Tuesday 1 September 2015

Bye bye boobies

It was our last morning today, and it started early. Up on deck before 6am, we saw the sun rise behind the rocks across a glossy, calm sea into a clear sky. No more snorkelling for us: this morning’s expedition was a panga ride into the mangroves growing around Black Turtle Lagoon where pelicans and blue-footed boobies were preening themselves endlessly on the rocks and in the bushes.

Then, excitement! A huge flock of the boobies – which are a type of gannet – were feeding on schools of fish. That meant aeronautics in the air as they massed and swirled, and then at some invisible signal, dived. One moment they were in the sky, next nano-second arrowing towards the water, all together, then the surface was covered in little explosions, then it was empty, then they were there again, sitting on the water swallowing their fish. It was all so fast, so precise, so exciting! And also, so hard to capture the moment, despite our being able to watch several manoeuvres before moving on.

There were sea lions, a hawksbill turtle, brown noddies, frigate birds – all familiar to us now; and then there was the Ocean Spray again, for our last breakfast before leaving the other four couples who were staying on for a complete week, lucky things, and heading off to the airport at Baltra (where there were sea lions and marine iguanas almost right to the end).

Back in Quito, Cotopaxi has been steadily belching out increasing amounts of ash – very visible from the plane - and the vulcanologists are expecting some real drama within the next 20 days, with mandatory evacuations from the nearest settlements already in force. Selfishly, my main concern is that it holds off for at least another 12 hours so that I can get well clear on my way home tomorrow (just the three flights and 27 hours) to a Pan's pipes-free zone.

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