The Islands and surrounding waters are home to some 9000 wildlife species. I’d a very short wish list, to be honest – Marine Iguana, Blue Footed Booby, Red Crab and Giant Tortoise. Anything after that would be a bonus. These are just a few of my favourites from air, land and sea….
(Having ‘lost’ my camera en route, we had to resort to our much inferior Samsung phone cameras and a borrowed underwater camera which alas packed it in after a day or two). I have access to literally thousands of photos from the trip, all shared by fellow passengers, but I somehow prefer to use my own for my blog. So I’ve no good closeups – my phone was useless for that – but you’ll still get a flavour of what we met along the way….)
1.Blue Footed Booby
The colour comes from diet – carotenoid pigments from fish – so the more sardines they eat, the bluer the feet!!! It’s more than a fashion statement – especially for the male! It’s the female who choose a mate – and yep – it’s all about the feet! If his feet are not flashing an intensive shade of blue, he’s out of luck (it makes sense – the brighter the blue, the healthier he is)!
2,Sally Lightfoot Crab
Younger crabs are dark in colour – they blend better with the lava landscape. But those adults are BRIGHT! So they mustn’t be afraid of anything!
These guys seem to have an idyllic life! As adults, they have no natural predators – so they just meander around, stress free! They have one of the longest life spans of all known vertebrates -averaging over 100 years and several living beyond 150!
Here’s another beauty that owes its rich colour to a diet of crustaceans. The inland waters here are particularly rich in nutrients so these birds have a much richer pink colour than others worldwide.
Endemic to the Galapagos Islands, these are the only marine lizard species in the world. When they first arrived, their greatest challenge was food. Plants were scarce on the black volcanic rocks – so they had to learn to dive for the green food supply in the sea.
While there are packs of Marine Iguanas everywhere, the Land Iguana is a rather solitary figure. Charles Darwin wasn’t a fan! He described them as ugly animals with a stupid appearance and griped about being unable to pitch a tent due to their excessive numbers! Nowadays, those numbers have drastically decreased to an estimated 5000-10,000.
Development has taken it’s toll on these creatures – dependent totally on the limited food supply available on the islands, they find themselves sharing their dinner with goats, pigs and donkeys. Cats and dogs eat their eggs. While the islands’ natural predators tend to hunt iguanas under a year old ( before they get too big), cats prey upon animals up to three or four years of age.
Penguins washed up on these shores some 4 million years ago. They found plenty of food so probably decided to stay a while! Designed for the Antarctic cold weather, they’ve had a bit of adapting to do! Firstly, they became smaller, losing the excess fat needed for keeping warm in cold water. They spend a lot of time in the sea which helps cools them down. They have no sweat glands so they have learned to pant which also helps with the cooling down process. They try to dodge the midday sun – if you spot one hunched over, it’s trying to avoid sunburn on its feet!!
El Nino is in the news a bit at the moment – the weather phenomenon usually warms the Galapgos waters causing a reduction in food supplies for the penguins. If it gets very tough, they will abandon their nests and chicks. In the 1982 El Nino, it’s reckoned about 77% of the penguin population perished, taking decades to recover to healthy numbers.
The male is quite a sight isn’t he! Come breeding time, the thin red sac on his throat inflates into a massive balloon shape – apparently it can take about 20 minutes to inflate!
They are a peculiar seabird – for starters, their feathers aren’t waterproof so they can’t land on the ocean. They have tiny legs and feet so they can’t really paddle either. So they keep close to the shore, feeding on crustaceans, jellyfish, etc. But – they practice kleptoparasitism – stealing fish from other seabirds. So that’s alright then!
These posers separated from their Californian cousins about 2 million years ago. Friendly and sociable, they’re found everywhere – lounging on rocks and beaches or showing off in the water. They have serious appetites and their favourite is …..sardines! Here’s another creature greatly threatened by El Nino.
The Brown Pelican plunge-dives with an open beak which catches fish and water. It filters the water out and feasts on the remaining small fish and crustaceans. Looks easy enough – but it isn’t…. which is why many young actually die from starvation when they don’t master the technique.