So just how did a group of islands form 600 miles off the Ecuadorian Coast and provide evidence for Darwin’s theory of evolution? Well, it all starts with volcanos and lava. Underwater volcanos would erupt, and eventually the lava would form an island of dark rock. Mangrove trees were one of the first living species to appear in the Galapagos. Since the mangrove produces seeds that float and can survive being alone for long periods, eventually a mangrove seed would make its way to the island by chance.
The first animals were likely the reptiles, namely iguanas and tortoises. Since they could survive for over a month without food or water, they may have floated around until hitting an island by chance. At that point, they could sustain themselves on freshwater and cactus fruit. Long story short, the turtles had no reason to swim anymore and became lazier on land. Over time, they evolved into tortoises that were better equipped for land. Boom, evolution.
To get a good feeling for this, we went to Islote Tintoreras off of Isabela Island which is the largest of the Galapagos Islands. Here we got a close view of the lava rocks from one of the “newer” islands. There was vegetation around the edges of the island, and some animals throughout it, including plenty of crabs and iguanas. Our guide was able to show how an island would start to form, and how the life would begin. We saw the mangrove seeds, baby iguanas and even a location where sharks go to rest. The resting spot for black-tip sharks resting spot was extremely interesting. As a guy who took took a 2 week online Shark Certificate class affiliated to Cornell during Shark Week a couple years ago, you could say I am a certified shark expert. Seeing a location where sharks rest is quite rare, since most need to swim to breathe. This is just another example of an animal adapting to its environment to survive.
When it comes to seeing animals, they can’t be a guarantee. (Unless we’re talking iguanas, sea lions and tortoises; if you didn’t see those you probably got tricked into visiting Florida.) Still, I was optimistic about seeing my favorite Galapagos animal, The Blue Footed Booby. They are a marine bird with a name that speaks for itself. I was interested in seeing the animal myself, because I feel like there aren’t many animals with bright blue skin. (Are there others?) While we were riding a dingy on our way back to the main boat, we saw some hanging out on rocks with a Galapagos penguin, an animal I didn’t expect to see here.
Speaking of the boat, I do want to talk about what it was like to live on the boat for almost a week. While we didn’t have much downtime, a majority of it was spent on the boat. I couldn’t complain too much about it either. It did take a day or so to adjust, but it was nothing some over the counter remedies couldn’t fix. Normally, we’d wake up in the morning for a breakfast, tour somewhere, get lunch, have a boat ride to a new location, explore new location, enjoy dinner and then relax on the boat before I’d take a bunch of sleeping medicine. Some boat rides were a little choppy, but the boat was big enough that it usually was not an issue. Much time was spent on the boats top deck, enjoying the sun and a couple cervezas.
I do have to end with some news that is a bummer. It looks like I won’t be able to recover many of my snorkeling GoPro photos from my shoddy SD card. I’ll include some of the ones I could save below. We had 3 snorkeling trips, and several great moments from it stand out. We saw Blue Footed Boobys on the rocks, watched a Sea turtle eating in a reef, and even saw a blacktip shark. On two different occasions, a sea lion swam circles around us. If you get the chance to go, make sure there’s some snorkeling as a part of the plan…and definitely make sure they have wet suits. #VidaLaVic