October 23, 2006
I signed up for a tour today of the Isla de la Plata, the Island of the Silver, which is the second place I've been to that's been referred to as "The Poor Man's Galapagos." I was loaded onto a small boat along with several Czechs, Germans, and Brits for the long journey of one and a half hours. There were no forward-facing seats, so we all sat around the sides and looked at each other the entire time. The water was really rough, so the boat swayed front-to-back and side-to-side constantly. A lot of people, including myself, looked seasick, and I came to within inches of barfing over the side when I noticed that we were almost there.
When we got to the island, we were introduced to our guide, who seemed more intent on telling us what we wouldn't see than what we would see. There would be no whales because they have already left the area by this time of year. The albatross only came to the island to breed, and it was the wrong time of year for that activity. There might be a couple sea lions, but probably not because of a lack of food. The one type of animal in abundance on the island was the boobie.
Our group walked up lots of hills to the top of the island, where we saw our first boobies, of the blue foot variety. We were explained that both the males and females watched the eggs, and you can tell the difference between them by the size of their pupils (females have bigger ones). We watched them for a long time, then made our way toward Las Torres, two large rock towers on the other side of the island. Next, we saw several masked boobies, who don't mix habitats with their blue-footed cousins. Finally, we walked back to the shore and saw a bunch of crabs walking around.
The last part of our tour involved snorkeling. We pulled the boat around to a calmer part of the island, put on our masks, and jumped in. A school of brightly-colored tropical fish swam our way, and the guide fed them bread crumbs. When everyone had had enough, we took the boat back to the mainland.
It was fun to get out on the sea (despite the seasickness) and walk around on a remote island, but given the lack of wildlife, I'd be more inclined to call the island "The Broke Man's Galapagos."
The photo album for this entry is here