Sea Lions frolicking on a beach
- My favorite experience was watching the mating dance of the Albatrosses on Espanola island. It was hysterical watching their clumsy walk, lateral head bob following by the clacking of their beaks together – their version of French kissing. It felt somewhat awkward being present to witness the birds’ at their version of foreplay, but that was one of the wonderfully unique things about the islands. A lack of natural predators has resulted in the animals developing no sense of fear of humans – they made no effort to move away if we photographed them from just a few feet away.
- On North Seymour island, we watched the courtship ritual of the Frigate bird, the male of the species’ neck inflates into a basketball sized red balloon to attract the females who then decide based upon the balloons size, color and shape, together with the potential nesting site chosen by the male, whether or not to mate with said male. If only courtship in humans was this simple.
Male Frigate bird trying to attract a mate
- On the same island, we saw a few mother Frigate birds feeding their chicks. On one occasion, we watched as the mother regurgitated a whole sardine into it’s chick’s mouth, only to have the fish swiped by an audacious passing male! I’ve included the video footage of this for your viewing pleasure.
- Watching Sea lion pups playing in large groups on the beaches. This didn’t ever get old. The sea lions are so cute and quite vocal, the younger ones reproduce what can only be described as the sound one makes when puking to cry out to their mother’s their need for breast milk. Not as entertaining, was watching the pups when the adult females “rejected” a pup because it wasn’t their own offspring. On South Plaza, which I nicknamed “Death Island” because we came across 8 dead bodies of various creatures, we watched a painfully thin and clearly starving pup get rejected by an adult female, who even bit the poor hungry screaming animal. It was very difficult to watch as you could see it being very weak. It appears with Sea Lions at least, that if something happens to the mother sea lion, the pup’s fate is grisly and sealed.
One could get very close to the Sea Lions
- We got to observe giant tortoises in their natural “pen” as park officials struggle to help re-populate the islands with these creatures whose numbers have dwindled. Watching them move with quite unexpected speed was fascinating.
Giant Tortoise on Floreana Island
- Hanging out on the beautiful white sandy beaches on Floreana island (though I often laid out and read instead of taking the walking tour)
- Climbing to the viewpoint on Bartholomew island (which I did twice because it was the first cardio I’d gotten in a week) and watching the sun setting on the surrounding islands.
Our group on Bartholomew island
- Mating dance of the Blue Footed Boobies. The males show off their feet to the female and practice “skypointing” which involves them elongating their necks as they stretch upward to the sky, spreading their wings out fully to show themselves off.