BootsnAll Travel Network

Days 626-635: Galapagos Islands

Islas Baltra, Plaza Sur, Santa Fe, Española, Floreana, Santa Cruz, Rabida, Santiago, Bartolome, Seymor Norte

The Galapagos Islands were simply incredible. Well, not the islands themselves so much, but their incredible critters. The coolest part is that they were fearless of humans. This blog isn’t big on text but has a whole lot of critter pics, so be patient while it loads.

Dancing feet of the blue-footed booby.

We booked a 8-day/7-night trip on small yacht called the Aida Maria. There was space for 16 passengers, 5 crew members, and our naturalist guide, Gandhy. The boat was small enough to feel personal and we were able to get to know all the other passengers, but a bit too small to smooth out the occasionally rough seas. Thanks to modern medicine, neither of us got sick during the trip. But quite a few of our fellow voyagers had a rough night or two. It was a nice mix of international travellers and everyone was quite friendly.

The trusty Aida Maria.

We made it to ten of the islands and at most of them we saw loads of sea lions, iguanas, and Sally Light-foot crabs. We filled a 1 GB memory card of pictures and had a hard time paring it down to just a few.

The armies of bright-red Sally Light-foot crabs really stood out on the dark basalt. This one was on Bachas Beach on Isla Baltra.

Every island had slightly different plants and animals. Isla Plaza Sur was covered in red carpet plants and tall cacti.

Isla Plaza Sur had enormous yellow land iguanas. These guys eat cactus after scraping the spines off.

Swallow tailed gull with fuzzy chick on Plaza sur.

Close up of a land iguana on Plaza Sur. Love the scaley lips.

Enormous frigate birds are everywhere! Their wing shape makes them look really aerobatic. The males have a red pouch on their chest which they can inflate to impress the ladies. These birds are pretty nasty. The way they eat is by stealing food from other birds by yanking on their tail feather in flight and catching the food they drop before it hits the water.

Male frigate bird at sea. (No ladies around to show off for.)

It wouldn’t be a trip to the Galapagos if we didn’t see any of those famous finches. Here’s a finch on Isla Santa Fe.

Dark crab on Isla Santa Fe.

We brought some disposable underwater cameras to see if we could get some pics of the wildlife underwater. Little did we know that underwater cameras suck, but we included the “best” of what actually came out. We snorked almost every day and some of the spots were pretty good. The visibility was mixed and really depended on the swells for spots near beaches. One of our first spots was off Isla Santa Fe where were able to swim with a group of a dozen spotted Eagle rays.

Spotted eagle rays off the beach at Isla Santa Fe.

The marine iguanas in the Galapagos are simply amazing! They actually go under the water to eat and can swim incredibly well. Also, they come in a huge variety of different colorations, supposedly because of what they eat. These guys just hang around the rocks and on the beaches and pretty much ignore everything going on around them. Unless two male marine iguanas happen to cross paths – then they do battle!

Green and red marine iguana on Isla Española.

Perhaps the animal most associated with the Galapagos, probably because of its funny name, is the booby. Boobies come in a few different varieties: Nazca, red-footed, and blue-footed. Only the blue-footed boobies do the booby dance, which is really quite funny. We took a video of part of the dance and put it at the bottom of this blog (it takes a while to load). The female blue-footed booby lets out a honk and the male whistles (of course!). They alternately raise their feet and then do a weird pose called a “sky point”. The dance can take hours and eventually the guy tries to offer the gal a twig. If she accepts it, then he’s golden! (If only it was this easy guys.)

Blue-footed boobies on Isla Española. The gal is thinking, “If only he’d offer me this twig…”

Blue-footed booby doing the “sky point” on Isla Española.

Marc checking out a nice pair of boobies. (Yeah, like you didn’t see that one coming.)

Nazca booby and chick on Isla Española. They generally lay two eggs and you sure wouldn’t want to be the second one to hatch.

Red billed tropic bird flying over Isla Española. That pretty long tail is a favorite for yanking by frigate birds.

Marine iguana hanging out on a rock on Isla Española.

The “post office” at Post Office Bay on Isla Floreana. There is a barrel where folks put unstamped postcards and other travellers hand-carry them to their destination. If you live in Bakersfield on Panorama Dr., you might be waiting a while for your postcards since we won’t be back for a few months.

