Sunday, June 02, 2019

Unique + Diverse

There are surprises around every corner on the Galapagos. One morning we climbed the hill above the red sand beach. 
 A few meters away was a brackish pond where we spotted a rarely seen (in this location) flamingo.
A Pelican dove head first into the ocean then floated along while we snorkelled close by.
Besides the giant land tortoises there are some very large sea turtles that seem to want to swim right up to me. Thanks to Rob for this photo as I was too busy getting out of its way.
There are beaches with greenish sand caused by little bits of the mineral olivine in the sand.  Hard to tell from the photo. 
And then this lone flamingo walked right up to us on the beach. It’s a juvenile so quite pale coloured. Not even the slightest concern for humans.
Every day we do a short hike, then a snorkel; then after lunch the same. It can be quite exhausting and there haven’t  been too many nights we’ve stayed up past nine! And not just us old folks. 
 Ross snorkeling with a turtle (again thanks to Rob for the photo). 

You really had to watch your step for these red marine iguanas.
Albatrosses mate for life but if something happens to one of them they’ll find another mate. We saw several mating dances going on where they click clack their beaks together. 

 Some of the beaches are absolutely pristine white fine sand - contrasting with the turquoise water, punctuated by sunbathing sea lions. 
The diversity in the Galapagos is astounding and each island has something new to explore. Not just the animals but the landscape as well. We’ve been fortunate to see so many different things - I won’t even try to list all the types of animals we saw. It’s a very special unique place. We’ve had a pretty steady pace for the past few weeks and I think we’re both ready for a rest!


Nothing but tortoises

The day I’ve been waiting for. Giant Land Tortoises. Lots and lots of tortoises. The photos tell the story. 

We started at the breeding center on Santa Cruz Island where they’ve collected several species and will breed them to release them into the wild. It’s an extensive and long term project that hopefully will prevent the extinction of these ancient looking animals. 
 They collect the eggs and incubate them, then track the babies until they’re ready to be released.

In a large enclosed area the giants were being fed. This one is a saddleback, the long neck allows it to eat vegetation higher up. 
The others are domed tortoises and eat the lower growing vegetation. 

In their natural habitat these tortoises live in the highlands, up in the hills. Farmers are allowed to keep them on their land where they roam freely. We visited a farm where there were literally tortoises EVERYWHERE.

Be careful driving!

Bucket List?

I’m not really a fan of bucket lists but if I had one the Galapagos would have been at the top of the list for a long time. Maybe even the only thing. There’s something about these remote islands with their unique flora/fauna that inspired Darwin and have also fascinated me. 

You don’t come to the Galapagos for the beautiful scenery, or the native history or the local culture, although there’s some of that too. You come for the animals. Many of the islands are quite barren and uninviting. 

According to our guide Milton, on these islands you don’t go looking for the animals - they will come to you. And boy was he right!

The sea lions loved cavorting among us snorkellers and for me it took some getting used to as they headed right for me before turning. 

These golden coloured land iguanas often blocked our path and look scary but were not frightening in the least. 

Land iguanas can also be dark coloured. They don’t move fast and we spotted many iguanas both land and marine. 

Great frigate birds have a huge wing span (over a meter I’d estimate) and the males have a small red sack by their throat that they 'balloon' up for mating. We saw a lot of these. 

Their babies are cute and fluffy!

The blue footed boobie was also nesting. Here the adult boobie is protecting the baby from the sun. 
We spent a morning traipsing over a huge lava field that had many interesting patterns but very little life. 
To reach shore from the boat we take a zodiac or panga. Along the way Ross had another incident with his hat (deftly recovered out of the sea). 

Ross got photobombed again - this time by the small Gal├ípagos penguins which we were fortunate to see. Our guide gave us a 0.001 chance of seeing them. 

I joined huge schools of brightly coloured surgeon fish. We’ve snorkelled 2x most days in between shore landings. 

There are sharks in these waters and we saw about 6 white tipped ones from the zodiac. Here’s a black tipped one spotted from the dock. 

The animals here are without predators so they don’t worry about humans. It’s also commendable what the country is doing to try to preserve the natural environment by limiting the impact of humans. 

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