Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Galapagos - Islands at the end of the world.

The most iconic Galapagos inhabitant - Marine Iguana. 

The Galapagos archipelago, which straddles the equator, lies off the coast of Equador in the Pacific Ocean and is one of the most biologically intriguing places on earth. Geologically it is a turbulent place. Volcanoes spew up lava, creating barren, hostile islands in the north west of the region. Once created, the islands start drifting in a south-easterly direction due to a tectonic fault-line that moves in that way. 

Extinct volcano. 
The characteristics of the islands change on this eastward journey as the sharp volcanic edges of younger islands are weathered into gradually more flattened shapes. Soils start forming as islands age and allows plants to settle. This in turn creates habitat for some of the world’s most unique life forms. 

Old town Quito,, the capitol of Equador, stopover en route to the Galapagos. 
Isolated by a thousand kilometers of Pacific Ocean most wildlife reached the islands either by flying or swimming there. Terrestrial species had the most difficulty reaching the islands and it is believed that they reached it after being swept to sea on rafts of vegetation from the mainland. Individuals lucky enough to survive the arduous journey had to either adapt or die. 

Yet another endemic species.- Land Iguana, the most common of the three species of Land iguana. 

Endemism peaks and several bird, mammal and reptiles are found here and nowhere else on earth. Some species, notably giant tortoises and some species of iguanas have become so adapted to life on a specific island that they are found on a single island and nowhere else, even on other Galapagos islands.     

The only penguin found north of the equator. Galapagos penguin. 
The Galapagos is home to the world’s rarest penguin (and the only one found north of the equator), the rarest gull, the only nocturnal gull, and the only marine lizard in the world, to name but a few. In short, a naturalists Valhalla. The incredible terrestrial wildlife diversity is mirrored in the sea below and regular snorkeling trips is sure to provide ample opportunity to explore the underwater realm. 

The surreal experience of diving with a marine Iguana.
Pacific green turtle. 
The archipelago consists of 13 major islands, 6 smaller ones and thousands islets and protruding rocks.  People inhabit five of the islands and visitors are allowed only on small sections of some islands. While this may seem prohibitive the sheer abundance of wildlife on these sections are overwhelming while the wild and remoteness of large sections of the islands create a true sense of unspoilt wilderness. 

The region is rich in legend and history with its most famous visitor being Charles Darwin who set foot on the island in 1835. It was some of the specimens that he collected on these islands that had a profound impact on the formulation of his very well know Theory of Natural Selection and our current understanding of speciation today.
And anyone interested in wildlife and exploration will agree that the magic is still as real today as it was in 1835. 

Iconic blue footed boobies. 

Below are some images of island life.

Viewing a Blue Footed Booby colony. 

View from the boat towards San Cristobal harbor.

View from the cabin.

Boat lounge. 

Cliffs on Genovesa Island


Our ride.

Photographing Greater Fregatebird. 

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