The best snorkel spot we went to in the Galapagos was the Corona del Diablo (Crown of the Devil). This is a rocky ring off the coast of Isla Floreana and had terrific visibility and lots of cool marine animals. There were multiple white-tipped reef sharks that we got to swim with and came out with all our limbs. (Don’t worry, they’re harmless mom.)

White-tipped reef shark at Corona del Diablo.

The sea lions in the Galapagos were incredibly playful, unless it was a dominant male. These big guys weighed up to 600 pounds and were pretty scary when they didn’t want you around. We didn’t know they could bark underwater until they did it right under us. The females and younger males, however, loved to play with us and put on aquabatic displays to remind us who was boss underwater.

Kelly and a sea lion doing somersaults.

Orange-black starfish at Corona del Diablo.

We saw sea turtles all over the place. But it seemed like every time we saw them they were either mating with about three males on one female or heading back to sea after laying eggs.

A tuckered green sea turtle heading out to sea on Isla Floreana after a rough night of laying eggs.

Heron on Isla Floreana stalking a crab.

Group of pink flamingos on Isla Floreana.

Dolphins playing in the bow wave of the boat. They made it look effortless to keep up with the boat.

One of the days was spent entirely on main island of Santa Cruz. Part of it was at the Charles Darwin Research Station to see some of the tortoises in their captive breeding program and the other part was out in the Santa Cruz highlands to see some wild tortoises.

Tortoises at Chuck D research station. “Eh, what was that Elmer?” “Now listen Earl. What I said was….” These tortoises live to something like 150 years old. In fact, a tortoise named Harriet was presented as a gift by Charles Darwin and died only last year at an estimated age of 175!

We’ve been stopped by a lot of different animals in the road on this trip, but this had to be the slowest. He just sat down and took a nap after this picture.

The bus driver gave up and tried to go around him. But the bus ended up in a ditch and we were stuck. The tortoise just walked off without so much as giving us a tow.

We walked the rest of the way to a farm that grows coffee and fruit. But the real draw of the place was that wild giant tortoises hang out eating grass. These guys were very timid by Galapagos standards and would retreat into their shell when you approached. When they did this, it let out a loud sigh that sounded like a nasty hiss.

Shrinkage in the Santa Cruz highlands.

A giant tortoise and Kelly for scale. They’re huge!

A cactus to make a land iguana salivate on Isla Rabida.

Of course the top of the Galapagos food chain was fearless. A Galapagos hawk on Isla Rabida.

An appropirately named chocolate-chip starfish.

Sea turtle underwater. She was probably making a break from a gaggle of pursuing males.

Marine iguana doing its best Godzilla impression at Puerto Egas on Isla Santiago.

Cute baby sea lion on Isla Santiago. There were adorable baby sea lions everywhere and it was hard not to make a blog of just baby sea lion pics.

Iguana mosh pit on Isla Santiago.

We learned that the easiest way to tell the difference between a seal and a sea lion is to watch them walk. Sea lions can use their front flippers as legs and do a kind of waddle. But seals can’t and just kind of flop their way forward.

Cute little fur seal on Isla Santiago.

Green and red marine iguana on Isla Santiago. When the spikes are all standing up, it is a female. But if the spikes are flopping to the side, it is a male.

Organic and lava beach sand on Isla Santiago. Good thing those sea urchin spines weren’t pokey.

Sea lions on an eroded sandstone formation on Isla Santiago.

Every island was a bit different in topography. Isla Bartolome had an easily climbable volcano with a great view. That’s Isla Santiago in the background.

The channel between Islas Bartolome and Santiago was home to a few Galapagos penguins. What the heck are penguins doing at the equator anyway? We saw them first underwater and they swam so fast that this was the best picture we could get. Like tiny torpedos with wings.

It was easier to get a picture of a Galapagos penguin and their demonic red eyes on land.

Ghost crab stuck in a footprint that it mistook for it’s hole at Sullivan Bay on Isla Santiago. Cool eyes!

Sunset at sea.

Sometimes you really had to watch your step to avoid stepping on iguanas, crabs, and sea lions. Kelly’s avoiding a sea lion in “the road” on Isla Seymor Norte.

Yellow bird on Isla Seymor Norte.

After our boat trip, we spent three more nights at Puerto Ayora on the south coast of Isla Santa Cruz. It rained almost the entire time. Good thing it cleared up one afternoon and we made a beeline for the beautiful Bahia Tortuga (Turtle Bay).

