Sea Lions, Crabs and Iguanas–Oh My!

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We had such a great time on our twilight water taxi ride—in which we saw boobies galore—that we asked our driver to return at 6am so we could go out one more time before making the trek back to Manta later that morning. This meant a 5am wake-up time, and have I  mentioned how not a morning person I am? But when else are you going to have the chance to see unique Galapagos wildlife in their sleeping state? Maybe never. And so I decided to take a rain check on my sleep—at the rate I’m going, likely for when I’m dead—bit the bullet and got up inhumanly early for the ride.

Seals | Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateWe picked up a few more of our fellow Enrichment Voyagers—Andrew, Barbara and Michael—along the way and first had to get past the security guards before we could board our ride, which was fine as our driver operated on “island time” (i.e. showed up 20 minutes late). So we decided to make the most of our downtime and make friends—or at least make it appear in our photo as if we had.

Seals | Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateAndrew and I tried to sneak up on our sleepy victim, who we thought to be passed out from a crazy night burning the midnight oil in “downtown” Puerto Ayora, but we got five feet from him, and he snapped to attention and began barking aggressively at us. Don’t let the cute face fool you…I’m sure the bite is even worse than the bark. We learned our lesson: From now on, keep a pole’s length from the locals, all of them.

Seals | Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateOur driver arrived, we all climbed into the tight speedboat and were on our way. As we pulled out of the harbor, we saw more boobies and a pelican or two. One thing the Galapagos Islands is not lacking in is bird life.

Pelican | Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateWe even spotted the red-breasted Great Frigate, a native to the islands and a harder bird to find on Santa Cruz Island.

Seals | Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateOur driver took us straight back to the dock where we had disembarked the previous night and wandered aimlessly beneath the gloaming. Again, there were a pair of bouncers watching guard over the area; enter at your own risk, they silently warned. We clapped loudly to scare them off, they rolled their eyes in our direction, sighed audibly and dove into the sea below.

Seals | Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateThe 10 of us walked the rickety dock and followed the same path we’d taken back out to the west side of Tortuga Bay the night before. We were expecting to find it utterly deserted, which at first it appeared to be, save a few creepy crabs scattering across the terrain as we invaded their turf.

Crab | Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateSuddenly, I spotted movement on the outcropping of black rocks. It was what we had all longed to see but had yet to spot until this, our last few hours on the Galapagos Islands—an iguana!

Iguana | Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateOnly it was not one iguana, not two iguanas, but thousands—literally—of them.

Iguanas | Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateLike the tortoise, the iguana was completely comical in its prehistoric facade. It looks like something you might see if rocketing up into space with Richard Branson, but not something on planet Earth.

Iguanas | Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateWe stuck around for a solid hour capturing every last iguana on the rocks, as they blinked stupidly in response, before we got worried our driver might leave us behind (and he was tapping his foot impatiently when we arrived back). So we snapped a few quick final pictures—our last remaining memories of our all-too-short time in the Galapagos Islands—as we sped away into the sunrise, our minds overwhelmed by all they’d experienced and our heart full with fondness for the amazing creatures we’d “met.”

Iguana | Galapagos Islands | Camels & Chocolate

COMMENTS
  • July 25, 2012

    I’m definitely jealous – the Galapagos Islands is one of my dream destinations. I was pretty stoked to see puffins in Orkney recently though. And it wasn’t even a work trip!

    • July 26, 2012

      And I am madly jealous of you, m’lady! I have been to Iceland and other countries famous for their puffins and still have never seen one!

  • July 25, 2012

    great pics. I doubt I’ll make it to the Galapagos Islands any time soom, but one day I will…. one day… 🙂

    • July 26, 2012

      You never know! I always thought it was one of those “one day…” deals for me, and then a work opportunity that allowed me to go presented itself just weeks before. It could happen!

  • July 25, 2012

    OK, I’m thoroughly convinced and looking up tours to the Galapagos while I’m south of the equator this winter. You are such a tease. Love it!

    • July 26, 2012

      That’s what Scott tells me regularly (I kid, I kid).

      Seriously, though, if there ever were a destination custom-made for you, it’s the Galapagos!

  • July 25, 2012

    Your pictures are beautiful! As I’ve said already, so jealous of your time in the Galapagos!

