Our journey with the Houston Zoo to the Galápagos Islands started early in the morning Friday. 6 a.m. breakfast, 7 a.m. pick up from our hotel in Quito and it was off to the airport, again. We had flown into Quito, Ecuador from Houston the evening before and caught a few hours of sleep before embarking on the final leg of our trip which would take us to Galápagos for our first day on the Islands.
We weren’t there long, but what strikes you most about Quito, Ecuador is its beauty. The airport is surrounded by mountains. The views are gorgeous.
But we have work to do, so we boarded the plane for our two-hour flight to Baltra Island. This is the only commercial airstrip in the Galápagos Islands. It was made at the beginning of World War II after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The United States was concerned about the safety of the Panama Canal, so the Navy put in a military base to protect it.
The Galápagos Islands have three climates, coastal, arid and humid highlands. We experienced all three this day. And it didn’t take long to realize no matter where you looked you would see the incredible wildlife of the Galápagos.
We saw our first land Iguana on the runway, and Darwin’s finches flew all around us as we waited on our bags.
We boarded a bus and drove through the dry, arid land to a boat that would take us to Santa Cruz. We almost tripped over two sleeping sea lions as we walked from the boat to our awaiting bus.
It was on this ride that our weather rapidly changed. We went from passing cactus in the desert to lush green trees as we climbed in elevation. We made a quick stop at Los Gemelos. That’s Spanish for twins. These are two large collapsed volcanic craters. Magma flowed on land and volcanic tubes transported magma under the ground. As the liquid rock cool and contracted gaps were crated underground. The weight of the rock on top collapsed creating these craters. Pictures don’t capture the size of these holes. It’s incredible.
On the bus ride to our hotel, we dropped in elevation heading toward the coast of Santa Cruz. This is the most populated city in all the Galápagos. And this is where our entire team’s emotions became like kids going to the zoo for the very first time. Sunbathing at the pool were Marine Iguanas. These are the only iguanas in the world that swim and feed in the ocean. They eat algae.
Sea turtles and sea lions swam around the bay.
And the moment I was hoping for came true. A few feet away from our table a Galápagos Blue Footed Boobie preened itself. These unique birds have striking bright blue feet! I’ll explain how they got their name on a later posting.
We ended the day exploring the Fish Market at Pelican Bay where dozens of pelicans roosted in the Mangrove trees.
We walked along Charles Darwin Avenue before calling it a night. The conservation work starts tomorrow.