they seem to enjoy nesting on the path with projectile excretion all around them) and they will at most look confused if they pay attention to you at all.

All in all the island is a bird-spotters paradise. I saw masked boobies, red-footed boobies, frigate birds (robbing other birds in mid-air just like in BBC nature programs), vultures and large pelicans diving down to the water for their catch. The highlight on the island was though undoubtedly the sight of a large ALBATROSS chick waddling off into the brush followed by the sighting of an adult on the nest. A real privilege to see such giant fliers in person (they live the rest of their lives at sea) - wonderful.

This was followed by a great snorkel amongst numerous fish species including large wrasse, trumpet fish, blowfish, starfish, a single tuna (I think) and large showels of beautifully coloured and shaped fish.

The trip back to the mainland more than capped off the day with a fantastically fortunate sighting of a mother, father and infant humpback whale. Fortunate in the respect both that it is out of season and you are always fortunate to see such incredible creatures. We cruised alongside them for I guess 10 minutes or so, but I was lost in their beauty and in such situations a sense of timing is rather lost. I have been incredibly lucky to have had very close encounters with humpbacks in Australia, but the unexpected nature of this sighting was special. Not even one of the crew swiping (I suspect) my knife could dampen the memory. There were a lot of smiles as we cruised back into the sleepy fishing village with numerous pelicans improving the scenery. Such occasions make you look closely at what you're doing with your life day to day - as good days as this do not come along too often in good old blighty.
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