Our first full day in Galapagos finds us at anchor off Gardner Bay on Espanola Island, also known as Hood. For early-risers morning tea and coffee, fruit and cake is available on the teak deck. At 6.15am kayakers set off to explore the rocky shore line. A few other early risers join Maria for a stretching session on the sky deck. Richard is noticeable by his absence. At 7.30am everyone enjoys a wonderful breakfast in the ship restaurant. After breakfast there's a snorkelling briefing and time to choose and try out wet suits, snorkels and masks. Richard is noticeable by his absence again. Dawn is the fish of the partnership.
Snorkellers head off to Gardner Islet while other guests disembark on Gardner Bay beach, a most beautiful stretch of white sand. Here we can explore, swim, practice snorkelling or simply relax. There are plenty of sea lions, including many inquisitive young ones! A Galapagos Hawk is also kind enough to land on the beach and spend some time with us. Plus there are lava lizards, ground and cactus finches, and the Espanola Mocking Bird - the second of four species we hope to see this week.
Lunchtime finds us back on board the National Geographic Islander enjoying an Ecuadorian Buffet. The galley team and hotel manager Alexa explain the menu and present the various dishes. Suffice to say, we don't go hungry. After lunch the "global market" is opened near the ship reception. Here you can find tasteful locally made souvenirs and t-shirts. Naturally there is a feeding frenzy.
Around 2.30pm, Walter, our on board National Geographic Photo Instructor, gives a presentation about getting the most from your camera - whether point and shoot (which we like to call "aim and create") or 35mm and professional! Everyone brings their cameras and learns a thing or two.
Mid-afternoon we make a dry landing at a point called Punta Suarez. This is one of the richest wildlife locations in Galapagos with sea lions, marine iguanas, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, as well as the endemic waved albatross. There are also lava lizards, mockingbirds, Darwin's finches and the Galapagos Dove. The trail is quite challenging, characterised by boulder hopping almost all the way, but the rewards are great. As another option guests take a short panga ride and see albatross in flight before completing a shorter stroll at a slower pace.
This evening our recap includes our guide Fernando talking about types of sand with examples shown on screen via the ship's microscope, and our guide Juan Carlos talking about types and behaviour of sea lions! Expedition Leader, Lynn Fowler sums everything up and briefs about tomorrow's activities.
Dinner to follow and early to bed (again!)
It has been a wonderful day.