Posted by: Bert and Tania | December 11, 2011

The Galapagos Islands

Well I never. Between 13th and 20th October we took one of the most amazing trips of our lives. Dave Spiller, a family friend, came up to us on our wedding day and simply said that we had to go to the Galapagos Islands. So that’s what we did, accompanied by our friend George.

The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador, 970km off the mainland, so you have to fly. There are 15 main islands and 3 smaller ones. 97% of the islands are national park and it’s very clear the effort that has been made to preserve this incredible place. Non-native species such as goats, cats, pigs, dogs and cattle were introduced. The native species were defenceless to new predators. Efforts to preserve the native species mainly involved hunting non-native species, including from helicopters. This has been successful and in July 2010, the World Heritage Committee agreed to remove the Galapagos Islands from its list of precious sites endangered by environmental threats or overuse.

Charles Darwin famously brought his ship, the Beagle, to the islands and saw the large number of species that are unique to the islands. Aparently, this helped him come up with his theory of evolution.

The actual land itself is incredible as the islands are all volcanoes and therefore made of lava. Lava flows during an eruption and the surface cools and forms a crust under which lava continues to flow. This forms tunnels which we saw and were able to walk through and sometimes gives the land a ‘liquid’ look to its surface. Our guide, Victor, saw the volcano on Fernandina Island erupting in 2009 and lava flowing into the sea.

Our boat, the Floreana, took us a 14 other passengers around its ‘North route’ which we’d chosen as it included Genovesa island and Fernandina island, both of which we’d heard were highlights. We typically did one land visit and one ‘snorkelling’ during the morning and then the same in the afternoon.

The snorkelling was absolutely mind-blowing – it was literally like being in a David Attenborough documentary and I’m intending to make a video to show you better what it was like. We swam with: Marine turtles, white tipped sharks, sea lions, jelly fish, huge schools of fish, marine iguana, giant rays, manta rays, penguins, flightless cormorants, eels, starfish.

On land we saw the classic ‘blue-foot boobies’ as well as ‘Nasca boobies’ and ‘red-footed boobies’. We saw carpets of smelly iguana, hundred of ‘Sally redfoot’ crabs, giant tortoises, one over 100 years old and 250kg, bloodsucking vampire finches, 500 year old cacti, pelicans, frigate birds, hawks and flamingos. We were very lucky, also, because from our boat, we also saw Bryde (I think) whales in the sea.

After our boat trip we visited the Charles Darwin Research Centre on Santa Cruz island where we met Lonesome George. Lonesome George is the last surviving Pinta Island Tortoise and is 100 years old. He has two young female tortoises in his compound who are, apparently, almost the same species as him. It has been hoped (for several decades) that he might get frisky with one of them. It didn’t look like he was going to get frisky. So, unfortunately, the Pinta Island tortoise may become extinct.

The wildlife on the Galapagos islands has evolved without human presence. When you wander up to a bird in the Galapagos islands, it just stares you in the face with a blank expression. Anywhere else in the world it would have flown away. They don’t even flinch. The same in the water. We could go right up to turtles feeding on seaweed and it was like we were invisible – they couldn’t care less. Not only have I never seen wildlife like this, but I literally couldn’t imagine anything more amazing. If you can, go.

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Responses

  1. Please can I have a baby Booby

  2. Yeah, sure, what colour?


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