Gail’s up close and personal recollections

Of course, the best thing about this Christmas was being with my family. I happen to have the best children in the world and they have chosen the best of partners, so it’s all good. Add a great husband, sister in law, and wonderful extended family from California, and you have a winning combination, hands down.
We saw life in multiples in the Galapagos, species and numbers and the striking thing is that they allowed us to get so very close, up close and personal! It was all amazing and awe inspiring and reminded me once again of how much we share on this amazing planet we all call home. So what were my favorites, my 5 top picks for the Galapagos?

Number One: The oldest of the old; the land tortoises; slow as molasses, crinkled and wrinkled, undeterred by much of anything that might get in their way. Imagine seeing a reptile that was born when the Civil War was being fought? They were ancient and majestic in a unique kind of way. I was glad to visit the controlled breeding areas that protect this species.

Number Two: The most playful and odd: the sea lions. They littered the beaches; old and young alike, lined up like cigars in a box. They shuffled, yawned, croaked at one another and are some of of the best swimmers in the world. How I wish I could slip through the water like a sea lion! And the babies were just like babies, playful, funny and ultimately curious about everything, including my feet! They swam with us, swooping and spinning in and through us. We had to laugh as we snorkeled.

Number Three: The colorful: The Blue Footed Boobies (the red footed ones too!). OK, then I have to add the Nazca Boobies too.
Nesting on land and in the bushes, we walked so close we could see the eggs they sat on. With a whispery squawk, they chatted and called. Their colorful feet made splatting noises when they patted down the trail. The Nazca Boobies stared at us from black masks. To watch them dive into the ocean to find fish rattled my head. We had fourteen of them on the rail of the boat; hiking along with us as we headed to another island; swooping and soaring in the wind.

Number Four: The Prehistoric Crusty Characters: The Marine Iguanas. Oddly enough, I was fascinated by these iguanas. They sprawled over the rocks by day to soak up warmth, then hunted for dinner in the nearby surf. The males were large with random splotches of color; the females were black and much smaller. Males would shake their heads to attract the females. Did I mention that most everything was doing some kind of mating dance in the Galapagos?

Number Five: The beautiful: The Moorish Idol; a striking fish of black, white and yellow with a long trailing fin which is just a cheating way to say that the fish we saw while snorkeling were stunning; every color, shape and size in schools of hundreds. They cruised on the current, slipped under rocks and nibbled on algae. The underwater world is very special. Even the white tipped sharks and hammerheads were stunning. I didn’t actually get a picture of a Moorish Idol, so I substituted one of the many starfish on the sea floor, the ray, and the white tipped shark we saw while snorkeling.
Wow, the Galapagos Islands are incredible. As I write, I am on land yet still rocking as if still on board our home away from home on the boat. I wouldn’t change a thing about this adventure and I’m privileged to have experienced such a place. May it ever be so.


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