Photographing the Various Wildlife and Nature of the Galápagos Islands


The Galápagos Islands are excessive on most wildlife photographers’ bucket record, and for good motive. Whereas photographers might not discover intimidating predators like lions or bigger than life land mammals like elephants, there’s a motive the Galápagos is named a “residing museum and showcase of evolution.” In any case, that is the place Charles Darwin’s principle of evolution by pure choice was fashioned following his go to in 1835. From blue-footed boobies to massive tortoises, the Galápagos Islands are a spectacular location to go to with Lindblad Expeditions for photographers and nature lovers alike.

Full disclosure: This text was dropped at you by Lindblad Expeditions

Situated 600 miles off of the western coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands stay remarkably wild, because of the federal government’s conservation protections that started in 1930. As we speak, virtually 98% of the archipelago’s land space is a part of the Galápagos Nationwide Park. With the intention to protect the distinctive ecosystem of the Galápagos, tourism is tightly managed. Vacationers should be accompanied by a authorities licensed naturalist always, and solely a handful of expedition corporations are licensed to carry individuals onshore.

For greater than 50 years, Lindblad Expeditions has been on the forefront of expedition journey to the picturesque Galápagos Islands. In actual fact, Lars-Eric Lindblad, the daddy of Lindblad Expeditions founder Sven-Olof Lindblad, was the primary individual to carry non-scientific vacationers to the Galápagos Islands in 1967. As we speak, the luxurious journey tour firm operates two ships that traverse the calm waters between the 19 volcanic islands, exhibiting their excited passengers why Charles Darwin was so enthralled by the various wildlife and landscapes.

Arguably, Might is likely one of the finest months to journey to the Galápagos, so I used to be pleasantly shocked once I heard there was one cabin left on the expedition set to depart on Might twenty first, 2022. Figuring out that the seven-day Wild Galápagos Escape journey onboard the Lindblad Expeditions’ latest ship, the Nationwide Geographic Islander II, could be the grand prize of our Wild Personalities picture contest, I packed my OM SYSTEM OM-1 digicam and boarded a flight to Ecuador.

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At a Look

Day One – Bachas Seashore, Santa Cruz Island

After being greeted by the Lindblad Expeditions staff on the airport on Galápagos’ Baltra Island, we took a fast van trip to the native port the place our first expertise on the corporate’s well-known Zodiacs awaited. Being probably the most rigorously managed and guarded nationwide parks on the planet, the ship that I’d name dwelling for the subsequent eight days wouldn’t be capable of dock on any of the islands. Like numerous different Lindblad Expeditions, the answer is to ferry passengers to land through small, 12-person Zodiac boats. It was arduous to comprise our pleasure because the Zodiac’s gifted captain zipped throughout the clear blue waters in the direction of the Nationwide Geographic Endeavour II.

As soon as onboard, we had been capable of meet the smiling faces of the ship’s crew, together with the Captain Eduardo Neira and the Expedition Chief Carlos Romero. As our baggage was being dropped at our cabins, we had the primary of many unbelievable meals that may maintain us energized for the journey to come back. After lunch, because the ship headed in the direction of Santa Cruz Island, we had been briefed on the slate of actions that awaited us within the days to come back. Little did we all know simply how a lot journey we had been going to pack into the subsequent seven days.

The Route that the Nationwide Geographic Endeavour II would take us on our seven day expedition.

Because the afternoon golden gentle started to descend on the distant archipelago, we boarded the Zodiacs to make a moist touchdown on Las Bachas. Fortunately, I had introduced my water footwear, as a moist touchdown is strictly what it appears like. If the shoreline is protected or rocky, the Zodiacs will come to a cease a couple of meters from shore and your group’s naturalist will assist you out of the boat into knee deep water. Because the equator runs by means of the Galápagos Islands, this momentary jaunt by means of the tepid ocean water is a refreshing welcome within the humid local weather.

Whereas some onboard selected to unwind from their lengthy journeys with a late afternoon swim, I had come to the Galápagos to {photograph} each wild second that I may, so I set out with my naturalist and a small group to search out the seashore’s wildlife. Bachas Seashore is dwelling to marine iguanas, land and lagoon birds, and relying on the time of 12 months, flamingos and the East Pacific inexperienced sea turtle, who come to the seashore at night time to nest.

