Galapagos Islands 2018- Part I: Here Come the Boobies!
Travelers log – Friday, June 8, 2018
Arriving at the Baltra Airport, in the middle of what looked like a desert wasteland, I thought, “So…this is what I came here for?” Well, I must be in for some true life lessons…
The first of the Ah Ha moments came at the Darwin Station. As I sat and listened to Ruly , our naturalist guide, tell about his 8 months of solitude on Santa Fe Island,his love for the creatures and what the study of these endemic species can give the world, I felt his passion. He had this way of walking right into your space, looking you in the eye and saying…”If we don’t show the world the majesty and incredible gift of this place…my friends it will not be the same for visitors and scientists 20 years from now!” He was talking to ME and everyone within ears reach (and you reading this now), we must all HELP to preserve the purity of the islands. That is what makes this place so special. Untouched and untainted by outside influence, where else on earth can we find such a place?
Facts: Galapagos Islands, a scientific treasure, a natural wonder of the world! They are located 600 nautical miles from the nearest land masses, Ecuador and Panama. One of the miracles of this place is the fact that any species actually arrived here. The most common theory is that they floated along on pieces of drift wood or moss, following the Southern Equatorial, Panama or Cromwell Currents. El Nino weather patterns may have been a major contributing factor to the majority of the creatures who call this place home. Imagine, if you will, floating for your life for 600 miles, surviving the journey, only to arrive in a place completely different from where you were born. Thus is how and why the Theory of Evolution takes place.
This is the place where Charles Darwin formulated the Theory of Evolution. After landing on the shores of the Galapagos and seeing the similar, yet different plants and animals here, he came back time and again to study and document his findings. In 1959, Ecuador declared the Galapagos Islands a National Park. 97% of the land is a protected sanctuary. Prince Philip of England agreed and shortly after founded the Darwin Foundation, which today still provides funding to support the research and preservation of this amazing archipelago. In 1964, the Darwin Research Station was formed and began logistically supporting the vast number of groups who want to study in this region. The Galapagos Islands are truly remote
Back to the story: I am sitting on deck of the Nemo I, watching the catamaran cut through the waves, what a sense of peace and tranquility.
Then overhead…a frigate bird flies by, then a brown pelican. It feels like a scene from Jurassic Park! I have never seen such prehistoic creatures up close and personal.
The wind is up, “Raise the Sails!” Captain William tells the crew. William has been Captain of the Nemo I for 15 years. We all feel safe with him at the helm. The boat slices through the water with ease, the sail
Travelers Log – Saturday, June 9, 2018
Here come the Boobies!
The Blue-Footed ones, silly!
San Cristobal Island – This is it! Today is the day we will see this iconic creature of the Galapagos. It is also the only place where they nest along-side the Red-footed and Nazca Boobies – a bird trifecta! Anticipation wells up inside of me, as we land on the shore of the island. The path from the beach is rugged. I am glad to have sturdy hiking boots. It is about 2 feet wide, with sometimes spiky vegetation poking your skin as you pass. We spot a mockingbird nestled in a hollow, shoulder level, less than 2 ft from the path. The rest of the group was ahead and missed the moment. Not 20 minutes later we hear them discussing the mockingbird and wanting to see one. What a treat we had been given.
Reaching the top of the hill, we round a bend and voila…there they are…a nest with a family of Blue-Footed Boobies is right there -Mama, Papa and baby! We were like a bunch of kids on Christmas morning, rushing around, trying to get the perfect shot. Meanwhile, Ruly finds a spot on a rock, 10 feet from the nest, sits down and says “Stop! My friends, back up, slowly find a spot. Realize we are in the home of this creature. Respect its space, don’t move around so quickly. Find a place at respectable distance and observe. They will give you the shot you are seeking.”
We sit quietly and watched as the Mama bird flew off to hunt.
The Papa bird positioned his body to shadow the baby bird. As the sun changed positions, so would the bird, moving in a slow circle to keep the baby protected from the harsh sun. Later that day, Ruly gave his rendition of how the circle nest was formed. Crouching down, pigeon-toes, he moved in a slow circle as the bird would move, pausing occasionally and “phffft…poop….phffft-poop…Thus forming the white Circle-O-Poo around the nest. Did he really just do that…LOL! Thanks, Ruly, for making our journey both educational and comical! I love this guy, no shame or inhibitions!
The really strange part, they did not seem at all bothered by our presence. Throughout our journey, the creatures are literally right there, potentially under your feet as you walk the path. If not careful you may step on a bird nest or an iguana basking in the sun. An experience like none other! The lack of natural predators allows them to have no fear of humans. No hunting allowed…
Over the course of the next few days, I saw the true beauty of the islands. Something I did not expect, were the bonds formed with our band of travelers. We chose a small, 16 passenger catamaran for our adventure. This journey had only 10 passengers and 5 crew members. We hailed from all over the world: Australia, Ireland, France, Canada, and Joe and I from the United States. Every day we would come back to the Nemo I, break bread together and share experiences from the day, but also from life. I am thankful we chose one of the smaller vessels on the islands. It really gave us the opportunity to share with the group, instead of going our own way, onboard the ship.
As we leave the isle of San Cristobal, we see 2 large rocks rising from the water. Just as the sun is beginning to set, Captain William turns the bow toward this natural formation. One by one, we all seek a place towards the front of the boat. All is quiet…the only sounds are the swooshing of the boat slicing through the water and the click of a camera lens.
Peace…Tranquility…The immense boulders are Kicker Rock, also known as Leo Dormido (Sleeping Lion). The monolithic stones are the remains of an ancient volcanic cone, rising 500 feet above the Pacific Ocean. What a perfect backdrop as we sail into the sunset.
While I cannot wait to see the images captured, I know they will only pale in comparison to the moment! At times like this, one cannot help but reflect upon the majesty of nature. I think of all the blessing in my life. What an honor to see such places—and to be able to share it with my soul-mate and love of my life, Joe Duty…Thank you, God! I am full! My cup runneth over…..
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Galapagos 2018 Part II, From Land to Sea Lion, coming soon….