Ecuador: Galapagos, the paradise is closer than you think

Galapagos Islands never have been on my bucket list.

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After eight months of driving around South America, after visiting so many interesting places, after the jungle of Amazon and the ice of Antarctica, I didn’t think the islands will offer me something I haven’t already seen.  I thought I could live without one more week cruise on a small 10 passengers boat. If you have used bathroom on a small, constantly shaking boat, you certainly will understand my reluctance to “it’s only one week, darling”.

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But both my son and my husband were fascinated by the stories about wild animals, Darwin’s evolution theory and giant turtles.

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So, we didn’t even have a discussion about it, Galapagos was a must.

At the end, I was happy we did it. The animals in Canada are not afraid of humans, the penguins in Antarctica were curious about us and the whales swam around us.  But nothing could compare to the animals in Galapagos. They simply don’t show any respect, any fear and any aggression toward humans. It was like getting back in some pre-primary sin Eden, where all the beast lived happily with Adam and Eve.

There were only three thing I felt sorry about:

–          I forgot my underwater camera in the car at Guayaquil.

–          I never learned to swim, so I couldn’t appreciate the rich underwater life around the islands

–          Our stay was too short. We stayed for two weeks, at some point I wished I could stay here forever

Ivan Jr

Galapagos was one of the most interesting places I’ve visited in quite a while.

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The animals definitely deserve a whole entry on their own, as well as how the community has adapted to live and coexist with them. The Iguanas are a perfect example of this.

In Canada, we have Canadian geese and squirrels, both of which are a common sight in Toronto, yet often they will run away or attack you if you get even as close as 10 meters away. This wasn’t the case in Galapagos. Many, if not all the animals (spare the crabs) were so apathetic to the existence of humans around them, it often surprised me. You could reach an iguana or sea lion (which often slept on the benches on the piers, forcing us humans to stand uncomfortably around them as we had nowhere to sit),

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and they would not care. Often the most I would get from them was a look, stating I was in their way, or to buzz off.

Yet the locals worked so hard and lovingly to the animals around them, making on every possible chance to let the animals be safe and protected. On several occasions, I saw people getting out of their cars, in the middle of a small road, to chase an iguana off the asphalt to avoid getting run over, and would often back up traffic as they’d waddle the animal to a safe place. Yet not once did anyone behind the stalled care honk or make any form of aggression to the inconvenience.

The ocean life played much the same tune. When we snorkeled, we often saw fish and other animals swim at our feet, no more than a foot away. On one occasion, we got a chance to swim around a sea turtle the size of me, as it gracefully ate food from the seabed.

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It would swim into me or right under my belly to move on to the next patch, not caring for me in the slightest. Another time we found a group of playful young sea lions, who swam circles around us like kids at an amusement park, blowing bubbles and turning upside down.

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At one moment, I was surrounded by at least a dozen of these baby sea lions, all around me.

None of these animals fear humans, mainly in part to the fact that all touristic and local efforts are made to prevent intervention of their natural habits. Every island we’d see, all the animals we’d see, from albatross birds

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to 150-year-old turtles

and blue footed boobies,

they’d never been approached by humans, but see tourists daily, gaze from afar. They’ve learned that we were not a threat, and although the animals would never allow us to touch them, they were comfortable with us visiting in their natural habitat on many of these undeveloped, uninhabited islands. Once I stood at the foot of a blue footed boobie nest, where the mother and baby stood no less than a foot from me as I crouched. They but only looked at me in curiosity, with motions of distress only made if we got much too close, otherwise they stood there and gazed back.

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Marinela:

At Galapagos islands, we enjoyed:

Blue footed boobies.

Ivan said that he likes blue footed boobies, grey footed boobies, red footed boobies and all the boobies in general. I am not so sure about all of them but the birds were lovely. They are not endemic for Galapagos, but half all their population is found on the islands.

We really enjoyed a blue footed Mom and her fluffy baby.

Frigate bird

It is a long-winged bird with a tail like fork. When the mating season comes, the males inflame their red throat.

They used to fly along the boat for days

 

Or simply rested on the boat

The baby frigate is adorable and looks like a soft toy

Albatross

We were lucky to observe wave albatrosses and their funny mating behavior

On land they are very clumsy, goose looking birds but in the air they are graceful.

Galapagos dove

It is smaller and it looks softer than the common dove. What I like the most are these blue eyes and the red feet.

Lava heron

Galapagos hawk

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Mockingbirds and finches

Pelicans

They stared at us as we played chess

They shopped at the fish markets or fished at the sea

All other birds and the birds I don’t know the names

Turtles

The giant land tortoises are the poster card for Galapagos.

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They have been killed by thousands for food and lamp oil. Now they roam freely on the islands and really like guava.

It seems to be a difficult task, but obviously successful. The count of the tortoises is on the rise.

Sea lions

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They are everywhere. They share the islands with people and I think they are feeling more at home here than us. They sleep on docks, on benches, or at front doors of the shops.

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Sometimes they even look like regular customers at the fish market at Santa Cruz island together with big pelicans.

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Land iguanas

As our guide explained, there is a big difference between land and marine iguanas. The land iguanas look like dragons, while the marine iguanas look like Godzilla’s.

I’m sure you have seen both dragons and Godzilas, so you will easily understand the difference. For me, the ones on the land were land iguanas, and the ones going to swim were the marine ones.

It was funny to look at iguana eating flowers and fruits.

Marine iguana

This is a truly unique for Galapagos specie of reptile.

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Their ancestors have drifted out to sea on logs or other materials and have found a home on the island in the middle of the Pacific. They also are the only iguana specie that forage in sea. Despite their look, they are very gentle herbivores.

Some people, even Charles Darwin, find they are ugly but I think they are charming and adorable.

Sally Lightfoot Crabs

They are named after famous Caribbean dancer, they are so colorful and so fast,

running toward the ocean when we approach them. It is fun to watch them dance, run or feed and sometimes I cannot stop chasing them on the rocks.

 

If you have enough of animals, you always can enjoy some volcanoes, lava tunnels and crater pits.

But with so many animals, who cares about some volcano?

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