The Galapagos Islands are like nowhere else on earth. It’s been said before and it’ll be said a thousand times again. But no matter how many times you hear that, nothing can prepare you for arriving on the islands. They really are alien.
The skies are filled with some of the best-looking birdlife, and more of it, than you’re likely to ever see again in your life. I’m not even a Twitcher, nor did I consider myself particularly a fan of birds, but by the end of my trip even I could spot a female juvenile frigatebird from 40 paces.
Then, of course, there is the land and aquatic life. Both shore and sea are fully-stocked with some of the most miraculous creautres in the world. Giant tortoises lazily patrol the Santa Cruz highlands, marine iguanas sun themselves on Bachas Beach, sea turtles graze on underwater meadows, Sally Lightfoot Crabs hop, skip and jump across the rockpools – the place is like a real-life Disney movie.
I took a camera along on my eight-day Intrepid Galapagos trip and attempted to capture as much of the island’s magic as I could. Here’s a small selection of what I came home with.
1. Pelicans, Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz Island
Arriving on Bachas Beach on day one was overwhelming, due to the sheer volume of birds on the beach. Every few minutes, a shrill whistle would alert you to a flock of boobies zooming overhead. Pelicans would duck in from the sky close enough to grab your hat from your head. These two were enjoying some quiet time.
2. Remains of the Bachas Barge, Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz Island
Our Intrepid guide, Oswaldo, leads the way whilst I exercise my god-given right to get the angles.
3. Blue-footed boobies overhead, Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz Island
As mentioned above, these guys would shoot over every few minutes. It wasn’t hard to get a good photo.
4. Pelican, ready for his close-up, Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz Island
The pelicans just don’t care about humans. Oswaldo, despite having worked and lived in the Galapagos since he was 15, remains as fascinated by the islands’ inhabitants (perhaps even more so) as any traveller.
5. Pelican in flight, Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz Island
This thing was no more than seven or eight feet from me.
6. Feeding time, Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz Island
We were lucky enough to witness a fish feeding frenzy during our few hours on Bachas Beach. Boobies, pelicans, frigatebirds and more joined in the festivities. They’d fly from one end of the beach to the other, following the fish as they attempted to escape their untimely demise. If I were to be reincarnated, I would not want to be a fish in the Galapagos Islands. Too much to worry about.
7. Approaching the Sierra Negra Volcano, Isabela Island
Hot, tired and walking across an incredible field of lava in search of pink flamingoes. Just another day in the Galapagos Islands.
8. Masked boobie, Genovesa Island
I think the masked boobies were my favourite of all the boobies. They look a little like I imagine seagulls would if they’d have been to see a careers adviser in their youth and looked after themselves a little better.
9. Juvenile frigatebird and friend, Genovesa Island
Wildlife is so abundant in the Galapagos that often you’ll take a photo and realise afterwards that you got more than one animal in the frame, completely by accident. I had no idea that marine iguana was lurking down to the bottom left when I snapped this one.
10. Intrepid guide approaching the edge, Genovesa Island
See those tiny specks of black on the horizon? They’re birds. Thousands and thousands of birds. Oswaldo’s going for a closer look.
11. Male frigatebird in flight, Genovesa Island
They’re the vultures of the Galapagos, but I’ll be damned if they don’t make for a good photo.
12. Great frigatebird, Genovesa Island
You can tell a great frigatebird by the dark green tint in its plumage and on its head. These bushes were full of hundreds of boobies and nesting frigatebirds, but this chap was easily the most handsome.
13. Giant tortoise, Santa Cruz highlands
This guy was remarkably relaxed, despite my taking his photo multiple times whilst he was eating lunch.
14. Giant tortoise, Santa Cruz highlands
This one particularly loved the camera. Just look at that pout.
15. Marine Iguana, Fernandina Island
This was the biggest and most vividly coloured marine iguana I’d seen during my trip, so I had to make sure I got the shot.
16. Blue-footed boobies, Fernandina Island
The fact that the boobies in the background are staring at the one in the foreground makes me think he’s either really imporant, or he just passed wind.
17. Land iguana, Santiago Island
Just a modern day dragon enjoying the remnants of the day’s light. Nothing to see here.
18. Hermit crab, Santiago Island
The hermit crabs in the Galapagos Islands are big. Really big. This one was probably about 4cm long, at least.
19. Pelican dive, Santiago Island
The dyling light and the speed at which these pelicans dive made this a pretty tricky shot to get. The foreground’s a little darker than I’d have liked it, but the pelican looks good. You can’t win them all.
20. A typical Galapagos sunrise
We all rose early on our last morning to catch the sunrise. And I’m glad we did.
Inspired to explore the Galapagos Islands for yourself? You can experience all of this and more with Intrepid Travel. Take a look at all of our itineraries in the Galapagos.