YV&C News Desk
The Galapagos 'Islands of Fire'
A place where evolution can be observed In-Situ
Apr. 22, 2007 07:45 PM
With reluctance, we left the dolphins, and headed over to the island to
scuba dive. We swam along an underwater cliff with an entourage of sea
lions and hundreds of Pacific creole fish, until we reached a point
where 2 currents collided. Here is saw a scalloped hammerhead shark,
eagle ray, green turtle and no less than 5 white- tip reef sharks. The
funniest thing was that the sea lions were playing tag with the reef
sharks. The sea lions were diving down and chasing, then nipping the
shark’s tail. Whenever there was a nip, the shark would flick it’s tail.
fish life in the Galapagos is fascinating and many of the fish look
like overgrown African cichlids (popular freshwater aquarium fishes).
Remarkable fish were Pacific creole fish ~ looks like a fusilier,
Mexican hogfish ~ hump- headed with long streaming fins, guinea fowl
puffer ~ yellow puffer fish, and Galapagos garden eels ~ named ‘Anguila
Jardin de Galapagos’ in Spanish.
The marine iguanas on Espanola
Island, called Christmas Iguanas, are brightly coloured with spashes of
pink and green. Each island has something different to offer. At
Genovesa Island we anchored in Darwin Bay, an ancient caldera. Here we
climbed a bluff named the ‘tower’, to see sea birds nesting in the salt
bush. There were red-footed boobies, red-billed tropic birds, swallow
tail gulls, storm petrels and magnificent frigatebirds sporting bright
red inflatable throat pouches.
Later we cooled off with a
snorkel and went shark spotting. We’ll the Galapagos Shark’s spotted us
and circled a metre away. While none of us was really scared?, I did
hear a few nervous shrieks, and husbands were thrust in front of the
placid shark by anxious wives. All good fun! There were lots of lovely
fish such as giant damsel fish, razor surgeonfish, morish idol,
bump-head parrotfish, Cortez rainbow wrasse, but the sharks were the
A beach landing at Genovesa Island delighted
us with sea lion cubs suckling on the beach, and red-footed boobies
with fluffy white chicks.
At Santiago Island, we landed on a
black sand beach with sea lions, great for swimming. On land, after a
hike past old salt mine relics, we came across an area of grottoes
i.e.deep pools with fur seal lions playing. This species was close to
extinction not long ago. Along the beach, we watched marine iguanas,
American oystercatchers and lava lizards.
On Bartolome Island
we took the summit trail past splatter cones to a spectacular lookout,
with views of Sullivan Bay. At Isabela’ we climbed to a crater lake,
then onto a cone with superb views of lava fields. Exploring Tagus Cove
by panga, we saw blue-footed boobies, sea lions, Galapagos hawk,
pelicans and Galapagos penguins. Tagus Cove, adorned somewhat
controversially, in graffiti, dating back to the 1800’s, abounds with
At Cerro Dragon, we saw endemic land iguanas,
once part of ‘Darwin Station’s breeding program. Growing to 0.9 metres
and 11 kilograms, they eat the fleshy leaves of the opuntia cactus,
scraping off the sharp spines before swallowing. Wild dogs killed close
to 600 land iguanas on Santa Cruz Island. With 60 iguanas left, Darwin
Station and Park Service rescued the survivors and took them to the
breeding station. Once the feral dogs were removed, the iguanas were
returned. Caribbean flamingos can be spotted on Cerro Dragon’s salt
Off San Cristobal Island we cruised the majestic
Kicker Rock, named ‘Leon Dormido’ There were green turtles everywhere,
sea lions lolling near shore and red-billed tropic birds in the sky.
Santa Cruz, near the bustling tourist town of Puerto Ayora, we toured
the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park
headquarters. Here we met ‘Lonesome George’. George was found in 1971
by wardens from the Galapagos National Park, hunting feral goats on
Pinta Island. The last reported sighting of giant tortoises on Pinta
was in 1906.
Scientists took ‘Lonesome George’ to the captive
breeding program at the Charles Darwin Research Station. The search for
a mate began, but has’nt been found to date. George was once moved to
Isabela’s Wolf Volcano, together with two females. He was in high
spirits and some ‘coupling’ took place, but neither female produced
young. Edward Louis, a geneticist at the Henry Doorley Zoo in Nebraska,
scans and analyses tortoise DNA from all over the globe in search of a
match for George.
During the 1500 to 1800’s ~ sailors, seafarers
and colonists had killed 150,000 to 200,000 giant tortoises in the
In the Santa Cruz highlands we visited large
pit craters, named ‘Los Gemelos’, lava tubes, and watched giant
tortoises feeding on a ranch. The giant tortoises love eating the
fallen figs. This ranch is home to vermillion flycatchers, large-billed
flycatchers, and Darwin finches.
On Espanola Island we watched
Christmas iguanas, sea lions and blue-footed boobies, living in
harmony, near an active ocean blowhole.
The unique wildlife
which has evolved on the Galapagos Islands, together with it’s
fascinating history, makes it one of the globe’s truely wild places!
It’s surely, one of life’s greatest experiences.
About The Fleet:
The Letty is one of 3 identical signature motor yachts; the M/Y Eric,
Flamingo and Letty, which travel together through the Galapagos
Islands. They are 83ft long by 24 ft wide, cruising at 10 knots. Double
balanced keels give maximum stability and they are ecologically
equipped for noise reduction and fuel efficiency. They cater for 20
guests, with 10 crew including two naturalist guides. Each motor yacht
carries highly sophisticated navigational equipment.
How To Get There:
If travelling from the USA, fly to Quito in Ecuador, then to the
Galapagos Islands. TACA Airlines flies to Ecuador, via Costa Rica. Make
sure to check in 3 hours early for your connecting flights to Quito.
How To Book:
(305) 262 6264
Health & Safety;
Malaria is not a problem in the Galapagos Islands, if cruising, but if
you’re venturing onto the Amazon rainforest, Ecuador, take
anti-malarials. While staying in Quito, always take a taxi back to your
motel, at night. Currency is in US Dollars. There are excellent hotels
to stay in Quito, such as the Mercure Hotel.