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March 27, 2015
Perched atop a hill on Santa Cruz Island, the Pikaia lodge allows for a commanding view of the northeastern coastline. Fitting in well with the eco-conscious view of Ecuador’s most famous archipelago, Pikaia is predominantly powered by wind-turbine and solar energy and, also like the archipelago, is steeped in Darwinian lore.
Aside from stories of Darwin measuring the beaks of finches, the Galapagos is probably best known for its giant land tortoises. Scientists believe these reptiles originally arrived in the Galapagos by floating (lazily) over 600 miles from the South American coast and (very) slowly populating ten of the islands in the chain. Over the centuries, hundreds of thousands of these creatures were lost to both invasive species that consumed their eggs and early seafarers who would load their ships’ holds with tortoises.
Giant tortoises are the original vegans eating a diet comprised of nothing but leafy greens and cactus pads.
Though it may look like a tranquil cowboy scene out of an equatorial Larry McMurtry novel, these locals are actually just returning from a goat hunt. Left unchecked, the goats can wreak havoc upon the landscape and are actively removed when found.
People tend to forget that there’s more to the Galapagos than just animal watching, but there are plenty of gorgeous beaches just like this one. Aside from the normal sea life one might encounter while dipping into the brine, Galapagos swimmers can also delight in swimming alongside iguanas. Weird, but true.
This iguana is actively seeking out a swimmer to startle. It’s an odd moment to be strolling along the shore and realize you’re paralleling an iguana. True, you might feel momentarily superior in comparing your dexterity when they get hit by a wave and tumbled across the shore, but I promise you that once they’re submerged they can outswim Michael Phelps any day.
As the Galapagos is a chain of islands, you’ve got to have a boat to get around. Fortunately the Pikaia Lodge foresaw the problem and secured a lovely vessel, the Pikaia One, to ferry lucky guests between scenic locations. Fun fact, you can’t set foot on any of the islands in the Archipelago (save isla Baltra where the airport is) without a guide present.
Bartolome island is perhaps one of the most photographed spots in all of the Galapagos.
Interesting fact about these Sally-Go-Lightly-Crabs: the juveniles are dark colored as to blend in better with the rocks but upon reaching adulthood they let their completely un-camouflaged colors blaze into existence. It’s rumored that they got their strange name in honor of a Nigerian mine sweeper named Sally who was known to be extremely cautious. Sadly, that’s a lie.
This Sally Go Lightly crab is giving me the stink eye because it knows I’m about to reveal its true name. The scientific name for this extremely common crab is Grapsus Grapsus, which we all know is a terrible name to write on a ‘Hello, my name is’ sticker at crab conventions. It’s not at all endemic to the Galapagos.
This texture is proof of the the amazing ability of Mother Nature to set stone on fire, liquefy it, stretch it across an island and then dry it into cool shapes and colors. Mother Nature is kind of a badass, and pretty damn artistic.
Seen here is a Marine Iguana on a lava flow on James Island.
This magnificent frigate bird is like a spray tanned gym rat, flexing his muscles for everyone to see while trying to convince the ladies to look his engorged red sac. Some folks may call it a mating ritual, I call it showing off.
Don’t worry, this endemic land iguana doesn’t have jaundice, he’s just naturally a sort of off-yellow color. His hobbies are lounging around on rocks, defacing cactus pads with bite marks, falling off of branches a few times a day, and leaving piles of skin in inappropriate places for a laugh.
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