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.
Sally Lightfoot crab
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 😦
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.
Giant tortoise close up
From there we got the ferry back to Baltra for our flight out, having had an amazing time.
Waiting for the ferry
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.
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.
Masked booby, egg and chick
Masked booby and eggs
Masked booby, broken egg and 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 –
Swallow-tailed gull chick
– as did the frigatebirds. The black bird here is a deflated male – see the previous post for shots of that magnificent red pouch inflated.
Male frigatebird deflated
This is a lava heron and a yellow-crowned night heron:
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.
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!
Blue footed boobies
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.
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!
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:
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!
In 1999, we made our only foray into South America. Quito is the capital of Ecuador – and indeed, true to the name, one of the side trips we made was to the equatorial line. You can see me with a foot in each hemisphere below.
Quito and Cotopaxi
Plaza de la Independencia
Monument to Liberty
La Virgen del Quito on El Panecillo
Quito from El Panecillo
A foot in each hemisphere
For the previous destination on this tour, see H is for Havana. Our ultimate destination was Galapagos, but that didn’t make it into the A to Z Challenge – it deserves a series all of its own*.