The passion and pride of the people of the Galápagos Islands to preserve their unique and breathtaking flora and fauna was delivered to us in the form of our Naturalist Guide, Fabri. For 5 days he joined us on “Miss Tiggy” on our own private cruise through some of the protected sites of this most precious part of the globe. We have been extremely lucky to walk amongst many species of animals and plants and have a first hand view of why this region is so protected by the global community. The paperwork is lengthy and the rules are many but it is worth every minute and more just to be here!
Our crew of 6 (James, myself, Rachel, Malcolm B, Fabri and Sarah Clark) set off at 0430 on our first day…the itinerary was set by the GNP (Galápagos National Parks) – an am (6 – 12) and pm (12 – 6) visit. Each island we visited is different from the last…the volcanic activity of the region made sure of this. Reptiles make up most of the land inhabitants and the same species has often evolved in different ways to suit the conditions of their own island habitats. A nature walk every day (including marine, animal and geological information) was followed by a snorkelling session, often surprising us with a sea lion showing off or a large shark or two just mooching around. We saw equatorial penguins which are small and compact and look out of place in the heat! The bird life is a whole additional story – blue footed booby birds, Frigates, always looking around to steal food from an unsuspecting source. The males Frigates, in order to gain the attention of the female of the species for the mating season, display a large red sack in the front of their necks which they puff into a bladder sized bag; albatross, herons, oyster catchers, wrens…the list goes on. Iguanas come in all shapes, sizes and colours – marine iguanas are a dark grey and are often hard to recognise when sitting atop a lava rock while their landed counterparts vary from golden orange to brown and black and dependent on the location can be small and petite or looking like something out of Jurassic Parkand the era of the dinosaur. The tiny lava lizards will flex their muscles and look like they are doing a series of push ups in an attempt to show off their prowess – size has no bearing! One true favourite is the loving nature of the sea lions who flop out of the water exhausted and lie in groups spooning each other with fins lovingly thrown over the next in line.
Eerily, nothing seemed afraid of us…we walked or swam right up to them and they would just calmly purvey us with one eye open or a querying look as if to ask “who and why have you ended up in my space”? Imagine walking into a zoo with no fences or swimming in an aquarium made up of lava rocks…the difference here is they are free and we are guests in their habitat. We snorkelled every day, sometimes twice. On our last day Fabri suggested we snorkel around a rocky outcrop – the diversity of marine life here is great, he said. It was overcast and raining and dare I say, almost cold…we had seen two dorsel fins belonging to 2 sizeable hammerheads next to the boat causing us some consternation and little encouragement. After some persuasion we rolled into the sea and started to make our way along the shore. James suddenly bobbed up to let me know he had spotted a 2 metre grey shark ahead – I smiled and said “there are also 2 under your feet!”. 10 minutes later there were 6 of them circling us and even though we knew they would not attack, it was incredibly unnerving!
As Fabri and Malcolm departed we collected a couple of day trippers – Lloyd and Cameron Clark, Timmy Holden and his lovely new wife, Kate who happened to be in the area! Lloyd is joining the crew to the Marquesas with Miss T so it is a revolving door on our boat at the present time.