Hurtigruten Expeditions teamed up with Metropolitan Touring for their Galapagos expeditions. Metropolitan has been doing tours in Ecuador for over 65 years so they are experts. They do also partner with other cruise companies so if you go to Galapagos there is a good chance a Metropolitan guide will be with you. They really are amazing guides full of knowledge and a passion for the wildlife. They taught us that just like when you visit Africa on safari you look for the Big 5 in Galapagos you look for the Big 15.
Here are are few shots of the Big 15 we did see: 1. The Galapagos Giant Tortoise which is the animal the islands are named after seems like the best to be first. We got to see these large creatures both in the wild and in a preserve. The country is doing a lot help these guys thrive. They can live to be over a 100 years and get huge! It is hard to believe that this little guy grows up to look like these guys !
2. Galapagos Sea Lion - these guys are my favorite and they are pretty much everywhere in Galapagos. They are friendly and curious. After seeing them everyday on the beaches during our trip I know thing it is disappointing when I go to the beach here in FL and do not see any laying around on the beach.
3. Galapagos Fur Seal - while we did see these guys and they look similar to the Sea Lion they are not as friendly and preferred to hide out more. The only photos I have them are up on rocks and it is hard to see them.
4. Marine Iguana - there are 3 Iguanas on the list but these guys have adapted to be able dive and swim to survive.
5. Santa Fe Land Iguana and 6. Land Iguana - These guys look similar but one is only found on Santa Fe Island. They both prefer to hang out under the cactus and eat what falls.
If you are a bird lover you really need to get to Galapagos to see some of these amazing species. 7. Galapagos Albatross - We got very lucky to see a few of these guys still hanging around since they do not live in Galapagos all year. They only come back to the island to mate and lay eggs. The wingspan of this bird can be 7 - 8 Feet!
8. Red Footed Booby - There are 3 types of Boobys you will find in Galapagos. The Red Footed are harder to find since they are a bit more picky about where they nest and are not on all the islands but thier bright red feet help identify them.
9. Blue Footed Booby - These guys were fun to watch especially when doing their mating dance. Apparently the bluer the feet the more attractive the male is to a mate.
10 - Nazca Booby - We got to see so many of these guys with their chicks. It was so amazing to be able to get so close to a bird with a chick and the birds were not afraid at all.
11- Frigate birds - The males have an impressive red chest they use to puff up and attract a mate.
12 - Galapagos Hawk - We did get to see one of these scooping up the afterbirth of a baby sea lion.
We knew at the start of our cruise that we wouldn't be seeing 2 of the Big 15 because they only lived on islands we would not be visiting on our itinerary. There are multiple itineraries to choose from from short cruises to longer ones which is nice. It also means I have a reason to come back so I can see the places I didn't get to on this cruise. The 2 we wouldn't be seeing were the Flightless Cormorant and the Galapagos Penguins. There was one of the 15 that we saw but it flew by so fast we didn't get the chance to get a photo and then didn't see anymore and that was the American Flamingo. As for the other 12 we got to see lots and lots of them. You really will be amazed by how much these animals really do not care that you are around. Some seemed curious about us while others didn't even budge as we walked by. If you are an animal lover Galapagos has to be on your must visit list.
*some of there photos were from our ship's photographer Dennis Ballesteros. There was a wonderful slide show of photos he took during the cruise and then we got a link to be able to download them.