In a departure from our largely land-based Gap Year adventures to date, Lee and I approached our Galapagos trip with a number of questions: as we prepared to board the Beluga, the 110 ft motor boat that was to be our floating home for a six-day exploration of the eastern islands of the Galapagos, we wondered… would we tolerate the seas without being seasick the whole time? Could we actually manage the snorkeling without drowning? (OK – that one was Lee’s) And most importantly, would we see a blue-footed booby?
Happily, the answers were all (mostly) yes…
…and we were fortunate to enjoy an amazing adventure in the company of yet another fantastic group of staff and shipmates.
As anticipated, the trip focused on seeing an extraordinary set of creatures in the air, sea, and land – most of which could be viewed at amazingly close proximity because of their remarkably tame nature, believed to be the result of the fact that most of them have no natural predators on the islands. From our base on the Beluga, our expeditions took us out to explore a different island each day (for those interested in specifics, we flew into San Cristobal and visited Espanola, Santa Cruz, Chinese Hat, and Genovese), all under the very capable guidance of our on-board Ecuadorian naturalist, Juan Tapia.
While my photos again are far from adequate to capture all there was to see, I thought I’d share the highlights by category – recapturing the daily review led by Juan after dinner each night, recounting the creatures we’d spotted that day.
First (and with particular apologies to my birding friends for what I’m sure is an incomplete list), the birds! In addition to the famed blue-footed booby (that’s really it, above), there were hundreds of boobies of the red-footed and Nazca variety, including those mating, nesting, and newly hatched!
We were also treated to an incredible show of albatross courtship…
… as well as that of the magnificent frigate bird, which inflates an enormous red pouch to impress its mate (Lee tried his own version but it didn’t seem to work the same..!)
Then there were the famed Galapagos giant tortoises, which live for over 100 years and can grow to more than 1000 lbs (and also, we were told, apparently were the inspiration behind Spielberg’s creation of ET – you might note a striking similarity around the eyes!).
The fish and sea creatures were abundant, with some great close-up views on our snorkeling adventures (and yes, Lee really did it – not once, but three times! Don’t tell him, but that last one is a hammer-head shark).
The red crabs and marine iguanas were also plentiful (that last one’s just us doing our own imitation of the ones cozying up).
Moving on to the mammals… it seemed like the sea lions were everywhere on several of the islands, more tame than cats and scarcely bothering to even look up when we’d walk by (except the ones at the local fish market – they were at full attention!)
And of course there were the mammals of the human variety – we were once again blessed with a fantastic group of fellow travelers (largely Brits and one Canadian couple) who made the trip even more enjoyable and very memorable.
So while we’re now safely back to dry land and on to the next leg of our South American adventures (southern Ecuador, en route to Peru & Machu Picchu), we know we’ll long remember our days on the Beluga and the fantastic friends and creatures of the Galapagos that we were privileged to experience in this amazing setting.