I love talking to animals. More accurately I adore pretending to be the voice of the animals. While waiting for studios to call with a job of a voice over specialist in an upcoming wildlife animation, I practice my skills on locals cats, dogs, bunnies and geese. Nothing however has been as amusing as our time spent conversing with the Galapagos Islands animals.
The Galapagos Islands of Ecuador were originally named by early explorers Las Isles Encantades (The Enchanted Isles). Whatever you call them, this collection of islands are home to an astounding variety of Galapagos animals, many seen no where else on earth. So many animals to talk to so little time.
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10 Incredible Galapagos Islands Animals
I didn’t mean to scream so much. It’s just that I couldn’t see them. Most every rocky shore of the Galapagos islands is home to the marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). In some areas it is not uncommon for the only sea going iguana in the world to be at a density of 4500 iguanas per square mile.
Unable to tolerate the temperatures of the Pacific Ocean for long periods of time, the marine iguanas alternate between snacking on algae and sunning themselves on the black rocks.
As I explored like a kid let loose on a field trip hopping from rock to rock, a blast of surprise from my vocal cords is followed immediately with a a sincerely apologetic, “Oh so sorry I didn’t see you there” to the most astoundingly camouflaged creatures.
“Is that a cow?” I question upon hearing what to this farm girl sounds like bovine banter. Our guide smiles.
“It sounds like a cow but you are in for a treat!”
Male tortoises make a low moaning or mooing like sound while mating. It is the only vocalization ever heard from tortoises. The female is silent. Go figure.
What we had come across was a very steamy, and I might say awkward, romantic encounter, Galapagos tortoise style. The male tortoise, weighing in the vicinity of 500 pounds, rhythmically romanced his far smaller female companion underneath.
Three species of giant tortoises became extinct and in 2012, with the death of Lonesome George, the last surviving Pinta Island tortoise, four species of the giant tortoise were lost forever. Today the Galapagos Conservatory group estimates there are 20,000 to 25,000 giant tortoises on the islands.
Visiting the Galapagos Islands and finding the blue-footed booby, one begins to think a group of giggling adolescents is on name assignment duty. In truth European explorers named six species of birds boobies after the Spanish word ‘bobo’ meaning stupid.
To those who first saw the birds with blue feet, they appeared clumsy on land with their big webbed feet. Thus the derogatory, giggle inducing name came to be.
Why are the feet of the blue-footed booby blue you ask? One might think the bird has a permanent case of poor circulation, however with their habitat being on the eastern Pacific coast from California to the Galapagos Islands to Peru, frostbite is unlikely.
It is the blue-footed booby’s diet of fresh fish containing carotenoid pigments that causes the blue color of the feet. A less healthy booby will have a lighter blue tone to his or her feet. Darker feet mean more attractive boobies, which means healthier birds. No wonder Darwin loved studying these islands.
Galapagos Sea Lion
Known to be social creatures the Galapagos sea lion flopping his way up the cliff pays no attention to the humans peering down at the unlikely climber. The guide explains he is on his way from the ocean below for some sun bathing. Looking as graceful as a hippopotamus doing ballet I remark that he might want a climbing harness for future adventures.
As the massive Galapagos animal plops suddenly to the top of the cliff I find myself hugely indebted to the guide for screeching at us to get back. Galapagos sea lions are happy to make pancakes out of human visitors who get in the path of sun tanning. Although smaller than their California cousins, the Galapagos sea lions can weigh up to 250 kg (550 lb).
Galapagos Land Iguana
Although Darwin referred to the Galapagos land iguana as ugly, the yellow splashes of this Galapagos crawler creates a striking presentation. Doing their best imitation of statues, the land iguana bask their cold blooded bodies on volcanic rocks most of the day. Seeming never to develop an eye for the 10,000 or so on the Galapagos Islands, I squeal and gasped each time my foot threatens to tromp on a tail.
Darwin’s Finches or Galapagos Finch
Of the 13 species of Darwin’s Finches unique to the Galapagos Islands, this particular species has uniquely adapted its beak, feet, and movement to wedge itself in among the formidable thorns of the cactus tree and feed on the flowers. These finches were instrumental in Darwin’s formulation of the theory of evolution due to their obvious physical differences from island to island.
“You know how I have always wanted to see penguins in the wild!” I add an extra squawk of glee and a batting of eyelashes. Years prior when convincing long suffering husband that doing a side trip to the Galapagos Islands after visiting Peru was a good idea I bring up Galapagos penguins.
“Maybe you won’t need to take me to Antarctica!” I reason.
The second smallest species of penguins after the Fairy penguins these tuxedo waddlers are a mere 2.5 kg ( 5.5lb.) Considered an endangered species, the Galapagos penguin is making a slow recovery. We spot only one lone penguin during our visit. I think a trip to Antarctica will still be necessary.
Swallow-tailed Gull (Creagrus furcatus)
With a name derived from butcher and meat, this hook billed gull has the fish and squid swimming for cover. Along with an efficient hunting tool, the swallow-tail gull is the only gull to feed exclusively at night or under the cover of darkness.
I suggest to the red-eyed birds they should get a bit more sleep by the look of those bright rims. Turns out the red is only present during mating season. An equal opportunity species both male and female gulls develop the red eyes which fade to grey after breeding season.
Galapagos fur seal
Preferring land to water, the Galapagos fur seal spends 70% of its time on land. Once hunted by poachers, since Ecuador declared the Galapagos Islands a national park, the fur seals thrive. With virtually no natural predators they laze on the rocky shores of the islands.
Whitetip Reef Shark
“Swim over here by the shark! ” Our Galapagos snorkeling guide oozes with enthusiasm. Let’s say I am not the first of the group to follow the instructions. The guide explains that this shark rarely becomes aggressive with swimmers. I give some respectful distance none the less.
The whitetip reef shark is not unique to the Galapagos and is found widely in the Indo-Pacific region. Spending most of their days lying motionless on the bottom of the ocean this shark can pump water while at rest over its gills to breathe. At night the hunting games begin when the shark dines on crustaceans, bony fish and octopus.
Pin these to your Pinterest travel board for a future trip to the Galapagos.
What is the most unusual animal you have seen? Is a trip to the Galapagos Islands in your future?