The Galapagos Islands : Wildlife Paradise and a whole lot of boobies! Part 1 : The Eastern Islands

Not those sort of boobies! Such a filthy mind! I mean the type with wings and blue webbed feet! More about that later…

I have wanted to visit the Galapagos for about 10 years now. It has been right at the top of my bucket list and it’s the sort of place you wonder if you will only ever get to dream about. I need to pinch myself now that I’m here, to know I’m not still dreaming!

I can’t imagine any place so spectacular as the Galapagos Islands – the wildlife, the beaches, the geography, the natural history… It’s such a privilege to be here and experience it first hand after seeing it on so many wildlife documentaries. Do you remember the famous scene with the racing snakes and the iguanas in BBC one’s planet earth? It was so shocking it went viral across social media. It was in fact filmed in The Galapagos!

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I have to admit, it’s doesn’t have the wow factor when you first land here. From the airport it looks like barren scrubland, everything a different shade of brown! Not what we were expecting. Perhaps not helped by the grey clouds and drizzle in the air. But our adventure truly started when we were driven to the little jetty. Sitting right there was the first Galapagos sea lion we laid eyes on. It was amazing how relaxed she was in our presence! We hopped aboard the panga’s and headed for the Monserrat – the boat we’d call home for the next 8 days! I can’t rave enough about my time aboard the Monserrat – keep your eyes peeled for my review soon!

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The weather dried up a bit by the time we’d eaten lunch (we’d soon discover how quick the weather changes here) and we set sail for Isla Lobos. Our first wildlife walk had us all amazed. You can get so so close to the birds and wildlife here. They are protected so well by the locals, have relatively few predators and are so far away from their mainland cousins that here, the wildlife doesn’t fear humans as they’ve never had reason to. The rule is that you have to stay 2 metres away from the animals however this is actually hard to achieve as 1/ there are so many of them and 2/ the animals don’t fear you and will quite happily walk/waddle/swim straight up to you! At one point I was sat on a beach taking pictures of a mocking bird and it hopped right up to me and stared down the lens of my camera, bold as brass.

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As soon as we disembarked the panga, there was a seal lion sat there as though waiting for us. We spent so long taking photos of this particular sea lion, unaware that in a matter of minutes we would be literally surrounded by them! If you come to the Galapagos you will have SO many photos of sea lions! But they are pretty cute and they do love to pose for you!

Next up were the Blue footed boobies. The first we saw was a little chick – a bundle of bright white fluff with a beak and 2 beady eyes! The adolescents were various shades of brown with handsome faces with long necks and the fully grown boobies could be identified by their bright blue striking feet!

We also saw plenty of frigate birds with their impressive wingspans as they soared above us. The males by comparisons looked completely different with their red chests puffed out like balloons. In addition to frigates and boobies, we saw huge multicoloured crabs and marine iguanas which look prehistoric as they sunbathe on the black rocks! We clambered over the boulders in search of more birds and then we found my favourites – the sea lions! There were plenty of babies and young sea lion pups frolicking in a rock pool and playing together – so so cute! The sound they make is quite amusing – even the babies sound like they are vomiting! See video below – it’s seriously funny! 

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Huge crabs on the rocks
Baby sea lion suckling from mother video – get ready for an overdose of cuteness!

The following day, we went back to San Cristobal and discovered the most beautiful beach (Cerro Brujo)  I think I have ever been fortunate to see! This is high praise indeed as I never thought I’d be able to say that about anywhere else after seeing Whitehaven beach in Australia. But here the sea was azure blue, the sand bright white in contrast with the black shiny volcanic rocks. There were a few vibrant red crabs, marine iguanas and lazy sea lions dotted on the beach but otherwise we had this stunning beach to ourselves.

After soaking up the stunning views for a bit and getting yet more sea lions pictures, we found our snorkels and went for a swim off the beach. There were some beautiful colourful Coral and fish –  my personal favourites being the multi-coloured parrot fish. But the absolute highlight was my first experience swimming with sea lions. It was incredible to be so close to them and in the wild where you know it is their choice to be nearby you. They are so curious, circling and swimming around  you – at one point I came nose to nose with an adult sea lion – it was one of my best experiences to date!

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Later that afternoon we took a drive into the highlands where we noticed the landscape becoming more green and definitely more wet and misty! We visited the giant galapagos tortoise breeding centre. The tortoise population was depleted as many years ago pirates would visit the Galapagos and remove the tortoises to use for meat. As tortoises can go a whole year without eating and drinking, it was an easy way to keep a fresh source of meat on board as the tortoises could be killed for meat only when they were needed! It will take a long time for tortoises to recover their population as most tortoises will not mate until around 45 years and will often only mate once every 10 years or so! Hence the breeding centre was designed to improve the odds of increasing  the population at a quicker pace!


Interesting fact! The sex of a tortoise is determined only by the temperature at which the eggs are incubated!


 

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With the eastern islands explored, we headed for the southern Galapagos islands Espanola and Floreana. Keep your eyes peeled for the next blog article about them…

As always I’d love to hear from you. Do you need help deciding which islands to visit? Have you been already? What was your favourite part?!

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