This is a little bit late, but life has taken over for the last month and a half and I haven't had a chance to write. So finally, here it is: my amazing trip to the Galapagos.
Now, our amazing trip. The majority of the islands are uninhabited, and protected. This means that there are no cars, hotels, or anything on most of the islands; just nature. Each day, the cruise ship we were on was anchored at sea, and we took boats of 16 to the island we were seeing. We had a morning island visit, then back to the ship for lunch, then another excursion in the afternoon.
|Map of the Galapagos Islands|
|What a cutie! Sleeping Galapagos sea lion (Image by Liz Martin)|
The afternoon excursion was also a big highlight for me. We went on a long hike, and saw numerous animals. First, there were hundreds of marine iguanas, which I will talk about later. The main highlight of the afternoon for me was Punta Suarez, where many bird species nest. We saw the amazing blue-footed boobies (which are common throughout the Galapagos), Nazca boobies, Galapagos hawks, and my favourite, waved albatrosses. This was the only time we saw albatrosses, and they truly were magnificent. The waved albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) are basically endemic to the Galapagos, although there are a few pairs that nest on the Ecuadorian Island of Isla de la Plata. We were fortunate enough to witness their courtship behaviours, which consists of a bizarre dance where they repeat their movements over and over while they rock back and forth, stick their heads down to the ground, open their beaks wide, and more. When they finally choose a mate, waved albatrosses mate for life. We also got to see one albatross take off, which was a bit awkward, as these animals are fairly large, with a wingspan of about 2.3 m, and they do a kind of waddling/running take off. I sat for as long as I could watching them soar over the cliff. I spent a lot of time imagining them as pterosaurs (of course), and they were absolutely majestic. It was very hard to leave this place
|Part of a waved albatross mating dance. Image by Liz Martin|
|A frigatebird with a baby turtle in its mouth. Photo by Liz Martin|
Highlights: Isabela Island
|Note the small vestigial wings on the flightless cormorant.|
Photo by Liz Martin
|Galapagos penguin. Photo by Josh Silverstone|
|A land iguana. Photo by Liz Martin|
|One of the many "piles" of marine iguanas we encountered. |
Photo by Liz Martin.
Off the cost of Isabela for the first and only time, we saw a fur seal! Unfortunately, I don't have a great picture of it, but we watched a mother and young fur seal playing with the zodiac. The Galapagos fur seal (Arctocephalus galapagoensis) is endemic to the Galapagos, and is the smallest of the fur seals. They are currently endangered, as they were nearly hunted to extinction in the past.
Highlights: Santa Cruz Island
|A dome-shaped giant tortoise in the wild. Photo by Liz Martin|
|Lava lizard from Espanola island. Photo by Liz Martin|
Being on the Galapagos in general was absolutely amazing, and there were a few things that I can't pick as being a specific highlight of a day or island. Mainly, these include some great examples of evolution and adaptation. There are seven species of endemic lava lizards in the Galapagos, with one species present on 10 islands, and the other 6 being restricted to single islands. They are generally very colourful, with females being more colourful than males, and differ morphologically from island to island.
|Some of Darwin's finches. Photo by Liz Martin|
Of course as a biologist, seeing Darwin's finches was always amazing. Unfortunately, I'm not able to identify them at all, but was able to see the slight differences in beaks that lead Darwin to his theory of natural selection. They are spread throughout the islands, with 13 species in total.
|Swimming blue-footed booby. Photo by Liz Martin|
|Blue-footed booby. Photo by Liz Martin|
While some of the information in this post came from the book Galapagos Wildlife by David Horwell and Pete Oxford, most of it actually came from the brilliant guides we had along the way. The naturalists really know what they're talking about, and they were a never-ending source of information about the islands, the wildlife, and more! Thanks to them for teaching me what they knew.