Rábida Island

Monday, 9 July (Part V)

After a great morning ashore on Santiago Island, we had about three hours for R&R while the Xpedition repositioned to Rábida Island, our next landing site.  Though the Blue Finch Bar was closed, we ate our carried-from-the-buffet lunch up there before snagging a couple of the loungers on deck 6 to relax.  The canvas cover provided plenty of shade and the ship’s movement generated a light breeze to make conditions for sitting outside quite comfortable.

Rábida is just south of Santiago Island, where we made our morning landing.
[map courtesy of the GalapagosIslands.com website]

Rábida Island — Jervis to the British — was named for the convent in Spain where Christopher Columbus left his son during his voyage to the Americas.  If I had to take a guess at why the island was named for a convent, I’d say it was because in 1892, on the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of the Americas, the islands were officially renamed Archipiélago de Colón (Archipelago of Columbus).  Not that anyone really uses that name.  The islands are still referred to by the name they were given in 1570 — Insulae de los Galopegos (Islands of the Saddle-Backs), or the Galápagos Islands, in reference to a kind of tortoise with a carapace shaped like a saddle that was popular at the time.

Since I’m on a segue here, might as well mention another name given to the islands during the Colonial times — Las Islas Encantada (Enchanted Islands).  I’ve only ever seen this name used in promotional material.  Considering the special hold the islands seem have over so many people, I’d say that’s an appropriate name.  Of course, back in the day enchanted places were considered menacing; not so much now.

Back to the story of our afternoon.

We found the brilliant red cliffs, formed by lava emitted from spatter cones and eroded over time, and the red-sand beach to be in stark contrast to the landscape we saw on Santiago just hours before.

the lava here has a high iron content; hence the red color.  Our landing site is on the left
edge of the beach; part of our walk will be as far as the landslide in the middle of the picture.

We have a hitchhiker at the ship’s bow; namely the painted locust (Galápagos grasshopper).
Considering the ship has been anchored offshore and nowhere near land, the
grasshopper either hitched a ride on one of us when we left Santiago, or flew a
considerable distance, or a bird dropped its meal as it was flying overhead.

Of the two excursion options — longer walk (1 mile [1.6 km]; 2 hours) and optional snorkel, vs zodiac ride with short walk and optional snorkel — we opted for the first one.  Rather than rushing to board the pangas when the announcement came at 3:30p, we hung back.  Hoping for a smaller group, we got our wish.  There were a total of 6 of us instead of the usual 16, but I think our secret is out.  Every other Xpedition group we came across commented about the size of our group and the advantage of hanging back.  Looks like we might have more competition going forward :-)

Water shoes on our feet; pants legs rolled up — we’re ready for another wet landing.

And we’re off!

This was another wet landing.  We slipped off the side of the panga into ankle deep water.  The bottom was mostly sandy, with some small rocks.  Since we prefer to change into trail hikers once we get ashore, we’ve decided that we’re going to go barefoot for future wet landings (unless the cruise director warns us otherwise).

On the beach, we were greeted by the ubiquitous sleeping sea lions — this time a family of three.  As it turns out, the adults were sleeping, but the pup was nursing.  When a few people got too close to the cave, it became apparent that the male — assumption on my part based on its size — was quite aware of our presence.  He got up to strut his stuff and warn people off.

(Surrounded as the sea lions were by red sand and rock, my photos came out with a pinkish tint that I didn’t care for, so you get a B&W treatment instead.)

The pup nurses for quite a while, moving from one teat to another.

Proud Papa?  Perhaps; it is considerably bigger in size than the cow from which the pup is nursing.

The first part of our walk was along the beach.  It was a rather short one as a landslide not only blocked our path, but made it dangerous to continue around it.  There were pelicans and blue-footed boobies flying off-shore, and sea lions sleeping here and there, but otherwise our sightings here were limited to small species; none of which were new to us.  We enjoyed seeing them nonetheless.

Galápagos Mockingbirds
These three came to visit us on the rocks where we were sitting to change into our trail shoes.

Here’s the story with these mockingbirds.  When the bird on the right uncovered the
remains of a ghost crab, the one on the left came rushing for its share.  Before long …

… there were three mockingbirds.  When the one that uncovered the ghost crab
started digging again, the one in the middle became quite vociferous, almost as though
it was trying to warn off the first bird.  Neither paid much attention to the third bird.

The second part of our walk was inland.  First, we went to a small saltwater lagoon where we hoped to see flamingos; we were skunked!  Pelicans nesting in the salt brush are supposed to be one of the highlights of the island; we didn’t see them either.  Despite the lack of visible wildlife along the way, the walk was a nice one, and we enjoyed seeing the varied terrain.  William Cox, our naturalist, pointed out the cacti, palo santo trees, and some of the other flora as we made our way back to the beach.

We catch a glimpse of the Xpedition during our inland walk.

Left: William educates us about the Opuntia profusa, an endemic cactus;
center: Without animal dispersal, the fruit of the opuntia cannot spread far;
right: opuntia with a palo santo tree in the foreground.  the latter is related
to frankincense and myrrh; it’s Spanish name means Holy Wood.

The inland trail leads us to the cliffs overlooking the ocean.

Clinging to the eroded cliffs, the Opuntia continues to Flourish.

We’re no stinkin’ rule breakers; William and I both heed the warning signs on the trail markers.

The sticky berries of the muyuyu tree (Cordia lutea) are also known as glue berries.

These are the flowers of the Muyuyu Tree.
[Photo taken on Santiago Island.]

Galápagos Mockingbird perched on a Muyuyu Tree.

I was told that we might see the endemic Galápagos snake on the hike; we didn’t.  That’s one sighting I don’t care to have, thank you very much.

The final part of our landing was the optional snorkel … coming up in the next and final post for today.


  1. No matter how beautiful that painted locust is, I DO NOT like them.
    Great photo of you two with the cliffs behind you. Another wonderful day!

  2. Lovely walk! Even without flamingos and pelicans, you captured great Mockingbirds.

  3. I'm really enjoying your pictures of unusual things. My favorite here is the opuntia. Cool.

  4. I agree with Barbara, that shot of the opuntia on the cliff was delightful!