In 1841, Herman Melville came to the Galapagos Islands aboard the whaling boat Acushnet. He described the islands as having “emphatic uninhabitableness.”
I find this uninhabitableness part of the charm of Galapagos.
Welcome to Part 2. If you missed Part 1, click here.
On Santa Cruz Island, we had the thrill of observing Giant Tortoises in the wild. At the Charles Darwin Research Station we visited the breeding station where they raise the young in their first five years. After that, the tortoises are released and monitored.
We also hiked up into the highlands, found what looked like large boulders–the tortoises. The largest living tortoise on earth, they can live to be 100 years old.
Oh how very slowly they moved. When those old eyes looked out at me, I was immediately struck by the wisdom and reverence of these venerable creatures.
In addition to the large body, head that retracts into the scraped-up shell, and their freaky slowness…they hiss. They are simply letting air out of their lungs.
This video I found is a good representation: YouTube Video by lauramoon.
Previously posted: Giant Tortoises of The Galapagos
Not to be outdone by the ancient tortoise, the Land Iguana is another reptilian island wonder.
Endemic to the Galapagos, this large lizard is 3-5 feet long (0.9-1.5 meters), inhabits several islands. Their lifespan is 50 years.
This is not a flitty gecko in your presence; it is a huge, lumbering, prehistoric-looking behemoth.
Herbivorous, we found them eating, always. Due to their large size and short legs, they ate whatever was on the ground. They like prickly-pear cactus for the moisture, and eat low-growing plants and fallen fruits.
Previously posted: Land Iguana.
For a week we lived and slept on a boat, the most common tourist method of accommodation here. Every night we sailed to the next island. Every day we boarded inflatable boats, and ventured onto a new island.
Often we saw sea turtles, whales, and other marine life.
When we came to Floreana Island we were treated to a look at flamingoes. With their specialized beak for straining food, they ate shrimp and made circuitous paths in the mud.
Galapagos cormorants are one of the rarest birds we have in the world. Although cormorants live all over the planet, the Galapagos cormorants are especially unique. These birds are flightless.
They evolved without wings because there was plenty of food on shorelines, and no ground predators. With stumps for wings, these blue-eyed beauties hopped among the lava rocks.
Previously posted: Galapagos Cormorant
North Seymour Island. It was very windy on this small and unprotected island in the middle of the Pacific, where sand whipped us and you could not hear the words of the person next to you.
We hiked to the frigatebird colony, something I had been dreaming about doing for years.
This is a remarkable sea bird that we only see in tropical ocean areas. They soar with their incredible wingspan of 7.5 feet (2.3 m), sometimes for weeks. It was an unusual sight to see frigatebirds up close, perched on branches; for they are usually high above, only recognizable by their expansive silhouette.
But the most striking aspect was the complete chaos. Frigatebirds were screeching, whining, rattling, whistling, and drumming.
With the most dramatic display of all the seabirds, the male frigatebird’s red gular pouch inflates to attract the females, is used as a drum to punctuate the message. He beats his wings against the pouch, creating a deep, low, booming sound. When the dance is done, the throat deflates.
Previously posted: Breeding Frigatebirds.
Herman Melville called it uninhabitable, Charles Darwin changed the world with his findings here.
Thanks for visiting this remarkable, other-worldly place with me.
All photos: Athena Alexander