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One of my favorite things included in the Galapagos island-hopping tour was kayaking in the Ithabaca channel on Santa Cruz Island. The kayaking tour was part of the Darwins Footprints island-hopping tour. We were able to kayak right up to blue-footed boobies sitting on the rocks, and then snorkel in the surrounding waters, surrounded by mangroves and sharks.

Kayaking in the Galapagos

After a 45 minute van ride from Puerto Ayora with our tour group, we arrived at the channel. Ithabaca channel lies between Santa Cruz Island and Baltra, which makes the waters calmer and more sheltered for kayaking. We left the dock and paddled right along the mangrove trees on the shoreline. The view was amazing –  the mangrove trees attracted pelicans and gulls, and I even saw  sharks in the water. In just minutes we would be swimming with the sharks, but luckily they didn’t look too hungry.

I shared a kayak with our naturalist guide

I shared a kayak with our naturalist guide

Blue-footed boobies!

The cliffs looked white from a distance. When I got closer I realized that the white color was blue-footed booby excrement. The blue footed boobies liked to sun themselves on the rocks, and their flashy feet jumped out on the backdrop of volcanic rock and excrement. Our tour group boarded the motorboat and immediately whipped out their cameras. Docile as everything else we’d seen, the birds didn’t seem to care.

Blue footed booby on rocks

Blue footed booby sighting!

Snorkeling the Ithabaca Channel

After 10 minutes of photographing the boobies, our guide nudged us to put on our snorkeling gear and hit the water. The channel was teeming with fish. Big schools of grey and yellow angelfish swam by. then the cute stripey sergeant majors. and a couple big parrotfish. You could see the mangrove roots growing right in the seawater, another amazing adaptation. Our guide told us that they can grow in saltwater because they expel the excess salt by concentrating it in old leaves and then shedding them. The mangrove trees form the backbone of the coastal ecosystem. Aside from the birds that nest in its branches, we found a slew of critters hiding in its roots – fish, rays, and even sharks. The white-tipped reef sharks were quite shy, and I found myself chasing them.

Chasing a school of parrotfish

Chasing a school of parrotfish

A stingray hiding in the mangrove roots

A stingray hiding in the mangrove roots

A white-tipped reef shark

A white-tipped reef shark

How many Galapageños does it take to organize a kayaking tour?

After we had finished snorkeling we hopped on board the motorboat and were speeding back to shore. Our guide had even brought a cooler of sandwiches, apples and juice. It was really nice to be fed and shuttled back to shore after getting out of the water soaking wet and I was very glad to return by motorboat. Overall it was surprising the amount of organization and sheer number of people involved in taking us kayaking (the naturalist guide, a tour leader from Red Mangrove, the van driver, and the motorboat driver). Another excellent Galapagos tour!

Have you seen the Ithabaca Channel? What did you see? Let us know in comments!

 

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