Galapagos Islands - Call Of The Wild

27 December 2014
Read Time: 3.2 mins

The poster child for ecology and evolution, it's no coincidence that the Galapagos Islands are the original Unesco World Heritage site. Visiting by sea, just as Charles Darwin did in 1835, is the only way to truly explore Ecuador's ‘Enchanted Isles’. When that adventurous spirit strikes and it's time to venture into the unknown, the Galapagos Islands stand out.
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Blue-Footed Boobies

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 The famed blue-footed boobies

 

For bird lovers, the blue-footed boobies are an absolute treat. The courting males perform a comical Chaplinesque dance in the hope of enticing the females to breed with them. Things can get quite boisterous in a booby colony, as the males attempt to outperform each other, so it's a site of constant entertainment. When they're not in a Broadway mood, they are graceful aviators and can be seen diving into the sea for prey from as high up as 30 metres.
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Marine Iguanas

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 Marine iguana baking in the sun

 

The grotesque marine iguanas are a signature reptile of the Galápagos and are unique in the world in that they can swim, dive and forage for food underwater.Distributed throughout the islands, the adult males can grow as long as a human can grow tall and weigh more than 12 kilograms. It’s normal to see them in gregarious packs, or harems, on the rocky shores, surveying their territory and often snorting loudly as they expel excess salt from their noses.
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Volcán Darwin Tortoise

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 Symbol of the archipelago

 

The giant tortoise is perhaps the most recognisable symbol of the Galápagos Islands and, apart from Darwin’s finches, the most obvious example of genetic adaptation by an animal to the varying environments that exist on the fascinating archipelago. The Volcán Darwin tortoise lives on the slopes of Isabela’s volcanoes, grazing on whatever greenery it can find. Once critically endangered due to hunting and feral predation, populations of the tortoises are now slowly recovering.
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Galápagos Penguin

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 The only northern penguin

 

One of the most entertaining trivia questions to ask is “Which species of wild penguin live north of the equator?” – because the Galápagos penguins are the only ones that do. This endangered and flightless aquatic bird is mainly confined to the western region, where the cool ocean currents make equatorial living comfortable and ensure regular food delivery. Life is not easy for these cute little penguins, as they are susceptible to natural predators, like sharks, as well as introduced animals, including man.
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Sally Lightfoot

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 Sally Lightfoot crab on the cusp of the abyss

 

She is not a folk singer, nor a stage performer; instead, Sally Lightfoot is a brightly coloured energetic crab that can be seen scurrying across the foreshore, clinging precariously to slippery volcanic rocks as if by tip-toe. Common throughout the Galápagos and the Pacific coast of North America, photographers delight in capturing their bright-orange hue contrasted against basalt outcrops and sea spray. They often live close to marine iguanas, and some are even brave enough to peck microscopic parasites off the big lizards.
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Galápagos Sea Lions

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 These guys have fun

 

These fun-loving marine mammals are one of the two Otariidae species you’ll see in the Galápagos – the other being
the Galápagos fur seal. There are several ways to tell them apart, but the easiest is to remember that sea lions like the beach. The breeding season is almost year-round, so there are nearly always gorgeous little pups snuggling their doting mothers. Snorkelling with the playful little guys at Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island is a highlight of any Galápagos cruise.
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Isabela Island

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 Isabela is famous for volcanoes

 

The largest of all 20 islands in the Galápagos, Isabela is 120 kilometres long. Famed for its five active volcanoes, Isabela and its smaller sibling, Fernandina, are the youngest and westernmost of the group. Isabela supports endemic flora and fauna, like the five sub-species of giant tortoise, as well as penguins, iguanas, and birds, while the tortoises have mysteriously disappeared from Fernandina. Luckily, lush green cover can now grow on Isabela after 100,000 feral goats were removed in 2006.

Take a walk on the wild side

Consistently rated one of the world’s best island destinations, Galápagos is like the ultimate fence-free zoo; it brings you close to wildlife that have no fear of humans.

Lindblad-National Geographic expeditions allow guests to move from island to island to make fresh discoveries, hike, kayak and snorkel the undersea.

What and where?

Each day includes wildlife encounters, letting you experience the diversity and endless magic of the Galápagos – from lush green highlands to stark volcanic landscapes, pristine beaches to mangrove thickets, arid terrain to black lava beaches adorned with emerald seagrass.

Lindblad-National Geographic’s expedition ships carry snorkel gear, including wetsuits in every size, which become yours for the duration of the trip.

Upwelling currents in the Galápagos archipelago bathe the region in nutrient-rich waters, making it incredibly rich in marine life.

Every trip includes a stop at Charles Darwin Research Station, and each evening at cocktail hour, the entire expedition community gathers in the lounge for a recap. While guests are enjoying cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, naturalists give talks, undersea specialists may show a video, and the expedition leader will outline the following day’s schedule. Guests often say the recap was one of their fondest memories.

When?

Expeditions to this region operate year-round, with voyages departing on Fridays on the National Geographic Endeavour and Saturdays on the National Geographic Islander.

Getting there

Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to the Galápagos. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

Roderick Eime

Rod began his adventures at the age of two, slipping his harness and making a run for it from his ever-suffering mother while in Adelaide’s busy Central Market. While she recovered him numerous times thereafter, he’s now been on the loose for more than four decades. His travels may be less haphazard, but they are still often driven by spontaneity and an inextinguishable quest for something. During his many escapades, he has flown, driven, walked, rode and sailed millions of kilometres across every meridian, every ocean, lots of rivers and more than 70 countries.