Galapagos: Santiago and Santa Cruz

Sealion and pup

On Santiago Island, we met more laid-back sea lions. You can just about make out the red creatures around them which are Sally Lightfoot crabs like the one below. Also in the gallery are a marine iguana and a yellow warbler.

Despite being inspired to visit Galapagos because of Darwin’s finches, we got loads of pictures of other birds but only one of a finch which was so poor it wasn’t worth scanning 😦

Giant tortoise and John

Our final island was Santa Cruz, which hosts the largest human population in the archipelago, the town of Puerto Ayora, the Charles Darwin Research Station and the headquarters of the Galapagos National Park Service. We were there to visit the wonderful giant tortoises.

From there we got the ferry back to Baltra for our flight out, having had an amazing time.

Would I go back to Galapagos? I’d love to but, ethically, I think I probably shouldn’t. It’s still the case that tourism is regulated to protect the wildlife, but much less so than when we were there. At that time, Santa Cruz was the only inhabited island – now, hotels have been built on several others. I’ve made enough impact on this unique ecosystem and will save it as a beautiful memory.

Galapagos: Tower Island

Tower Island had a wealth of wildlife. We saw two different varieties of booby – the gallery below shows masked boobies nesting. You could get amazingly close, as you can see. One has both an egg and a chick, another has a broken egg and a dead chick.

These are the red-footed boobies – cute, but my favourites are still the blue-footed boobies in the previous post.

Swallow-tailed gulls also had chicks –

– as did the frigatebirds. The black bird here is a deflated male – see the previous post for shots of that magnificent red pouch inflated.

This is a lava heron and a yellow-crowned night heron:

Marine iguanas were everywhere!

And there were people, of course there were people, but not too many. The young lady with the cap is our guide, Cathy. Tourism to Galapagos is strictly controlled and you can’t land on any of the islands without a guide. As for that T-shirt – I still have it, but it’s never seen outside the house.

Final Galapagos post next Thursday!

Galapagos: North Seymour and Bartolome Islands

Blue footed booby

North Seymour Island was our first port of call in the Galapagos Islands, and it set a high standard for the rest – who wouldn’t love the blue footed boobies? Of course, as so often in nature, it was the male who displayed the colours. We observed the blue feet in action as part of the mating ritual. The male moves from one foot to the other, and when their beautiful blueness has attracted a female he uses his beak to give her the first twig to start a nest. Sort of like an engagement ring? One poor little chap was pounding away so much that he had worn a hollow in the sand with not a female in sight. My heart bled for him!

We also saw frigate birds with their massive, blown-out red chests (the male again) and some very chilled sea-lions. It was our first indication of just how close you could get to the birds and animals – they didn’t see humans as a threat at all. I hope that’s still true today after the massive increase in tourism in Galapagos.

Sullivan Bay and Pinnacle Rock, Bartolome Island

I have fewer wildlife photos of Bartolomé Island – this was a snorkelling stop. However, we did get a sighting (I think from the boat) of Galapagos penguins, the only penguins that live north of the equator in the wild. And a rather less laid back sea-lion – this one looks very pleased with himself!

More islands to come next Thursday!

 

Galapagos 1999

MN Santa Cruz
MN Santa Cruz
Galapagos – the holiday of a lifetime! I’m not usually an avid wildlife watcher, but I’d been interested in Galapagos since I studied a genetics course in the early 80s and learned about Darwin’s finches. It wasn’t until I saw a programme on TV about the islands that I realised you could actually go there as a tourist, and booked up forthwith.

In the summer of 1999 we spent four nights in Galapagos aboard the MN Santa Cruz. The ship cruised as we slept or at lunch time, so that twice a day we were taken off by Panga to explore a new island. Life on board was comfortable and sociable, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Before arriving in Galapagos, we visited Ecuador’s capital, Quito, and on our way to and from the UK we stopped briefly in Cuba. I wrote about both of these in 2014’s A to Z Challenge:

H is for Havana

Q is for Quito

Over the next three Thursdays, I’ll take you to the islands we visited and show you some of the wildlife we encountered. NB we didn’t have a digital camera in 1999, so all the photos are scanned. Forgive the quality!