Day Three: From Bachas Beach to North Seymour

| January 6, 2011 | 5 Comments
This entry is part 5 of 10 in the series Exploring the Galapagos

December 21: Santa Cruz/North Seymour. Wet landing at Bachas Beach (Santa Cruz). The sand at Las Bachas is made of decomposed coral, which makes it white and soft—and a favorite site for nesting sea turtles. Sally Lightfoot crabs are abundant on the lava rocks along the water’s edge. The brackish lagoons here are notable for abundant Flamingoes, Hermit Crabs, Black-Necked Stilts and Whimbrels. Refuel at Baltra. Dry landing at North Seymour, an island that is generally flat and strewn with boulders. Good nesting sites host one of the largest populations of frigate birds, with their magnificent red membranes. Blue-footed boobies perform courtship rituals in the more open areas, and swallow-tailed gulls perch on the cliff edges. Despite the tremendous surf, sea lions haul out onto the beach and can be found together with marine iguanas. Watch the beach for body-surfing sea lions.

Shortly after 7:30am, we depart for Bachas Beach. The name ‘Bachas’ is a Spanish rendering of the English word ‘Barge’. During WWII, barges used to supply the Baltra airbase with water were broken up and abandoned at sea. Over time, the current pushed some of their remains ashore—here and there they can be seen poking up through the sand.

 

brown pelican galapagos Day Three: From Bachas Beach to North Seymour

Brown Pelican

This beach is amazing—we’re the only one who’ve landed here and, despite the WWII wrecks, this is without a doubt one of the most pristine beaches we’ve yet to see. Before heading inland, we spot marine iguanas and ghost crabs. But we’re here for the shorebirds—and the brackish lagoons do not disappoint.

 

bachas beach galapagos Day Three: From Bachas Beach to North Seymour

Beautiful Bachas Beach

According to our guide, Mauricio, these brackish lagoons generally contain soft sediments, which support varieties of green and brown algae, as well as weeds. They are important for their invertebrate fauna. Moreover, the habitat is important for birds, particularly waders, wildfowl and some seabirds such as gulls and cormorants. At Bachas Beach, we spot Galapagos Ducks, Whimbrels, Common Stilits and Swallow Tail Gulls.

 

lava gull galapagos Day Three: From Bachas Beach to North Seymour

Lava Gull

Returning from the lagoons, we happen upon an inquisitive Lava Gull. One of the rarest gulls in the world, the entire population lives on the Galapagos Islands and is estimated at 400 pairs. The bird’s black head, black wings, and dark gray body are quite striking. Its bill and legs are black, and the inside of its mouth is scarlet. They have white upper and lower eyebrows, with red lids.

 

swallow tail gull galapagos Day Three: From Bachas Beach to North Seymour

Swallow Tail Gull

Shortly thereafter, Mauricio points out a Swallow-Tailed Gull—the only fully nocturnal gull and seabird in the world. It preys on squid and small fish which rise to the surface at night to feed on plankton. During breeding season, the adult has a black plumaged head and is notable for the bright red fleshy rim around each eye.

From the beach, we snorkel, having taken our equipment ashore with us. Visibility is down to just two or three metres—but despite this, we snorkel with colourful sturgeon and a lone sea lion who is fishing in the area. He’s caught a large fish and, dropping it, circles us once playfully before heading off into deeper water with his catch. We continue to search the seafloor—and are impressed with the hundreds of sea cucumbers here.

 

magnificent frigatebird galapagos Day Three: From Bachas Beach to North Seymour

Magnificent Frigatebird with inflated membrane.

In the afternoon, we head off to North Seymour but not before stopping for fuel at Baltra. North Seymour is incredible, its red rocky terrain is dotted with Sandalwood, Opuntia Cactus, Palo Santa and Shrub Bushes that serve as excellent nesting material and perches for Blue-Footed Boobies and Magnificent Frigatebirds.

 

blue footed booby millenium Day Three: From Bachas Beach to North Seymour

Mature Blue Footed Booby

Frigatebirds were previously known as Man O’War, reflecting their rakish lines, their speed, and their propensity to steal from airborn birds—harassing them while flying until they let go or regurgitate their prey. Its throat boasts an orange membranous pouch, which becomes bright red in breeding season. During courtship displays, males inflates their membranous red pouch like a balloon and throw their head backwards while stretching open their wings. They fish while skimming over water, capturing fish with its bill on the surface. It drops vertically onto its prey and catches it abruptly. Its plumage is not waterproof, and prevents it from submerging itself.

 

juvenile booby Day Three: From Bachas Beach to North Seymour

Juvenile Booby

Elsewhere, seabirds of all ages dot the flora. Unable to fly, juvenile boobies stare at us from their nests, calling for food. Occasionally, a mother will return with fish for her hatchling.

We return from our walk along the shoreline and spot sea lion pups and a couple of Galapagos snakes, which were once venomous but are no longer. Overhead, Frigatebirds scan the shoreline for food—or victims—some with their pouches inflated.


Disclosure: At Two Go Round-The-World, we value the conversation that exists between us and our readers—and the trust on which that relationship is based. Here we’re committed to creating an environment informed by that trust. In the interests of full disclosure, we travelled with Gap Adventures, with whom Daniel works. That being said, his opinions should not be construed as representing those of his employer. For more information on disclosures and relationships, please check our ‘About Us‘ page.

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About the Author ()

For nearly ten years now, Daniel of Two Go Round-The-World has explored how travel captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. One half of the duo that maintains the widely read Two Go Round-The-World blog, Daniel treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. His latest book, The Physics of Flocking, gathers his favourite writing featured over the past two years on Two Go Round-The-World in columns like 'Looking Back' and 'The Whole Picture'—along with new reflections.

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  1. I can’t see the name booby without giggling…immature, I know! =) But he sure is a looker. I love the red-chested one, too!

  2. ayngelina says:


    So jealous, I’ve spent so much time in Ecuador yet have never seen a booby.

  3. Rebecca says:


    Love the red chest of the frigate birds, and the blue feet of the booby! Very colourful.

    • Daniel says:


      During dry season — they really do stand out. When the rains are gone, there is little variation in colour, overall dull-brown being standard! Although there are exceptions to that rule on certain islands!

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