Have you ever seen so many animals?
The main reason I came to Ecuador was to go to the Galapagos. I have been to Ecuador before and as with the rest of my trip my plan was to go place and see things I had never seen before. The Galapagos are part of Ecuador and you have to go through Ecuador to get out there. I arrived at the airport and was greeted by the guide for the week. After locating the rest of the passengers (9 in all) we headed to the boat which was anchored in the main port called Puerto Ayora about an hour away from the airport. The boat I had booked was called the Cormorant and it was an Economic class boat which means it was very basic, but it had everything we needed. There was a guide who spoke English, a cook, a captain, and 2 helpers that were all very friendly and took care of everything that needed to be done.
The Galapagos are known for the land tortoises of which several species are endangered. The first day we visited one of the refuges for the tortoises. They roam freely and we even had the chance to see them mating, which of course is a good thing if they are endangered!
I spent a week on the boat and we went snorkeling at least once a day (sometimes twice) and went on to land a couple of times a day to see the wildlife. The terrain varies from place to place with most of the islands being very dry and similar to a desert with cactus sprouting up around you. The wildlife is amazing because much of it you can't see anywhere else other than the Galapagos. Here is a picture of the lava lizard that was found on many of the different islands. They remind me of the small lizards that are all over Florida.
One of the many types of cactus that are on many of the Galapagos islands.
From here you can see the view of a wonderful red beach with one of many other boats that travel the islands in the background.
Everyday we snorkeled. The water for the most part was crystal clear. We saw huge amounts of colorful fish, Galapagos sharks, white tipped sharks, sea turtles, penguins, manta rays, etc. Some days we snorkeled from the beach and other days we snorkeled off the dingy in open water.
Sally Light Footed Crabs
These crabs were everywhere by the hundreds. It was really cool to see them scurrying away on the rocks. They stand out so dramatically with their red shells.... too bad we couldn't eat them. Would have made a great dinner!
These marine iguanas where found are a number of different islands. The picture here shows two of them facing off. They were actually very lazy and just liked relaxing in the sun or going for an afternoon swim.
One morning we went for a walk along the hardened lava from one of the most recent volcanic eruptions (100 or so years ago if I remember correctly). It seemed that the lava flowed forever and made some amazing formations as it cooled. This cactus is one of the few found growing out of the hardened lava. We also went to where the beach had been before the eruption and then could see how the islands change form with each eruption.
Here is the group from the first half of the trip.
We did get to see some of the Galapagos penguins. One day they even swam past when we were snorkeling.
Blue Footed Boobies
The bird life is pretty spectacular on the islands. My favorites are the blue footed boobies. As you can see from the color of their feet, they are definitely North Carolina Tarheel fans!
Frigates also call the Galapagos home. They are big birds and the males have a distinctive red pouch that they blow up to attract the females.
One of the amazing things about seeing these animals in the wild is that you never know what you are going to see on any given day. We were lucky enough to see some sea turtles hatching along the beach. The mother lays hundreds of eggs in the sand and when they hatch they crawl out of the sand and into the water where they can stay for 5 years before coming back to shore, that is if they make it to 5 years. Only 5% make it to adult hood. When they were hatching, the frigate birds were circling waiting for when they could come down and snatch the little things up for dinner. We tried to help them out by putting some in the water near the rocks to make it harder for the birds to see, but not sure how successful we were. This picture shows them popping out of the sand one by one.
more sea turtles
And this pictures shows how tiny they are and how easy it would be for a bird to come down and have a nice snack.
Also saw plenty of Land Iguanas basking in the sun on a couple of islands. These iguanas don't go in the water, but the marine iguanas do go on land and mate with the land iguanas.
We saw 2 of the 3 types of boobies on the islands. These are the masked boobies.
The albatross that call the Galapagos home are only there for 6 months of the year. They come to the Galapagos during the mating season.
There are also flamingos that call the Galapagos home. Although the numbers have been dwindling during the years we did see over 20 in one of the salt water ponds.
and last but not least....
The one animal we saw more than any other was the sea lion. They were on almost every beach or sunning on rocks all along the islands. Some of the time they were very playful and other times they just wanted to sit and soak up the sun.
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