24 Aug
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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

20 July 2011

Wonderful ridiculous II

16th July 2011

I’m talking about boobies.

Boobies are birds, of course. Related to gannets if I’m any judge, but larger and – as with everything else here – quite happy for you to sit and watch them from just a couple of feet away. Indeed, some of the daft boobies make their nests right on the only path around Espanola Island, pretty much forcing you to step over them while they sit on their eggs. Of the two varieties we saw my favourites are the Blue-footed Booby, which does indeed have bright blue feet and also engages in a little shuffling dance. This is presumably to attract a mate, although dancing like an embarrasing uncle is hardly likely to win the heart of your beloved.

There were also albatrosses nesting here, and we were lucky enough to see two of them also engaged in a mating dance. This is a more complex and graceful affair than the booby’s comical shuffle, and lasted almost twenty minutes. These are Waved Albatrosses, smaller than the species we saw in New Zealand, although not by much. And here in the Galapagos you can watch them nesting from a couple of yards away with nothing at all between you and the birds. In New Zealand you can watch them nesting from behind the glass of a specially built observatory and you need binoculars to see them well. That’s why (I sound like a stuck record) these islands are so wonderfully ridiculous.

It is of course a photographer’s dream and I’ve taken hundreds of snaps, both above water and below. I’m getting a bit frustrated with the number of times my camera mis-focusses, and while I’m quite happy to assume it’s me screwing up, I’m also remembering back to Hala Bala where Tu explained to me that DSLR cameras do actually have a working lifespan of 10-30,000 shots before their focussing abilities start to slip. Given that we’ve kept more than 13,000 photos this year I must have taken well over 50,000 and the camera was already four years old. Hmm.

Anyway, I’ve still got loads of gorgeous photos from the Galapagos. Our Swedish companion Andreas had a disaster yesterday – his $3000 waterproof casing leaked and killed his top of the range Canon DSLR. When this tour finishes he is going straight onto an 8 day diving trip also in the Galapagos (if you put on an aqualung you can go see Hammerhead Sharks and other wonders of the deep), and I can only imagine how stuffed he must feel about not having his best camera. He does have another waterproof camera, but he’s a very keen photographer (witness: $3000 waterproof case!) so it won’t be quite the same. I have to reflect how incredibly lucky we’ve been not to have lost or killed our laptop, camera or any other important bit of kit in some out-of-the-way place this year.

Here I am waffling about cameras and I haven’t even mentioned how wonderful and ridiculous it is to play in the sea with a bunch of sealions! Most of us with underwater cameras were trying to snap pictures as they rocketed and looped around us, while Maureen did her best to pirouette and splash for the sealions’ entertainment. Few things in this year have been as delightful as swimming with sealions. We spent a happy hour marvelling at their swiftness and grace (especially compared with our flippering and snorkelling). Then once everyone else had gone back to the boat, the pair of us and Andreas spent a half-hour more with them. One of the sealions even fetched a sea cucumber from the depths for Maureen to bat around. Oh, I could have played with sealions until the sun set! But we were already close to upsetting the schedule and eventually had to be dragged back onto the zodiac with extreme reluctance.

This is pretty much the end of our Galapagos trip, tomorrow we’re back to the airport. I’ve only mentioned half the marvels we’ve seen, though I’m sure I can squeeze some more into a photo gallery or three. What a jolly good bookend to our year.

Thanks to Andreas for the above video footage!

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