Saturday, 1 July 2017

A visit to the Galapagos Islands

A long-held ambition was recently fulfilled when Lisa and myself visited the Galapagos Islands. As a biologist, it was incredibly exciting to visit the place which had played such a key inspiration for Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. For their size, the Galapagos have more endemic species than anywhere else on earth. 

I am fortunate enough to have been to many places to view nature and wildlife, but few as pristine as these islands, with animals so unafraid of humans. Even in the main harbour in Puerto Ayora, on the island of Santa Cruz, the water was so clear and unpolluted there were juvenile sharks swimming between the moored boats and sea turtles popping up for air. 

Each day brought a new treat. On the first day there were the famous giant tortoises, the next day we were diving with sea lions, as seen in this video

A particular favourite were the marine iguanas, basking at every available opportunity. 

For bird spotters, there were the famous Darwin finches, blue-footed boobies, and even flamingoes. Frigate birds and pelicans were often to be seen at the local open-air fish market, along with a few inquisitive sea lions. 

The sea lions generally got the first pick of the sun loungers too!

Lava lizards are the most abundant reptiles on the islands.

The underwater wildlife was as spectacular as that on land - there were eagle rays and hammerhead sharks off in the blue, plus, as this video shows, reef sharks and turtles in abundance. 

The diving was challenging, with strong currents and abrupt thermoclines, but it was well worth it! (Thanks to our dive master who borrowed my camera to get this shot of a shark, below). 

The final night at our favourite place for sun-downers and wildlife spotting. This was an unforgettable trip, and the Galapagos Islands certainly lived up to their reputation as a unique wildlife experience!