Here be dragons (well, penguins)

Another hot morning and a panga ride to Dragon Hill. We had hoped to see flamingos here but the lagoon was flamingo-free so we had to settle for more big Iguana. How jaded does that sound? Nothing but unique sightings will do for us!

There really is life everywhere here and almost none of it is scared of us. Birds will let you walk right up to them and sealions can barely be bothered to look at you. The terrain around Dragon Hill is fairly flat with occasional volcanic vents creating little puckered mounds, squiggly with cooled lava. We have two guides, Diego and Margot, both of whom are extremely knowledgable. Margot is perhaps more so, but also inclined to serve it up in 20 minute verbal essays while we desperately long for shade, Tom walks in small circles and Diego’s group skips past, heading for a gambol in the surf with pina coladas.

At our second stop, on Bartholomew Island we hoped to see some of the rare Galapagos penguins, of which only 800 pairs exist. We saw one little feller looking lonely on the lava-rock shoreline and he stared at us as we stared at him. We had to shoo some obstinate seaions off the jetty where they were soaking up the sun and not inclined to move. They barked at us for a bit before flopping into the water. We climbed a twisting boardwalk 360 steps up a martian landscape. The soil was red and black and the vegetation had barely taken hold. You could almost feel the rocks cracking in the heat so the breeze at the top felt like a cool stream. The view down a green neck of land with crescent shaped beaches either side had a pleasing symmetry to it.

There was more snorkling later on but P and T opted out and with the sky now clouding over and the sea turning into an unfriendly grey swell I nearly did the same. I’m very glad I didn’t though. The water was clear and cool and within a few minutes I was looking down at the unmistakeable outline of a shark sleeping on the bottom ten feet below. It was a white-tipped shark, four or five feet long. A moment later a big eagle ray flapped past and then another shark which I followed for a while. Green and orange parrot fish looked up with their pursed lips and three little penguins wizzed past my face like fat torpedos after a school of fish. It was glorious.

Author: Richard Lister

Chasing horizons...

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