Lava lizard on the path to Bahia Tortuga.

Marine iguana catching some rays at Bahia Tortuga, Isla Santa Cruz. Idyllic!

Great blue heron at Bahia Tortuga. (Thanks to Roger S. for identifying this bird for us!)

Pelican flying on Bahia Tortuga.

Most of the surf at Bahia Tortuga was really rough. But there is a tiny, sheltered spot at the end with clear water, swimming marine iguanas, eels, octopus, fish, and a really cute sea lion.

Marine iguana going for a swim at Bahia Tortuga. They really didn’t like it when young sea lions would yank them by their tails for fun.

And here’s a view of a swimming marine iguana from below.

The resident sea lion underwater.

Close up of marine iguana. Watch out for those nostrils when they sneeze out salt water after a swim.

As promised, the blue-footed booby dance movie.

The Galapagos were an incredible experience. How many places are left in the world with such an amazing variety of wildlife and the ability to get right next to them? We hope they manage to preserve this place for a long, long time.


12 Responses to “Days 626-635: Galapagos Islands”

  1. ¡Viejo Papá De la Inflamación! Says:

    ¡Ése era un par dulce de boobies! El mejor blog todavía. ¡Dulce!

  2. Posted from United States United States
  3. Mom Says:

    This has to be one of your greatest blogs -wonderful! Thank you for sharing your adventures 🙂

  4. Posted from United States United States
  5. zcookes/Mom Says:

    This is getting old…



  6. Posted from United States United States
  7. JTR Says:

    Let me know when you make it to Mexico and I will give you some tips on where else you might venture to watch of good booby dance routine.


  8. Dan Says:

    Okay, I had to wait a long time to watch the blue footed booby dance on my dial up — but it was worth it. Now I’m wondering who the booby is and I’m afraid to check my shoes.

  9. Posted from United States United States
  10. Jenny Peterson Says:

    Fantastic pictures. Wow! And the video of the blue footed booby dance – so cute! 🙂

  11. Posted from United States United States
  12. Sue Park Says:

    Hey you guys!!

    This is Sue (from the Botswana – Zimbabwe safari tour in July 06). =)

    We are currently in Argentina – we arrived in Quito in late November and have been traveling through the continent eversince. We are leaving for Puerto Iguazu later in the day.

    You have some really beautiful photos here – glad to hear that you also enjoyed the Galapagos Islands. It was definitely one of our favorite spots so far!

    I´m not sure how much more of traveling you have left before you go back to the U.S., but travel safely and have fun!! (Lee says hello, too. Btw, we ended up visiting Patricia and her family afterall…we stayed with the whole family for a whole week in Pamplona)

  13. Posted from Argentina Argentina
  14. Kyla Says:

    Awsome photographs!! How are you guys? kelly you are so lucky,you got to be that close to sea lion!! I just turned turn ten on december twentyith it was really fun.I got to go to disneyland with Kaori my friend.nrnrnrnr Love,nrKyla

  15. crazy aunt lori Says:

    i got yer boobies right here ( * )( * )i’m standin on my head rnormally ( . )( . ) gravity not my friend great pics

  16. Posted from United States United States
  17. Lata Says:

    super cool pics! just shared them with my students- we are studying about darwin and of course his journey to the galapegos- they really enjoyed it 🙂 thanks for helping me teach 🙂

  18. Posted from United States United States
  19. Janelle Says:

    Hi! My name is Janelle and I’m from Bakersfield California but right now I go to school in San Diego. My mom called me from home to tell me that she got the post card from Isla Floreana yesterday and gave me the website that was on it. Looking at your pictures brings me back to the best trip that I will probably ever go on in my life. It seems that you were there a week after me and my family had vacationed there with Explorers Corner. I would have to say power snorkeling around Devil’s Crown was my favorite part of the trip. But I also enjoyed all the hiking and kayaking on all of the islands. I know that you are busy traveling but you can email me back if you like. I hope your experience was a great as mine.

  20. Posted from United States United States
  21. Catalina :) Says:

    hi, my name is Catalina . im from San Juan, Puerto Rico & im doing research for my class.
    Of course im reasearching Galapagos Islands!.
    You have beautiful pictures! and it really helped my with my project 🙂

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