I just need to pop-in to the Pirate Post Office
Tomás De Berlanga, Ecuador
Vern: When we awoke, the boat was docked off the coast of Española island, and after breakfast we boarded the dinghy to go ashore to Gardner Bay. The beach appeared to be very rocky but as we neared the coast the rocks started wriggling and barking and it became evident that we were joining a colony of around 50 sea lions. The books in our beach bags went unread, as we spent the morning swimming, snorkelling and sunning with the sea lions. While snorkelling we awoke a grumpy stingray, who was covered sneakily in sand and followed him for several minutes until he lost us. Later, after a rinse and a snack we snorkelled in a rocky bay with a volcanic cave. Both the rock formations and the fish were wonderfully colourful.
After lunch we hiked at Suarez Point, home to endemic green and red marine iguanas, nesting albatrosses and the Nazca boobies. A wounded baby boobie prompted our guide to describe a bizarre behaviour: Breeding pairs who fail to have hatchlings (for example, because a rat ate their eggs) seek out the young of other successful breeding pairs, and while the parents are away fishing, the other birds viciously attack the baby bird. Those are some psycho birds!
The following day on Floreana Island, Andrea dropped a postcard off at the Pirate Post Office. For a few hundred years, seamen left letters in a barrel and if another ship was heading in the direction of where the letter was addressed, they'd pick it up and deliver it to its destination. Apparently, it used to take three to nine months to get a letter to it's destination, but today travellers are picking up the unstamped postcards and when back at home are hand delivering them or posting them locally and the turn around time averages three weeks.
Also on Floreana, we donned our headlamps and descended down a dark lava tube, into a volcanic cave forty meters below the island's surface. The tunnel gave way to a large chamber which housed a small ice cold underground lake which we paddled around in.
That afternoon, we went flamingo-spotting at Cormorant Point, and were treated to some more snorkelling with some young black tip sharks amongst the abundant sea life we'd grown
Amusingly, most days on the boat, we and every other passenger, hit the sack soon after dinner - at around 8pm. With three or four activities crammed into a day under the equatorial sun, we were exhausted.