Friday, December 8, 2006

Española: Gardner seamount

We start the day with a great dive at Gardner sea-mount: several marble stingrays hiding in the sand or under overhangs, eagle-rays in the blue and a small school of about twenty golden cow-nose rays flying by! Not to mention two huge jackfish.

Not so great is that I've lost my group... they just disappeared into the blue and did not come back to the reef as agreed in the pre-dive briefing. So I surface alone, amid 2m swells. No land nor zodiac in sight. Before deploying my SMB I blow my tank-pressure-powered horn. While pretty shrill it sounds rather meek in the middle of the ocean. No worries though, a bit later a zodiac appears. And moves on without picking me up! Because I belong to the white team, and it's the yellow team's zodiac... I'm still bobbing there in disbelief when the green team's zodiac passes by and just leaves me there too. Incredible. They do return however once they've picked up their team members and remain by my side until my own zodiac finally arrives.

The second dive, at the same place, is even better than the first one. First a squadron of six eagle-rays passes by within shooting range. Later followed by another one of five. And I get to see some more marble rays and sea turtles too.

 Eagle-rays
Long sunny walk at punta Suarez, where we get to see the usual inhabitants: sea-lions and marine iguanas. The iguanas have red flanks here, due to their diet consisting primarily of red algaes. We also get pretty close to masked and blue-footed boobies. The latter have an elaborate courtship ritual that we're luckiy enough to witness: the male slowly lifts one foot after the other, in a funny dance, the female -if interested- mimicks his steps, he then raises his beak straight up in the air, as well as his tail and wings, to see if she really means it, if she does she'll mimick him again. After repeating this a number of times, confirming their partnership, they'll then get a bit more romantic by touching beaks and picking up twigs. Pretty cute.

Blue-footed boobies
Further on, we also sight a few waved albatros, the last ones of this breeding season, as most have already taken off.

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