Monday, March 17, 2014

North Seymour Island - Last Stop

So our Galapagos cruise comes to an end with one last stop on North Seymour island. It gave us a chance to say goodbye to a few of the bird species of the Galapagos including the blue-footed booby, who just happened to put on a show for us.

Being our last day, we were up early to catch the sun rise.  Sitting on the sun deck, sipping our coffee, looking out over the nearby cliffs warm with the morning glow, we tried to take it all in and appreciate what we were seeing and experiencing.

The sky in front of us was filled with birds welcoming in the morning sunshine. Some soaring, others playfully swooping and diving together putting on a show that seemed to be just for us.

Then the uniqueness of the island chain set it.  Seeing firsthand that two islands next to each other had similar species that evolved differently was out of this world and something you usually only read about.

In the sky, the main bird we watched was the Frigate bird.  When you see Frigate birds flying they remind you of birds that may have flown in Jurassic Park - very stoic looking. Add in the red pouches and they are really a sight to see.

After breakfast we hopped on the dingy to make our way to a dry landing where we hit the shore to see what we could find.

It was a short trek around the island but it was one of the most intimate with regards to the closeness of the birds and their nests. Its hard to comprehend compared to normal animal sightings, but the lack of predation fear of the Galapagos creates such a unique viewing experience. You literally walk right next to the birds and their nests.

For instance, take this short video below which is a fairly routine Galapagos encounter.  We were walking down a path next to a blue-footed booby and he decided he might try the mating dance on our friends.

So, with that last laugh - we finished our boat tour of the Galapagos Islands - truly a magical place! Enjoy the last set of photos.

In a few hours we'd be back on the mainland and on our way to experience Peru.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station

After Florena, we found ourselves back on Santa Cruz Island, but this time to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station where we could see the famous Galapagos Tortoise.  Established in 1864, the station is a big support center for research and conservation of the Galapagos.  It has teams of researchers, scientists and conservationists which help to look after and promote the well being of the islands.

Another part of the research center is a tortoise breeding program which is the main reason to visit the center. It is setup like a zoo with different species in areas that mimic their natural environment. While its not the most exciting part of a trip to the Galapagos it is important to visit to learn about the creatures on the islands, mainly the tortoises and challenges they face. You will get to hear the sad, sad story of Lonesome George who despite best efforts was unable to breed to save his species. Keep in mind I'm not talking back in the 1800s, no, this was 2012 when a species was lost. It underlines just how important conservation needs to be on the islands to try and limit the impact of our modern world on the environment and amazing creatures that inhabit it.

We explored for about an hour seeing different species of all sizes from the tiny ones up to the giant tortoises along with a few of the different land iguanas species on other islands.  Some of the tiny tortoises breeding areas were the most fascinating. They had special enclosures to keep them out of harms way from the predatory birds until they reached a certain size.  They were so fun to watch.  Scrambling around, falling off small inclines and general just being toddlers - causing trouble and exploring.

All in all, its worth a short visit.