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

20 July 2011

Wonderful ridiculous

14th July 2011

These wonderful, ridiculous islands are absolutely alive with creatures whose one shared characteristic is a complete lack of any fear of man.

We went for a walk this morning and found dozens of big prehistoric land iguanas just basking to either side of the path and oblivious to us getting close enough to snap pictures. Further up the hill were sea cliffs where scores of seabirds were swooping about as well as nesting. The Nazca Booby on her nest didn’t mind anyone approaching to within a couple of yards and all the Frigatebirds and Tropicbirds swooped back and forth above our heads. The Tropicbird is a lovely thing, like a sleek white gull with a long streamer of a tail fluttering behind. The Frigatebirds also have impressively long tails but are quite the opposite; big, jet black, and prone to the most thuggish behaviour. We watched one of them swoop on a gull who had just caught something. There was a dogged aerial chase, not made any easier for the gull when two other Frigates joined in, and I didn’t actually spot who ended up getting the fish.

When we walk on the lava rocks, bright red Sally Lightfoot crabs scatter before us in enormous numbers. The sealions don’t scatter, they just flollop around keeping one wary eye on us when they can be bothered to. Occasionally someone wanders too close (less than a metre) and a sealion will huff and half-heartedly flop at them. There are big, prehistoric iguanas with spikes on their backs and scabrous skin. They gaze up myopically if you get closer than a few feet and then clamber clumsily away, so slow that a three-legged dacshund could catch them. Even the rare Santa Fe rice rats were scuttling around in the undergrowth pretty much at our feet, showing none of the usual rodent tendency to scurry into bolt-holes whenever humans are around.

It’s all a little unreal, hard to believe we’re actually here in this unique place. I had assumed that the Galapagos were a popular destination only because of their connection with Darwin’s Origin of Species, but that’s not it at all. With or without Darwin there’s just nowhere else in the world where you can walk or swim through such an abundance of wildlife as though you were an invisible alien visitor, rather than a human being of whom all normal animals are justly terrified. Being here is exactly like being in a nature documentary; you can crouch down next to the beasties just like David Attenborough and tell people all about the mating habits of the Swallow-tailed Gull or the Marine Iguana. Or swim next to Green Turtles and play with Galapagos Sealions like Jacques Cousteau, which we hope to be doing tomorrow.

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