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A rainbow of Galapagos wildlife

The islands were alive with vividly colored crabs, birds, and iguanas.

Flashy feet: An adult blue-footed booby stands next to its fluffy, white chick on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos Islands.

Melanie Stetson Freeman – Staff/File

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I roll the die in the Trivial Pursuit game and move to a green space; the category is science and nature. Question: What huge reptile lives over 100 years? I answer “Galapagos tortoise” and add a green scoring wedge to the round token.

But what if the question had been different? Maybe: What birds of the Sulidae family are masked or have either blue or red feet? What are the colors of a Sally Lightfoot crab? Where in the world does the only marine iguana live?

Before my recent visit to the Galapagos Islands, I wouldn’t have known the answers to those questions.

During the week-long voyage, we traveled in inflatable Zodiacs from our ship to seven of the islands – each with a different topography. An expert naturalist accompanied every group of approximately 16 passengers and shared astounding facts about the flora and fauna.

Several birds were especially endearing: Nazca boobies, including one adult next to its fluffy, white, and open-beaked chick; blue-footed boobies; fork-tailed courting male frigate birds with their expanded red gular sacs; and a rookery of Galapagos penguins, which zoomed by with their heads above the water less than five feet from our craft. They looked a bit like ducks speed racing.

The Sally Lightfoot crab, a decapod named by sailors for a Spanish dancer, is easy to detect near the rocky shore because of its vivid red-orange, turquoise, and gold colors.

Immediately, I knew I had to make a choice: Decorate a room in my house in those colors or knit a scarf with them.

Still, I knew that the finished product around my neck wouldn’t come anywhere near to matching nature’s astonishing color scheme.

Awed as I was by the birds and crustaceans, it was the iguanas that intrigued me most. I’d never been particularly keen to see iguanas – even at the zoo where they are enclosed behind glass.

Now, in their natural surroundings, not only did they appear unafraid of me, but surprisingly, I did not feel apprehensive being very close to them. A friend snapped a photo of me on all fours with a horde of iguanas nearby.


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