Day seven: Cerro Dragón

Katheryn Hilton

Well its day seven and I think most of us are beginning to feel the effects of having been away for so long. At this point I wonder how I will be able to go to sleep without the rocking of the ship. It's been a truly fantastic trip and an experience that will forever be treasured. This afternoon is the home stretch, our last excursion to the islands. We have lunch and head out around four in the afternoon. We board the dingy and head out to Cerro Dragón. We arrive and have a wet landing on a deposit of a'a lava. As we want across the lava towards the trail we spot a white tipped reef shark swimming just off the shore. We get a fairly good look at him before he swims under the small lava overhang we are standing on. Now we all want to skip the hike so we can go snorkeling with this shark. That however is not an option, the land iguanas await and Dr. Holtz would never sacrifice seeing them. The weather on the island is very hot and humid. The vegetation is very high in some places and I can't emphasize of much the heat and humidity hit you. We begin along the trail and come to a small lagoon area. Luis had told us we may see flamingos here, but for the third time this trip they did not appear when they were suppose to.

While I'm on the topic of the flamingos I actually discovered the secret of the flamingos during are hike back later in the day. I asked Luis why we hadn't seen all this promised flamingos. He told me we didn't pay him enough, if you want to see the flamingos we had to pay him off!!!! My response was I thought we had left the United States. I guess it's a small world after all! Dr. Merck and Dr. Holtz will have to factor that into the budget for their next trip.


Raina films land iguana.

OK, back to the lagoon, even though there were no flamingos there were two black necked stilts. We continued along the path, but we had to be very quiet because we did not want to scare the land iguanas. For me the requirement to be quiet was a challenge, I like to talk and when someone tells me not to talk, I need to talk that much more. Everyone was pretty quiet though and if we did talk we whispered. The quiet thing must have worked though because within a very short time span a fairly good sized land iguana appeared in the middle of the trail. We were all able to get great pictures of him. We then had to quietly step off of the trail through high vegetation so we could pass the land iguana without scaring him. Later minutes down the trail we encounter a male and female land iguana together. We got great pictures of the happy couple and managed to walk past them also without scaring them into the brush.


The trail.

We hiked to the top of a ridge, where we had a fairly nice view of the surrounding area. It was nice, but I'm a fan of views that look out over the water. From this viewpoint you could see the volcanoes and trees in the distance, but no sparkling blue water. We then hiked further along the trail. Along the trail there was quite a bit of brush and shrubs. In some places the vegetation was quite high and itched your legs as you walked along the trail. All along the trail you could see yellow flowers{still unidentified by Dr. Merck} covered with footman moths. These moths are actually fairly exciting for being a moth. When there wings are together they just look like generic brown moths, however, when they spread their wings it is quite a different story. They have this unique orange, brown and white pattern on their wings. We had seen these moths on the other islands, but there was an abundance of them here. We continued along the trail back towards where we started. On the way back we encountered another land iguana, but rumor has it we had already seen him earlier and he was just making an encore appearance.


Footman moth.

We got back to the waters edge and got our snorkeling gear on. It was beginning to get late and the sky was starting to get darker. At the beginning of the trip the whole group begged to go snorkeling, by this point only about half of the group even got in. We were all very excited about seeing the white tipped reef shark, but he took off once everyone started to show up. We tried to swim over to the cove under the rock where we had seem him earlier, but the sediment was so stirred up that you couldn't see a thing. The fish life here was very similar to the fish we had seen during other snorkeling trips. There were so fairly large rainbow parrotfish. I saw a lot of rainbow parrotfish on this trip, but I still think they're absolutely beautiful. We saw some puffer fish closer to the shore. Some unique sea cucumbers were spotted here and Kelly had the cool experience of swimming with the white tipped reef shark who had ventured further out in the water.


Parrotfish.

It's probably best I didn't actually see the shark. I know that white tipped reef sharks are not dangerous, but regardless of that knowledge Jaws still has an impact on me. I was swimming around in the hopes of seeing the shark, but every time I actually realized that I might see a shark swimming with me, it scared me! I found that I got quickly bored with snorkeling and I was getting cold. Others seemed to have more of an attention span and stayed in the water longer, that's probably why they got to see the shark. The rest of us the colder or more easily bored sat on the a'a lava and enjoyed are last moments on the island. We all had very mixed feeling about leaving; however, we all agreed the lava we were sitting on hurt. We tried to bribe Jake to run through the beach yelling that the dinghies were coming, but he didn't get very far. Some of us made the mistake of trying to walk across the a'a lava barefoot, I now completely understand how it got its name. I had to stop and but my shoes on. Others in our group were much braver and managed to walk across it without killing their feet.

I have to be honest and say that Cerro Dragón was nice, but it wasn't one of my favorites. I'm sure the main reason is because there were no sea lions and my one track mind needs sea lions to really love an island. It was a peaceful ending to a fantastic experience and trip, even if there were no sea lions. The other big advantage to this last night was there was not a dumb and really boring briefing - wait I mean exciting and educational briefing!!!!!!

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