The Galapagos Islands: At the Aquatic Center of Evolution

Serpents wait in paradise. At baggage control for passengers arriving from continental Ecuador, at passport control and at the Port of Baltra. This is where cruise ships with a maximum capacity of 100 passengers begin their tours of the archipelago. In addition to the size and number of boats, the frequency of visitors is also strictly regulated. Only some of the 13 largest islands and more than 100 small ones can be entered, in a narrow period of time and accompanied by a national park guide.

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First rule: no lizard selfies!

Thus, the three groups that arrived in Mosquera from the “Santa Cruz II” in an inflatable boat have the island of Arenal to themselves. Perfect to practice for beginners in Galapagos: stay on the marked paths, do not photograph all the animals (there are many) and above all keep a respectful distance. “No selfies with lizards,” warns nature guide Verónica Sánchez. This is the only way this unique ecosystem has a chance of being preserved.

Galapagos Islands

get there

Of stuttgart flies klm (www.klm.com) via amsterdam after Ecuador (Quito either guayaquil), from continental Latam (www.latamairlines.com) takes you to Baltra Island in the Galapagos. British Airways fly over London Y Bogota (www.britishairways.com), French Air (www.airfrance.de) on Paris Y Panama.

Galapagos Cruise

Hurtigruten offers on the “MS Santa Cruz II” an 11-day voyage to the Galapagos Islands in. After a three-day ground program in Ecuador Follow a seven-day expedition sea voyage with guided excursions to various islands. The trip costs from 8989 euros per person including flights. More information on Tel. 040 / 87 40 83 58 or www.hurtigruten.de. navigating the Galapagos Islands Cruise companies Celebrity Cruises, www.celebritycruises.de, and Silversea, www.silversea.com, as well as the country specialist, also offer this Ecuador Discover, www.ecuador-discover.de.

book advice

peter korneffel: Tour guide Ecuador Y Galapagos IslandsDumont, 456 pages, 24.95 euros.

General information

tourism minister Ecuadorwww.ecuador.travel Galapagosnews, www.galapagos.org BB

Sea lions rest on the sandbar, great frigatebirds crawl out of the undergrowth, completely unafraid of contact, like most animals in the Galapagos. Bright red rock crabs contrast with the jet black lava and serve as a snack for sea lions. Descendant crabs wear black camouflage for better chances of survival. The pale skeleton of a beached whale graces a hilltop. A wild burp on the rocky beach breaks the silence. Veronica expertly identifies it as the mother-child communication of sea lions. She true to the motto “Don’t swim too far”.

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The Daphne Minor and Major tuff volcanoes rise vertically from the sea, their shape reminiscent of Australia’s Ayers Rock. A lava rock moves on land. It turns out to be a marine iguana, one of the many endemic species that make Galapagos so special. At the rear of the mini-island, the rock drops off steeply. Galapagos sharks roam here, and sea lions are among their favorite foods. “The only thing that lives here is what happened swimming or flying or being stranded,” explains the nature guide.

The first inhabitants were pirates, shipwrecked and fugitives, there was never a land bridge in the history of the volcanic islands. That is why Charles Darwin found here a lot of living evidence for his theory of evolution.

The animal specialty in San Cristóbal are the boobies, more precisely the red-footed, blue-footed and Nazca boobies. The birds got their name because they walk clumsily. “They are masters in the air,” says Gabriel Tapia, also a licensed Galapagos guide. The sound here is completely different from that of the island of sea lions. As the boobies whistle, the girls croak, and they all try to drown each other.

Thorny bushes, salt bushes and balsamic trees survived as pioneer plants on the rock for millions of years. Red-footed boobies like to use the yellow-flowered cordia as a nesting site, while blue-footed boobies nest on the ground. They mark their nest with a ring of white dung, otherwise it is flat and sometimes perches in the middle of the hiking trail. The mother bird proudly presents tourists with an egg and a newly hatched chick under her plumage. Gannets owe their brightly colored feet to carotene, or iron-rich algae food. “The brighter the color of the legs, the healthier the animal and the more attractive it is to choose a mate,” says Tapia.

In Santa Fé, a colony of sea lions welcomes the group. But really the lizards are the stars here: the cheeky little lava lizard, nimbly running through the silver-gray grass and making sure none of the Galapagos vultures catch up with it, and the archaic Santa Fe iguana. He has punk spikes on his head and usually lies motionless under tree-like cacti with leathery bark and nasty spikes on their leaves. The iguana waits until a leaf or fruit falls in front of its mouth. He then scrapes off the beaks and finishes his meal.

After pure animal worlds, Santa Cruz is almost a culture shock. With 16,000 inhabitants, it is the most populous of the only five inhabited islands. The number of pubs, shops and tour operators to go from island to island, diving or mountain biking reveals that it lives on tourism. A distillery shows tourists how sugarcane liquor is produced, and in El Manzanillo you can see giant tortoises weighing up to 250 kilos after your meal. They were released into the wild after a breeding season ensured the survival of the species. Among acacias, cedars and guavas, two of the ten species of tortoises that still live in Galapagos wallow and chew. One of them gave the island kingdom its name: Galápago, the Spanish word for saddle, refers to the saddle-shaped shell that this species developed exclusively: Beneath the curved shell, the animals can stretch out their long necks to the point where it can nibble the reach of cacti from trees.

In Española, the animal world returns to each other. The entire island seems so untouched that a dinosaur stomping around would be little surprise to visitors. In the bays, the young fur seals frolic like in a fun pool, diving and jumping and surfing in the waves. In the sky, albatrosses spread their impressive wings of almost three meters. The round lumps of lava are white dung from countless birds, it smells of animals, salt and algae.

It’s bathing day for the marine iguanas. They slide off their sunstones into a natural pool and allow themselves to be swept out into the waves, where they float on top of the waves. You think you can see a satisfied smile on their wrinkled faces.

“I never tire of islands, animals, nature, and my favorite island is Española,” Captain Christian Cuvi reveals to his guests as they return to “Santa Cruz II” in excellent German. The Ecuadorian owes it to his scholarship in Flensburg, where he trained as a submarine driver, and to his German wife, with whom he discovered Galapagos as a personal paradise.

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