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GARDNER BAY ESPANOLA ISLAND GALAPAGOS BEACH —
SEA LIONS, SEA TURTLES AND GALAPAGOS HAWKS

Story and photos by

When you travel to Galapagos, don't expect an ordinary day on the beach, reading a book or beachcombing. There are just too many eye-opening distractions.

Galapagos sea lion
Galapagos sea lion
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Take Gardner Bay, Galapagos, for example. The beautiful soft white beach is located on the north coast of Espanola Island, opposite Gardner Islet.

How do you get to Gardner Bay? We arrived on the M/Y Eric, a Galapagos cruise ship owned by Ecoventura.

Sea lions

There are actually two beaches at Gardner Bay. Galapagos National Park restricts one to scientists who visit the beach to primarily study mockingbirds and lava lizards.

The second Gardner Bay beach has more than enough natural attractions to occupy any Galapagos cruise passenger. When we arrived, dozens of sea lions were strewn like boulders along the white sand.

Sea lion pup
Sea lion pup
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Many of the sea lions were sleeping. One male sea lion barked when he spotted another male emerge from the water. Jumping into the sea, he chased him away from his females and pups.

We were able to walk right up to the sea lions to take photos, but we were not allowed to touch them. None of the Zalophus californianus galapogoensis wollebacki (scientific name for Galapagos sea lions) were alarmed by our presence. They just gazed at us with eyes as wide and innocent as a child's.

Many of the mother sea lions were nursing babies. "I wouldn't want to be a female sea lion," said Cecibel Guerrero, a Galapagos naturalist who accompanied our group to Gardner Bay. "After the age of five, they have one baby per year, so they are either pregnant or nursing."

Pacific green sea turtle swims in Gardner Bay.
Pacific green sea turtle swims in Gardner Bay.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Green sea turtles

As we were taking pictures of sea lions, we were distracted by a brown pelican that dropped like a torpedo into the water and emerged with a fish. A Nazca booby then pierced the turquoise water like a feathered arrow and caught another fish.

Suddenly, more distractions: Four green sea turtles swam by the surf edge. The Galapagos sea turtles (scientific name: Chelonia mydas agassisi) held their heads above the water as they gracefully paddled their flippers.

Marine iguana eats algae on rocks.
Marine iguana eats algae on rocks.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Marine iguana

Espanola's Gardner Bay held more surprises for us. As we reached the black lava rocks at the end of the beach, we spotted a black and red marine iguana (scientific name: Amblyrhynchus cristatus venustissimus).

Galapagos hawk
Galapagos hawk
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Clinging with his strong claws to the rock so the currents didn't dislodge him, the marine iguana grazed on green algae. The surf periodically bashed his body, but the reptile continued eating his vegetarian diet.

Galapagos hawk

A Galapagos hawk (scientific name: Buteo galapagoensis) surveyed Gardner Bay beach from his perch in a saltbush. He flew down to the sand, where he scavenged from the remains of a baby sea lion.

Although saddened by the scene, it made us acutely aware of the cycle of life in the Galapagos.

It was just one more proof that a visit to Gardner Bay, Espanola Island, is not an ordinary day on the beach.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Ecoventura: www.ecoventura.com

Copa Airlines: www.copaair.com

Ecuador Ministry of Tourism: www.ecuador.travel

More things to see & do in the Galapagos Islands:

Bartolome and Pinnacle Rock Galapagos Cruise Tour

Punta Suarez Espanola (Hood) Island Galapagos - Christmas Iguanas, Mockingbirds and Blue-Footed Boobies

Punta Espinoza Fernandina Island Galapagos - Flightless Cormorants and Lava Cacti

Genovesa Island Galapagos - Doves, Red-Footed Boobies and Short-Eared Owls

Puerto Ayora Santa Cruz Galapagos - Charles Darwin Research Station