Like No Place on Earth
It is now about four years ago that Susan and I went on a dream trip, 600 mile off the coast of Ecuador, to the magical Galapagos Islands. It was our most unique journey and I'm not sure why it has taken me so long to finish posting about the experience. Back last spring, I posted about the first part of the trip, and I' am only now getting back to complete the story. I'm giving a talk next week about the Galapagos to a women's group in Keene and that finally gave me the excuse to finish part 2.
In December of 2010 we joined a photography cruise among the Galapagos Archipelago aboard the National Geographic ship the Endeavour. This trip focused on photography with the timing and pace of our explorations arranged to meet the needs of serious photography. The Galapagos is a paradise for wildlife and nature photographers and in this discussion of the second half of our trip I will focus on the images. Check out my first post for more information about the trip and the Galapagos Islands. I will only repeat my admonition from last time. If you have a chance to go to the Galapagos, don't think, just go!
Isabela and Fernandina Islands
|Cave Along the Punta Vincente Roca|
On the morning of our fourth day we had traveled around the north end of Isabela, the largest island of the Galapagos Archipelago and in the process crossed the equator twice. In the morning we boarded Zodiacs to explore the rugged lava cliffs of Punta Vincente Roca. The western islands are
younger with more active vulcanism resulting in a terrain
that is dominated by barren lava flows, but, because of cool, nutrient
rich, up-flowing currents, the shore was teaming with wildlife. The show
included Sea Lions, Marine Iguanas, Sea Turtles, and the Galapagos
Penguins. Later we snorkeled among the amazing variety of ocean fauna.
I had a
chance to tail a giant Sea Turtle and watch schools of fish
reacting to the presence of Black Tipped Sharks. In the afternoon, we
explored Punta Espinosa on Fernandina Island. The ropy lava flows
provided perfect cover for the carpets of Marine Iguana, and we got a
close look at the comic appearing Flightless Cormorants. These birds
improved their swimming capabilities by evolving away from winged
flight. Their useless stubby wings look ridiculous, but, since the
birds have no predators that might require an airborne escape, wings no
longer provided a survival advantage .
Santa Cruz (Day 5)
|Puerto Ayora Fish Market with Friends|
|Baby Tortoise Learning a Lesson|
at the Darwin Station
After a touch of civilization in Puerto Ayora, we traveled into the damp and surprisingly verdant highlands of Santa Cruz and had the opportunity to mingle with migrating Tortoises. These magnificent ancient beasts travel at a glacial pace across the fields and seemed little concerned with our approach as long as we matched their slogging pace. We discovered that the migrating Tortoises are all male. The females are smart enough to let the males do all the work.
A Quick Video of Slow Tortoises
Cerrro Dragon and Sombrero Chino (Day 6)
Cerro Dragon is know for its restored population of Land Iguanas.
of these animals has evolved to match the arid brown soil of their
surroundings. They provide a stark contrast with the black Marine
Iguanas that bask on the lava flows by the sea. Cerro Dragon means
"Dragon Hill" and refers to a beautiful peak which dominates the island.
I was lucky to catch a Gray Pelican lounging in front of the hill
during our sunrise visit to the beach.
The afternoon included more snorkling and a lovely sunset across the aptly named Sombrero Chino, or "Chinese Hat".
Bartolome & Santiago (Day 7)
In the early morning of our last full day of the cruise, we climbed the 359 foot peak on little Bartolome Island. To avoid erosion the trail has a wooden walkway with 372 steps. The climb was challenging, but the view was well worth the effort. We were treated to a stark volcanic panorama across the moon-like landscape of the eastern shore of Santiago. Later we had time to leisurely explore two beaches populated by frolicking Sea Lions, Sally Lightfoot Crabs, Sea Turtles and flocks of Frigates and other sea birds.
|Sally Lightfoot Crab|
The next morning we were back in Baltra. After the flight to Guayaquil Susan and I flew to Ecuador's mountain capital of Quito to spend a couple of days with friends who live in the city. We then spent a few days birding at Maquipucuna in the Andean cloud forest. It was a fascinating experience, but that will be another story, or blog.
Our Galapagos trip was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Lindblad and National Geographic did a wonderful job designing a cruise with the serious photographer in mind. And the food was great. We will be doing another Lindblad photography cruise to Alaska this summer and I expect a fantastic experience, but it seems unlikely to match our cruise among the totally unique Galapagos Islands.
I can only repeat, if you get a chance to go to the Galapagos, Don't Think, Just GO!
For more images of the Galapagos :