Saturday, April 28, 2018

Wildlife in Galapagos Islands

The living museum that is Galapagos Islands is an archipelago located in the Republic of Ecuador. It consists of 19 main islands but only five of them are inhabited. There is no record found on the origin of the Galapagos Islands but a certain factor that contributed to the formation of this UNESCO World Heritage site is the continuous seismic and volcanic activity of the Nazca plate, a major tectonic plate, where it is located. It is also located on top of the Galapagos hot spot where a mantle plume melts the Earth’s crust resulting in the formation of volcanoes. 

Galapagos Islands

A vast diversity of species thrives in the Galapagos Island and in the marine reserve that surrounds it. It is home to a large number of species. Due to its location being in the convergence of three ocean currents, various “unusual species” have found existence on the island which can be seen nowhere else in the Earth. In fact, the rich biodiversity of the Islands became Charles Darwin’s benchmark for his “Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection” which he formulated following his one month visit to the island in the year 1835.  

Wildlife in The Galapagos Islands

The animals that live in the Galapagos do not survive by diversifying but by adapting and developing traits to suit the condition they live in, hence the birth of various rare species. Because of the Islands’ extreme remoteness, the animals that live here do not have a natural fear for human, which makes an up close and personal encounter with different species possible, or even a norm.


There is abundant bird life in the Galapagos because birds can easily fly to and from Galapagos. Smaller bird species are also carried by strong storms to Galapagos. 


  • Small birds with  small, pointy beaks
  • Low-flying
  • Eats seeds, insects,
  • 13 species found all over the archipelago
  • Can be seen all year round



  • Larger than finches
  • Some have curved beaks, some have straight beaks
  •  Four different species found on most islands, at the shoreline
  • Salt-and-pepper color

Short-eared Owls

Short-eared Owls

  • Have clumps of feathers that look like ears
  • Can be found anywhere on the Island but is best seen in Genovesa Island
  • They survive on small mammals like mice and rat and small birds and reptiles
  • Most active at night and in the early morning

Galapagos Dove

Galapagos Dove

  • Can be found in rocky areas of the archipelago
  • Reddish brown in color and has blue circles around their eyes
  • Long, downward, curved beaks
  • They feed on insects and seeds and fruits from the ground
  • Attractive but shy
  • Prefer the arid lowlands

Smooth Billed Ani 

Smooth Billed Ani

  •  Large, black bird
  • Came to the island in the 1960s
  • Feeds on insects and small reptiles

Galapagos Hawks

Galapagos Hawks

  • Before humans settled in the archipelago, the Galapagos hawk was considered to be the island’s top predator
  • They feed on small birds, mice, rats and reptiles, carrions, dead goats and sometimes on small Galapagos tortoises
  • They hunt in small groups
  • Tough, swift and strong
  • They can fly up to 200 meters
  • They can be found almost all over the archipelago except on the islands of Floreana, San Cristobal, Baltra, Daphne, and Seymour.


Blue-footed Booby

Blue-footed Booby

  • A favorite among Galapagos visitors because of the cuteness
  • Nests in open spots and walking trails
  •  The male booby does a courtship dance to attract mates
  •  The bluer the feet of the male booby, the more attractive the mate
  • Mating season is usually in the month of March
  • Booby chicks need five to six months before they can fly
  • Can be seen all year round at the shoreline of most islands

Nazca Booby

Nazca Booby

  • The largest specie of Galapagos boobies
  •  Best seen in the islands of Española, Genovesa, and Floreana
  • Can be seen all year round

Red-footed Booby

Red-footed Booby
  • Can go up to 93 miles to hunt for food
  • Can be found all year round in the islands of Wolf, Floreana, Genovesa, Darwin, and San Cristobal

Flightless Cormorant

Flightless Cormorant

  • The only cormorant in the world that cannot fly
  • One of the world’s rarest birds
  • Nests in the coasts of Fernandina and Isabela Islands

Greater Flamingo

Greater Flamingo

  •  Feed on tiny crustaceans
  • Lives in brackish, salty waters
  • Only a few hundred can be seen in the islands of the islands of Floreana, Santiago, Isabela, Rabida, and Sta. Cruz



  • Steals food in mid-air from other bird species
  • Can be found all year round in the islands of North Seymour, Isabela, Floreana, San Cristobal and Genovesa.

Galapagos Penguins

Galapagos Penguins

  • Designed to live in arctic conditions, the Galapagos penguins have learned to adapt to living at the equator.
  • Found all year round in the islands of Fernandina and Isabela.

Waved Albatross 

Waved Albatross
  • One of the world’s rarest birds
  • A large bird with a combination of brown, yellow, and white in color
  • With bright, yellow bills
  • Feeds on squid and fish
  • Can fly for days, but waddles weakly on land
  • Can be found only on the island of Español
  •   Leaves the islands by December and return by April


Reptiles thrive in Galapagos Islands. It is widely believed that these reptiles arrived on the island by chance, clinging to wood and masses of vegetation that were set adrift from other lands. Over the years, these reptiles have transformed so much that they no longer look like their ancestors who first came to the island. 

