Marine Iguanas by Tidal Pool
Holly and Steve by grazing tortoise
I had the great fortune to be invited to the Galapagos Islands recently by my brother Steve and his daughter Holly. We lived aboard a small cruise ship and traveled what was called the "outer loop". Ecuador does an exemplary job of managing this vast national park. Despite its popularity, during our week in the Galapagos, we rarely saw visitors outside our group. Most of our landings (in small inflatable zodiac boats) were at natural shorelines -- often stepping off in the shallows along a beach or onto rough lava rock. Twice a day we hiked along rugged trails that minimally marred the landscape.
As you probably know, the fauna of the Galapagos are mostly species unique to their island(s), and have no fear of humans. This makes photographing them a lot easier than bringing camera gear there (with the tight weight restrictions of the planes). Knowing we'd be hiking for 5 or more hours a day, I limited myself to one camera body with one telephoto lens and no tripod for the creatures. And for landscapes, I exclusively used my iphone in panorama mode.
As you can see, these are rugged volcanic islands, our trails often traversing old lava flows. But parts had also been coral reefs - evidenced by the sandy beaches and coral rocks - later pushed above water by the still active geothermic forces. It looks like a tough place to eke out a living, yet a diverse animal population managed to evolve and adapt to the unique habitats.
Once a coral reef.
Sally Lightfoot Crab
White-tipped Reef Shark
Marine Iguana sunning. Also seen in the landscape in photo above it.
Sally Lightfoot Crab
Darwin's Finches are perhaps the most iconic birds of the Islands, but there are plenty more colorful. Afterall, this is a place where flamingos and penguins cohabitate!
Yellow Warbler atop Galapagos Tortoise
Sea Lions were everywhere, and just plain fun. Especially underwater. If I did a somersault underwater, the sea lions went crazy-playful.
Sea Lions nap as hard as they play
Obedient pup, camouflaged in the rocks, awaits parents who are out fishing.
Snorkeling in that icy water was exhilarating to say the least (at least for this Florida boy). I wore two wetsuits, and still had blue lips and chattering teeth at the end of every dive. But every dive was fascinating, and kept me going back for more. We saw so many sea turtles, some sharks, sea lions, marine iguanas, the occasional penguin dart by, and Steve (an expert spotter) even found a sea snake and an octopus.
Iguanas, classic Galapagos critters, come in two unique forms. The Marine Iguana, who suns, sometimes in great numbers, on the shoreline lava rocks, swims out and dives to graze on the beds of algae covering the seascape offshore. And the Land Iguana, who reigns over the inland territories where succulent cactuses grow out of the rocky terrain.
Lava Lizard atop a Marine Iguana
The land of the Land Iguana
Mm Mm!...Juicy cactus, thorns and all.
The giant Galapagos Tortoises live where there is more lush vegetation, often in the misty fertile lands around the volcanic rims. We saw most in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. Prehistoric in appearance, slow and deliberate in movement, these endangered creatures are protected and revered throughout the Islands.
In such a photogenic and exotic place, it's tough not to shoot a zillion photos. I admit I did. But then I agressively edited them down to just a hundred or so nature photo keepers, and limited this blog to 50, so as not to overwhelm you. And, here we are at the end of the journey. Hope you've enjoyed the exotic break. Back to my beloved Florida next month. Thanks for visiting. And please leave a comment below.