    • July 26, 2012

      Pretty soon, you’ll have a PhD and a cushy job and can easily afford a little vacation in the Galapagos during your downtime! I just know it.

      • July 26, 2012
        Kelly

        And if I get a job in Norway – I’ll have vacation time galore!

  • July 25, 2012

    Almost convinced to start working overtime so I can afford the Galapagos (on top of everything else)… I love the crab shirt 😉

    • July 26, 2012

      You really never know. An opportunity you can’t pass up might present itself that is affordable to go (as was my case, where my employer offered to send me for free because they needed a chaperone of sorts for a large group!). I hope you get to make it there soon =)

  • July 26, 2012

    No matter how much time one spends in the Galapagos, it’s never enough! I can’t wait to return and see more of the islands.

    I love marine iguanas! We went snorkeling with them while on Bartolome and it was amazing. Did any if them snort while you were there? The marine iguanas we saw were always snorting and it was so funny! (they do this to get the salt from the water out of their bodies…by blowing it out their nostrils!)

    • July 26, 2012

      That is what I want to go back and do! We didn’t get to swim with any–was it kind of freaky? I imagine it might be.

      • July 26, 2012

        Hm, it wasn’t freaky to me, but maybe to some. I just thought it was awesome and memorable…I also swam with a wee little penguin on that snorkel…I think my only “freaky” experience in the waters surrounding the Galapagos islands was seeing three hammerhead sharks within twenty feet of me while diving one day…but i still completed the dive, I just used up a LOT more oxygen than I usually do!

        • July 26, 2012

          That sounds absolutely amazing. Even though I’ve been a diver for five years, I always find swimming with wildlife a bit more jarring than diving with them (something about not having a 360-degree range of movement/vision and not knowing what lurks behind you). We saw sleeping hammerheads from the boat, but as I didn’t get a chance to dive (no time, alas), I still haven’t been diving with any of them before! I’ve dove with plenty of reef sharks and nurses and even a bull, but I would also be sucking down the air were a hammerhead (or three) to appear!

  • July 26, 2012

    As an Iguanamama4life™ I am going to have to add this to my massive travel goals 🙂

    • July 26, 2012

      Ha, love the TM! They are definitely cool little creatures. Next up on the list for my next trip out that way: swimming with them!

  • July 26, 2012

    I’ve got to hide these posts from my hubby or he’ll cancel our Italy trip and head south instead!

    • July 26, 2012

      Or maybe just bump up the Galapagos to your 2013 trip instead!

  • July 26, 2012

    I LOVE the photo of the seal in front of the boat! Beautiful, beautiful!

    • July 26, 2012

      We also saw hammerheads from the boat–boy, how I wish I could have strapped on a tank and dove in! I’ve never been diving with hammerheads before.

      • July 27, 2012

        I did, once! I was in the Bahamas doing a shark dive and I was so nervous. I ended up pretty comfortable with the little Caribbean reef and nurse sharks, and as I’m great on air my buddy and I were the last ones in the water. As we swam back to the boat, OMG THERE’S A HAMMERHEAD. I’ve never swam so quickly!

  • July 26, 2012

    very cool. speaking of waking up at horribly early hours, we once woke up at 330 on the san juan islands to watch some killer whales eat breakfast. we sat by the shore, just us and a sleepy harbor seal, for over four hours until the rest of the tourists arrived at a more decent hour. the whales were late and didn’t get there until 9. it was amazing but i couldn’t help but think we could have slept until 8 and still seen everything. basically what i’m saying is that 5 o’clock doesn’t sound too bad to see all those super cool iguanas! am loving this trip and if i didn’t get violently sea sick, i might try to go myself some day.

    • July 26, 2012

      I also woke up at 3am when in Rwanda to see some chimpanzees (they are only active in the wee hours of the morning and we had a bit of a hike out to them ahead of us, too). Only, we never saw them! So it was a wasted attempt. BUT, wildlife is about the only thing that will get me out of bed so early. When we were diving the famed Sipadan site in Borneo on our honeymoon, we had to get up around 4am for a full eight hours of diving. I was wiped by the end of the day, but so, so worth it.