Giant Tortoises

Giant Tortoises
  • Most famous of all Galapagos species
  • Gentle, massive creatures
  • Herbivores
  • Lives in the cool highlands
  • Once became extinct because of sailors and pirates who carried them off as food
  •  The famous Galapagos Tortoise named Lonesome George is the last individual of the Pinta Island species and can be seen at the Charles Darwin  Research Station in the Island
  •  They can be seen all year round at the Isabela Island, Pinzon Island, La Pinta Island, Santiago Island, Santa Cruz Island, San Cristobal Island and Española Island
  •  The largest tortoise weighs over 400kg and measures 1.8 meters.

 Marine Iguana 

 Marine Iguana
  • Feeds off underwater algae
  • Common throughout the island all year round
  • Male iguanas fight over mates by butting heads
  • Endemic to Galapagos Islands
  • They are sometimes called “Christmas Iguanas” because of their green and red color

 Land Iguana 

 Land Iguana
  • These iguanas resemble their ancestors in appearance and diet more than their marine counterparts
  • Bright yellow in color
  • They feed on cacti and fruits
  • There is a recent discovery of Pink Iguanas in one of the volcanos in the Isabela Island

Lava Lizard

Lava Lizard
  • Can grow up to a foot long
  • Feeds on insects
  • The largest of 28 species is called Española
  • Seven species are endemic to Galapagos
  • They are abundant all over the archipelago, all year round
  • The four species of Snakes endemic to Galapagos are called Hood Racer, Banded Galapagos, Striped Galapagos, and Galapagos Racer
  • Small and harmless
  • Brownish
  • They eat small iguanas and lizards, and nesting birds


One of the activities offered when you go to the Galapagos is the chance to dive or snorkel to experience the rich marine life on the Island. 

The most common fishes found in the shallow waters of the Galapagos are the following:

Yellow-tailed Surgeon Fish

Yellow-tailed Surgeon Fish

King Angelfish

King Angelfish


Parrot Fish

Parrot Fish

There are also a lot of other sea creatures that call Galapagos their home.

Green Sea Turtle

Green Sea Turtle

  • Gentle giants
  •  Feed on seaweed, algae, and jellyfish
  •   They can be found on most islands in the archipelago
  •  Only the females leave the sea to nest and lay eggs on the shores of the islands

White-tipped Reef Shark

White-tipped Reef Shark

  • Small to medium sized with white tips on the tail fins and dorsal
  • Harmless and inoffensive
  • Swims away from humans
  • Other species are the Galapagos Shark, Hammerhead Shark, and the Whale Shark


The Golden Cownose Ray
The Golden Cownose Ray

  • The four of species of ray that can be seen in the Islands are the Manta Rays, Sting Rays, Golden Cownose Ray, and the Spotted Eagle Ray.  
  •   Lives in sandy bottoms with a few rocks
  •  Inoffensive
  •  Their defense mechanism is the stinger found on their tails
  •  The biggest of the four is the Manta Ray who feeds on plankton
Sea Lion 
Galapagos Penguin


Like the Galapagos reptiles, it is believed that these Mammals came to the Islands by chance, being washed-off from the mainland while clinging to floating materials. 

Galapagos Sea Lions and Fur Sea Lions

Galapagos Sea Lions and Fur Sea Lions

  • Feeds on sardines
  • Can travel up to 15km from the coast to hunt for food
  • Can be seen all year round

Baleen Whales

Baleen Whales
The Humpback Whale

  • The biggest mammal on earth
  • Characterized by the way it eats
  • Feeds by filtering the water it intakes for plankton
  • Blue whale,humpback whale, minke whale, byrde’s whale, sei whale, and fin whale are all baleen whales

Toothed Whales
  • Feeds on fish
  • Have a more precise hunting technique than Baleen whales
  • Dolphins, orcas, and sperm whales are toothed whales

Galapagos Rice Rats

  • Can only be seen in the islands of Fernandina and Sta. Fe

Galapagos Bats

  • Small
  • Feeds on insects at night
  • Can be seen nesting in mangroves during the day
     Many other common animals now live in the Galapagos Islands. Goats, pigs, dogs, and cats were brought to the Islands by pirates and sailors and those who have decided to settle in the archipelago. The introduction of these animals has causes devastation to the unique ecosystem in the Islands. They destroyed habitats and preyed on species that led to their extinction. Aggressive measures have been in the works to remove these animals from some of the islands.  


There are two airports in the Islands and there are regular flights going in and out. There also available accommodations in several islands. 

Though near the equator, Galapagos’ weather is not tropical. It is actually far from being a tropical paradise because most of its islands are barren. January to June is the Islands’ warm season while July to December is the dry season. For those who want to visit Galapagos Island to dive, it is best to go between June and November when the temperature is quite cool. 

Aside from diving and snorkeling, other activities tourists can enjoy in the Galapagos are sea kayaking, hiking, and camping.

(Most photos are from the

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Grand Canyon Attractions

   Arizona is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World - the Grand Canyon National Park. The Grand Canyon is essentially a river valley in the Colorado Plateau. It was formed from the erosion of the Plateau due to its arid climate and was carved out from the cutting action of ice formations in the Colorado River. 

