Of all the spectacular natural locations on planet earth, the Galapagos Islands are the most fascinating, mysterious, and educational. In May 2009 I enjoyed a week of exploring sea, land, and air filled with some of the most unique creatures in the world. The same world that Charles Darwin explored in 1835 during a long voyage on the English sailing ship HMS Beagle. Everyone should be quite familiar now with Darwin’s Origin of Species, the evidence for which Darwin gathered during his exploration of these islands.
My exploration started with a flight to Quito Ecuador, then on to the islands by Aerogal Airlines B-737 to board the Celebrity Xpedition cruise ship, my luxury base of operations for the week.
The Xpedition is a luxury 296′ long 98 passenger cruise ship built specifically for exploring Galapagos. Departing from the town of Baltra, we made 10 stops on 6 different islands in 7 days. So this was no lazy cruise, rather a strenuous daily schedule designed for the serious and curious nature lover and photographer. We were transported from ship to land by fast inflatable Zodiak boats, 8 passengers and 2 guides at a time.
Ecuador is very strict as to the number of yearly visitors, size of tours, and environmental precautions, taking care not to disturb the unique Galapagos lifeforms. The ratio of guides to visitors is tightly controlled, and the number of tours and visitation hours at each stop runs on a schedule so as to avoid crowds. This ensures that we really do have a chance to enjoy a true wilderness as much as possible.
Each day starts with a pre-dawn wake up call, a quick coffee and snack, then don our life jackets for the Zodiak ride. As the sun breaks the horizon, we’re racing across the smooth sea, an invigorating chill breeze on our cheeks. Soon we arrive at the morning destination, plopping into the surf ready to hike with wet sandals into pristine silence, led by expert nature guides to explain our every step. After around 2 hours of hiking, we return to the mother ship for a real breakfast in the warm sun on deck to share our discoveries with one another.
Mid-day is for relaxing and preparing for the afternoon expedition once the ship re-positions for the next stop. Off we go, this time across a more choppy sea to land that has now heated to a temperature more like the islands latitude – straddling the equator. Another two hours of hiking, Zodiak back to ship, shower up and report for cocktails. Whew…is every day going to be like this? You bet, you signed up for the experience of your life! Dinner is sumptuous, it needs to be – 10-hour vigorous days leaves one famished. Right after dinner, we all gather in the main salon for the lecture about what we’ll see and do tomorrow – right to bed early, ready to drop. That’s our daily drill.
So what did we see and learn? Mind boggling revelations as to the inter-connections of all flora and fauna, so unique in all the world. This is due to the near isolation of these islands from the rest of the planet. Due also to the incredibly young land, formed by relatively recent volcanic activity caused by the subduction of two tectonic plates. The geologic change is so rapid, new islands forming, old ones eroding – eventually to disappear under the South American continent.
For most folks, their familiarity with animals are either by viewing at a distance in nature or close up in zoos. One also interacts with pets up close and cuddly. Galapagos is entirely different. None of the creatures display any fear of humans! One may walk on a trail swarming with birds of all kinds who sometimes don’t budge causing one to walk around them. This is true also of lizards as well giant iguanas, the younger ones do run if you approach too close. Sea lions absolutely rule their sun bathing spot, so one should not get too friendly. All in all, a close-up photographer’s delight. No need to stalk or hide in a blind to get beautiful photos.
At the end of the week, I was astounded by what I had learned about nature from my first hand close-up experience with the animal life, and from the teachings of our very knowledgeable and dedicated Ecuadorean guides. If you love travel to special places, and are really curious about nature, especially the discoveries and theories of Charles Darwin, then Galapagos needs to be on your bucket list for sure.
Below, you’ll find an HD video I shot and edited of the Galapagos Islands:
For more of my videos, you view my Vimeo channel HERE.
- You can learn more about this wonderful cruise on the Celebrity web site.
- And for more information about airline travel to Galapagos, visit this site.
Thank you for taking this adventure with me. Looking forward to your comments below.