Wednesday, 17 April 2013

I Love Boobies!

Back safe and sound from the Galapagos Islands and what a 5 days! Probably the highlight of the trip so far even if the seas were a bit rough!

After a 2 hour flight from Quito it was onto the good ship Darwin for 4 days of adventure upon the high seas. First stop was Santa Cruz and our first chance to see sea lions, iguanas and marine birds. The first thing that strikes you about the wildlife is how tame all of the animals are. Because the Islands have only been inhabited fairly recently, the animals do not have an inbuilt fear of man and therefore you can get very close to them. Under park rules you have to keep a minimum of 2 metres away, but at times you had to tread carefully to make sure you did not step on a sea lion or iguana lazing in the sun.

Day 2 we travelled to South Plazas Island and Santa Fe Island to see a male colony of sea lions and undertake our first snorkelling secession off the boat. Although the water was not always that clear, the snorkelling was a real highlight of the trip, with an incredible range of marine life under the waves. We saw sharks, rays, turtles, sea lions, barracudas and lots and lots of fish. At no time did you feel threatened by any of the marine life (the sharks were especially friendly), although you did have to watch out for the strong currents and heavy waves at times.

The other striking feature of the Islands and aspect that lead Charles Darwin there in 1835 is the amazing diversity of the wildlife. Although there is not a huge range of animals (the volcanic islands have never been part of the mainland and therefore all indigenous species have had to fly, swim or catch a lift there on drift wood), each island will have a different sub species perfectly adapted to the conditions on that particular small island. Iguanas for example are found on most of the islands, but will be slightly different and may be land iguanas, marine iguanas or a combination of the two.

After a very rough 5 hour transfer over night, day 3 was spent on Espanola Island, a remote island in the South Eastern corner of the Galapagos. This particular island is famous for Albatross birds and a spectacular blowhole on the Western side of the Island. Albatrosses only nest on this particular island because it is relatively flat. Due to their size they need a bit of a run way and this is the only island that provides the necessary geography. I did think that the birds would be a bit bigger, but none the less it was good to see them nesting and flying so close. We were also able to see a large number of boobies, the main three varieties being blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca Boobies. Very interesting seabirds that have an amazing range of feet colours and like to dance?

After some more rough seas, day 4 was spent on Floreana Island, an old Pirate stop over point. A big attraction on the island is Post Office bay. As the name suggests, there is a post office here comprising of an old wooden barrel on the beach. The tradition is that you leave a letter or post card to be hand delivered by a fellow traveller visiting the bay. I left a postcard for Mum & Dad back in Norfolk, so it will be interesting to see how long it takes to be delivered (quite a while I imagine). Conversely I picked by 3 postcards that I will deliver myself to Headcorn in Kent and Teddington in London.

After another rough transfer back to Santa Cruz Island (are you spotting a trend here!), the morning of day 5 was spent looking round the Charles Darwin Research Station where they have a breading centre for giant tortoises and iguanas and then it was back on the plane to Quito. All in all an action packed 4 and a bit days, but very enjoyable.  

So would I recommend a trip to the Galapagos Islands? Definitely. It is not cheap and you may have to put up with some rough seas like we did, but it is a unique experience and a must for wildlife fans. Below are a selection of my favourite wildlife photos, enjoy.    


Good Ship Darwin

Land Iguana

Sally Lightfoot crab

Swallow tailed gull with egg

Blue-footed Booby

Sealion in the surf


Two rays mating

Nesting Albatros

Giant tortise

Leaving a postcard at Post Office Bay

Nazca Booby

A pair of Galapagos Hawks

Smug marine iguana

Hood Larva Lizard

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