What a beautiful island, what a wonderful day!

This shows what we got up to after lunch.  Our first attempt at snorkelling and my first attempt at videoing underwater.  As you can see I have a lot to learn!  These are the best bits!  The bits with my finger in front of the lens and the really jerky bits did not make the final edit.  Unfortunately neither did the HUGE turtle that I saw and failed to video – I think that I was already recording and pressed the record button in my excitement, changing the camera to standby!  Oh well, you live and learn.  The next underwater footage will be much better (I hope)

Sue Benjamin and I were wondering what the strange spiky things were, they looked like a cross between a sea urchin (which we also saw) and some sort of tube worm or bivalve.  Will have to look those up.  Or maybe someone at St Cyres could identify them and let us know.  Our internet connection here is very patchy – it took about 3 hours of trying and losing the connection, followed by an upload time of over an hour to get the HD footage up.  Thanks to Mun-Keat at the Wellcome Trust for his help in getting the video online.

I love snorkelling – the total immersion in another, very alien world.  The strange sound of your breathing, the rattling of the water in your snorkel.  Taking a deep breath and diving down, the pressure on your tympanic membrane (eardrum), blowing the water from the snorkel when you float back to the surface!  The relief of the first breath after a long dive.

One of the first things I saw was the stingray.  I spotted it below me and dived down.  Judging distance underwater is very difficult – ask your physics teacher why!!  So I got very close with the camera – not too near the sting though (my Dad got stung when he trod on one in Florida – his foot swelled up like a balloon).  Once it saw that I had spotted it – it was off.  I had to kick with my fins as fast as I could to keep up.  I was soon out of breath and had to drift back up to the surface and then dive down again.  An amazing experience to have such a close encounter.

The turtle was amazing.  Our guide said that another boat had spotted a turtle so we swam to where it had last been seen.  I got separated from the girls and our guide, spun round to see where they were and this massive shape loomed towards me out of the gloom.  It noticed me noticing it and changed direction.  I followed (messing up the filming at the same time).  Again once it knew it was being followed it gave a mighty stroke with its front flippers and pulled away from me.  I tried to keep up, but it was like a motorbike pulling away from a pushbike.  So well adapted to its habitat – its swimming was effortless whilst I kicked as hard as I could in a vain attempt to keep up.

Also saw lots of fish, though the footage of this was too jerky for the final edit.  Will slow down and try for more panning shots, rather than blindly chasing everything that moves in the future!

The boat ride to Floreana was amazing.  Karen, Amy S and I were up on the top of the boat, and though it was very windy and sore on the (un-cushioned) behind as we bumped over the impressive swell coming in (more about this later) we had a great view of the journey.  Just pulling out of the harbour we saw sea lions basking on fishing boats and pontoons.  In the open water we were followed by blue footed boobies and albatrosses.  They were able to keep up with our boat.  We were probably doing 20 knots,  and they used their incredible wings to generate motion from the force of the air moving over the waves.

Getting off the boat we climbed onto the quay and straight in front of us was my favourite animal – a marine iguana, just basking in the sun!  We had 15 minutes later in the day to film them.  We clambered over the rocks between them, passing within a metre of them.  In fact you had to watch that you didn’t stand on one there were so many of them!!

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The marine iguanas were amazing – they just lay there on the rocks in the sun, warming themselves up so that their core body temperature rose enough to give them the energy to swim in the relatively cold water (caused by the Humboldt current) to graze on seaweed stuck to the bottom.  Occasionally you would hear a snorting sound as they sneeze out a spray of concentrated brine to excrete the salt that accumulates in their bodies.  Amazing animals – such a prehistoric look to them.  Definitely number one on my must see list of the Galapagos.

In the morning we had been up to a tortoise sanctuary high up in the mountains.  At that climate the forests are watered by a mist that provides the lush vegetation that the tortoises enjoy.  Because the climate is moist the tortoises found on Floreana do not have a high saddle like part of their shell as they do not have to reach up to eat.

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We also saw Galapagos finches bathing in a pond in the sanctuary:

Before the journey back to Santa Cruz, our boat took us around the coast where we saw a Galapagos penguin, a heron, frigate birds and tropic birds.  See the Flickr site for images of these.

All in all, an amazing day on a beautiful island.  We are off to a local school today.  Looking forward to meeting the children and teachers.  I only hope I don’t fall asleep in class after 3 hours sleep due to the time it has taken to edit the video and upload the blog to the internet!

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