(Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabela, Galapagos)
I firmly believe anyone coming to the Galapagos comes with a distinct purpose in mind. Greg’s, no doubt, was surf. Mine, mine was penguins. More specifically to carry out a plan my sister-in-law Tasha and I previously hatched; to locate, amiably apprehend, and begin the rest of my life with the one Sir Waddleton the first.
Galapagos is home, and proudly so, to the only colony of tropical penguins on earth. A cold, nutrient rich current sweeps up the west coast of South America supporting animals you wouldn’t normally find this close to the equator. These aquatic misfits clock in at 18 inches tall, are rockets in the water and clowns on land, and never fail to bring a huge smile to my face.
Our anchorage here at Puerto Villamil is surrounded by a natural volcanic breakwater, which has the happy function of housing these wonderful creatures – along with lots of other marine wildlife. We are lucky enough to be able to paddleboard around and check it all out first hand. Well actually, we’ve been told that our self-guided tours may not be perfectly kosher, but we do it with the utmost care and play the affable smile-and-wave card should we meet the authorities.
Technicalities aside, today’s paddle was truly remarkable. We travelled with a five sea lion escort and spotted yet another of Galapagos’ celebrities. The blue-footed booby. As amusing a name as they are to see, these high fliers and extreme divers look like they’ve successfully completed a group assignment to trample through an overturned bucket of neon indigo paint.
Besides their striking footwear, the boobies’ hunting techniques offer an equally entertaining display. From Oceanna we can watch as hoards of them circle high in the air before making a daring dive into the ocean below. As they fall through the sky they streamline their body, appearing to elongate it to an unnatural degree. They hit the water like an arrow, and after bewildering moment pop back up on the surface like a submerged rubber ducky in the bath tub.
Between the campy penguins and the entertaining boobies I wonder if I’ll ever stop smiling while here in the Galapagos.