Whereas the turtles, flamingos, and iguanas by no means materialized on this afternoon, we had been handled to a number of stunning birds who seemingly would pose for my OM-1 digicam below spectacular late afternoon gentle.

As twilight descended and our first land journey got here to an finish, we boarded the Zodiacs to return to the Nationwide Geographic Endeavour II for a ‘Welcome Aboard’ cocktail celebration and the primary of many unbelievable dinners. Just some hours into my journey to the Galápagos Islands with Lindblad Expeditions, I used to be already dreading the second we’d disembark and return dwelling.

Day Two – North Seymour & Rabida Islands

After a restful night time of sleep because of the mild rocking of the Nationwide Geographic Endeavour II, I awoke refreshed, prepared for one more day of wildlife pictures in probably the most distinctive areas on the planet. After a hearty breakfast, we shuffled into our Zodiacs for a dry touchdown on North Seymour Island. This morning’s two kilometer hike would introduce us to one of many Galápagos’ most iconic animals, the blue-footed boobie.

Although I had seen numerous footage of those magnificent birds, I used to be awestruck once I laid eyes on my first blue-footed boobie because it unfold its shockingly huge wings and took flight proper in entrance of me.

Amazed on the distinctive look of this Galápagos staple, I shortly ventured alongside the lava rock path in the hunt for alternatives to seize extra blue-footed boobies. In pure Galápagos custom, it didn’t take lengthy, as I virtually instantly stumbled upon one other because it warmed its eggs with its vibrant blue ft.

Impressed at how simply accessible the wildlife within the Galápagos was, I continued photographing this proud mother or father because it shifted its brightly coloured ft, utterly unfazed by my presence. I couldn’t inform if this specific blue-footed boobie was a male or feminine, as each dad and mom will maintain their nest.

After taking what I can solely think about was a whole lot of images, I ventured again in the direction of the seashore the place I’d get my first glimpse of the cute sea lions that appear to vastly outnumber each different animal on the island chain.

I test my watch. 8:30am. I had taken extra images on my first morning stroll within the Galápagos than I had in months. Feeling the adrenaline rush of with the ability to seize wildlife simply mere meters away, I continued strolling alongside the ridge that ignored the seashore and noticed a uncommon picture opprotunity unfold in entrance of me.

A lately hatched blue-footed boobie curiously seemed out from the consolation of its nest to look at the small group of us who had been strolling previous. The watchful eye of its mother or father made certain that the younger chick stayed the place it was heat and protected, however earlier than it retreated again into the nest, we had been capable of see the excited look on its face because it heard us giggle.

Because the brief, early morning hike continued, we had been handled to extra wildlife pictures alternatives. Iguanas and Nice Frigate Birds, distinguishable by their big purple inflatable throat pouch, nestled among the many numerous rocks and bushes of North Seymour Island.

As we returned to the ship, I excitedly seemed by means of the images on my digicam’s LCD display, in awe on the distinctive and unspoiled nature and wildlife that I used to be witnessing.

Again onboard, because the Nationwide Geographic Endeavour II raised anchor and sailed to Rabida Island, I made the primary of many lifelong friendships that may be cast on my journey. Overhearing a person talk about golf on the best way to lunch, I excitedly talked about that I personally was a golfer. This informal encounter with Mike Pluemer would wind up being one in all my favourite moments of the journey. From that minute on, I used to be inseparable from Mike, his spouse Hilary and their two 20-something kids, Allison and Drew.

Getting used to touring alone, I hardly ever really feel awkward in terms of assembly new individuals whereas I journey. Nevertheless, the shut confinement and informal, family-like ambiance on the ship made what was presupposed to be a wildlife pictures journey into one thing much more significant and pleasant.

As lunch ended, we’d return to our Zodiac for a late afternoon moist touchdown on Rabida Island. This island has probably the most gorgeous and distinctive seashores within the Galápagos. The sand is created from lava with a excessive iron oxide content material, which supplies the seashore a vibrant, darkish purple glow.

The overcast skies helped even out the lighting, making it straightforward to seize the lazy sea lions as they basked within the heat, humid air. As well as, we additionally discovered over 10 flamingos and their eggs in a small pond behind the seashore, which supplied a euphoric ending to an unbelievable day.

