Alex and Marianne, april 2017
The Galapagos Islands are oceanic islands: they were never linked to the mainland and originated from a submarine volcano, initially devoid of any organic life.
The fauna of the Galápagos has arrived either by air (birds / insects), or by the sea:
- Swimming (sea lions)
- By allowing themselves to be carried by the currents (like the tortoise which have a great capacity of flotation with the pocket of air between the internal epidermis and the shell)
- On a natural raft.
This trip by the sea carried by winds and currents is so long (15 days) that only reptiles have been able to survive and settle on these islands because they drink little and have an impermeable skin.
Staying in a mud bath helps the giant tortoise maintain its body heat and protect itself against mosquitoes and ticks. The archipelago owes its name to a species that has a shell like a horse saddle, in Spanish this translates to “Galapago”!
The animals then underwent modifications of genetic traits and the only ones who survived got mutations useful for survival. This is what Darwin names natural selection. The theory of evolution was finally able to stop the creationist theory, knowing that Darwin was very religious and wanted to be a pastor, we can imagine the open mind of this man.
To avoid competition and feed more easily, some iguanas have adapted to marine life. The “Melanospiza richardson” finch has evolved into 14 different finches species with shape varies depending on what they eat. It is because of the beaks of the finches that Darwin understood the theory of evolution!
They are called “Darwin’s finches”
After millions of years of evolution, many species exist only in the Galápagos, we say that they are “endemic”.
After having killed everything that moved during several centuries, people integrate the archipelago by living on only 4 of the 19 islands and transforming 97% of the Galapagos into a national park and marine reserve. Even if tourism has developed very quickly, it is one of the few places in the world where humans cohabit in total harmony with nature: sea lions sleep on the public benches, like drunken sailors, Giant tortoises walk along the roads, groups of pelicans wait wisely behind the stall of the fishmonger, marine iguanas bask on the beaches with passing tourists, the sea lions share their waves with the surfers … All this very naturally.
At each step in the city, we observe the respect and pride of the inhabitants for the richness of their islands, with the animals painted on all the walls and stained glass of the churches but also with a minimum of three selective sorting bins for each garbage ! We have rarely seen such an ecological consciousness on an island at the end of the world, to make dream the most pessimistic of the vegans!
Moreover, even if the animals remain wild, they no longer fear man; And being able to observe birds, iguanas, turtles and sea lions in such proximity is exciting.
Each island led us to have a ritual:
In the evening at sunset, observation of the Caribbean flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) in the lagoons of Isabela.
Black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)
After the evening meal we had a real ethology course with colonies of sea lions (Zalophus wollebaeki) in San Cristobal …
… and we were looking for the yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea) especially visible at night as its name suggests.
That is why visiting the Galapagos from the land is a good alternative to traditional cruises. For all the interest that this raises but also financially, the hotels and restaurants do not practice excessive prices. What remains expensive is the sea excursions with the diving clubs because important taxes are applied given a limited access to a small number of boats.
This first experience made us want to organize trips there where the outings at sea will be made in apnea with our contact Gianna Haro and her Galápagos Freediving Project. Do not hesitate to contact us if you want to know more.
Text and photos: Alex and Marianne
More photos here.
Read also Galápagos water side.