      Have you tried the scopolamine patches? You can get them on prescription from your doctor. I get violently ill on every half hour ferry ride I go on, but I discovered these bad boys prior to Semester at Sea and never was seasick once, not even during the rough crossing of the Pacific or the two weeks it took to round the horn of Africa.

  • July 26, 2012

    Has anyone ever been attacked by an iguana? Those things freak me out. The sea lions look pretty cool, but again, you got closer than I think I ever would 😉

    Your Galapagos photographs sure do have me dreaming of an adventurous vacation though.

    • July 26, 2012

      I don’t know! I wanted to swim with them, as you often see people doing in photos of the Galapagos, but they weren’t in the water while we were there! They seem pretty docile to me.

  • July 26, 2012

    Agree completely about iguanas! Whenever I see them roaming around, say in Mexico, I get freaked out because they are soooo, as you said, prehistoric-looking! Very strange. Your trip sounds fantastic!!

    • July 27, 2012

      I’ve seen them before in the Caribbean, but never in this volume before! Always one lone iguana, maybe two max. Thousands at once was a bit, well, jarring.

  • July 27, 2012

    Amaaaaaaazing!!!! My hubby is obsessed with iguanas. I am sure he would have taken about 1000 photos of them.

    • July 28, 2012

      I took nearly that in just an hour. I’m sure I’ll post them at some point! =)

  • July 27, 2012

    These pictures are so fun! I love the sea lions. I think I need to get one.

    • July 28, 2012

      I bet no one would notice if you took one home with you from the Galapagos.

  • July 29, 2012

    The light you captures is really really nice. These look phenomenal.

    You’re killing me lady. I want to goooooooo.

    • August 2, 2012

      Thanks, girl! Early morning lighting (and, uh, IGUANAS) might be the only benefit to getting up at 5am, ha =)

      • August 2, 2012

        I would say so! 5am is worth very little to me unless something amazing is going on.

  • July 29, 2012

    Galapagos…one of those places I really have to go to. Great shots!

    • August 2, 2012

      You’re not so far away in Mexico; hop a plane–or a ship!–and go! =)

  • July 30, 2012

    Are those seals or sea lions? They’re cute, but I had no idea they were so feisty! And crabs freak me out, so NO WAY would I let one hang out on my shirt! It makes for a cool photo, though. 🙂

    • August 2, 2012

      They’re sea lions! …I think. I always get the two confused but a few people on Facebook corrected me when I called them seals =)

      The crabs were super freaky in the way they scattered about the rocks. They looked like giant spiders. I’d rather photograph them from afar with a zoom lens!

  • July 31, 2012

    You know I hadn’t really thought about going to the Galapagos but those photos are too tempting.

    • August 2, 2012

      Really? Seems to me your kind of place: pretty beaches, awesome wildlife, great diving and even some pretty good food. We found this nightly street market in downtown Puerto Ayora, and the food was delicious!

  • July 31, 2012

    This looks absolutely amazing!!!

    • August 2, 2012

      After you save the elephants, you should head here to save the tortoises, as well!

  • August 1, 2012

    The Galapagos is seriously one of the most amazing places on this planet. It is one thing after another and you are in total awe of everything that it has to offer. I loved how the sea lions would just come up onto the deck of the boats to catch some sun. Great photos 🙂

    • August 2, 2012

      Don’t tempt them, though, with a tasty snack (i.e. human flesh). I thought they weren’t opposed to photographs with tourists and, well, let’s just say I thought wrong =)

  • August 3, 2012

    The pictures are gorgeous. As with the others, this is one of my must see destinations. Aren’t the iguanas great. I am spending some time at a hotel in Ft Lauderdale where at any time of the mid day heat, an iguana may just jump in the pool with you! I love it.

    • August 6, 2012

      Wow, really? I didn’t know that part of Florida also had large iguanas milling about!

  • August 6, 2012

    Holy festival of iguanas!! That’s amazing. I’m glad you didn’t get eaten by iguanas or seals, though. That would not have made for as good of a story. 🙂

    • August 6, 2012

      Me and Lonesome George both perishing in the same month? That *would* have been one sad story.

  • August 8, 2012

    Love sea lions, they are so cute :)))

  • August 13, 2012

    Amazing shots, I havent seen the red-breasted Great Frigate ever in my life, hoping to see one soon. 🙂

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