Monday, April 18, 2011

a report on the galapagos

I went to the Galapagos Islands, and you should too!  I'll be honest, I did not have a clear idea how this trip would go, mainly because I'm an art historian and when I travel it's generally to visit art, ruins, monuments; things that man built.  The Galapagos, by necessity, is pretty man-free (only 4 islands in the archipelago are inhabited and only one has what one might term a town).  Well, happily, the trip surprised me and I would be willing to go back again and again and once more forever and ever.

There is just something so freeing about being in a place so free of man's influence, populated by fearless animals who clearly view you as something not even remotely approaching a threat to them.  Some of the wildlife was curious, some wary, but for the most part they just didn't care.  "Eh, you've seen one awkward, two-legged ape thing, you've seen them all," you could clearly see the Marine Iguanas thinking.

But now here's what you came to see: the beasties.
Galapagos Sea Lions.  These were EVERYWHERE.  We saw lots and lots of pups, too, and got to witness the classic "MAMA FEED ME" tactics every creature must employ.
Lava Lizard.  Saw lots of these, too, but they have different colors on different islands.  This guy was on San Cristobal.
Marine Iguana.  The only ones with these gorgeous colors were on Espanola Island.  Everywhere else, they were the same inky black as the lava rocks.
Sally Lightfoot Crab.  We saw these all over, too.  The adults were all this fantastic red, and the babies were pure black (you can see one in the lower right of this photo).  This camouflages the young from the adults, as (fun fact!) they are all cannibalistic.
Of course, the famous Blue-footed Boobies.
This is a juvenile Nazca, or Masked, Booby.  He was right on the path on Espanola, and was as curious about us as we were about him.  Love those big bug eyes.
And adult Nazca Booby on Genovesa.  These guys were my favourite of the boobies.
Red-footed Boobies on Genovesa.  These guys are the only ones which perch in trees--they've developed a prehensile toe in order to do so.
A Giant Tortoise, of course!  There are very few of these guys in the wild, as they were hunted nearly to extinction (entirely to extinction on some islands).  This guy was in the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz.
We made friends.
A Land Iguana, also on Santa Cruz.  These guys were GORGEOUS.
There is a very small flamingo population in the Galapagos, and they can be hard to spot.  We saw three, including this guy, who flew in over our heads to land in a lagoon.
There is also a very small (less that 1,000) penguin population--we saw about 20, which was quite a treat.  We even snorkeled with them!
We saw lots of amazing things underwater, but most moved too quickly to get good shots of.  I sort of stalked this Sea Turtle in order the snap this.
Here's the ship!  The National Geographic Endeavour.  We were quite fond of it.
My fantastic Aunt Anne and me on Bartolome, with lots of volcanic outcroppings behind us.  We only visited the older islands, so we didn't see any of the young, active volcanos on the western islands.

All in all, it was the trip of a lifetime and I'm SO grateful that I had a chance to go.  We traveled with Lindblad, which has a partnership with National Geographic.  Our experience was wonderful--the ship was great, the excursions were great, and the naturalists were downright wonderful.  And--always good--the food was fantastic.  I'll recommend this trip to anyone who'll listen, and if I had all the money in the world, I would definitely take other Lindblad cruises (like one of their Arctic ones, for example).  I know some people have mixed feelings about cruises, but this was nothing like my first cruise experience, where we were essentially in a gigantic floating hotel.  Lindblad ships are much, much smaller, and the whole experience feels so much friendlier and more intimate (in our case, the staff and crew outnumbered the guests).

This is a trip that I'll be carrying around inside of me for a long time to come, I think.

Note: all photos aside from the adult Nazca Booby and the Sea Turtle taken by Anne Grier (except for the one we're both in, of course).

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