May 28

Kickin’ it with Darwin

by in Ecuador, Galapagos

I know I’m skipping ahead a bit here (only about a month) but I don’t have the patience to write about everything else before going over what has been the highlight of my trip thus far: 8 glorious days in the Galapagos.

As you may or may not know these lovely islands off of the coast of Ecuador are where Charles Darwin explored and formed his evolutionary theory based on natural selection. The islands are known for their wide array of endemic species, animals only found there.

I was excited to redeem myself for my last missed Galapagos opportunity back in 2008 when I had visited Ecuador…I had thought the optional addition was too expensive; little did I know, in Galapagos terms it had been a steal.  Oh well…our trip and guide made up for it.

Alia and I flew into Baltra Island on the morning of May 20th to be greeted by Johan, our guide, and Jose a crew member on the…wait for it…Guantanamera, our ship.  I can tell you that throughout the week, I (along with all the other passengers) could be found at any given moment humming or singing our ship’s namesake song quietly to ourselves…the whole two lines that we knew.

Anyway, back to the good stuff…we were brought to our ship, assigned our cabin, and sat down to our first meal.

Johan explained to us that the Galapagos officials had recently regulated where tour cruises could be at certain times in order to control the number of people on an island, or in an area at any given time.  They had created an itinerary of the islands that spanned two weeks and assigned the boats where they could go.  This meant that our 8 day cruise would only get to see half of the itinerary, and therefore miss some of the Galapagos.  But don’t you worry, our group made up for it.

Johan consistently told us throughout the week how lucky we must be for all of the rare things we were seeing: a school of rays (manta and golden cow-nosed), the male frigate birds in mating season, Galapagos hawks posing for pictures, a pair of whales swimming beside our boat, a fearless snake, a miniscule Galapagos scorpion…and much more.

The most amazing thing about ALL of the animals on the Galapagos–they have no fear of humans.  They will stay still and let you approach them, and many of them even enjoy posing for a picture or two.  But don’t worry, the Galapagos officials are all over this disaster waiting to happen–it is illegal for a person to get any closer than 1-2 meters from an animal.  Not only this, but you have to keep an eye out, because even if they approach you, you have to keep your distance.

Now I am going to give you a quick breakdown of where we were and how we spent our time (most days we split our time between walking on the islands and snorkeling):

Day 1: Santa Cruz Island-Bachas Beach

Day 2: Genovesa Island, Darwin Bay, Prince Philips Steps

Day 3: Bartolome Island, Santiago Island-Sullivan Bay

Day 4: Isabela Island-Sierra Negra Volcano, Land Tortoise breeding center

Day 5: Elizabeth Bay, Cagus Cove

Day 6: Urbina Bay, Fernandina Island

Day 7: Bucaneer Cove, Espumilla Beach, Rabida Island

Day 8: Mosquera Beach

And rather than go through each day I’m gonna give you a few of my favorite highlights accompanied by a list of all the animals we saw throughout the week.

Galapagos highlights:

-Swimming with three different kinds of sharks: hammerhead, black-tip reef shark and white-tip reef shark

-The comical but amazing dancing of our guide Johan (boobie dance included)

-Galapagos hawks stopping to alight on the railing of our pathway to pose for some up close and personal photos

-Swimming with sea turtles (lots), sea lions and penguins

- Driving the Guantanamera…thanks Captain!

-Whale and Dolphin sightings from the ship–the dolphins swam and played with the ship for a good 20 minutes

-Relaxing and catching up on my journal at the Beach bar on Isabela island…unforgettable view

-Attempting to take a shower whilst in transit on some very rough waves…I told Alia to come make sure I hadn’t knocked myself out if I wasn’t back in 10 minutes

-Always being lucky enough to be close by to Sam, our resident shark magnet, while snorkeling…he found the bleeding cut on his leg at the end of the day

And a list of all of the animals:

BIRDS:

- American Oyster-catchers           – Great Flamingos

- Black Necked Stilt                               – Black Pintail Duck

- Great Blue Heron                                – Lava Heron

-Yellow Crowned Night Heron        – Blue Footed Boobies

- Red Footed Boobies                          – Nazca Boobies

- Great Frigate Bird                               – Swallow Tailed Gulls

- Lava Gulls                                              – Short-eared Owls

- Storm Petrels                                       – Shear Waters

- Red-billed Tropic Birds                   – Brown Pelican

- Yellow Warblers                                 – Galapagos Mockingbird

- Galapagos Flycatcher                      – Vermillion Flycatcher

- Darwin’s Finches                                – Brown Noddies

- Galapagos Penguin                            – Flightless Coromorant

- Galapagos Dove                                  – Galapagos Hawks

-Hummingbird

SEA ANIMALS:

- Galapagos Sea Lion                          – Fur Sea Lion

- Sea Turtle                                            – Galapagos Shark

-White-tipped Reef Shark                – Black-tipped Reef Shark

-Hammerhead Shark                         – Eagle Ray

- Marbled Ray                                      – Manta Ray

- Golden Cow-nose Ray                    – Sting Ray

- Starfish                                                – Jellyfish

- Sea Urchin                                         – Sea Cucumbers

- Many Fish                                          – Dolphins

- Whales                                                 – Garden Eels

- Crabs

REPTILES:

- Lava Lizards                                     – Land Iguanas

- Marine Iguanas                               – Land Tortoises

- Racer Snake

MISCELLANEOUS:

- Galapagos Scorpion

 

And finally to accompany that long list of animals, some of my favorite pictures and videos.  These are for you Hayden! Enjoy :)

Great Blue Heron

Sting Rays

Can you see all three animals? Sea Lion, Lava Heron and Marine Iguana

 

Crab

Gull

 

Me and a couple of spooning sea lions

 

Red Footed Boobie

 

Frigate Bird

Just me and a Frigate bird trying to attract a female

Male Frigate bird showing off for the ladies

 

Hermit crab

Nazca boobie and baby

Baby Nazca Boobie

Spider

Galapagos Hawk

Cannibal Crab

Take off!

 

In flight

Curious Galapagos Hawk

Chillin with the hawk

Whale!

Marine Iguana peeking up at me

Frigate in flight

 

Giant Land Tortoise at the breeding center

Marine Iguana

Sea Turtle

Dolphins swimming with the boat

Dolphins

Penguin

Grasshopper...or locust...I can't remember

Tons of Marine Iguanas

Even more Marine Iguanas

Swimming Marine Iguana

 

Sea Lion showing off

Male Land Iguana

Snake

Galapagos Mockingbird

Sea Turtle tracks

Female and male Lava Lizards

Galapagos scorpion

Baby sea lion

Sea lions at sunrise

Some Shark videos:

Little shark

White tipped reef shark

 

And finally, not only were there animals, but some pretty sweet landscapes as well:

Sweet sunset

Pinnacle rock

Lava field

Another beautiful sunset

Sierra Negra volcano caldera

Represent

Sunrise

Happy to be in the Galapagos!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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