Day Three – Fernandina & Isabela

Proving simply how distinctive of a location the Galápagos Islands are, the Nationwide Geographic Endeavour II crossed the equator as its passengers loved a effectively earned sleep. Within the night time, the ship traveled north across the island of Isabela to enter the westernmost land of the archipelago. On this location, the frigid waters of the Equatorial Countercurrent rise alongside the western fringe of the undersea Galápagos Platform. This typically creates dramatic fog and far cooler sea temperatures, which carry a number of various species than the remainder of the islands, together with frequent whale and dolphin sightings.

This supplied my first alternative to get up early and catch dawn from the ship’s high deck. Joined by the Pluemers and one other household that I had met, Jay and Liz Starks and their grown kids Delany and Caitlin, we watched as solar rays breached by means of the thick, low cloud layer.

After breakfast, a dry touchdown took us to Fernandina Island, which homes an imposing energetic volcano that rises to virtually 5,000 ft above sea stage. The proof of this volcanic exercise is all over the place, as dried lava flows cowl the island, ending solely after they meet the ocean.

Strolling across the otherworldly island, sea lions, snakes and birds inhabited the black lava flows that doubled as our mountain climbing path. The rounded volcano was not possible to overlook, as its mild, however opposing presence was by no means far.

This island is one the place the well-known Galápagos marine iguanas name dwelling, and it’s not possible to not see a whole lot as they stack on high of one another, warming their our bodies on the new lava rock.

After an unbelievable morning with the marine iguanas on the lava stuffed shores of Fernandina Island, the Nationwide Geographic Endeavour II crossed the Bolivar Channel on its method to see Isabela Island and the Ecuador volcano that consumes the land. The equator passes by means of the defend volcano, which collapsed away into the ocean, leaving views of the interior caldera wall and the caldera ground.

This panorama supplied a chance to take the Zodiacs alongside the cliffs to seek for the Galápagos Penguin, which we discovered on the rocks in between taking part in sea lions and a gaggle of marine iguanas lazily huddled on a rock within the background.

The spectacular cliff faces yielded dramatic wildlife images, because the blue-footed boobies, sea lions and the flightless cormorant lived among the many jagged rocks.

Because the day grew darkish, we returned to the Nationwide Geographic Endeavour II to search out the crew throwing a celebration on the highest deck. Not like the earlier night time after we slept throughout the equator, Captain Eduardo Neira guided the ship again throughout the equator because the solar set on one other incredible day within the Galápagos.

Day 4 – Urbina Bay & Tagus Cove, Isabela

Isabela Island is by far the most important island within the Galápagos, protecting over half the floor land of the archipelago. The island bought its distinctive seahorse form by the fusion of six huge defend volcanoes, exhibiting the impact that volcanic exercise has needed to form the Galápagos over hundreds of thousands of years.

As dawn approached, the Nationwide Geographic Endeavour II made its method to Urbina Bay, which lies on the base of the Alcedo volcano. In 1954, one and a half sq. kilometers of the marine reef off the coast of Urbina Bay was uplifted 15 ft virtually immediately, leaving marine animals displaced.

A brief one mile hike would give us the chance to lastly see the animal that makes the Galápagos a one-of-a-kind vacation spot for wildlife lovers.

The Galápagos Large Tortoise is likely one of the most outstanding animals on the planet. The largest of the 13 subspecies can weigh over 900 kilos and dwell effectively over 100 years, making it one of many world’s longest residing vertebrates. The 13 subspecies of Galápagos Large Tortoise can differ in look. The upper elevation tortoises are larger in measurement and have domed shells with brief necks, versus the lowland subspecies that are smaller and with saddleback shells and lengthy necks.

Our afternoon tour introduced us again to the rocky shoreline alongside Tagus Cove, the place we had been capable of {photograph} Galápagos penguins and blue-footed boobies from the Zodiac earlier than returning to the ship for one more scrumptious dinner and drinks on deck.

The Underwater World Of the Galápagos Islands

Maybe one of many facets I loved most about my journey to the Galápagos with Lindblad Expeditions was that there have been all the time exercise choices. For individuals who may not take pleasure in an extended hike, there could be choices to take a shorter stroll, or a Zodiac tour as an alternative. The ship had a plethora of kayaks and arise paddleboards for a leisurely train alongside the gorgeous shoreline. My favourite exercise, nonetheless, was the just about day by day snorkeling expeditions. Whereas underwater, curious sea lions would swim in the direction of me earlier than shortly altering course and circling round and repeating. Whether or not it’s a water-proof case in your mobile phone or a GoPro digicam, it’s not arduous to seize some unbelievable images beneath the floor of the Galápagos.

