After another early breakfast we headed off in the little water taxis for a one hour ride to today's destination. These taxis were slightly different, powered by two sizeable outboard motors, and could reach a fair speed in the open water. It was grey, and raining slightly, there was a 4-5 foot swell, and we were cold and damp in the open boat and wondering if maybe 10 days would have been long enough to spend here. By the end of the day we had all changed our tune as it turned out to be one of the best days so far!
After pausing briefly as we passed a tiny rocky outcrop, Roca Union, home to dozens of birds, we powered towards our destination, the skippers steering skillfully through the swell. Their skills at the helm are impressive, and they can spot wildlife at a distance, even at full throttle, and slowed down for us to photograph huge manta rays, and mating sea turtles.
When we reached the shore we slowed to a crawl as the boats navigated a labyrinth of narrow twisting lava tunnels – the remains of lava tubes which once travelled from the top of the volcanoes to the sea. It was an eerie landscape with mangroves and cacti, rocky canals, arches and caves. I was amazed how far we travelled in our boats (never once touching the sides) until we tied up on a patch of rock and clambered ashore. We were able to wander for a while, exploring the area, avoiding cracks, crevasses and loose rocks. We found a blue-footed booby nest, and spotted white tipped reef sharks (tintoreras) and sea turtles (tortugas) in the water.
Our guides then took us to a snorkelling site where they hoped we would find the tintoreras and tortugas. It hadn't got any warmer, so we jumped into the water somewhat reluctantly. The water was murky because of the weather, and all we could see were rocks and a few fish. Suddenly the captain called us over to show us some tintoreras he had found in an underwater cave. It seemed pitch black in there and I couldn't see a thing. Next thing one of the guides had swum into the cave to usher the sharks in our direction. We were excitedly filming a couple when he pointed to our feet – we looked down to see a shark swimming directly below us. We managed to get some great photos and video footage (we will share that when we have better internet). Very thrilling.
The captain indicated we should follow him as he looked for tortugas to show us. These guys are so expert – he pointed at a distant patch of vague greenness and suddenly a sea turtle materialised as if emerging from the mist. We got to swim with three huge sea turtles in the end, and watch one feeding on algae, which was just so wonderful. We were all on such a high – we certainly had long forgotten how cold the water was! They are so majestic as they swim, seemingly in slow motion, through the water. Just as I was thinking that the only other sighting I wanted was a stingray, we spotted one and I was able to get out of the water very happy.
Back on the boat there were sandwiches and juice waiting for us, which was a welcome surprise. and we motored back to Port Villamil. Still in our wet cossies, we had to go straight to lunch because we had booked and pre-ordered and were running late. We had a late lunch at around 2.30 – I had the chef's recommendation which was a delicious mixed seafood ceviche.
By the time we ate, showered and uploaded our photos it was time for happy hour. We love the little bar on the beach, and the slightly slower pace of life here on Isabela Island, with afternoons free and time to just enjoy the scenery, the company, and the lifestyle. Our regular restaurant was booked out so we chose another for dinner. We are a group of 14, so we always need to book, and when we arrive there's a long table set up for us, usually in the prime position at the front of the restaurant. I don't know if we are easily pleased, or have low expectations, but virtually all our meals here are inexpensive, plentiful servings and delicious. Tonight I had chicken for a change (garlic chicken with coconut milk rice) and Keith had garlic shrimp. We also shared an piece of Oreo cheesecake (Joel – yours is better).
After such a big day there was no light painting and we collapsed early into bed. Early starts and outdoor activity are catching up with these couch potatoes!