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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Galapagos Grandure - Of Two Worlds

Ah ha! You thought I was done with animals, didn't you? But no, we can't forget the animals that make both the sea and land their habitats. There are quite a few of them, including the marine iguanas, but we never got to see them in the water, so I put them with the land creatures.

Let's start with the crabs that seem to proliferate all over the islands. They start out small and black - a great camouflage against the lava rock - and grow into a wondrous red orange, reminiscent of fire. They're rock climbers of the first degree and can also scale wharf piles, cement block and other smooth surfaces effortlessly.


"Hey...heeey" quote from Finding Nemo
Spider crab, spider crab climbs whatever a spider crab can
We also had a couple close encounters with the Galapagos penguin. These guys' numbers are dwindling due to changes in the ocean temperature and lack of food sources. There's only about 4,000 left and we got to hang out with five of them.
The penguin stands alone
The noble penguin surveying his kingdom
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Then there are the sea turtles. While they spend most of their lives in the water they do come to land to lay their eggs. We were visiting during the incubation season, so we didn't see any on shore, but we did see their nests marked out carefully, so they wouldn't be disturbed. We swam with these amazing creatures. Some were platter sized and others could have been ridden if you were brave enough, and it wasn't against the rules.
"Eat my dust, land lubber!"
Finally, there are the clowns of the ocean: sea lions. Mating season was well over and there were tons of curious pups and youths. They had no fear of us and would waddle up to us on the beach, smell our shoes and legs and one even tried to have a taste of Ron. The babies had little personalities that I couldn't help but love.
We played "sea lion or rock"
"Yes, I'm THAT adorable!"

"Got fish?" (With our new friend Clare)
The sea lion is thinking "maybe just a lick?"
One little pup had commandeered two unguarded towels, a pair of pants (as a pillow), a shoe and pair of sun glasses. He (or she) was quite pleased with himself, but all the play finally tuckered him out and he laid down to rest on his little nest.

Got my bed sorted
Now for a pillow
Anything else that I need?
I'm so proud, I made my own bed!
And now I'm tuckered out.
In the water they were playful and fast.  It was impossible to keep up with them, but if you even tried it made them more curious. At one point I came across the "beach master", better known as the dominant male, while he was in the water. He was HUGE, so much bigger than me that it was intimidating. Rule 1: swim away from the big guy, out to sea, the beach is his. It was amazing to have sea lions darting all around as we snorkeled through the water.


C'mon! Swim with me!
Man, are you slow! Hurry up.

The dock in Santa Cruz is a favourite spot for the adults and they like taking up the benches and catching up on sleep. We even caught on snoring. (I wish the audio was better.)





video

The notorious Gabrielus Aquaticus (aka our guide Gabriel, seen both on land and in the water)

Our final installment will show pictures of the landscapes and flora as well as tips about cruising the Galapagos. You're holding out like champs, one more post to go! 



2 comments:

  1. I didn't realize it was safe to be so close to sea lions, I would have thought like bears, you would have to keep your distance.

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    1. You don't want to mess with the big males, especially on their beach, but for the most part these guys don't know to be afraid of humans and the young ones are just curious. There is a 2 metre distance requirement, but if they approach you, what are you going to do? The young ones will actually chase you if you move away.

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