Up close and personal in the Galapagos

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in La Paz Bolivia. Tomorrow we start the marathon of flights to Fiji at 4 AM, so we head to the airport tonight. La Paz – Bogota. Bogota – Houston. Houston – Los Angeles. 5 hours in Los Angeles then 12 hours overnight to Fiji. I can tell you envy this amazing flight itinerary… But Fiji will be really nice. And we meet our Grandma in LA and she will stay in Fiji with us for a week.  We will be relaxed there so stay tuned for lots of updates! In this entry I’ll talk about two animals in the Galapagos: sea lions and marine iguanas.

Sea Lions
These animals originally came from California, but they were isolated for so long that they evolved into a new species. The Galapagos sea lions are still very similar to their Californian cousins, they even still have the same Latin name. What’s the difference between a sea lion and a seal? Our guide Victor explained that sea lions have external ears, and seals don’t.
I think that sea lions are like the puppies of the ocean. The story of their life: play in the waves for a while, eat some fish (there are more fish than they could ever eat), then sleep on the beach! Sounds good to me. The babies especially are very curious. When I tried to get a picture with one on the beach, respecting the 2 meter rule, the little guy came up to me and tried to touch me! Victor told me not to let him, because mothers and babies only recognize each other by smell, so my smell can’t touch him.

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What's a kiss without a mustache?
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Victor estimated this guy to be two days old!
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This is yoga- sea lion style!
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I guess this is relaxation pose!
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this one took a break from playing to observe the rare gringo
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Being so gorgeous is exhausting...
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On the red beach of Rabida Island

Now for the fun part… underwater pictures! Even the big males got playful one day. I cannot describe the feeling of sea lions surrounding you and doing flips around you in the water… maybe magical works. Keep in mind that these pictures are not zoomed in, they are taken with GoPro.

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I believe I can fly...
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Can you spot the odd one out? Look closely!
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This guy got the honour of becoming my phone's new wallpaper
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Kate got so excited when this happened! We learned after that swimming with sea lions was her number one goal coming to Galapagos.

Here are a few very short videos of these guys playing in the water:


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Here's what we saw in Porta Villamil, Isabela Island! The animals really aren't afraid of people.

Marine Iguanas
Yes, you read that right, marine iguanas! These guys don’t have quite as easy a life as the sea lions. Since there is no food for them on land, they have evolved to eat algae off the rocks, metres below the surface! In the morning, they have to warm up their blood in the sun, because they are coldblooded. Then, they take the plunge! They can hold their breath for up to nine minutes! By the time they come up for air, they must get out of the water fast, or their muscles will tense up in the cold Galapagos water. It’s difficult for them to get in and out of the water, because the waves thrash them around. But the hardest part is that baby sea lions enjoy playing with them. Not killing or hurting, just playing. Just what the Marine Iguana needs when its muscles are tensing up and it’s so tired.
They ingest so much salt water while underwater, that they have a special gland in their head to take out the salt from their body. Then, they sneeze it all out!

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Enlarge this picture to see them better- they blocked off the path so we had to go around them!
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This brave iguana took the plunge! Go! Don't let the sea lions find you little guy!

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Imagine not being able to breathe while eating!
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this guy was eating off Santiago Island
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I really love this picture! Animals live in harmony here in Galapagos.
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It's getting close to mating season, so the males get green colouration on their head and back to look more attractive to the females.

Here is a short video of an iguana eating underwater: http://youtu.be/Z7AymhFdzAU

Kaia

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