I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the dichotomy of Nature: How it can be both devastatingly strong (see: hurricanes and earthquakes) and surprisingly vulnerable (see: climate change and rapid species collapse) at the same time. The fact that these two extremes are inextricably connected only makes the complexity of our planet’s ecosystems all the more fascinating.
We’ve rarely visited any place in the world that better illustrated how strength and fragility can be two sides of the same coin than the Galapagos Islands. Eons of volcanic activity gave birth to harsh, rugged, lava-strewn landscapes, which kept the islands from being colonized until the early 20th century. But these inhospitable ecosystems also provided sanctuary for some of the most beautiful creatures we’ve ever seen, many of which are endemic and endangered today.
Darwin’s Paradise is home to many of our favorite wildlife species, from the famed Galapagos Tortoises and the mini-Godzilla-like Marine Iguanas to the bizarre Flightless Cormorants and the tiny Galapagos Penguins. But the most engaging animals on the islands are arguably the ubiquitous Galapagos Sea Lions, which you’ll find in almost every port, every beach and in the water every time you go for a swim.
There’s a hard-and-fast rule in the Galapagos that says visitors must stay at least 6 feet away from wildlife at all times, but the Galapagos Sea Lions clearly did not get the memo. They’re filled with endless curiosity, awkwardly ambling over to check you out on land or swimming gracefully alongside you as you snorkel in the sea. With their huge eyes, cute faces and funny flippers, the sea lions’ charms ultimately prove impossible to resist.
We met this adorable duo at sunset in gorgeous Gardner Bay on the island of Española. Here, on a beautiful white sandy beach, hundreds of Galapagos Sea lions live in large colonies. These two young ones were snuggled up close together, looking up at us with sweet puppy dog eyes. It was only after we took the photo that we noticed the perfect heart-shaped nose of the one on the right.
This was one of the last photos we took during our recent trip to the Galapagos, which seemed appropriate: The trip made me feel as close to my daughter as these two Sea Lions looked, with a full heart that fell more deeply in love with these fragile, fascinating islands that helped launch our site’s success back in 2011. –Bret Love
Our trip to the Galapagos was sponsored by International Expeditions, but we will never compromise our obligation to our readers. Our opinions remain our own.
If you enjoyed our post on Galapagos Sea Lions, you might also like:
VIDEO: Galapagos Tortoises
VIDEO: Marine Iguanas
VIDEO: Flightless Cormorants
[The following is a guest post from Jo Karnaghan, Chief Frugalista at Frugal First Class Travel, a guide to saving money while traveling in style. You can follow Jo on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. If you’re a travel blogger interested in guest posting on GGT, please email pitches to Editor-In-Chief Bret Love at [email protected]]
When we take family vacations, we often go to a resort. We find it a great opportunity to relax and do as much or as little as we like.
While it’s always tempting to spend our days lounging on the beach or enjoying cocktails by the pool, we do make time to find some meaningful activities to engage in as well. But as our daughter gets older, finding fun activities that we all agree on can be more difficult.
On a recent trip to Phuket, Thailand, I knew that visits to Buddhist temples just weren’t going to do it for her. But when we came across the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre in the Khao Pra Thaew National Park, even our fickle tween was hooked. Not only did we have an opportunity to see these amazing animals up close, but we learned a lot about the need for Gibbon conservation.
Today, March 3, is the second annual World Wildlife Day– a day created by the 68th session of United Nations General Assembly in 2013 to honor its adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The day was designed to remind us to celebrate the world’s remarkably diverse forms of flora and fauna, to rejoice in our privilege to interact with nature and wildlife, and to raise awareness of the problems that wildlife is currently facing and the economic, environmental and sociopolitical impact those problems have on the people who populate this planet.
This year, in a special session of the General Assembly, the UN insists that “It’s Time to Get Serious About Wildlife Crime” and will examine the challenges and opportunities for stepping up our international efforts to combat wildlife crime at a global scale.
I remember the first time I saw a Rhino in the wild like it was yesterday (though it was actually 14 years ago). I was on my first morning safari drive in South Africa‘s Londolozi Private Game Reserve. The ground was charred black from a controlled burn, and the newly-grown grass was almost impossibly green. An adult female seemed to savor every bite, looking for all the world like an armored, overgrown cow. Minutes later, we oohed and ahhed as her tiny baby came into view from behind a bush. I have goosebumps now, just thinking about it.
My experience at Londolozi changed my life, influencing everything I do today. Once you’ve seen them in the wild and read reports on how they’re being slaughtered on a daily basis, you can’t help wanting to save rhinos, elephants and other endangered wildlife. Which is why our company, Green Travel Media, has banded together with the blogger-driven Travelers Building Change non-profit to launch the #JustOneRhino fundraiser, which begins today and runs through March 1.
#JustOneRhino will benefit the Rhinos Without Borders project, which is spearheaded by National Geographic Explorers In Residence, acclaimed wildlife photographers/filmmakers, and wildlife conservation advocates Dereck and Beverly Joubert. The Jouberts are working to save Rhinos, translocating 100 of them from South Africa to Botswana in 2015 to protect them from the tragic rise in poaching. It’s an extremely expensive project, with costs estimated to range around the $5 million mark.
Working together with 125 of the world’s top travel bloggers, we’re trying to help Rhinos Without Borders raise $45,000– the cost of moving #JustOneRhino. But we can’t do it without your help! Fortunately, we’ve got 20+ Sponsors offering up more than $30,000 worth of AMAZING prizes for those who Donate via Travelers Building Change. A $20 donation will get you 10 entries, $30 will get you 20, $50 will get you 30, and so on. And the prizes are nothing to sneeze at, including tours/resort stays in 11 countries spanning 5 continents!
Read on for details about why you should donate to this exceptional charitable cause (including those great prizes), and then visit the Travelers Building Change site to make your secure donation…
Let’s face it, the world can be an ugly place. From flame wars on social media to heartbreaking stories on the nightly news, humanity’s awfulness can occasionally be overwhelming. Every once in a while we like to take breaks from stories about poaching, habitat loss, and the effects of global warming to marvel at the incredible array of beauty that still exists on this planet we call home. And so it is that we present to you 26 Wonderfully Weird Animals (from A to Z)– many of which are endangered– that we believe make this world a more interesting place…