Day 5 – Santiago Island

The fourth largest island within the Galápagos, Santiago island has a verdant highland area and Espumilla seashore is likely one of the archipelago’s most essential marine turtle nesting websites. Whereas we didn’t discover any marine turtles on our early morning stroll alongside the pristine seashore and accompanying mangroves, we did catch an incredible present because the blue-footed boobies dove into the water at outstanding speeds, reappearing with a fish for breakfast.

After lunch onboard the Nationwide Geographic Endeavour II, an off-the-cuff kayak and paddle board session changed into play time as a gaggle of curious sea lions determined to observe the group as they moved alongside the flora-filled shoreline.

Using excessive from the ocean lion play session, we spent our afternoon exploring Puerto Egas, the place deeply carved sea-level grottos are dwelling to sea lions, marine iguanas and coastal birds. Up till this level, I had thought I had seen the most effective of what Galápagos needed to supply, however Puerto Egas wound up being one in all my favourite areas on the expedition.

The views had been unbelievable, the grottos had been teeming with exercise, and we had been fortunate sufficient to see two American Oystercatchers with their two younger chicks. I may have stayed fortunately photographing Puerto Egas for days, however there have been different adventures available.

Day Six – Puerto Ayora and Highlands, Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz island is the second largest island within the archipelago, and the place human affect, though nonetheless restricted, is most noticeable. 18,000 residents dwell within the city of Puerto Ayora, making it the central financial hub of the Galápagos. With the intention to assist the area people and supply training on how you can finest protect the islands, The Lindblad Expeditions – Nationwide Geographic Fund was established. Along with environmental training and neighborhood outreach applications, the fund has additionally established scholarships for native college students and constructed an area faculty.

The city is alive with each locals and wildlife, who co-exist by their shared love of seafood.

After a quick stroll by means of city, we headed to the Charles Darwin Analysis Station, the place scientists collect info to help in conservation efforts. Contained in the analysis station, the Fausto Llerena big tortoise breeding heart helps to maintain the Galápagos tortoise inhabitants wholesome.

That is additionally the house to Lonesome George, the final of the Pinzon Island tortoises that died lately after residing for greater than a century. His physique was preserved and displayed to assist educate the general public on the fixed menace of extinction that the tortoises face.

A 30-minute drive into the highlands introduced us to a personal ranch, Manzanillo, which is positioned in the midst of the migratory route of the large tortoises of Santa Cruz. Seemingly all over the place we turned, one other huge creature was discovered, casually feasting on the ample greenery that covers the Santa Cruz Highlands.

Day Seven – Punta Pitt & Cerro Brujo, San Cristobal Island

And similar to that, the ultimate day of an unbelievable journey awaited the passengers of the Nationwide Geographic Endeavour II. San Cristobal island is the easternmost island within the Galápagos archipelago and was the primary of the islands that Charles Darwin visited.

Our first cease on our remaining day was Punta Pitt, a powerful volcanic panorama on the northeastern finish of the island. This might even be our most strenuous hike of the journey, as we ascended the mountain in the hunt for all three species of boobies nesting collectively, the one place within the Galápagos the place that is potential. Passing by patches of purple Sesuvium, we continued up the mountain till we discovered what we had been on the lookout for.

Each blue and red-footed boobies might be discovered virtually at each flip. Versus earlier within the journey once I photographed a really younger blue-footed boobie chick, the households that I discovered right here had a lot older offspring. The abundance of fluffy feathers on the quickly rising chicks typically make them look a lot larger than their dad and mom.

Again on the seashore, I took images of the lazy sea lions resting on the pristine sand earlier than we boarded our Zodiacs and ready for our final cease on our whirlwind tour of the Galápagos Islands.

Cerro Brujo, which interprets to ‘Wizard Hill’, is a surprising panorama that includes a brilliant white sand seashore, volcano views, and an ideal have a look at essentially the most iconic rock formation within the Galápagos, Kicker Rock.

The wildlife alternatives right here had been extra restricted than what I had turn into accustomed to, so I took benefit of the break to {photograph} the smiling faces of the educated naturalists that had expertly guided us for the week.

