9 (+1) Reasons To Visit the Galapagos Islands Before It’s Too Late
If ever there was a time to visit a few of the 3500 islands that make up the Galapagos, now is the time. For many of us, the Galapagos represent the quintessential expression of the unencumbered forces of nature. They could soon disappear as we know them since the archipelago is right on the brink of change. Unsustainable tourism, changing vegetation and a disappearing coral reef are a few of the reasons why this is happening. It is quite ironic that this Galapagos Gringa is encouraging you to go, realizing that we, as tourists, contribute to some of the challenges that they face. Conscious of this issue, I chose Ecoventura for my Galapagos sailing because of their deep devotion to the conservation of the Islands.
Ecuador has created a protected environment for the Galapagos Island wildlife and because humans have had very little interaction with the animals here, they have no fear of humans. They do not flee or hide in your presence, which makes it one of the most thrilling experiences you can have in the Galapagos.
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Here are 9 (+1) unforgettable encounters you can experience in the Galapagos Islands:
1. Roaming Among the Giant Tortoises
One of my favorite things I did in the Galapagos Islands was visiting fields of Giant Tortoises. These prehistoric creatures are one of the first things you will want to see when you get to Santa Cruz Island. They can grow to over a meter long and can weigh up to 300 kilograms (660 lbs). They are aptly named giants. You will be in awe as you sport your rain boots thru fields and fields of these fascinating beasts. They seem to move at a very slow pace, so you are able to get up very close to them.
2. Observing the Curious Dance of the Blue Footed “Booby”
The Blue-footed Booby is one of the Galapagos Islands’ most iconic species. Seeing the dance of the Blue-footed Booby is one of the most amazing experiences you will encounter. The male bird uses his blue feet to attract the female species and does a dance with whistling and flapping of the wings.
3. Listening to the Squawk of Playful Sea Lion
Sea lions are everywhere and will be probably the first animal you see on the first island you visit to the last animal you see on the last island you visit. You will see so many of these that you will become about as comfortable as possible around a wild animal. They are also as fun to watch as any of the animals you will see on the islands, but try not to step on them since they are so abundant.
4. Snorkeling Among the Sea Creatures
One thing that is fabulous in the Galapagos Islands is the snorkeling. I have been scuba diving and snorkeling all over the world and I have to tell you that some of the snorkeling that I did here was better than any deep scuba diving I have ever done. And this is just slightly below the surface, so even if you are not an advanced scuba diver or snorkeler, you can still see amazing underwater wildlife just below the surface. You’ll see sharks, abundant fish, rays, and even dolphins.
5. Exploring the Nesting Grounds of the Magnificent Frigate Birds
There is nothing quite as spectacular as walking thru the mating grounds of the male frigate birds. They are easily spotted since they have a giant coral-red throat pouch that they puff up with air for attracting the female Frigate. It makes for a stunning display. If you’re lucky you’ll also get to see the baby Frigates!
6. Studying the Survival of a Species: Land and Marine Iguanas
Iguanas are a unique and amazing species. Galapagos land iguanas grows to a length of three to five feet with a body weight of up to twenty-five pounds. Their size and weight vary from island to island. Because of the scarcity of nutrition on the land they likely evolved to be able to eat mostly seaweed. They have nostrils that filter out the excessive salt that they consume and expel it from their noses.
7. Spying the Sally Lightfoot Crab Grazing on the Rocks
The beautiful, rainbow-like coloration of the Sally Lightfoot Crab makes it stand out against the rock and sand surfaces. Though they can be found along the Pacific Coast of the Americas, the ones in the Galapagos exhibit the distinctive symbiotic behavior of cleaning ticks from the marine iguanas’ skin. I enjoyed watching them rapidly move in four different directions, especially sideways.
8. Viewing the Ocean-Gliding Waved Albatross
The Waved Albatross is the largest bird found in the Galapagos. Though the species soars over long distances, it breeds exclusively in the Galapagos Islands. Many times on the deck of our Ecoventura yacht, I would look up and see the female Waved Albatross resting on the yacht’s upper deck, while her mate soared high overhead. He would stay with her for hours flying above us at the same rate the yacht was moving. These birds mate for life and have a charming mating ritual of clacking their beaks together in rapid circles, almost like kissing.
9. Being Mesmerized by the Sleeping Lion at Sunset
Standing on the beach in the mid afternoon sun, I took one of my favorite photos of the landscape of the Galapagos Islands. This view of the Sleeping Lion (aka León Dormido) aptly named for its resemblance of a sleeping lion was spectacular. As the sun set with the brightest yellow yoke slithering down below the sparkling sea horizon, I knew I had just experienced paradise!
Plus 1. Admiring the Diverse Topography
As I think back, I am still struck by the sheer beauty and diversity of the Galapagos topography. Each island is like a different world unto itself, with different landscape, vegetation and animal life, which all seem to fit together in perfect harmony.