“I never dreamed that islands, about 50 or 60 miles apart, and most of them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same rocks, placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly equal height, would have been differently tenanted; but we shall soon see that this is the case.”
Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle.
The plan had been to spend the morning in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The Galápagos capital and oldest settlement sits on the southwestern coast of San Cristóbal Island, one of the oldest in the archipelago and the closest to continental Ecuador. San Cristóbal is the island where Darwin first came ashore in 1835 and is named for St. Christopher, patron saints of seafarers.
I was looking forward to exploring the little town of about 7,000 and had done a fair bit of research before we left home. But on the day we had boarded the Flora, I knew from the revised itinerary in our cabin that the ever-present Covid threat had put a disappointing wrinkle in our plans. We would be living in a Covid-free pod on the ship, and an independent town visit was a risk that Celebrity didn’t want anyone to take.
The revised plan was a sunrise coffee with the ship’s naturalists and a circumnavigation of an island called Kicker Rock. Also known as León Dormido – the sleeping lion – Kicker Rock is a vertical tuff cone that rises nearly 500 feet from the ocean. The dual names refer to the shapes that the rock takes on at different angles.
Herb and I headed to the Flora’s top deck as the sun was beginning to break through cracks in the cloud-filled sky. I wasn’t convinced that a rock formation shaped like a shoe would hold my attention for the entire circumnavigation, but I found Kicker Rock surprisingly intriguing. The imposing formation added texture to the morning’s sunrise as soft blues and yellows wove around it, reflecting in the water and creating a lovely scene.
The sunrise was over before the ship had made its complete navigation of Kicker Rock. Herb and I stayed on for the duration, chatting with some of the naturalists and watching the interesting shapes and angles come into view. It was easy to spot the shoe, to be sure, but I’m not quite certain about that sleeping lion!
Our afternoon excursion was a zodiac ride along the coast of Punta Pitt, a point of land on the northeastern tip of San Cristóbal. Punta Pitt is known as a haven for bird sightings and is the only place in the Galápagos where all three species of boobies – blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca – nest together. I was especially looking forward to seeing those red-footed creatures!
Wind and waves were swirling about as we cruised closer to the shore, creating a challenge for steadying my camera. Birds seemed to be everywhere – soaring overhead, perched on rocky cliffs and nestled in scruffy-looking vegetation. It was a moody, blustery scene and – as we were discovering with each island in the Galápagos – a sharp contrast from where we had been the day before.
I focused my camera toward the island treetops, hoping that spots of red would come into view. Unlike their blue-footed counterparts, red-footed boobies build their nests on the tops of shrubs or in small trees. At first a colony of Nazca boobies began to appear. This is the largest species of the three, identifiable by their bright orange beaks and gray feet.
And then those infamous red feet began to peek through the foliage. These adorable creatures are the smallest of the booby species and have a beautiful pale blue beak to match their stunning red feet. Even at a distance and looking at those faces through the lens of my camera, I couldn’t help but smile.
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Our day at San Cristóbal ended the way it began, with a sunset as beautiful as the morning’s sunrise. Charles Darwin’s observations about the surprisingly different flora and fauna of islands so geographically near each other certainly hold true all these years later. But there is one lovely feature that all the islands have in common.
Oh, do they know how to put on a sunset.