Evolution

April 29, 2008 - Quito, Ecuador

Huge red Sally Lightfoot crabs scuttle about on the slippery black rocks on the shoreline as sea lions sunbathe on pristine sandy beaches and marine iguanas cook the algae they just gathered from the water by resting their stomachs on hot rocks and arching their backs to the sun. Male friggates strutt their stuff, blowing their red pouches up fiercely to attract the ladies; albatrosses wait patiently for their life partner to arrive over the seas, and blue-footed boobies dive into the ocean for another meal of pilchards. Nazca boobie parents take turns to incubate their sole egg for the year, Swallow-tailed gulls stand proudly on rock ledges and pink flamingoes take time-out to enjoy the marshy swamps. Tropical fish, Galapagos penguins and small sharks follow the warm currents around the Devil´s Crown and turtles are battered by the same rough currents as they feed just metres from the shoreline. Dolphins swim on the bow of the boat just hours after hammer-head sharks and golden matra rays had been sidling alongside the same vessel. Meanwhile, giant tortoises meander through bushland in the high country, Lonsome George is left lonely and forever without a mate, and the islands continue to evolve. Welcome to the Galapagos Islands.

Words and pictures simply can´t do the Galapagos Islands the justice they deserve. They are a magnificent, magical place where every day promises something new and different. I spent seven nights on board GAP´s Adventurer II boat, the Cruz del Sur. The boat holds 16 passengers and about eight crew, and we spent each of our days conducting two island landings and a snorkel, each time getting up close and personal to an amazing array of animals.

I was able to fulfill my dream of swimming with turtles, and I found it equally exciting to swim with a family of playful sea lions. The wildlife was not afraid of humans; we were in their territory, and they were in charge. So, we stepped around the Nazca boobie that was sitting on an egg in the middle of the tourist path on South Plaza Island, and we moved out of the way as sea lions waddled along the beach.

The islands themselves were the most amazing discovery. All formed by volcanoes or shifting tectnoic plates and at different stages of their lives, they tell an amazing story of life and evolution. I visited San Christobal, Espanola, Floreana, Santa Cruz, Bartolomew, Chinaman´s Hat, South Plaza and Santa Fe. Bartolomew was my favourite island. Tiny lava lizzards and some insects call this island home, and penguins and sea lions were spotted in the vicinity, but it is a new island, with the volcano scars very evident on the rocky surface, with little vegetation to offer animals. This island has the promise of life as it changes, following its much older cousins Espanola and Floreana; two islands teaming with wildlife and history.

Sea sickness, rocky seas and a sick guide were not enough to deter me from this most amazing place that simply must be experienced to be believed. These memories will last a lifetime.


Pictures

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3 Comments

Jacqui Durrant:
April 29, 2008
Hey Katie - those descriptions make us feel like we are there! Glad to read you're having a great time making memories.
Denise Otkin:
April 29, 2008
The stories you wrote are amazing, they really do make you feel like you are there. The slide show is wonderful and show us the real beauty of the islands. Thanks Denise
Anne:
May 4, 2008
Hi Katie. Wonderful pictures. Must have been an amazing experience. Looking forward to reading about your next adventure in the Amazon.
Anne xx
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