**Check out my guest post Exploring Iceland’s Golden Circle over at The Travel Wench! (All the cool kids are doing it, so you might as well… ) If you haven’t yet visited, The Travel Wench is an amazing travel blog chronicling the wanderlust of the aforementioned, highly entertaining “wench.” Go forth!**
Day #9,996: The Galapagos Archipelago is a place forever worthy of quiet contemplation, if only because there is an inordinate amount of natural amazingness to absorb.
Our first full day in the Galapagos began, as most will, in a small boat.
This particular small boat was taking us to the island of Española. Right off the Zodiac, we were met by the island’s most famous inhabitants.
Española is the only island in the Galapagos that can lay claim to the Red Marine Iguana. How, I’m not sure- the little dragons appeared to be extremely good swimmers, and there were other, smaller islands very nearby. Couldn’t they just swim on over? Am I overestimating their reptilian abilities?
Because the marine iguanas end up ingesting so much salt water, they’ve evolved to filter the water in an organ near their nose. Every so often, they’ll “sneeze” and blow the excess salt out of their nostrils.
With a whole lounge of lizards (thumbs up to whomever is in charge of naming groups of different animals) around us, it was a virtual symphony of salt sneezes!
Although they’re the most readily appreciable, red marine iguanas aren’t the only wildlife that Espanola had to offer.
In fact, birds seemed to be the order of the day on our afternoon in Española.
A few minutes into our walk, we encountered two Blue-Footed Boobies who had decided it was… ahem… Business Time.
The birds circled each other, stomping their webbed blue feet with the male dipping low to impress his potential mate. Apparently, all species are won over by the ‘drop it like it’s hot’ thang.
Truthfully, the females are focused on one thing: how blue the male’s feet are! The bluer the feet, the more attractive the booby. (I’m allowing myself one subdued giggle about ‘boobies.’ Done.)
The name ‘booby’ originally came from the Spanish word ‘bobo’- which means stupid- because they found the birds to be excessively clumsy. Apparently the first Galapagos explorers weren’t so impressed with the courtship dance.
The famous blue-footed boobies aren’t the only boobies in town. Or on Española, as it were.
Nazca boobies are beautiful black and white birds with a rather violent inception. While most Nazca females will lay two eggs, the first chick to hatch will attack its sibling, and the parents leave it to die. It seems the second egg’s only purpose is to insure that one Nazca chick will be born. It sounds harsh, but such are the laws of nature.
The Circle of Life isn’t all siblicide and gloom; nature has a way of making sure that life goes on. (I learned that on Disney’s The Lion King.)
The Waved Albatross breeds ONLY on Española Island in the Galapagos archipelago. One island! One island faced with the future of an entire species!! That kind of blew my mind until I stopped to think that really, our tiny little earth is just one island faced with the future of a whole bunch of totally unique species. (I just recently read about how the famous Blue Marble shot- the image taken of the whole earth by the crew of Apollo 17 in 1972- did more for environmentalism than almost any other campaign. Largely because it made people realize that the earth is a finite, self-contained island. So fascinating.)
As we made our way back around to the beach where our Zodiac docked, there was a new creature that hadn’t been there before. Like, literally hadn’t been there.
Life. Is Amazing.
It’s worth saying out loud. Life. Is. Amazing.
Aside from working the livestock area at a state fair (a story for another day), it’s not often that you’re faced with so much… life… in a few short hours. From courtship to egg-laying to birth, the circle of life was on full display on Española Island.
I couldn’t imagine a better way to learn about the birds & the bees.