The Galapagos Islands are located 600 miles off the coast of South America in the eastern Pacific Ocean. These islands are of volcanic origin and most were formed due to a hotspot under the earth. Their isolation has brought about their great biodiversity, where species vary from island to island.
It was a great privilege for me to go to the Galapagos and to retrace Darwin’s footsteps. We scheduled the trip to be during the Thanksgiving week. I was off from school that week and my birthday was coincidentally on Nov 26.
Friday, Nov. 19:
Today was the day my family and I were leaving for Guayaquil, Ecuador. We took a short hop to Miami to catch the flight to Guayaquil. In my experience, Miami Airport was the most vegetarian unfriendly airport as I could not find anything to eat! We arrived in Guayaquil at 11:20 PM and had to go through long lines to clear the baggage and by the time we came out, it was past 1:00 AM. But the Lindblad team was waiting for us and they took us to Hilton Colon to catch on some sleep before we took off to Galapagos next morning.
Saturday, Nov. 20:
We had a good breakfast and proceeded to Aeropuerto Jose Joaquin De Olmedo, Guayaquil to catch the AeroGal flight to Baltra Seymour Airport, Galapagos. The flight was short, but the plane was new and clean and the stewardesses were very friendly. Approaching, I got my first glimpse of the beautiful islands from above! Baltra airport was very small but cute.
We were taken in a bus to a dock from where we took a zodiac to the ship–MS National Geographic Endeavor. It was a great big ship that was built in 1966 as a fishing boat, but converted into a great looking expedition ship. It had all the facilities–a gym, a small pool, a spa, a stocked library, a lounge to get together in the evenings, and a dining room. The ship had an open bridge policy, and I took advantage of it, steering the ship for a few minutes.
After lunch the ship sailed to North Seymour Island, which was our first outing. Here, we saw frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, land and marine iguanas, and a whole group of sea lions. We saw juvenile boobies and frigates up close in their nests. A number of male frigates opened their red balloon shaped throat pouches to attract females, which was a beautiful sight. The sun set and turned the skies into bright orange and we headed back to the ship.
Sunday, Nov. 21:
We had anchored off the Coast of Espanola Island. This was the oldest of the Galapagos Islands. It was formed 5 million years ago. Erosion had made the island relatively flat. We had a trek in the morning. The first animal we saw was a swimming marine iguana. It was interesting to see the iguanas swim and climb the rocks from the ocean. Once they were on land they would all line up facing the sun waiting for something to happen and would sneeze out the salt they took in from the sea water.
We saw a lot of sea lions on the beach. The beach master sea lions were very territorial and owned small tracts of land on the beach where they lived with their females and children. The sounds they made (awh, awh, awh, awh) were very interesting. It was so fun to observe their behavior.
Continuing on the trail, we saw many baby waved albatrosses waiting for their parents to come and feed them.
While nesting in the Galapagos, albatrosses may go up to a thousand miles to the coast of Peru to fish. What a sight to see them come back and regurgitate the food to the chicks! There were a number of abandoned eggs on the way. Albatrosses pair for life and are very protective of their chicks. No one knows why some are abandoned.
We came across a big blowhole which spewed mist across the island. It was also the home of many Nazca boobies.
After lunch, we visited another part of the island at Gardner Bay, which was the home of hundreds of sea lions. We snorkeled around a nearby rock where we saw immense populations of razor surgeon, King Angel and bicolor parrot fish. Later we watched the sea lions, which were enjoying their siesta on the beautiful sandy beach. Soon it was getting dark and we had to retire to the ship.
To be continued…
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Photographs by Aadith Moorthy