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Balls of fuf with eyes
Each island on our route was diferent.
At Genovesa, we followed a trail past red
mangroves and leafess palo santo trees
supporting twig nests flled with big balls
of white down. Looking like miniature
Sesame Street
Big Birds, the fuzzy
chicks were as cute as children’s stufed
toys. Two slightly crossed eyes and a beak
followed our movements intently, an
arm’s length away.
We were distracted by incessant cries
from a juvenile bird on the ground, de-
manding food. When his mother opened
her orange beak, the fedgling shoved his
head inside to collect pre-digested fsh.
Galápagos National Park naturalists, who
are required to accompany every group
of 16 or fewer, helped us distinguish
one ball of fuf from another. Because
Ecoventura ships carry a maximum of
20 passengers, we had one naturalist
for only 10 passengers. Our top-level
naturalists, Cecibel Guerrero and Yvonne
Mórtola, were exceptional guides.
“Red-footed boobies always nest in
trees,” explained Ceci. “Booby chicks
have pointed beaks. Frigatebird chicks
have hooked beaks. Nazca boobies sit
on ground nests of twigs, rock or coral,
while blue-footed boobies clear a circle
of dirt for their nests.” The name booby,
she explained, comes from the Spanish
– which means “clown” – be-
cause you can’t resist smiling when you
see one.
Red feet
Red-footed booby adults look as if
they’ve dipped both feet into a bucket of
red paint. “Their feet are fexible, so they
wrap them around branches to perch in
trees,” explained Ceci. Adults look as if
they’re wearing blue eye shadow. Their
beaks are also blue, with a pink base.
Galápagos doves, feeding by our feet,
had red feet and blue eyeliner. Swallow-
tailed gulls had red feet and scarlet eye
rings. At night, these nocturnal birds
glided beside
, like white ghosts,
searching for squid and fying fsh.
During orientation, Ceci and Yvonne
reviewed national park rules: Keep at
least two metres from wildlife; if birds,
animals or reptiles approach any closer,
don’t touch them, because they’re not
tame, just unafraid. “Your scent could
prevent a mother from recognizing her
baby,” explained Ceci. Don’t use a fash,
because some species are nocturnal.
Stay on trails, marked by wooden posts,
so that you don’t damage vegetation or
egg-laying sites. Don’t remove any shell,
feather, bone or rock for souvenirs. And
don’t smoke, eat or drink in the park.
Nothing we read or viewed prepared us for the Galápagos.
To experience this enchanting archipelago of 13 major
islands, six minor islets and more than 100 reefs and rocks,
1,000 kilometres west of Ecuador, we cruised for 500 nauti-
cal miles and crossed the equator four times on the
M/Y Eric.
One of three nearly identical superior frst-class Galápagos
ships, it’s operated by Ecoventura, a family-owned company
based in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city.
Flying time from Toronto to Guayaquil on Copa Airlines
was 7.5 hours, but we had no jet lag because Ecuador
uses Eastern Standard Time. After overnighting at Hotel
Oro Verde, we and our fellow Canadian and American pas-
sengers took a 90-minute AeroGal fight to San Cristóbal,
Galápagos, to board
Story and photos by Barb & Ron Kroll
Red-footed booby chick and juvenile.
Captain Pablo Jaramillo steers a
boat in front of
M/Y Eric.