   The Grand Canyon also proves to be a significant geological site. The Vishnu Schist, a basement rock found in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, is believed to be almost 2 billion years old. 
(Image source: National Park Service)

 Fast Facts:
  • It is 446km long
  • Its maximum depth is 1.8km
  • It is 29km at its widest point
  • It was declared as a National Park in 1919
   The Grand Canyon National Park has two known regions. They are called the South Rim and the North Rim.

The South Rim

    The most visited region of the Grand Canyon is the South Rim because of its accessibility. It is also more developed than the North Rim and has more amenities. For first-timers and visitors with children, it is best to visit the South Rim. An average of five million people visits the South Rim during summer, but the region is open throughout the whole year. 

   There is already a good number of lodging in the South Rim. There are also camping grounds located inside the park that offers camping opportunities for guests all year round but an overnight camping requires authorization from the Backcountry Office.  

   There are free shuttles you can take that offer the sightseeing in the South Rim. When you get to the Canyon View Information Plaza, choose among the free shuttles going to the following routes:

1. The Village Route explores the areas that are already well-developed. This includes the Grand Canyon Village, the Visitor Center, various viewing points, and hotels and restaurants.
2. The Hermit Rest Route gives you about 8 miles of the scenic route of the South Rim. It has nine stops for canyon overlooks. It is also a good trail for walking and cycling. It is currently closed to private vehicles until November 30, 2018, due to road constructions.
3. The Kalibab Trail Route drives to Yaki Point and to the South Kaibab Trail, a dangerous, descending trail that is advised for fit and experienced hikers only.  

The North Rim 

   This region of the canyon is near the border of Utah. It is more challenging to reach the North Rim than the South Rim that is why it gets fewer visitors. It is far from freeways and there are no airports nearby. It requires a four-hour drive from the South Rim. It only opens to visitors from mid-May to mid-October every year because of heavy snowfall in winter. 
  The North Rim only has three major viewpoints: the Cape Royal, Point Imperial and the Bright Angel Point. 
   The Cape Royal offers the widest view of the Grand Canyon. It is located at 8,000 feet and in the southernmost of the North Rim. 
   Port Imperial is the highest viewpoint in the park. It is situated at 8,803 feet. It is eleven miles away from the Visitor Center. 
   Bright Angel Point or Angels Window gives you a glimpse of the Colorado River. From the visitor area, Angels Window can be easily reached through a paved walkway. 
   The North Rim only has one campground but there are other campgrounds located outside the park.  

   Mule rides are also offered in the North Rim. Mules carry visitors down canyon trails. Experienced wranglers guide the mules throughout the one to three hours ride. 


The Pondesora Pine. Image Source: Grand Canyon Natural History
     Plant life is abundant in the Grand Canyon, especially near the Colorado River.

    The South Rim is the lushest region of the Canyon. A forest of Pondesora Pine, long-needled pines that grow up to 160 feet in moist mountains, stretches across the Rim. 

   The North Rim which is in higher altitude support other species of plants and animals that need cooler climate. Oak trees, aspen, maple, and birch are among the trees that can be seen on the North Rim.
   Some of the plants and wildflowers you can see in the Grand Canyon are the following:
  • Coyote Willow
  • Catclaw Acacia
  • Sagebrush
  • Ocotillo
  • Arrowweed
  • Western Honey Mesquite
  • Seep Willow
  • Yarrow
  • Evening Primrose
  • White Violet
  • Globe Mallow
  • Red Columbine
  • Palmer Lupine
  • Watercress
  • Rocky Mountain Iris


     The Grand Canyon  is home to a more than a hundred species of birds. In fact, it was dedicated as a Global Bird Area in 2014 because of its role in protecting hundreds of bird species. 

The California Condor is the largest land bird in North America.

  • The Bald Eagles
  • Golden Eagles
  • Red-Tailed Hawks
  • Blue Jays, Ravens
  • Wild Turkeys
  • Turkey Vultures
  • California Condors
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Riparian Birds
  • American Dipper
  • Southwestern Willow Flycatcher

   About 90 species of Mammals dwell in the Grand Canyon.

The Kaibab Squirrel inhabits the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

  • Bats
  • Squirrels
  • Raccoon
  • Bobcat
  • Gray Fox
  • Mountain Lion
  • Beavers
  • Mice
  • Mule Deer
  • Bighorn Sheep
  • Cotton Tail Rabbits
  • Ringtail Cats
  • Bison
  • Hog-nosed Skunk


   More than 40 species of reptiles can be found in the park. 

The short horned lizard. Image Source : National Park Service 

  •  Chuckwalla Lizard
  • Short-Horned Lizard
  • Salamanders
  • Toads
  • Grand Canyon Rattler
  • Diamond Back Rattler

   You can take guided tours from well-versed tour guides if you want to learn more about the plant and animal life in the Grand Canyon.

   There are two other Rims to visit in the Canyon where popular spots can be seen. They are called the Grand Canyon East and the Grand Canyon West. However, they are not part of the Grand Canyon National Park.