Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Galapagos Islands - Part 3

Good Galapagos Morning!  After a beautiful sleep in luxury, this is the first official full day on our boat tour.


It's early disembark today and all days.  The way the Naturalist Guide has us scheduled each day is an early morning hike, and then back to boat mid day for lunch.  Return to shore either in the same location or another location for a snorkel with incredible sea creatures, kayak or another educational hike.  By law, each group on any hike in the Galapagos National Park is limited to 16 people. (Hence, most boats only carry 16 passengers, which is really nice!) This is a positive change from the big cruise ships that used to come here with thousands of passengers at a time destroying the place.

Our boat sailed over night to this location.  We take 2 dinghy's with 8 people each.


Looks good!  But quite honestly, I am surprised to see buildings here?  I have this vision that all of the Galapagos is a national park.  It is mostly true, but there were communities here before and some of them remain.  Interesting story that we learned from our first day at the Charles Darwin center on San Cristobal.  This part of Ecuador was not highly regarded for most of it's history.  It was too far from the mainland and the people couldn't be bothered with it.  The people who did live here to fish and hunt were told they were no longer ALLOWED to once the area was protected. It was a major conflict to have strangers come in to tell the locals they can't catch their own fish.  It is actually still a conflict today!  However, with the licenses they get and the small amount of fish they are able to catch, a fair amount of the locals have learned to make money off the tourists, therefore, taking them out on the fishing boats for a fee.  It helps I'm sure.  I can understand the locals frustration, but given the fate of Lonesome George, it's obviously necessary.


We are visiting Santa Cruz Island this morning.  First we hop into a van for a drive to a super salty lagoon which is full of feeding flamingos.  Look, there goes one flying by now!




Birds of a feather..  3 different species of birds pairs in 1 shot!  For whatever reason and lack of research, I didn't expect to see flamingos here (or anywhere outside the front yard of Florida residents... ha!)


Then they take us by van to another Charles Darwin research center, where they have a breeding project for the tortoises. The breeding plan is so we don't have a repeat of Lonesome George's species.  Even with the amount of babies you see here, the species are still listed as 'vulnerable' today.


 To me they look like a little army.


These little tortoises are several years old already.  It's too bad that the biologists feel they need to have controlled breeding to ensure the species will survive.  There were originally 15 subspecies of tortoise in the Galapagos.  Since being exploited for meat and oil, plus the introduction of non-native rats and pigs, numbers declined dramatically with only 11 of the 15 subspecies surviving.  Since Lonesome George died, it's now down to 10.  With this breeding program, there appears to be hope, for now anyway.




This one just got told he's being released soon.. ;-)))



It's fascinating to see the breeding center.  But Kevin is getting impatient.  He doesn't want to see turtles in a cage.  We are in the wildest part of the world and he wants to see them in the wild!  I understand..

Back to the little village to board the dinghy and I'm fascinated watching the locals unload supplies.



Because the sea lions are on their boats watching too!


The sea lion in the photo below also reminds me of my dog.  Happy to sit and watch the world go by.


So that was the morning, very beautiful and interesting.  Returned to the boat for lunch, and along with a luxury boat comes luxury meals!  Yummm.  Not long after lunch we're back to a different location on the island to explore again this afternoon.

Kevin, are those penguins!??  They are !!


Oooooo, big daddy penguin..


This is a tiny little dock, where we get off the dinghy.


They've certainly got quite the welcoming committee here.. Look!!  More penguins!!!!!!


I love penguins and don't see them often enough.  I usually associate penguins with arctic climate, so I didn't expect to see these guys here either!  (Ok, from the little bit of research I did on the Galapagos or from what I thought I knew, I expected the Boobies, Iguanas and Sea Lions.. that's about it and anything on top is a bonus.  I am getting so many bonuses. ;-)


The Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) is a penguin endemic to the Galapagos Islands. It is the only penguin that lives north of the equator in the wild; it can survive due to the cool temperatures resulting from the Humboldt Current and cool waters from great depths brought up by the Cromwell Current. The Galapagos Penguin is one of the banded penguins, the other species of which occur mostly on the coasts of mainland South America, and Africa. Wikipedia.

And then this sea lion was happy to see us too!


Somehow, I think this guy as NOT so happy to see us.. ;-(  I look at the eyes, and I see a prehistoric looking creature...and the evil grin.  Actually, maybe he is happy. ;-)


What a unique landscape..


 Don't disturb me, I'm sun baking... Charles, I'll take another Mai Tai.. ;-)))


One thing I would be surprised to see in my lifetime is the extinction of these marine iguanas.  They are everywhere.. in abundance!



Our group is well ahead of us as usual.  It was always tricky and my one little complaint.  I want to keep up with our naturalist guide to learn as much as possible.  He has a time frame to stick to and dinghy's scheduled to pick us up. But we also didn't want us to pass up anything too fast so we can watch and enjoy it better, more slowly, time for photos etc. 


C'mon Kev! ;-)


I shouldn't tell you, but I have to tell you.  This happy guy is eating sea lion dung.


Looks to be quite a difficult task, but he seems happy!


Hmmm.. maybe this side is better..?


 We're coming up on a breeding beach.



The females are preparing to bury their eggs.  Isn't that typical in all the world?  The women have to do all the work?? ;-)))




The sand is flyin'...  You go girl!!


Hmph.. what you lookin' at..?  I'm just admiring your work.



This one seems to be watching over his harem.


 Cheaters!  Awww.. it's iguana love...


As we were leaving the beach, the slackers, Kevin and Sherri spotted a little baby sleeping in the bushes.  Using a branch to rest it's little head.


This place is even more awesome than I expected.

Next stop is white tip shark alley.



Ahhh, there they are!



Sheez, they look amazing. You get it all here..!  They swim so peacefully.  We learned they feed during the night on reef fish by using electromagnetic pulses.. Smart sharks!  Unlike most other sharks, these white tips usually sleep during the day.


Now, the time has come to head back to our boat.


Fun fun fun!!


It's hot and we've been sweating all day.  While sitting on the back deck, I dared Kevin to jump in to cool off.  I can tell by his face, he's not so sure.


As he stares down into the water, he yells over for me to count down for him.. ha!  3...2....1 !!!



Another opportunity for sunset wine, before shower and dinner... I love my life.


Good Galapagos Night!!

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