Galapagos Islands

The Galápagos

The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 1,200 kilometers (700 miles) off mainland Ecuador and straddling the equator. The Islands are an UNESCO World Heritage Site, are considered one of the most interesting places in the world to visit, and seem to be on many bucket lists.  This last week we visited the Galapagos to see the amazing wildlife, understand the theory of evolution and check out the amazing volcanic formations.  Okay, I was also excited to go there to take a break from daily Spanish classes.

We flew into the airport on Baltra Island, which I found out was built by the United States Government during World War II to protect the Panama Canal and the eastern Pacific amphitheatre.  Lucky for me, I had a window seat so I took lots of video of the Islands.  Once we arrived we took a quick bus ride to a nearby channel and crossed to Santa Cruz Island on a small passenger ferry (it took about five minutes).  We then took another bus 45 minutes to the port town of Puerto Ayoro.  The bus driver dropped everyone off on the outskirts of town, however, we were not sure where to go so we asked him for directions and he drove us in the bus to our apartment.  Not bad service.

On our first day we took a water taxi across Academy Bay and hiked around lava rocks to “Las Grietas,” a volcanic fissure with deep salt and rain water.  Andie and I went swimming in the clear water which reminded us of “Paradise Pool” in El Portal.  I took some cool sunset pictures and found a couple of marine iguanas posing on the rocks.  We also learned that Andie is not a fan of the marine iguana-even though they are very cute.

The Galapagos Islands are well known because of Charles Darwin, a scientist who began formulating his theory of evolution while observing finches and other wildlife during his five week stay on four of the islands in 1835.   He was only 26 years old at the time of his visit (he was on a five year tour around South America and other parts of the world).  Darwin was able to discover his own theory of evolution because of the finches; the small birds that live on the Galapagos Islands. While visiting four different islands, he observed the finches and realized on a different island the same finches’ beak was a different shape and size compared to that of a finch on another island. Darwin concluded that the finches adapted to their environment through their beaks and thus evolved into a different species. Some finches had long beaks, some had short, depending on their environment.  Today, there are 13 species of finches on the Galapagos Islands.  Darwin waited more than 20 years to publish his findings and when he was 50 years old he published “The Origin of Species.”

The Galapagos Islands are also famous for the wildlife — specifically the finches, tortoises, boobies and iguanas.  On our trip to the Galapagos we were able to see all of these animals. We first visited the giant tortoises on a private farm. The giant tortoises are huge animals weighing as adults from 250 to 500 pounds. There are many different types of tortoises from different islands that make up 14 species. Tortoises on the Island of Pinta recently became extinct. Lonesome George, the last tortoise of his kind, died five months ago to make his species of tortoise extinct. We were also able to visit the Charles Darwin Research Center ,which breeds tortoises to help ensure additional species do not become extinct.

During our trip we were also able to see the iguanas of the Galapagos Islands. There are two types of iguanas on the Galapagos Islands. There is the land iguana, which just lives on land and then there is the marine iguana which lives in both water and land. The land iguana is red and orange and survives by living off the land whereas the marine iguana eats the algae off the rocks near the ocean and sleeps and rests on land.  The iguana is a reptile, which means it gets warm and cold. The marine iguana has a very interesting way to maintain its body temperature. When the iguana is cold it puts it’s head facing the sun, it has a white spot on the top of it’s head, which is used to reflect the sun off it’s body to maintain it’s body heat. We saw a marine iguana swimming in the ocean, with its head peering above the water.

When everybody thinks about the wildlife of the Galapagos they usually think about the Blue Footed Booby. The Blue Footed Booby is a sea bird that is part of the Sulidae family with 10 different species of long-winged sea birds. The Blue Footed Booby known for it’s blue feet, which are a sexually selected trait. The booby’s blue feet are used to impress females for mating.The way they attract a female for mating is when they are landing they put their feet out in front of them showing their feet off to impress the females. The brighter their feet the more attractive they are. We were able to see two Blue Footed Booby’s on our trip while kayaking near their nests.

Posted by Nielsen


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