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August 23, 2010 / Jim Fenton

Day 4: Floreana Island

This is part of a series about our vacation to the Galápagos Islands. To see the first article in the series, click here.

Podt Office Cove

Post Office Cove

August 9, 2010

The day began with an early (6:30 am) Zodiac boat ride to Post Office Cove on Floreana Island. This was one of the more touristy aspects of the trip, a barrel established long ago as a place to leave mail and to pick up mail that you’re able to deliver. According to the tradition, you’re supposed to deliver whatever mail you pick up personally rather than by putting a stamp on it and putting it in a mailbox. Celeste mailed a postcard she had created yesterday in the kids’ program aboard the ship, and picked up a postcard for someone that lives within walking distance of our home, which we will deliver when we get back.

After breakfast, we went for our second snorkeling outing. Overall, this went a lot more smoothly than yesterday, the only hitch being that I managed to bite part of my snorkel mouthpiece off, which caused it to leak a bit more than it should. We took the more moderate option, which was considerably more scenic than yesterday, but we still haven’t seen any sea turtles and the only sea lions we saw were on the coastline nearby. There were only a couple, and if I were them, I’d be intimidated by all the snorkelers in the water together.

Dolphins near the Zodiacs

Dolphins near the Zodiacs

After another great lunch, we had a leisurely early afternoon during which Celeste participated in the daily “kids’ corner” activities where they do artwork or other crafts. Around mid-afternoon, we took a Zodiac boat to a different part of Floreana island. Initially, we wondered where the boat driver was taking us (not toward the island) but soon we found ourselves in the midst of a pod of bottlenose dolphins. They were jumping so close to the Zodiac that Celeste said that she felt that she could reach out and pet them.

We arrived a bit early to Floreana and had a half hour or so to explore the beach area where we landed. The sand was extremely fine, and Celeste and some of her friends had a great time burying heir feet and letting the surf wash over them. The sand was an interesting color of brown — more on that in a minute.

Our hike took us past a brackish pond where some flamingos are often found. Unfortunately, no flamingos today. The pond grows algae on which brine shrimp feed, the brine shrimp being the primary food of the flamingos, which gives them their distinctive pink color.

We continued along the path through an isthmus that separated an ancient volcanic cone from the main part of the island. We came down the hill to another beach with very different sand: still very fine but much yellowed in color. Our guide explained that the color of this sand came from coral and coralline algae just offshore that break up to form the sand. Behind this beach was a sandy area with a number of shrubs that are nesting places for a number of sea turtles. None of the turtles were in evidence, but their footprints definitely were. A lone frigate bird patrolled overhead, searching for newly-hatched baby turtles on the way to the ocean that it could make a meal of.

Crab on Floreana

Adult Crab on Floreana

The beach was beautiful, but you wouldn’t want to swim there. Our guide pointed out a large number of sting rays in the shallow water, a very unpleasant surprise for anyone who might venture in. The shore had other attractions in the form of very colorful crabs (and drab, well camouflaged baby crabs) sitting on the rocks.

Peridot Crystals in Sand

Peridot Crystals in Sand

Upon returning to the original beach, our guide told us more about the distinctive sand color there. Picking up some of the coarser grains of sand, she showed us that the greenish tint came from tiny crystals of the mineral peridot. Kenna was particularly charmed by this, having always had an affinity to peridot in part because it is her birthstone.

We returned to the ship, got cleaned up, and visited with some of the other guests before the daily “recap” meeting and dinner. We had dinner with three of the ship staff, including the doctor, who told us some fascinating stories about the history of the Endeavour and other ships in Galápagos service. After dinner there was a bedtime story about the history of Floreana emphasizing some early disappearances of people from the island.

For more information on our day at Floreana, you can also read the Daily Expedition Report from the Lindblad Expeditions website.

Postscript (August 22): This evening we walked over and delivered the postcard we picked up on Floreana to a surprised recipient a half-mile or so away from our home. He told us that a cousin of his had been to the Galápagos recently. It was apparently this cousin who had sent the card. The Floreana post office barrel works!

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