Monday, February 23, 2015

The Tunnels – Isla Isabela, Galapagos

We signed up for a boat tour of the ‘Tunnels’ ($80 per person, 5 hours). On the way down to the south end of the island we were about 2 1/2 miles offshore in dead calm when the driver stopped the boat so we could check something frolicking in the water. It was 3 or 4 Manta Rays. These beasts get up to 22 feet wing span. The one in this picture is traveling under the boat, hence my shoe in the image, and is probably about 15-18 feet wing span.tunnelsP2210010
tunnelsP2210001 The top side is mostly black and the underside here in this picture is white. They are magnificent creatures who amazingly eat plankton by filter feeding – up to 60 lbs a day. Just seeing these guys offshore made the tour worth it.
To get into the Tunnels they drive the tour boat at high speed through the breaking surf line. That’s Dwyer from s/v Rascal filming with his GoPro. He’s a single-hander who made it here, Isabela island, from Huatulco, Mexico – about a 1,000 mile passage. He’s heading to Chile via Easter Island in a few weeks. His goal is to go do some remote back country skiing off his boat from the Chilean canals.
tunnelsG0141294 The tunnels are made up of volcanic lava with dozens of arches, above and under the water. These are the remnants of lava tubes formed during volcanic eruptions. Isla Isabela is made up of 5 semi-active volcanoes and the landscape is all volcanic rock.
The barren land makes for good boobie hangouts.
The penguins at this end of the island are apparently a long way from any dry-cleaners – they were all having bad hair days.
tunnelsP2210029 If you look just about dead center of this pic you can see a large green turtle cruising through the lava maze.
tunnelsP2210030  Cactus on the shore and turtle in the water.
Lot of underwater volcanic caves for the fishies to hide in.
A school of razor fish cruising by.
A ray hiding in the shade of a tunnel.
This one is hard to make out, but it is a seahorse,about 4-6 inches tall, sitting in a crack in the lava about 12 feet under.
A big green turtle moving close by underwater. These guys weren’t the least bit skittish, unlike so many of the turtles we’ve seen in other places. They’re accustomed to the tourists and seem to understand that they’re part of the show here.
That’s Chris getting up close to the same turtle.
This place is famous for the white-tipped sharks who come to the shallows to rest in the underwater caves.
Can you guess why they call them white-tipped?
One of the offshore islands we went by on our way out, with boobies on top.

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