How to capture on a simple blog, the most peaceful five days of my life … Quite simply, I am ill equipped to do so! … and, despite a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast this morning, which did not even begin to rival the cooking skills of Louis, our chef on board the Ocean Spray, I remain in culture shock, back here in Quito. To quote my favourite singers, Deva Premal and her mate, Miten, “there is so much magnificence, in the ocean” … on both land and sea but it was the quiet, that surreal other worldly quiet and stillness, that left me moved the most … the wind the waves, the birds the sea lions … no words that would do the ambiance justice. Just know that it was magnificent.
It is the giant tortoise that gave Galápagos it’s name … they live happily up to 150 years on both a large reserve in the rainforest island of Santa Cruz and other islands in the highlands and volcanoes … apparently 11 species live in this archipelago that is the Galápagos. I would need to spend months here to see even a fraction of the wild life …. five days was a delightful intro. Our guide, Xavier said he has been to the Galapagos frequently and sees something new always as he walks the paths. There are thousands of birds, 19 seabird species that breed here, seven are endemic. The frigate was particularly visible everywhere we went, with it’s unusual mating ritual, whereby he blows up a huge flap of lose bright red skin that sits under his chin, flaps his extensive wing mass several times, while perched on a bush … this continues until a female flies by, is interested enough to pick the dude and mate.
The cute little blue footed boobies … booby is derived from the Spanish word ‘bobo’, meaning ‘clown’ …. with their own unusual and quite funny mating ritual of prancing and dancing, showing off their turquoise feet, opening their wings wide, pointing at the sky with their beaks … males whistle and females honk! It is all about survival on these far flung, primarily wind swept, arid, volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean, 900 plus kms from mainland Ecuador. There are some lush forests in the highlands of some islands and Santa Cruz has a rainforest but dry landscape is the norm.
Most of the wildlife is fearless due to the lack of predators and one can calmly and safely walk by a blissful doe eyed resting sea lion, giant tortoise, any kind of bird, (in fact they are on the trails and one has to cautiously walk around them in order to avoid stepping on them!), marine iguanas, which are the planet’s only bathing lizard wander freely over rocky formations! … skittish Sally Lightfoot crabs with their bright orange shell and turquoise underbelly are literally everywhere clinging to seaside rocks … Nazca booby, pelicans, blue herons, red footed booby, Galápagos penguin, the only penguin living north of the equator, lizards of every description, slithering here and there … even managed to site a few short eared owls, well camouflaged in the rocks …
It is a beautiful quiet serene place to observe life at it’s most basic … procreation and survival are pretty much it! Humans remain the islands’ greatest threat and challenge …. Limits are in place for numbers allowed on the islands, but still, I felt almost as though I should sweep my footprints as I left. Intrusion into the natural order of life in the Galapagos, no matter how cruel it may seem, as nature often is …. is strictly forbidden and severely fined …. a year ago, a kind gentleman who could not leave a tiny turtle struggling on it’s back, trying to right itself, stepped off the trails and turned it over …. upon leaving the island, he was pulled over and fined $3000 and could have been jailed …. the laws are strict. There is a huge educational component for all visitors … the naturalist guides who take us to these wild remote islands do an amazing job teaching in a kind, gentle, yet firm manner. Xavier was a lovely lovely man and taught us all so much … I was with a group of 12 others on a small catamaran capable of holding up to 16 guests plus 10 crew members. We came from everywhere …. another veritable mini UN ….. United States, Germany, Belgium, England and the crew from various parts of Ecuador and me, the token Canadian. Hopefully we did not leave a huge negative impact on the islands … may my pictures tell of the experience better than my words …..