Bucket list trip – The animals of the Galapagos Islands
At the top of my to do list for some time, the Galapagos Islands has the allure of awe inspiring nature combined with extreme remoteness. It’s the go to destination for any nature lover. Darwin and Attenborough are just a couple of explorers that have had life changing expeditions to this small island off of the coast of Ecuador. Tales of the theory of evolution and lonesome George have made his place infamous around the world. It’s one of the few places in the world where the wildlife isn’t scared of people. And the encounters, both land and sea, are all the more extraordinary for it.
Swim with sealions
Sealions were one of the biggest surprises of my trip to the Galapagos. Everyone wants to snorkel with a turtle or swim with a wild dolphin but I had never really thought about sealions in the wild. Go to any major zoo/aquarium and you can see how intelligent and agile they are. But swimming with one in the wild is an out of this world experience. We had been warned by our fantastic G-Adventures CEO not too get too close or chase the sealions as they have been known to be aggressive. In the video I’d split away from our group of snorkelers, probably stalking a small fish of some sort, when these two inquisitive creatures came over. Heeding the advice I slowly swam away but they followed along playfully spinning around underneath me. They appeared again later and the whole group got to experience this magical moment.
Totter around with giant tortoises
If you haven’t heard of lonesome George look him up right now. I’ll wait. He is synonymous with the Galapagos and conservation. George was one of the first animals to put the threat of modern extinction at the front of peoples minds the world over. Although his Pinta Island species died with him in 2012 giant Galapagos tortoises still exist on Santa Cruz and the surrounding islands. Where once they were hunted for their meat and shells they are now protected in places such as the Charles Darwin research station
and the Giant Tortoise reserve.
“Whatever happens to this single animal, let him always remind us that the fate of all living things on Earth is in human hands.”Inscription outside the enclosure of Lonesome George
Snorkel with hammerhead sharks
Kicker rock off of the Island of San Cristobal in the Galapagos requires an advance level of diving skill due to strong currents. The good news is you can snorkel here and still have a great chance of seeing green turtles, reef sharks and hammerheads.
Be baffled by boobies
Boobies come in all shapes and sizes. Red footed, Nazca and the most famous of all blue footed boobies. They are an absolute delight to watch making sparse nests on the ground or in small bushes. No predators means no fear hence the oddly situated nests. If you’re lucky enough to encounter a courtship you can watch these bizarre little birds doing their strange dance from just a few feet away.
Speculate about the origin of species with Darwins finches
So we all know Darwin is a bit of a big deal. He revolutionised the world when he published the origin of species in 1859 creating the foundation for evolutionary biology. An important moment in his work was realising that finches had evolved differently on the islands according to food source. Darwins 15 finches had different shaped beaks depending on the flora and fauna they survived off of on each particular island on the archipelago. Therefor proving evolution had occurred here.
Imitate an iguana
Iguanas here have a very special talent. Walking around the rocky shores of the islands you can’t help but bump into them and notice a weird sneeze like action no other iguana exhibits. This is because Galapagos iguanas have evolved to be marine reptiles diving into the ocean to feed on nutrient rich seaweed. When they return to land they shoot out the salty water from their nostrils. It’s not the most attractive trait of all he animals here but they do sit still so you can get a good photo!
The Galapagos Archipelago is a treasure trove of natural wonder. Penguins, albatross, eagle rays and many other species can also be seen here. It has been called a “true laboratory of evolution” giving up close insights into unique endemic animals and continual studies on conservation. It really is a once in a lifetime trip.