After my recent visit to the Galapagos Islands, I can completely understand why this is a place on so many people’s bucket list. From unearthly volcanic landscapes to magical wildlife on every corner, these islands provide true escapism from everyday life. Sadly, a unique destination like this requires a lot of planning and doesn’t come cheap. In case you’re still wondering whether a trip to Galapagos is worth the price tag, allow these photographs to make your decision for you.
Commonly mistaken as a bird endemic to the Galapagos, it is actually possible to spot the Blue-Footed Booby at other western coastal spots all over South America. Characterised by their bright blue feet, the males strut in front of potential mates to win them over. According to National Geographic, the bluer the feet, the more attractive they will appear as a mate.
Sunsets on the Galapagos Islands aren’t the easiest thing to catch on camera during the low season. These months are characterised by cloudy evenings which doesn’t make for the best photographs! After a few evenings of fruitless attempts, Tim managed to get this stunning shot of the sky from behind a Marine Iguana who joined us for the sunset. This is my favourite shot from the whole trip.
Isla Isabela is home to six volcanoes, five of which are still active. Sierra Negra is one of the most impressive of these as it has the second largest caldera in the world. The volcano is one of the most active in the whole of the Galapagos Islands and at the time of our visit, had erupted just four months earlier. It is impossible to gauge the size of the caldera from a photo but the fact that we couldn’t fit in the whole thing in is a bit of an indicator! Read more about hiking Sierra Negra!
Finches were one of the most important species of animal studied by Charles Darwin during his visit to the Galapagos Islands. By observing the differences in finches from island to island, he was able to develop his theory of natural selection and evolution. Today there are fifteen species of Finches on the islands known as ‘Darwin’s Finches’ for this reason.
One of the main reasons that I wanted to land-hop the Galapagos instead of cruising them, was to see how the island residents live. One evening during a stroll around Puerto Ayora, Tim and I came across this volleyball match in the middle of town. Everyone from locals to tourists was sucked into the game and before long we had joined the crowds to watch. Volleyball is a huge sport in Ecuador and as you can see from the photo, it is taken very seriously!
One of the best things to do in the Galapagos Islands is to snorkel. The sea surrounding the archipelago is home to some truly special marine life that both Tim and I were keen to see! During a snorkelling trip around some collapsed lava tunnels, we came across this Galapagos Green Turtle. Whilst I have seen sea turtles before, I still can’t believe how large they grow in the Galapagos, this guy was literally as big as me!
The fish market in Puerto Ayora is a tourist attraction in its own right. Not only is it interesting watching people haggle for their dinner but it is also highly amusing to see the persistence of the wildlife in trying to reclaim the fish. You can see that this pesky sea lion wasn’t going to give up easily!
The Galapagos Hawk is a rare sight on many of the islands. Extinct on Baltra, Daphne, Floreana, San Cristobal and Seymour, these birds have suffered greatly from the introduction of invasive species. Due to competition for food and changes to their habitat, there are now as few as 150 mating pairs in existence. I knew upon seeing this bird that we had stumbled on something special as our guide couldn’t stop snapping pictures, it turns out this is an uncommon sight even for the locals who spend their days surrounded by wildlife!
This beach on San Cristobal is only accessible by boat so there are rarely big crowds of people, even in high season. The black rocks are characteristic of the volcanic activity that formed the Galapagos Islands. San Cristobal is one of the oldest islands in the archipelago which means all of the volcanoes located there are now extinct.
The Sally Lightfoot Crab is a regular feature on the rocks of the Galapagos Islands. Interestingly, these crabs change colour as they age, going from black when they are babies to bright orange when they are matured. They are very quick and even have the ability to climb upside down. This is quite an unnerving trait when they are on the underside of the bridge you are standing on!
This photograph was taken on La Loberia beach on San Cristobal Island. This beach is well-known for its abundance of sea lions and it is a particularly good spot for seeing baby pups. I fell in love with this little cutie who I affectionately named Jerry. Unfortunately, Galapagos rules mean I couldn’t take him home.
This bicycle trail on Isabela Island is a great spot to see Giant Land Tortoises in the wild and certainly adds some excitement to an otherwise barren landscape. Unfortunately, owing to the introduction of non-native species, none of the tortoises born in the wild currently survive. There is hope that by controlling the invasive species, eventually, Giant Land Tortoises will once more be able to survive from birth in their natural environment instead of breeding centres.
This is another shot from Isabela’s Sierra Negra volcano. Volcán Chico was created when a fissure formed on the edge of the volcano. The resulting eruptions from this fissure led to the formation of a cone-like structure originally believed to be a small volcano in its own right. However, despite keeping its name, it is now recognised as nothing more than a parasitic cone. Here it is possible to walk across lava flows and take in the otherworldly views of the volcanic scenery.
The Galapagos Penguin is perhaps one of the most important species on the whole of the islands. It is the only type of penguin to be found on the equator and one of the rarest in the world. With as few as just 800 breeding pairs, the Galapagos Penguin is considered to be endangered and therefore the conservation teams around the islands are trying hard to protect them.
This area was created when lava formations collapsed into the sea after repetitive and intense wave activity. What is left is an arid terrain on land and a mysterious lava tunnel network underwater. In some areas where the water is really clear, it is possible to see the marine life below when you’re standing on land.
The Galapagos Brown Pelican is a surprisingly graceful flier for a bird of its size. It can be commonly seen soaring around the ocean and also swooping into the sea. The purpose of the plunge-diving is solely to source fish to eat although they often end up catching more salt water than dinner!
All of the inhabited islands of the Galapagos have busy ports that are frequented by cruise ships, water taxis and speed ferries. The pier is always a hub of activity, not only because of the boats going in and out but also because of the wildlife that frequents the area. It is possible to see crabs, sea lions and lizards from the ports in Isabela, San Cristobal and Santa Cruz. If you are lucky, you could spot a Galapagos Penguin as well!
Without a doubt, my highlight of visiting the Galapagos Islands was the chance to swim with this cheeky devil. Sea lions are really playful animals and super curious about anything unusual (in this case Tim and I). If you happen to be swimming at the same time as them, prepare yourself for a shock as they bolt towards you underwater!
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