Thursday, April 23, 2009

I paid a lot of money to see boobies and I still can't touch them! - North Seymour Island, Galapagos


Destination: Galapagos Islands - North Seymour Island - Ecuador

Where we stayed: M/Y Beluga - $2000 for 8 nights per person (plus $110 for the park fee, $140 for tips & $415 for airfare, all per person - the Galapagos Islands are not a cheap place to be but definitely worth every penny)

Days there: 8 days / 7 nights

Best of: The boobie dance! This island was Jason's favorite of all of them...mainly for the boobies!

Worst of: With the island sitting on the equator, the heat gets to you quickly.

*With the islands being so diverse, we decided to post each one separately. The Galapagos Islands will be an 8 part series. Here is Part 1.

Day 1: Baltra (airport) / North Seymour Island

We arrived safely at the airport in Baltra and we transfered to M/Y (motoring yacht) Beluga. Having booked the Beluga the day before sailing on a great last minute special we were treated to the first class style yacht at about half the price. While there were other cheaper cruises around the islands we chose this one for a couple of reasons. One, the more expensive the boat, the faster it goes in general so the itinerary is more diverse on the first class boats and reaches the islands farther out. Two, with the first class and luxury cruises, you are guaranteed a level 3 guide meaning that they have been a guide on the islands for over 7 years and have taken several courses and tests. Third, the price difference was only about $300, certainly worth the difference in a place like this. And lastly, the accommodations and food are better, at least it wasn't in bunk beds!

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The Beluga has a max capacity of 16 people, making the landings far easier than some of the bigger ships that hold up to 100 people. It also included a sun deck for resting and relaxing between snorkeling and hiking. It has its own water filtration system, that we all thought worked really well, so there was plenty of water. We had heard stories of some boats not having enough water and actually running out during the cruise! It also had A/C which we thought was a little too much at times, but hey, better to have it that not. The first class boats also have a couple of more staff members, so that they can switch off steering duties when traveling at night. Off the first island we visited, a tourist class ship had ran aground the week before when the captain fell asleep at the wheel. We actually saw the ship, still stuck in the rocks, just off the coast of our first island we visited, North Seymour.

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Add map of the Galapagos

Our first stop in the Galapagos was North Seymour which is situated next to Baltra (the former US base during WW II and now serves as the main airport for the islands) and is one of the most visited islands in the archipelago. It's a dry landing on black basaltic lava with a short walking trail taking approximately 2 hours (though you could easily do it faster you must take time to linger and enjoy as there is so much to see)! The island has but one trail, and like almost all the islands in the Galapagos, visits are limited to guided tours of specific marked routes. The island, also like many in the Galapagos, is home to abundant wildlife including sea-lions, frigate birds, marine iguanas, land iguanas and our favorite, the blue-footed boobies.

The blue-footed boobie is on everyone's "must-see" list while in the Galapagos. While not rare, they are very entertaining to watch. It was nesting time for the boobies and we were able to view them courting one another with their "boobie two-step" which is quite comical. Once the male successfully attracts a female with his foot stomping dance highlighting his lovely blue feet the two begin dancing together. If everything goes well the dance culminates in a sky-point where everything (wings, tail and bill) is pointed towards the sky and the two whistle and honk. Although they aren't nest builders they begin collecting a few twigs and stones as presents before mating begins. The eggs aren't actually laid in a nest, instead they are laid on the ground with a ring of twigs around them and incubate for 41 days. They lay two to three eggs each time and that's when it get's interesting. As one hatches, it instinctively begins to attack and kill off the other eggs/chicks. With natural resources being limited, this is the boobies way of ensuring survival of the fittest. The parents of the chicks stay out of the way and then care for the remaining survivor.

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*Here is the boobie two foot link!

The island is also host to a spectacular frigate bird colony. Frigates are found in several places around the world, but here you can visit them while they are trying to attract a mate. The red billowed out neck you see below are the males. They grow the red sack and it lasts for about 3 months, eventually withering and falling off. They "blow" them up and spread their wings to get the females attention.

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We also encountered a few sea lions, land iguanas and Darwin's infamous finches on our walk. They were also a lot of fun, but we will discuss these guys in later posts for the other islands. Below are a few pictures as a teaser!

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After returning to the Beluga from North Seymour, we finished settling in and set sail for Espanola!

To see more photos of North Seymour click here!

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