Thursday, August 8, 2013

First impressions

First Impressions of the Galapagos


This morning I am thinking of the sounds of the rain forest, the river canoes, and hiking the forest trails... This while standing in a line in the Quito airport that was one of the slowest we have ever experienced. We shared the line with a group of Ecuadorian 5th graders off on a science camp excursion... Ah well, we arrived with enough time and we successfully jumped through all the hoops and now we are now flying west to the Galapagos...

It's now 5: 30 pm... First impressions... Flat black volcanic islands (no more than 30000 years old )... Scrub growth and cactus, adapted for long dry summers and rainy winters. The true character of the place began to emerge at once... We made contact with our boat, the Fragata. Judy saw the first iguana, then 2 seals, then a parade of birds presented themselves. Our first excursion was to take small boats and go ashore on Santa Cruz Island... Here we encountered a parade of organisms... First ghost crabs, who use mucous lined holes in the sand to hide, and Sally light foot crabs -(brilliant red in color), pink flamingos, and the national Geographic moment of the day was to see several hundreds of Blue Footed Boobies bombing together into a school of fish...and of course the famous black sea going iguanas. We snorkeled from a beach and saw many fish.

In the night we travelled to a different island - Genovese. The night time travel travelled through some moderately rough water...Judy and I slept the night being rocked to and fro. We both woke with moderately able stomachs, quite happy to drink coffee and eat breakfast...our motto is - "when in doubt - eat" We went ashore and climbed a rugged pathway to reach the level of the plateau. Here we discovered a land occupied by large nesting Boobies... Curiously absolutely fearless of humans. Red footed Boobies, short eared Owl roost in the trees and Narco Boobies with black or green feet are found on the ground. Also we found flying and nesting Frigate birds. The famous "Darwin's finches"...3 varieties ... That played such a major role in the development of understanding the process of evolution as first understood. The hit of the day was to make two sightings of rare Short Eared owls... Who have adapted to day time feeding on the plentiful Stormy Petrels that sweep through the air like a flock of swallows. One of the most exotic birds is the Red Billed Tropic bird - a Large white bird with 2 long white feathers... Flying out behind the bird.

Thinking that our morning morning was about enough excitement for one day I was delighted to snorkel again along an undersea rock wall... With our gear on we fell backwards out of the small skiff, and drifted along close to the rocks... Unbelievable! I floated above a large school of brightly colored tropical fish - big fish... As they drifted -so did I! So many surprises -such a large density both of numbers of fish and varieties of fish. Below the water fell to a great green depth. The fish I swam with we're fearless and quite happy to share their space with me. Back on the boat for lunch -I took one look and suddenly said "No way"... So I attached a seasick patch behind my ear and waited a few minutes... Miracle!