Our first hike was on North Seymour Island, a small island just to the north of Baltra Island. During lunch, the Endeavor left the bay on Baltra and anchored just off shore of North Seymour.
Travel aside: The logistics of the trip were pretty intense; the Endeavor generally only moved when we were asleep or during meals (as needed to get to the next location). The guests were pretty much never confronted with the monumental amount of work going on around us to get from place to place, to portage folks to/from excursions, or to otherwise keep the boat livable and comfortable. Truly, the crew did a fantastic job of making us comfortable and providing access to the animals with minimal environmental impact.
The North Seymour island hike is a good introduction to the typical excursion in Galapagos. The overarching theme of every excursion was do no harm. Hikes were always on marked trails approved by the Galapagos National Park. Excursions were always broken into groups of 12 to 14 people with at least one licensed naturalist per group.
Animals come first. Many times on a hike, we would pause while some critter would take its merry time crossing our path.
At left is the first critter on this particular hike. A Galapagos Sea Lion doing a bit of sunning. It was pretty much exactly in the middle of where we entered the trail. Around we went and it really didn’t care.
That much, anyway. As you’ll see in a number of photos, sea lions are very curious beasts and, for some odd reason, they really like to look at you upside down as the character on the right was doing!
However, the wildlife of North Seymour was certainly not limited to sea lions!
What makes the animals of the Galapagos so fearless is that there simply are not any significant mammalian predators! Just about the all of the land predators are hawks, owls, and snakes, all of which are quite few and far between. Not exactly a fearsomely large bunch! That combined with relatively few years of man’s invasion means that most animals have simply never had to run away from anything.
Thus, the animals view people is more of an annoyance or curiosity than anything dangerous. Several times, a critter would simply walk up to one of us, have a sniff, and wander off!
Because there are no significant predators, the animals also have no real fear of each other. Many times, we saw multiple species interacting with each other in a passing fashion like the bird that has hitched around on the brown pelican at left.
When the critters weren’t ignoring us, they would put on a show!
This is a blue footed booby reacting to a mating call whistled by the naturalist. This guy was sitting on a rock dead center in the trail we were on. Didn’t move off his rock as close to 90 folks wandered by over the course of the next hour!
The boobies have a wonderful call, too. A sort of reedy whistling noise that isn’t shrill at all.
The Blue Footed Boobies are a bit of an odd bird on land. They have a great and complex mating dance, raise their young pretty much directly on the ground and — as demonstrated by the photo — have those wonderfully intensely blue feet.
As much as they are clowns on land, boobies are fantastic fliers and amazing aquatic hunters. Many times while snorkeling, you would hear a splash and then see a column of bubbles leading down 30 or 40 feet where a booby had dive bombed a fish. Occasionally, they would do this within a couple of feet of us!
Interestingly, boobies are one of the few birds that will seek out and raise the abandoned chicks of just about any ground nesting bird. We saw a blue footed booby caring for a nazca boobie chick!
Did I mention the booby dance?
This is a pair of boobies where the left bird is doing the booby courtship dance. It starts with a series of slow foot raises and whistles that, if the partner remains interested, escalates into a bit of hopping about, wing stretches, and neck movements. All while whistling their merry little booby tune.
North Seymour island is also home to both land and marine iguanas. This is a land iguana that wandered out of the low brush to munch on some clover or grass that was on the path.
Many times on the hike we had to step over one of these magnificent creatures. Land iguanas can grow up to several feet in length. While they generally move about fairly slowly, they do have the ability run rather quickly (as one guest discovered with quite the little “EEP!” as an iguana came barreling by at a fast run).
Land iguanas are primarily herbivores, but will chomp on the slow locust, centipede or other bug if it doesn’t move quickly enough.
Photo aside: Yup — it was starting to push towards sunset, hence the slightly golden hue of the light. Being at the equator in late spring, there was absolutely no shortage of photons ever.
When we visited the island, the mating season for the frigates was in full swing (as it were).
Thus, the male frigates all had their red neck pouches inflated to some degree and many were on full display as this one is.
At left, a male is trying to entice a female to move into his nest. Didn’t work out so well as she flew on within seconds of this photo being taken!
Lacking any predators or significant competition for food, the frigates of galapagos pretty much ignore each other save for an occasional squabble amongst males for the attention of a female.
Thus, you might assume that this is a picture of a family of related frigates. Not so, the female at left has a fairly young chick under its breast. Beyond that, the juvenile on the right and the youngster in the back (I just love the look on its face!) are chicks of two other females!
Roger, no surprises, was in heaven throughout the trip. Since we are homeschooling, we actually wrote the galapagos trip into his curriculum to fulfill his science requirements for this semester.
Roger managed to find several critters on the trip that were either rare or whose observed habits were beyond what the naturalists understood as expected. I will certainly highlight theses discoveries throughout the posts!
The Galapagos actually straddle the equator. Combined with being in the middle of the Pacific and an area that is known for utter calm — for the doldrums — the lighting was just wonderful. This little female laval lizard was sunning itself as we walked back to catch a zodiac ride back the Endeavor.
Of course, there was one last photo to be had before returning to the ship.
A brown pelican that was diving for fish.
From here, it was a short zodiac ride back to the ship, the daily wrap summarizing sites and animals in the lounge (with a cocktail, of course), dinner and bed!