Galapagos Islands Cruise Aboard the M/V Evolution Jul 06—15, 2018
Posted by Paul Greenfield
What can be said about the Galápagos Islands that has not already been expressed in dozens, if not hundreds, of trip reports, blogs, novels, documentaries, and tweets? All of the possible superlatives have surely already been exclaimed in some form or another! But, pondering this question for longer than I should have, I’ve kinda concluded that perhaps…just perhaps, the Encantadas experience is actually something other than exclamations of grandeur, but rather more of a personal journey of awakening, of following in the footsteps of history, of science, of learning and reflection, learning to observe…observe life, earth, the sea, our planet, the heavens…a journey of wonder, in a most uncanny place molded of lava, desert, cacti, ‘palo santo,’ marine and land ‘dragons,’ huge tortoises, a community of Animalia that possess no inborn fear of humans, some that seem truly out-of-place, others as if created for a fairy-tale; we shared an intimate study of the lives of so many ocean- and land-based creatures (from birth and all stages of life to death), of earth itself—from the active Sierra Negra eruption to ancient volcanoes crumbling into the sea. It felt as if we had been exposed to a journey of a full lifetime, packed into one short week, and it was fun too!
New experiences came at us with every wave; the impressive pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins that playfully escorted us towards Daphne Major on our first afternoon, just after boarding ship at Baltra Island, was just a tiny example of what was to come. As the sun set, we circled the tiny islet of Daphne Major, famed as the site chosen by Peter and Rosemary Grant for their long-term study on the evolutionary process; it was swarming with birds—many cruise firsts were seen from our ship’s deck, including a few Great Frigatebirds, which would be fairly scarce on the remainder of our itinerary. New experiences came fast and furiously from then on; each dawn many of us manned the deck, a comforting cup of piping-hot coffee in hand, to scan the horizon and ocean’s surface as we watched for anything that flew, swam, or surfaced. We slowly familiarized ourselves with the pelagic birds that would be our daily companions, comparing flight styles, size, and behavior: Elliot’s Storm-Petrel’s fluttering flight and tap-dancing on the water’s surface, the flap-flap-flap glide of Galápagos Shearwaters, the broad graceful arching of the Galápagos Petrel, the direct but almost bat-like silhouette of dozens of Brown Noddies, and that unmistakable ‘batman’ shadow of Magnificent Frigatebirds sailing silently overhead, often right above us, even perching on our ship’s mast.
Read Paul’s full report in his Field Report.