Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Isla de la Plata...Our Search for Pirate Treasure

One of our Puerto Lopez adventures was to Isla de la Plata, an island twenty or so miles away from the coastline.  After an hour boat ride, we arrived on the peaceful and beautiful island.  It is called the island of silver because of the lost treasure Sir Francis Drake, that rascal of a pirate, hid somewhere in the sea surrounding the island.  We didn't have any luck finding silver, but we did see a lot of boobies.  Birds, that is.

We saw the blue-footed booby, which is apparently always a crowd pleaser, and a lot of the masked booby.  I was amazed at how comfortable the birds were in our presence.  Many of the masked boobies were taking care of their young, either roosting on their eggs or caring for their just hatched little ones.  The birds allowed us to get inches, and I mean inches, away from them and snap away like we were the booby paparazzi.  The blue-footed booby broke out a couple of dance moves and entertained our group of hikers for about twenty minutes.  The birds comfort level seemed different than the typical tamed animal you typically find at parks and zoos.  It wasn't so much that they weren't afraid of humans, I don't think they were afraid of anything.  From what I have read, the animals that are found on the Isla de la Plata and the Galapagos Islands don't have predators that make them skittish.  It is pretty common for all the animals, sea lions, birds, turtles, to approach anyone or anything that they are curious about.  Pretty incredible.

The four of us also braved a pretty steep hike around the island.  Because we are in the midst of the rainy season, much of the trail had been rained out and was just one long slick of mud.  Also, hikes in Ecuador have proved to be very interesting affairs.  Mostly because the guides go at a fast pace and don't stop that often.  This guide was no different, keeping us clipping along and stopping occasionally to point out birds or plants.  There was a point when the four of us were completely left behind for about an hour of the hike, not entirely sure which direction the group had taken, but confident that if we just followed the coastline we would eventually end up back at the boat.  After the hike, our guide took us to a more secluded part of the island where the boys went snorkeling while Tosha and I stayed in the boat to stay out of the sun.  It was a beautiful island that gave us a little glimpse of what can be found in the Galapagos, as well as a respite from the Carnival parties that were going on non-stop in Puerto Lopez.