Friday, Jul 6, 2018

Let’s Go to Isla de la Plata

I had the opportunity this week to visit Isla de la Plata. It is an island located an hour’s boat ride out of Puerto Lopez. It is known locally here as the poor man’s Galapagos.

Many people I have talked to in the past have gone to visit this “mini” Galapagos. Why did it take me so long? When I ask people how it was, this is always their first reply…”Well, it’s okaaaaay…and then they trail off into something about they need not go again. In my book, that meant it wasn’t that great.

So what did I think? I went with zero expectations and I was pleasantly surprised. But before I get into that let me give you some background how I ended up there.

I met this very cool young couple in Olon a few weeks ago. Vironika is a life coach and Jamie works online. Jamie and I share experience with the same men’s organization I have been involved with for 15 years. So, a life coach and a fellow brother seemed like a cool serendipitous experience for me.

They invited me to go to Isla de la Plata with them. It turned out to be a fun experience. I met them in Puerto Lopez the night before our trip. The sunset that night on the beach was awesome. Vironika had enough sense to get a shot of it…the first one any of us had seen in at least 10 days.

Sunset Puerto Lopez Beach

Launch From Puerto Lopez

We bought our tickets for Isla de la Plata through the hotel we stayed at, Piedra del Mar. It was a pretty decent hotel. For only $31 a night I would definitely stay there again. It included a basic breakfast which actually had decent coffee.

A ticket for the tour of Isla de la Plata was $31. It included fruit and a muffin on the way over, guided tour of the island, a couple of sandwiches afterwards, snorkeling around a live reef, and whale watching. Not a shabby deal! You might ask why $31 dollars and not $30 or $35. I have a theory,  the $1 goes to the hotel concierge to for his beer money. 😉 

After eating breakfast the morning of our tour, our guide met us at the hotel walked with us to the dock to catch our boat to Isla de la Plata. The ride over was amazingly smooth. We were told the trip would take one hour unless we saw whales and stopped….which we didn’t.

Sea Turtle Serenade

When we arrived at the Isla de la Plata the sea turtles were waiting for us in the bay. These turtles aren’t dumb. They know when a boat pulls up they get to eat the banana peels from our snack on the way to the island.

Our guide gave us the choice to follow the trails at lower elevation and see fours species of birds, or to go the the top of the island and see only two species, the Blue Footed Booby and Frigate. Personally, I am all about the views…to the top baby!

isla de la plata
From the Top of Isla de la Plata
Isla de la plata
Panoramic View Isla de la Plata

When we arrived at the top, a pair of Blue Footed Boobies were waiting to greet us.

Isla de la Plata

Our guide explained that the feet of the Blue Footed Boobies range in shades of blue. When born, a Booby’s foot is white and turns blue with age. What causes the feet to turn blue is an accumulation of carotenoid pigment from the sardines the birds eat from the ocean. The more they eat, the bluer their feet turn. Studies have shown that females prefer a mate with bluer feet…maybe indicating he eats well. Even in the bird kingdom it is hard to marry for love.

Speaking of love, a pair of Blue Footed Boobies will remain monogamous for their whole mating…year. The next year they will find new mates and then remain monogamous once again. Vironika called it serial monogamy. Our guide’s face got a big smile and then he just said, “I call it smart.”

Me, Vironika, Jamie

So Many Boobies

Along the way we saw Boobies courting, sitting on eggs, and watching over a chick. In the Booby world, the male and female booth sit on the nest. They take turns flying to the sea for sardines.

Boobies surround their nests with their Booby poop. That is what the white ring is that you see around the bird.

How do you tell a male Booby from a female Booby? Well it is by the size… of the pupils of course. A female Booby has larger pupils than a male. In the picture below the Booby at the top of the pic is a female and the male is below.

I Heard You the First Time
I Need a Beer
Back Away and No One Gets Hurt

Frigate Frenzy

We passed many Frigates flying in the wind currents along the steep slopes of the island. In this area it is the female Frigate who flies above while the males dot the hillside below. Each male Frigate puffs out its red throat to attract a female overhead. The males flap their wings creating a vibrating sound, as well as whistle. I was told the females are attracted to the males with the biggest pouch. Really ladies…doesn’t personality count?

Whale Watching

On the boat ride back to Puerto Lopez we saw a lot whales breeching.  We passed two whales each trying to out breech the other. We were told this was a competition for control of the area and the females who may be in it. Not sure who won but it was great to watch.