On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
This series was created by Alain Chamot (1971-2020).
Sunrise off Española, and the crew getting the zodiacs ready for the days excursions.
There are only two seasons in the Galapagos, the wet season and the garua, or misty season. We were there during at the end of the garua. The mist burned off as the day got warmer, but by the end of the day it was sitting overhead like a sun hat, with a ribbon of clear blue sky circling the horizon.
The morning’s expedition was to Gardner Bay, another white sand beach where we could move around relatively unsupervised (you have to be accompanied by a licensed naturalist at all times, but if there weren’t particular paths that we had to stick to, we got a little more freedom to move around). Most of the group was snorkeling at one end of the beach; I walked for a while in the other direction, looking at all the birds and sea lions and lizards, and there wasn’t another human in sight, or any sign that another human had even been there.
The finches get all the attention — the species in Galapagos are even called Darwin’s finches — but it was actually the mockingbirds that first interested Darwin. (Darwin didn’t even bother to label his finch specimens by which island they’d come from, but fortunately, others on the Beagle did.)
There are four species of mockingbird in the Galapagos; this is the one Darwin didn’t see, the Hood mockingbird of Española.
Here’s one of the many finches on the beach.
A beach full of sea lions is a noisy place. The adults make a sound halfway between barking and barfing. The pups sound almost like sheep; they make a little maaaa! sound that is quite adorable.
You see pups trying to catch up with their mothers because they want to nurse or just hang out under mom’s protective flipper, crying maaa! maaa! But then there are the pups whose mothers aren’t there, probably because she’s out hunting for food. They waddle up and down the beach crying. And sometimes the mothers don’t make it back and the pups die.
So I was always happy to see mothers and babies together, like this pair.
Love that flipper.
This is the alpha male — known as the beachmaster — of Gardner Bay. There was nothing remotely cute or cuddly about him, especially as he was seriously pissed off. Another male sea lion was getting too close to the beach, and the beachmaster was baring his teeth and yelling very loudly in seal language about how he was going to kick some major butt if the other sea lion didn’t head back out to sea pronto.
And since he’d obviously been in at least one fight recently, that wasn’t an empty threat. Beachmaster is a job with very high turnover.
The lighthouse at Punta Suarez, on the other side of Española, later that day.