Monday 6 May 2013

Santa Cruz Island - Black Turtle Cove

Santa Cruz Island, Black Turtle Cove Panorama
Santa Cruz Island, Black Turtle Cove Panorama from Wiki
Located on the northern shores of Santa Cruz Island, Black Turtle Cove is a very special place; the atmosphere is quiet, contemplative and visual. Galapagos National Park rules require that upon your arrival at Black Turtle Cove via panga, the motor be turned off.  Silence and stillness permeate.  That is until you start to hear the sounds of nature all around you. Listen to the birds, hear the water and waves, listen for the sounds of fish jumping in the still waters, look around and smell the greenness of the mangrove trees that surround this beautiful area. In the panga you will navigate into the cove and then through the mangrove forest, sometimes paddling so as not to disturb the wildlife. The approach to the wildlife in silence assures that the nesting green sea turtles, sharks, herons and rays are allowed to remain peaceful and undisturbed in their natural habitat.

Approach to Black Turtle Cove
Approach to Black Turtle Cove
The mangroves themselves are beautiful, dense and diverse. Some are old; some new. They are not all alike; in fact, there are three mangrove species at Black Turtle Cove. Their root systems merge directly into the shallow blue saltwater of this cove. Their colors vary and the leaves sparkle where they are hit by the tropical sun.

Mangrove Forest at Black Turtle Cove
Mangrove Trees by Tom Frog

It looks to the untrained eye like a dense forest of trees and branches, impossible to navigate.  The vegetation and growth will appear seamless.  However, there actually are pathsways that meander through the mangrove swamp, discernible by only the panga driver and guide.  As you gently move and lift some of the low hanging mangrove branches aside, the panga will glide through the swamp and give you the chance to see that it is teeming with life.

Heron in Mangrove
Heron in Mangrove by Tom Frog

Quietly, you will approach White Tipped Sharks, Mustard Rays, Spotted Rays and Green Sea Turtles. You may be lucky enough to come across a Lava Heron, Yellow Warbler or Blue Footed Boobie.

Pelican in Mangrove
Pelican in Mangrove

Pelicans may be seen drifting and feeding in the cove or perched in a mangrove tree.

Green Sea Turtle
Green Sea Turtle
The Green Sea Turtles use Black Turtle Cove for mating, which usually occurs in January. In February, the Green Sea Turtles nest and lay their eggs. They lay from 50-200 eggs, many more than will ultimately survive because as the little babies navigate their way to the water, they are vulnerable prey to predators. The Galápagos green turtle is on the endangered species Red List of threatened species.

Mangroves, Pelican and Moon at Black Turtle Cove
Mangroves, Pelican and Moon by Tom Frog
You may visit more than one mangrove forest on your Galapagos Islands visit, but the one at Black Turtle Cove is the most inspirational and peaceful.

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