This past week I cruised the Galapagos Islands on the M/Y Eric, operated by Ecoventura. As I did not have access to internet, I am going to post my daily blogs this week.
Sept 21: Genovese Island
Last night we sailed almost 75 nautical miles north and about 3:30 a.m. we crossed the equator. There was a lot of wave action and most of us did not sleep too well and at least one of us (maybe two) was seasick. But the trip was worth it.. Only ships carrying 20 passengers or less may visit this rather remote island. Ecoventura is able to visit as its ships are the right size and its cruises are long enough (seven days) to include it in the itinerary.
Our guides Ivan and Harry have told us that every island has a “highlight” and today’s is the red-footed booby. We barely set foot on the island before we run into this colorful bird, which is the only member of the booby family to nest in trees. It has a blue beak, black and white body and brilliant red feet. We also soon meet the swallowtail gull (very colorful, with red-rimmed eyes and red feet), the Nazca booby (with a black and white mask) and the large frigate birds.
The vegetation here is mostly mangroves near the beach and holly trees in the interier. These are loaded with nests, and we soon learn which belong to the boobies and which belong to the frigate birds.
It is hard to describe the Galapagos wildlife experience. Each of these islands are filled with wildlife and much of it is only found in this archipelago. By and large, these animals do not fear humans and we are able to get very close to them.
The Galapagos National Park Service carefully controls access to these islands. It regulates which boats may visit where and for how long. They have carefully marked trails on each island and we must stay within these boundaries. We are not to touch any of the animals or remove anything from the islands. We are especially warned against touching baby seals as our scent is transferred to them and their mothers will abandon them.
We are divided into two groups for touring purposes and Ivan is our leader today. He gives us several important briefings during our morning hike but perhaps the most important is an explanation of the difference in a plant or animal being classified as endemic, native , migratory or introduced.
“Endemic” means that it came naturally to the islands and then evolved into a unique species found only here. The swallowtail gull is an example. “Native” means that it came naturally, found that its needs were met and colonized here. The same animals are found elsewhere in the world. Red-footed boobies are an example, as are the frigate birds and herons. “Migratory” birds are those that pass through the islands but belong to where they nest. “Introduced” means the animals were brought by man. These include feral goats, feral pigs, donkeys and similar.
This turns out to be critical information as what captured Charles Darwin’s imagination and that of so many visitors since. There are all of these amazing species that you’ve never seen before and might never again and you get to experience them up close in their natural habitat.
This is going to be an amazing week!