Because the cloud layer started to lose gentle, we returned to the Nationwide Geographic Endeavour II for a farewell celebration of champagne toasts, music, and an up shut have a look at Kicker Rock because the sky lit up in vibrant colours. And similar to that, my journey to the Galápagos Islands ended, however the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I had will dwell in my reminiscence ceaselessly.

The Expertise of a Lifetime

To say I’m not used to organized, comfy journey is an understatement. The phrases ‘itinerary’ and ‘schedule’ are normally not part of my vocabulary, so I used to be not figuring out what to anticipate on the extremely organized journey expertise that Lindblad Expeditions offers. The Lindblad Expeditions expertise is really distinctive, and one which I’ll always remember. It was a welcome change to my normal journey model, and I discovered myself feeling far more immersed within the stunning nature and wildlife of the Galápagos because of a effectively designed journey schedule that consistently put us in the most effective areas within the archipelago at simply the best time of day. The expedition staff was very considerate to ensure there have been loads of choices of actions to select from. Having traveled to the Galápagos in pursuit of including to my wildlife pictures portfolio, I virtually all the time select the longest hikes that may have me protecting essentially the most floor, however I’d be mendacity if I stated I wasn’t thrilled to take a calming break to kayak or swim among the many jagged cliffs stuffed with distinctive wildlife.

Sure, I checked a vacation spot off of my bucket record. Sure, I bought loads of images of the distinctive wildlife that I’m very proud of and can look again on for years to come back. Nevertheless, the most effective a part of the journey was the expertise, and the lifelong pals that I met alongside the best way. Along with the 2 households whom I shared these experiences with, I additionally turned shut pals with fellow vacationers Laura and her daughter Zsa Zsa, in addition to all the naturalists who guided us, all of whom I nonetheless share practically day by day communications with. From the primary second I stepped onboard the Nationwide Geographic Endeavour II, I really felt like I used to be amongst household. Touring alone, this was a welcome feeling.

That feeling of household was not solely felt by me, but additionally all of these onboard this journey. I met a person named Mike Dowell who, in 2017, traveled onboard the Nationwide Geographic Endeavour II to expertise the Galápagos with Lindblad Expeditions. Again on the ship after a morning of kayaking, Mike acknowledged the signs of a coronary heart assault and commenced to obtain medical therapy from the ship’s physician. The fast actions of the ship’s captain and crew allowed Mike to be transferred to a hospital within the mainland metropolis of Quito earlier than he was flown dwelling to Atlanta to endure single bypass coronary heart surgical procedure earlier than receiving a pacemaker.

After months of rehabilitation, Mike and his spouse returned to the Galápagos Islands in 2018 earlier than returning a 3rd time in Might 2022, experiencing the identical journey onboard the Nationwide Geographic Endeavour II as myself. As luck would have it, Captain Eduardo Neira was not solely the person on the helm on that fateful voyage, but additionally the captain on our voyage.

This led to an emotional reunion, as Neira recounted the story for all to listen to and thanked Mike for returning. The captain advised this story in between singing songs, as Neira can also be a gifted musician. Throughout his voyages, he takes time to placed on an intimate live performance within the ship’s lounge after dinner. A few of us had been fortunate sufficient to additionally see Neiro carry out Beatles cowl songs on a pristine seashore because the solar set, making for only one of many surreal moments all through the journey.

For me, this speaks volumes in regards to the family-like expertise of touring with Lindblad Expeditions. Whether or not you’re touring with your loved ones, your important different, a good friend, or by your self, you’ll by no means be alone on an journey with Lindblad Expeditions. You might even stroll away with hundreds of nice images, a brand new checkmark in your bucket record, unbelievable reminiscences, and lifelong friendships.

In the event you’re curious about extra of my pictures, ensure that to take a look at my web site and Instagram.

Full disclosure: This text was dropped at you by Lindblad Expeditions. Lindblad Expeditions is a worldwide supplier of small-ship expeditions and journey journey experiences acknowledged because the class chief for its pioneering, cutting-edge programming and conservation dedication. Lindblad Expeditions works in partnership with Nationwide Geographic to encourage individuals to discover and care in regards to the planet. The organizations work in tandem to provide revolutionary marine expedition applications and to advertise conservation and sustainable tourism around the globe. Company work together with and be taught from main scientists, naturalists and researchers whereas discovering gorgeous pure environments, above and beneath the ocean, by means of state-of-the-art exploration instruments.

Picture credit: All images by Michael Bonocore.