The Galapagos Island - Sea Lions, Sea Sickness and Blue Footed Boobies...
The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador and, as well as being the inspiration for Charles Darwin´s theory of evolution, they´re famous for their giant tortoises and amazing wildlife. The islands are amazing and this was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to date.
We spent a week sailing around 10 of the islands. Typically we´d sail at night, arrive at a new island each morning and sail over lunch either to a different part of the island or to a new one. This was fantastic for seeing different islands although not so good for seasickness suffers like Debs!
In spite of the seasickness, the week was just fantastic. The islands themselves are impressive but it´s the wildlife that really makes them incredible. As we arrived at our first island, we saw the beach was covered with rocks, only to discover they were actually sealions - hundreds of them - and all totally fearless. Even when snorkelling they´d come to play with us - one took a particular liking to Paddy and kept nibbling his flipper!
When Darwin visited the islands he was most impressed by the finch but we preferred the Blue-Footed Booby (which Paddy still struggles to say with a straight face!) and the Frigatebirds. In both species the males go all out to attract the females. Whilst the Boobies carry out an elaborate mating dance, the Frigatebirds inflate their red throat pouches and flap their wings - both displays were fantastic to witness and far more impressive than Paddy´s efforts with Debs all those years ago which comprised dodgy dancing and a few tequila slammers! (Paddy would like to point out that it worked though!)
The sheer diversity of the wildlife was incredible. Boobies aside, we saw so many different types of birds - hawks, albatross, swallow tailed gulls, red footed and nasca boobies, mocking birds, pelicans, darwin finches, red billed tropic birds and pink flamingos.
The reptiles were also amazing - lava lizards, marine iguanas and huge land iguanas were everywhere to be seen and the giant tortoises were incredible to see. These weigh up to 600 lbs, are 4 feet long and live for up to 200 years. Lonesome George is perhaps the most famous of the giant tortoises - a Pinta tortoise, he´s the last of his breed and despite introducing females of a related species to his pen he´s shown no interest (Paddy has his own views on the reasons for this....) so it looks as though his breed is doomed to extinction.
The sea life was equally as stunning. We´d snorkel twice a day (unfortunately diving has recently been banned from most tour boats - ours being one of them) and see an amazing array of fish as well as sting rays, manta rays, sea turtles, penguins and white tip reef sharks. We also came across a pod of whales whilst sailing one afternoon - Humpback whales to the left of us and Orcas to the right - it was just amazing.
The week we spent in the Galapagos Islands was a trip of a lifetime and they certainly deserve their title as the greatest wildlife show on earth. However, with the threat of illegal shark fishing and rumours of corruption within the National Park, we just hope they stay that way.
PS - If anyone wants to see 700 pictures of sea lions then just let us know...!!!!