Our interest in visiting Ecuador stemmed from the chance of touring the Galapagos. All the forums and guidebooks say you can find great deals by arranging your trip here. Deals can be found, but none are on the best boats. After doing some research, we decided we wanted to do the Galapagos in style, which far exceeds our RTW travel budget. When we return home, we will save for a two week cruise of the Galapagos, which includes diving.

To placate our desire to see some Galapagos’ wildlife, we headed to what is known as the poor man’s Galapagos, the Isla de la Plata. We arranged our tour through Machalilla Tours, which included a whale watching expedition.

Pushing out from Puerto Lopez, we encountered fishermen arriving with their catch of the day. Flocks of pelicans swarmed the boats and the men carrying buckets of fish to waiting trucks. It was like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds except they were clearly diving for fish.

Once aboard the boat, we spent several hours searching for humpback whales on the horizon. October is the tail end of their migration past Ecuador as they head south to Argentina, so we were elated when we spotted three whales; two adults and a baby. Our friends that took a tour the day before, said the baby whale they saw performed several breaches for them. Our baby was apparently not as receptive to us as she did only one and we all missed the shot.

After enjoying the whale migration, we set off for the island. As part of the National Machalilla Park, the Isla de la Plata is protected and home to several bird colonies. We could choose between two hiking routes—one had great views and possibly sea lions, the other had more species of birds. We chose the hike that took us along a path for viewing the blue-footed, red-footed, and masked boobies and magnicefent frigates birds.

We came across the blue-footed boobies first. It is mating season for them, so we saw many in pairs and some protecting their eggs. Apparently, the Spaniards called them clowns, or bobos, due to their strange appearance and awkwardness on land. Apparently, their mating dance is quite the spectacle with both pairs taking part is a sort of courtship dance. We are not sure whether we witnessed their dance, but we did see what seemed to be a sort of dance amongst a few pairs.

Further along the trail, we saw frigates; the males are identifiable by their red throat patch and females by their white plumage. During mating season, the males puff out their red pouch to attract females. Unlike the skilled, fish-hunting boobies, the frigates are very poor fishers and must steal from the boobies when they return with their catch.

As we hiked on, we passed a few masked boobies with their newborn chicks. The chicks hatched 3-4 months ago and were still under the watchful eye of their mom. Before our return to the boat, we made a short stop to see the red-footed boobies as well. They were a good distance away, but we could still make out their red feet and blue beaks.

Upon returning to the boat, we ate lunch and fed the remnants of watermelon and pineapple to some local sea turtles. Chris later went for a short snorkel, but he reports the coral was grey and not very exciting.

After a day of R&R, we head to Cuenca next, approximately a 12 hour bus ride away. As always, our recent photos can be viewed on Chris’ and Jodi’s flickr pages

One Response to “The poor man´s Galapagos”

  1. Emily Ruth Cannon says:

    I LOVE the blue footed boobies! They’re so fashionable!