Our morning hike on the rocky beach of Espanola Island had piles of lava iguanas to walk around. We saw many of the same bird species from other islands as we hiked along the rocks. Blue footed boobies, sea lions basking in the sun and the swallow-tailed gulls were all over the island. On the coast we saw a rainbow form as the blowhole in the rocks sprayed ocean water high into the sky and the waves came crashing down.
What was most special about today were the Albatross birds, it was the largest colony of them in the world and the largest bird of the Galapagos Islands. Luckily it is mating season and we got to see them court each other. They were massive white birds with long yellow beaks. We saw many of them, but 3 of them specifically stood out…they seemed to be involved in a love triangle until one finally chased out the other. The two birds as if they had practiced this mating dance many times before, began. They stood about 2 ft apart and clicked beaks several times together before they both looked straight up into the air. Then, they would continue with putting their head to one side of their body before looking straight back into the air. They were honking loudly at each other and clicking their long yellow beaks together. This dance routine went on for several minutes…check out our video below to see it! It was truly amazing to watch nature at work. We spent most of our time on the island watching them do their dance, once they find their mate…they stay together for life.
Back on the boat, we had some downtime and lunch before taking another tonga to Gardener Bay. Some people were snorkeling but we decided to take the time to lay on the beach. The ocean was a gorgeous sea-foam green with little masses of land dotting the horizon. In addition, there was a whole colony of sea lions. The colony consisted of at least 60 laying on the sand…some cuddling together and some sprawled out by themselves.
We found a space between them and put down our towels. They definitely didn’t move out of our way and in some cases moved closer for a snuggle. As they barked loudly amongst each other, the tour guides explained that in every colony there is an alpha male in charge. He watches over the other sea lions by swimming back and forth around the area in which the colony is settled. He keeps a watch out for danger such as sharks and makes sure other males don’t get too close to the females. Each alpha male is only the alpha for a short period, about 2 weeks because it is very tiring…and then another male takes over.
We got to see exactly which one was the alpha male in this colony. As we were laying out, we saw the huge alpha come sliding up the sand yelling and moving sea lions away from the others. He was very aggressive in making sure he got his way. As he got closer, we all started wondering if we should move…sure enough he came right at us as well which worked, we too moved out-of-the-way. He continued down the beach past us moving the other males from the area until he finally relaxed and laid down to catch his breath. Although we couldn’t speak sea-lion language, there was no mis-understanding…we understood we needed to move when he barked at us!
Once he settled down…others settled too, laying back on the sand as did we. These sea lions were just so darn cute and we had a lot of fun getting pictures…that was probably the closest we’ll ever get to them!
After sunbathing with the sea lions we were back on board for showers, dinner and a good nights sleep.
Published by Giff Kabat
I grew up in Ohio as a kid, so of course I went to college at “THE” Ohio State University. I graduated in 2001 with a major in business finance. A month after graduation, I moved out to California with my college girlfriend (whom I married in 2005)…and started my career in sales (industrial sales for 5 years…then moved into medical laser sales for 4 years).
In 2009 I was 31 years old. I had a great job, a new house, and a beautiful wife. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better…my wife and I found out we were going to have a baby. Everything was going according to plan…and I couldn’t have scripted a better life for myself.
Then in the same year…everything changed. My wife, Brandey, called me when I was on my way to work and told me over the phone, something I never thought could be possible in a million years. My beautiful 30-year old pregnant wife was just told that she had breast cancer. At that moment, everything stopped all at once. I immediately went to her…and learned of our new plan…which began with her needing surgery immediately…and the rest we would find out later.
The day we returned from the hospital after Brandey’s surgery…my father died. He had been battling an aggressive cancer of his own…and although he was the one person I wanted to speak with about Brandey having cancer…I never told him. My sister, Brooke, had just gotten married a few months ago, and although he was weak, he was able to walk his little girl down the aisle of her wedding. On the night before my sister’s wedding, Brandey and I told him that we were pregnant and about to make him a grandfather. It made no sense to tell him that everything had changed for us…so he died in peace knowing everything was “the way it should be” for his only 2 children.
2010 was the worst year of my life. We had lost our baby…and for 12 months I watched my wife fight cancer with multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and drug therapy. It was a difficult year for us…but we made it. When you go through something like this in life, you learn a lot about yourself and the people around you. I was amazed at the strength and courage of my wife…and how many good people there are in this world. I will be forever grateful for the ones who never ceased to amaze me with their kindness during this hard time. Family, friends, and sometimes complete strangers…helped us make it through this. I am, and will always be especially grateful to my mother, who was with my dad at the very end, when I couldn’t be there, and when things were at their worst. She has been so supportive throughout all of this, and without her everything would have been so much harder for me.
It’s 2011 now…and the plan we have for our life this year…is to make it the best year of our lives. Brandey is officially in remission from breast cancer and she has a 95% chance the cancer will never come back. Besides the love that I have for my wife and family, the loves of my life are food, wine, and adventure travel. My wife and I love traveling to new places, seeing natural wonders, and meeting new people from different parts of the world. So for the next 400 days…we’ve decided to travel the world…and celebrate our lives. There are so many things I took for granted in life that I will never take for granted again. My father worked for over 30 years at the same job with the same company…rarely took time off…and died at 64 years old right after his retirement. For me, this trip is a combination of a tribute to him, along with wanting to spend the time of my life with the “love of my life.”
* The only thing I will miss while we are gone is our family and friends (who we hope will meet us somewhere throughout our trip) and especially our 3 little kitties we left with my mom in Ohio to catsit for the next 400 days. I will also miss watching “American Football” over the weekend…but I’ll do my best to check the scores in the middle of the night.
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2 Replies to “Day 208 of 400: Española Island, Suarez Point and Gardener Bay – Galapagos Islands”
Incredible footage! I cannot believe how close you all were to the wildlife there. I know…I’m still getting caught up on your blog. Miss you guys!
This is one of my favorite “chapters”. But didnt you get nervous around all of the lizard type animals????