Isabela—Punta Moreno

The boat dropped anchor off Punta Moreno at about 7:30 a.m.  After breakfast, the group landingheaded out for the dry landing (right).  Punta Moreno is the furthest south visitor landing on the western shore of Isabela—one not often visited because the approach to the landing requires considerable skill on the part of the panga operators to maneuver through the mangrove lagoons on the way to the landing point.  I couldn’t find a definitive statement of where Punta Moreno got its name; however, Gabriel García Moreno was president of Ecuador in the 1860s and early 1870s.  Perhaps a fan of this controversial politician named the spot after him.  (If you know the derivation of Punta Moreno’s name more confidently, please leave a comment!)

This point of land offers views of 3 volcanoes:  Sierra Negra, Cerro Azul (both to the east on Isabela) and La Cumbre (to the west, on Fernandina).  Posts along the lava surface Pahoehoeprovided a hint of the path we would follow.  This path was completely on pahoehoe—a ropy or corrugated lava (left).  The word derives from the Hawaiian word for “paddle,” perhaps referring to the swirled appearance of the lava—much as a paddle creates swirls in the water.  I was very glad we were on this path early in the morning.  With no shade and no place to sit, it would have been an exhausting walk much later in the day.  You can get a sense of the expansive and rugged landscape below (with Sierra Negra in the distance to the east).

SierraNegra

Our first wildlife spotting was a lovely Striated Heron stalking prey from a mangrove perch StriatedHeron(right).  In the same genus as the more widespread Lava Heron {link} and the familiar Green Heron from home, the resemblance was obvious.  A Striated Heron looks very much like a Lava Heron, but it has distinctive yellow lores (the space between the eye and the base of the bill).  You can also see streaking (or striations—hence the common name) on the underparts; a mature Lava Heron has an unstreaked gray chest and belly.  (Click on the photo for a larger version of the photo.)

Some very hardy lava cactus seemed to be growing pretty much out of barren rock.  (But I guess LavaCactus_1they don’t call it “lava cactus” for no reason…)  Indeed, LavaCactus_2lava cactus grow only on lava—in fact, they are typically the first plant to emerge on a new lava flow.  The stalks looked like thick fingers to me.  Newer growth is yellow but darkens with age.  You can see a mix of young shoots and older stalks on both of these plants—click on either photo for a larger version.

Walking across vast expanses of black lava, we came across the “stars” ofBrackishPond_2 otherwise dry, rugged Punta BrackishPond_1Moreno—coastal lagoons (photos left and right).  Formed by the lava flow, these brackish lakes collect and mix both sea and fresh water.  In these lagoons, we spotted a Common Moorhen below, (left) as well as 2 Greater Flamingos (below, right).

spacer    CommonMoorhen  spacer   GreaterFlamingos

Zell always had his eye out for views of the stunning Mary Anne.  He captured an image of her beyond one of the lagoons.

MaryAnne_viewWhen we returned to the boats, this towel origami of a Galápagos Penguin greeted us on our beds.  The barman/head server Jairo was the creator!  Others would follow each day and they never failed to bring a smile.

penguinAfter a quick snack and changing into our swimming duds, we headed to the pangas for pre-lunch snorkeling.  We swam with sea turtles, sea lions, marine iguanas, Galápagos Penguins—and Carolina even spotted a Pacific sea horse (which I never saw).  After a bit more than an hour, we clambered back onto the pangas (never an elegant undertaking—that’s for sure!) with the helping hands of the panga operators and Carolina.  Then back to the Mary Anne for lunch while we motored to our next adventure—Bahía Elizabeth!  Click here for our afternoon adventure.

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