The strategically-located Puerto Lopez is the gateway to the Poor Man’s Galapagos – more commonly known as Isla de La Plata (Silver Island) – where one will have up close encounters with the abundant marine birdlife such as blue-footed boobies, magnificent albatrosses and frigate birds.
Navigating the steep paths on the island, I felt like I was in a real-life National Geographic documentary! Our local guide was very knowledgeable and once again, I was reminded of how nature has so much to impart to us silly humans.
Humans vs Blue-footed Boobies: Who are the real fools?
According to our guide, there were some 4,000+ blue-footed boobies on the island during our time of visit (December 2016). Interestingly, the name ‘booby’ comes from the Spanish word ‘bobo’, which means fool, clown or stupid. These adorable fellows were named as such because they are quite clumsy on land and for their lack of fear for humans. I like to think of this nature as innocent courage and nonchalance. Perhaps we
greedy and scheming cautious humans should take a page from these blue-footed boobies and make this world a better one.
Monogamous by seasons or for a lifetime?
We were also told of the opportunistic mating of the blue-footed boobies, and the males have to attract the females by dancing on those adorable blue foot (the bluer, the better!). Apparently, blue-footed boobies are monogamous (during mating season), although they have the potential to be bigamy. The female will usually lay two to three eggs, in case the first does not survive.
This is in stark contrast with albatrosses that court for years to select the perfect partner, before mating for life. Interestingly, this bird only lay an egg a year. That’s pretty much an all-or-never attitude, huh?
An albatross may fly great distances over the oceans, but despite its extensive travels, this bird will always return to the same place — and the same partner — when it’s time to breed. Pair bonds between males and females form over several years and will last for a lifetime, cemented through the use of goofy but affectionate ritual dances. In fact, the birds will court each other for years using those dances in order to pick the perfect partner. – Mother Nature Network
The different mating and reproductive behaviours of these endangered birds made me wondered about the constant debate over human monogamy … …
Nature has so much to offer!
Besides the seabirds, one of the most interesting plants was the Palo Santo tree. Its name rang a bell when our guide introduced it, and on hindsight, I realised that there were a couple of souvenir shops by the coast that were named Palo Santo (meaning Holy Tree in Spanish).
Believed to be a sacred tree with mystical and medicinal benefits, the wood of Palo Santo has a minty and citrus smell and it is commonly used in local rituals as well as … … to keep mosquitos away! This is definitely helpful when one is in the (humid) coastal area of Ecuador!
Poor Man’s Galapagos Vs the real Galapagos Islands
I am unable to make an accurate comparison of the Poor Man’s Galapagos to the Galapagos Islands, since I have not visited the latter. However, I have seen photos of friends who have been to the Galapagos, where there are definitely more wildlife. The land terrains are essentially different too. The Galapagos is an archipelago of volcanic islands while Isla de La Plata is an island with beaches, headlands and shrub land. I imagine that Isla de La Plata is an appetiser of sorts to avid wildlife lovers, but an amazing experience for visitors who simply want to enjoy nature at an affordable price and with a lesser crowd.
How to get to Isla de La Plata?
A day tour to Isla de La Plata can be easily booked (< 40 USD) through one of the local travel agencies (along the coast) or from your hotel. It includes a guide throughout the tour, visit to Isla de La Plata, a snorkelling session and *spoilers alert* you may get to see giant tortoises near the island!
5 travel tips for day tour to Isla de La Plata
Tip #1: Purchase some seasickness pills (each purchase comes in two pills for the return trip) from a local pharmacy at Puerto Lopez if you are prone to seasickness. I have an iron stomach so I didn’t suffer from the sometimes-choppy waters.
Tip #2: Sit on the portside of the boat for better view/photography opportunities/lesser water spray.
Tip #3: While there were proper paths to walk on Isla de La Plata, the excruciating heat and steep slopes may be draining and can cause certain discomfort. Dress light, bring sun protection and drink more water. Don’t worry if you finish your bottle of water, the guide usually has a huge container of water (imagine a mobile water cooler offering room temperature water) for refill.
Tip #4: June to September is the peak season because you’ll get to see humpback whales during your boat ride / from the island BUT that also means a greater crowd. Visiting during the off-peak (I did so in December) is another option for lesser crowd, opportunity to see another process of nature (think mating, nesting/birth, nurture, etc.), lower costs, etc.
Tip #5: While snorkelling, UV swim shirts with long sleeves are recommended because one may get bitten by small fishes (I forgot the name!) that leaves you with itchy mosquito-like bumps that will last for a night. According to our experienced boatman, the sand from the beach will soothe and reduce the tiny swells.
Here’s sharing some happy memories:
The above information is based on the author’s own experience and should only be used as a reference. For more information on the destination, do check out the following sites: https://ecuador.travel/