Ticking Off the Bucket List

Photograph the wildlife on the Galapagos Islands

By on December 1, 2012

I can’t remember exactly how old I was the very first time I saw David Attenborough bring the exotic and colourful animals of the Galapagos Islands into my lounge room, but I can remember that very moment when I knew I wanted to go there one day.

 

Galapagos Islands wildlife

 

I pinched myself everyday I was there, lucky enough to live a lifelong dream.  I am still pinching myself that I now have all these wonderful memories and amazing photos to show for it.
If you love wildlife and photography, this place is paradise.

 

Two male marine iguanas fighting over territory – Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz Island

I could write a thousand words about our visit, but I have tried to keep the written part of this blog to a minimum and let the photographs tell the story.

San Cristobal Island
In all we visited three islands, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela.  Each a choppy two hour boat ride apart and each with very different wildlife, landscape and towns.  I thought we would have to trek for hours to see the different types of wildlife but there is an abundance on each and without much hassle to find.

We flew from Quito, Ecuador to the island of San Cristobal but not before they gassed the cabin with bug spray and rummaged through our luggage for fruit and animal products to ‘protect the environment’ of the islands.

I guess as Australians with one of the most stringent customs systems in the world to protect our most precious asset, we could understand this.
The first thing that greeted us at San Cristobal were the sea lions, blocking our paths as we walked along the shoreline of the marina where multi-million dollar yachts were moored.  I am not kidding when I say they were everywhere.  Shading themselves from the hot sun lazing on bench seats, underneath boardwalks, in garden beds and even inside children´s slippery slides.
It´s almost like you also have to ask for permission to swim at their beach and you may even have to move on occasion if you are in their tanning spot as they nudge you away.  What an amazing place it is when the sea lions rule the town, even if the smell is a little on the pongy side.
The sunsets are pretty amazing too but you have to be quick, being on the equator the sun goes down very, very quickly!

 

Sunset on San Cristobal Island

Santa Cruz is the most inhabited of the islands with souvenier shops galore.  It is also where the Charles Darwin breeding centre is.  Unfortunately the most famous of its residents, Lonesome George, died earlier this year but his body remains on ice most probably to be taxidermied and put on a display in a new exhibit.

 

At Tortuga Bay we saw hundreds of marine iguanas, some swimming in the ocean, others on the beach but most huddled in groups usually a harem of dull grey coloured females to one quite striking male.

Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz

The only blue-footed Booby we saw on Santa Cruz Island was happy to pose for the cameras.  It was just our luck that a giant turtle swam by behind him.  You start to realise why they ask you to not use your flash when photographing the animals, we became a pack of paparazzi at times.

Blue-footed Booby peering over a rock wall with the shadow of a turtle behind, Santa Cruz Island

Snorkelling on Santa Cruz didn´t disappoint either, we saw turtles, starfish, and plenty of fish.  A marine iguana also nearly swam straight into us which got the heart racing for a moment!

Snorkelling, Santa Cruz Island
Other sights of Santa Cruz Island

On Isabela Island we trekked 16 kilometres return to the volcano Sierra Negra, the second largest crater in the world.  The view was worth the climate we endured of misty rain to searing heat.  It was simply spectacular.

 

Sierra Negra, Isabela Island

 

It was on Isabela we also witnessed the beauty of giant tortoises in the wild.  As we drove to the highlands we started spotting them in the long grass.  A very surreal sight indeed.

 

Giant tortoises in the wild, Isabela Island

 

A quick boat ride from Isabela Island is Tintoreras Island.  Here we saw thousands of iguanas which were mainly juveniles.  We also saw penguins, sea lions, turtles, eagle rays and white tipped sharks sleeping in the shallows.

 

Tintoreras Island

 

galapagosI think I have also experienced one of the most beautiful sunsets in the Galapagos Islands on Isabela.
Brad and I escaped to a quaint little bar on the beach, enjoyed a couple of cervezas and watched the sun go down.
It was our last night reflecting on the week and one we will remember for a very long time.
Thinking about the Galapagos Islands in hindsight, I guess I never really thought past seeing the wildlife, so seeing bustling little towns that thrive on tourism was a bit of a surprise.
Construction works in the main streets to upgrade sewerage systems and new tourist accommodation being built was a definite sign this place is getting more and more popular by the minute.  One can only hope the delicate balancing act of protecting the environment and the lure of the tourism dollar continues into the future.

 

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