The Galapagos Albatross: ain’t no ocean wide enough

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The Waved or Galapagos Albatross is the bird that best represents its kind’s most telling talent: that of flying. No bird flies more than it. And it has the wings to prove it!

Over two meter from tip to tip when extended, the albatross’s wings allow this species to spend a lifetime in the air. An albatross can go years without touching land, soaring over open ocean, and only occasionally alighting to rest on the water.

In the Galapagos Islands, it is always a moving experience to encounter this species in the only place it truly calls home, its only connection to land: Punta Suárez on Española Island.

For nature lovers who manage to coincide with the peak event of an albatross’s reproductive life —the fabulous courtship dance— there are few more moving spectacles. Albatrosses are monogamous. They keep the same partners throughout their lives… but it is on Española island where, after sometimes over four years of navigating the ocean skies alone, they meet again to offer their species a new life cycle, with a very special celebration.

They caress and parade around each other, excitedly “honking” to express their consent, until the finally perform a duel in which their long beaks, like two swords, clash gently. A poetic encounter between male and female that moves those who experience it up close, as is only possible in a place like Galapagos.

The only other site in Ecuador where this can be witnessed is on the small islet off of the mainland, isla de La Plata, in the province of Manabí.

If you visit Galapagos by cruise, it is always very special to actually get to see this queen of seabirds doing what it does best, soaring gallantly above the sea; but you may find it floating on the ocean’s surface like an over-sized buoy. Because it is a wonder how such a heavy-looking bird when at rest turns into the stealthiest aviator of them all.

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