Ecuador – Galapagos Part 3b

These photos are from day 3 of our Galapagos trip back in June.  I didn’t realize I had more photos from the same day, so here is Part 3b.

In the late afternoon, we made our way back onto Espanola island to see boobies and albatrosses.

It was teeming with life and the sounds of life.. though it was very interesting to me that there was not much biodiversity.  But there were large populations of the few species that was saw.  Or maybe that was just my impression as this was in direct contrast to our experience in the Ecuadorian Amazon – where there is incredible biodiversity but only a small number of each plant or animal in any given area.

We were immediately greeted by boobies.  This male nazca booby was making clicking sounds in an attempt to attract a mate.

after maybe a 10 minute walk, we came upon the breeding area of the waved albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) or the galapagos albatross.

Some of them were nesting, sitting on eggs.

Our guide explained that the albatross is very heavy for a bird and has a giant wingspan, which makes it a super-efficient glider but clumsy when traveling at a low speed.

They spend most of their lives flying, and are generally on land only to breed.

Here’s a photo of some of our tour group who walked ahead while I stared at the giant birds.

The waved albatrosses don’t fly well at low speeds and thus have a hard time landing.  We watched the same birds circle the landing area a number of times and finally make an attempt to land, only to abort the landing at the very last moment.  Here’s one lowering its landing gear:

And this photo shows off their giant wingspan:

It was neat that a bird could look so majestic and goofy at the same time.  We saw a couple of birds perform their complex courtship, which involves a lot of walking in circles and clacking of beaks.  They mate for life.

As we walked back to the dock and boarded our panga, we were treated to a beautiful sunset:

and we had dinner and relaxed.

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Ecuador – Galapagos Part 3

We got on the boat, had dinner and then went to bed.  The next morning, I woke up for sunrise as the boat was setting anchor near Espanola Island aka Hood Island.

It was about 6:02am when I took this photo.  I was still super sleepy, so I went back to sleep before breakfast.

We had breakfast around 7 and then after getting dressed, took a panga to the beach.

The first steps onto the island at Gardner Bay were pretty amazing.  there were sea lions everywhere and it felt like we were the only humans on the island.  These are Galapagos sea lions (zalophus wollebaeki).

and here is a very curious Galapagos mockingbird (Mimus parvulus.  I am looking up the genus and species of what I have pictures of in hopes that it will help me learn a bit more!).  These little guys are bold and curious and are crazy attracted to water bottles and shiny things and my girlfriend’s thatchy hat.

Sleepy sea lion:

It was very interesting how there were so many sea lions who were not doing very much, but the entire colony was constantly making noise and in motion.

this one looks like it’s about to be rolled over like a bowling pin.

a marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus).  I did not know until seeing the Wikipedia article that marine iguanas are only found on the Galapagos islands.

We walked from the beach to the rocks and saw a galapagos four-eyed blenny (Dialommus fuscus).  These fish can crawl out of the water and spend a decent amount of time  breathing air.

bashful sea lion:

We went back to the boat for lunch and then back to the island for an afternoon walk.

It didn’t take too long for us to be treated to our first blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii) sighting.  This was probably the animal at the galapagos that I was asked most about before and after the trip.  Wikipedia has taught me the following interesting facts about these boobies:

1) “booby” is derived from “bobo” which means “stupid”, “fool”, or “clown”.  those poor clumsy birds!

2) they eat fish!

3) I was hoping to explain why they have blue feet, but I still don’t know.

there are a few other types of boobies on the Galapagos islands.  These are Nazca boobies (Sula granti) and they are doing a courting dance.   they lay two eggs at once, and the older chick basically kills the younger chick.

we still saw plenty of sea lions on the way back to shore.

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Ecuador – Galapagos Part 2

We left Galapagos Safari Camp the next morning.  Here’s another photo of their lovely lodge lobby.

We went to the Charles Darwin Research station at Puerto Ayora to see Lonesome George and to learn about some of the work they are doing.  We ran into this researcher catching butterflies.  We were lucky enough to see Lonesome  George a few weeks before he passed away.

We ate lunch at the Angermeyer Point restaurant.  This one was passed out at the bar by lunchtime:

The nice folks at Galapagos Safari Camp recommended that we try the ice cream at the Galapagos Deli.  Definitely a nice place to visit and have a pre-dinner ice cream.  I liked this guy:

I think we got the coffee ice cream:

 

There were balloons from a celebration the day before:

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Ecuador – Galapagos Part 1

baltra

From Baltra on the island of Santa Cruz, the Galapagos looked completely different than what I’d expected.   I expected a habitat teeming with unique wildlife but saw this instead:

baltra

It was humid and cloudy, but the landscape looked dry.  I was happy to be back at sea-level after spending a day in Quito.  After taking a short ferry ride and hopping in a van, however, the views changed rapidly as we gained elevation on Santa Cruz Island.  Lunch was served at Narwhal Restaurant.  This part of the island was a very lush green – though many of the plants were invasive species that thrived with the lack of adequate competition.

table set for lunch

We eventually headed down to Puerto Ayora to our hotel but first took a walk and water taxi around.

the docks at night in puerto ayora Water taxis at the Puerto Ayora pier.

We walked up Avenida Baltra to check out the town.  I wandered into a recreational center and stumbled across some people playing Ecuavolley .  I would have been intrigued watching a good traditional volleyball game, but this was captivating.  The net is higher and they play with a soccer ball (ouch!).  As a result, there is a lot less hitting and most points result from someone “setting” the ball over the net.  I use quotes because most of the sets would be considered carries in traditional volleyball… but it’s not surprising since they use a much heavier and harder ball.

 

equavolley

 

This kid was running around as we walked back out to the street: running child

 

 

 

The next day, we walked around before rejoining the group.

Here’s a Galapagos brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) that was hanging out near the boardwalk.

a galapagos brown pelican

 

We visited Galapagos Safari Camp – where one can stay in an eco-luxury tent if they choose to spend time on land in the Galapagos rather than on a boat.  It’s a beautiful place that was delgihtfully designed and arranged.  Here’s the main dining table in their lobby:

 

galapagos safari camp

 

and one of the tents:

galapagos safari camp tent

 complete with hot shower, air conditioning, and a real flushing toilet.  this is glamping at its best.

 —

We set out to see the giant tortoises that the Galapagos is so well-known for.  Our tour group stopped by a private farm where the giant tortoises are known to hang out.

galapagos tortoise

 we saw three tortoises that day.  Apparently the number that you see can vary from none at all to dozens.

We also stopped into a lava tube.  The one we visited was some of the caves or caverns in the national parks in the US – where people have decided to run electricity in and add steps and railings and so on.  that was fine with me.  Our guide explained that the tubes form when a large river of lava cools and hardens on the outside before the inside can harden.  The lava on the inside eventually vacates the interior of the flow leaving a hollow tube.  I took this photo while looking back at the entrance of the tube:

lava tube

 

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