7 – 13 July: Puerto Villami, Isabela ~ 00 57S 90 57W
Where Will We End Up?
After being rolled and blown out of Academy Bay on Santa Cruz our day sail was very fast and very sporty. Clearing the shoals at the bottom of Santa Cruz took forever before we could bear away a little and make Balvenie more comfortable. The swell was big and confused, the winds were up to 25 knots in front of the beam and the current made the ride similar to taking on rapids in a river, we compared it to being in the Gulf Stream with strong winds and tide against us, not one of our better days.
The approach to the anchorage at Puerto Villami on Isabela is totally exposed to the south, the winds and swell were from the south and the silence between us was deafening as we both contemplated our options. If on final approach we felt it unsafe to enter the harbour with the current conditions then we had two options ~ either return 100 miles overnight to the closest safe anchorage at Wreck Bay on San Cristobal or continue 3,000 miles to French Polynesia, we truly didn’t like those two alternatives.
Then, with about 2 miles to go, the sun came out, the winds reduced to a manageable 15 knots and the tide changed ~ all within about 5 minutes. The seas flattened some and as we headed to shore we both finally breathed again, we could do this. We radioed Danish Blue and Mezzaluna who were behind us and gave them the good news, we could hear the collective sigh of relief!
The beauty of the anchorage exceeded our expectations. Between us and the ocean lie several groups of black volcanic rocks and also mangrove islands, at high tide the water comes over a little but at low tide we have good protection.
There are also several rocks inside the anchorage so it is not frequented by as many tour boats as our other two anchorages were so the harbour is mainly peaceful and flat. The blue footed boobies, pelicans and penguins rule the roost here, the tiny penguins play in the waters with the sea lions, the boobies and pelicans fish together for the catch of the day. Meanwhile we sit and watch in awe as nature unfolds around us.
A Bombardment of Boobies
We watched an exceptional display of a mass feeding frenzy at dawn, with hundreds of blue footed boobies blackening the sky behind Balvenie, vying for position over the shoals, then bombs away as they dove at speed into the bubbling waters to collect their breakfast, absolutely incredible and all over within a few minutes. Photos can never do these displays justice but I tried my best. On a dinghy excursion around the anchorage we got up close to the little penguins, just a foot tall, congregating on rocks only a couple of hundred metres from Balvenie. Photographing them while swimming has been a challenge, they are pocket rockets and not nearly as inquisitive as the sea lions. The Great Blue Herons perch on top of the mangroves, changing disguise from compact and dumpy to tall and elegant in the blink of an eye, a stunning transformation.
In company with Jeff and Katie on Mezzaluna, and 7 other holidaymakers we joined a Rosedelco Tours 6 hour boat trip along Isabela’s southern coast to Cabo Rosa and the Tuneles de Lava (Lava Tunnels). We headed at speed along the coast, making a short stop for photos at a rocky offshore outcrop, battered by wind and waves but home to nesting Nazca Boobies.
Then it was in through a break in the surf into a protected mangrove area. This was our first snorkel stop and quite frankly for those of us that do a lot of snorkelling jumping overboard into cool murky waters and swimming through mangrove root systems was really not at all appealing. For the first 10 minutes we barely saw even a fish but then we were rewarded with a seahorse, much larger than I expected (everything here is super-sized!) and coiled around a mangrove root, not an outstanding specimen but our first seahorse.
Away from the mangroves and on through the murky depths and I turned to find myself face to face with the most enormous turtles I have seen, two of them just going about their business while we looked on in awe. These giants were everywhere, enough for all us tourists to adopt one each and spend time with them, it was breathtaking to be so close and not have them swim away.
All turtled out it was time to turn our attention to less welcoming snorkelling partners, the Tintoreras or White Tipped Sharks. We found them snoozing under a lava rock tunnel, even in their sleepy state they looked menacing.
Surfing In A Speedboat
Back on board it was time to move further along the coast to the Lava Tunnels and Bridges. This involved going back out through the surf, speeding along about another 20 minutes then heading back into shore and the rocks, but this time there didn’t actually look to be a break in the surf. Us four sailors hunkered down under the cabin thinking this could be very messy, while the holidaymakers looked out and enjoyed the real life Disney ride, this was not something to be attempted in Balvenie!!!
Once into sheltered waters there was another stop for snorkelling, I lasted only a couple of minutes before the chill penetrated my bones, skipper did better and managed to see another sea horse and chased several camera shy penguins.
Our last stop was into the lava tunnels, the Venice of the Galapagos. An incredible area formed over the centuries from explosions of lava rock that have cascaded down to the oceans edge where erosion from water and wind has removed great chunks of rock and natural tunnels, caves and bridges have been formed. Little vegetation survives, mainly some hardy cactus but the bird and sea life have moved in and made this unique setting their home.
Each Day Is A New Adventure In These Amazing Islands