Galapagos Islands Cruise aboard the M/V Evolution Jun 23—Jul 02, 2017

Posted by Michael O'Brien

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Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien is a freelance artist, author, and environmental consultant living in Cape May, New Jersey. He has a passionate interest in bird vocalizations and field ide...

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It’s hardly an overstatement to say that the Galápagos Islands are among the most unique places on earth. Lying some 600 miles off mainland Ecuador has given life here the chance to evolve in its own direction. The unusual animals of this special place showcase how evolution works in an isolated environment. As an added bonus, a ruggedly beautiful landscape coupled with delightful weather, interesting geologic history, and abundant and approachable wildlife makes the Galápagos a true naturalist’s playground. Our visit to these otherworldly islands was fascinating, enchanting, and also a lot of fun!

Galapagos Penguin

Galapagos Penguin— Photo: Michael O’Brien

 

Upon arrival in Baltra, we were met by our first taste of Galápagos abundance: both Land and Marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot Crabs, Small Ground-Finches, Blue-footed Boobies, Brown Noddies, Elliott’s Storm-Petrels—all while we were standing at the dock waiting for our first panga ride to the ship! But we really had a proper welcome to the Galápagos that afternoon when we circumnavigated Daphne Major, an island made famous by long-term research on Darwin’s finches conducted here by Peter and Rosemary Grant. This historic island was covered with nesting Nazca and Blue-footed boobies, Great and Magnificent frigatebirds, Red-billed Tropicbirds, Swallow-tailed Gulls, and even a few Darwin’s finches. And as we cruised away from Daphne Major, we sailed into a huge swarm of Galápagos Shearwaters, several Galápagos Petrels, and a large pod of Bottlenose Dolphins, many riding our bow. What a way to start! 

Among the many highlights on this wonderful cruise were some of the bizarre creatures that make the Galápagos famous: Marine Iguanas piled upon one another on rocky beaches; Galápagos Penguins and Flightless Cormorants perched side by side; brilliant Sally Lightfoot Crabs covering every coastal rock; 500 lb Giant Tortoises wallowing in misty highland pools; awkward Waved Albatrosses performing elaborate courtship displays; and “Darwin’s finches” of every shape and size, each occupying a slightly different niche. Equally impressive was the fact that most of these animals were indifferent to humans, having evolved with no major land predators. As a result, we had “arm’s-length” views of just about everything from sea lions and Lava Herons, to squabbling mockingbirds, to Galápagos Doves, Galápagos Hawks, boobies, Brown Noddies, and more. 

 Read Michael’s full report in his Field List.