Ecuador Day 5: Waved Albatross and Gardner Bay

Palabra del día: albatros de ondas

We awake at 5:45 for another early hike. The crew ferries us to a slippery dock, where we giddily clamber onto Isla Española. The path our guide chooses takes us almost immediately to a pair of waved albatrosses.

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Waved albatrosses are critically endangered due to their propensity for deep waters, vast range, and small nesting area. The majestic birds are the size of pelicans, with wings so long they are tri-folded.

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These birds mate for life; their annual courtship dance is designed both to identify their mate after a long separation and to ensure their mate’s suitability for breeding. The courtship is complex, with peculiar steps and beak clacking combined with a short, honking call.

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We watch them for quite some time as the sun rises over the island, only moving on when our stomachs begin growling. We walk past the nesting area to the cliff edge, where marine iguanas bask invisibly and Nazca boobies take flight. Our goal in this area is a wave flume which hurls the ever-present waves through a small crack in a steaming display.

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We pass another group as we are leaving the island; they are arriving just as a light rain begins.

Breakfast is more juice, french toast, bacon, and quiche. We have the rest of the morning free as the Samba is moving to our next destination. We eat lunch on the way, trying not to spill kidney bean soup on our neighbors as the boat tips with each wave. Chicken and spaghetti, caprese salad, spinach frittata, salad, and rice pudding finish the meal.

We arrive at Gardner Bay in the early afternoon, giving us plenty of time for snorkeling in the shallows, though we expand our trip to deep waters to try to find hammerheads and eagle rays. Instead, we find white-tip reef sharks and turtles; the water is too choppy for more than two of our party to spot a group of rays.

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On the return trip, the height of the waves makes the Other Half seasick, so he stays aboard while a few of us go explore the perfect white sand beaches of Gardner Bay. I am too distracted by the extensive clinical signs of the sea lions (respiratory signs, anorexia and wasting, diarrhea, etc.) to really enjoy it for more than a few minutes.

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Chilly, we return to the boat to find fresh yucca rolls and hot cocoa waiting for us. We move once again before dinner, which thankfully is a still affair. Rice, tuna steak, avocado salad, potatoes, salad, and blackberry juice fill us up, and a dose of benadryl ends the evening (to treat the Other Half’s sleeplessness on the rolling boat, as well as to treat my sun reaction).

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