I knew I would travel to the Galapagos Islands again (map).  The islands themselves are rough volcanic rock with sparse vegetation and little fresh water.  The Galapagos are formed at the edge of the Nazca and Cocos plates and is currently active in the northwest, as recently as 2005 both Isabella and Fernandina volcanoes erupted.  Some of the islands are pushed up from the sea floor on the Galapagos Rise.  As the Nazca plate moves southwest it is being pushed under the South American plate. 

This is hard land first discovered in 1535 an annexed by Ecuador in 1832.  For hundreds of years the islands were used by pirates and whalers when it was discovered that tortoises were easy to catch, could survive for months on board without food or water and could be used to provide the crew with a source of food and fresh water.  Some species of Giant Land Tortoise were hunted to extinction while other species barely escaped extinction.

Colonization efforts in the late 1800s were unsuccessful and Ecuador shopped the islands from 1900-1930.  In the 1920s and 1930s Europeans began to settle. 

During WWII Ecuador authorized the US to build a Naval Base, air station and radar stations which were later turned over to Ecuador. 

The Galapagos became a National Park in 1959.  Efforts since have concentrated on repopulating the Giant Land Tortoise and eradicating introduced feral goats, rats, dogs, cats and other introduced animals that threaten the endemic and native animals.  More recently the human population is even being controlled through not permitting any immigration except by marriage.

So on this trip I booked Galapagos Explorer 2 for 2 weeks, largely due to the itinerary which covered most of the visitable islands including Genovesa.  Darwin, Wolf, Marchena and Pinta islands do not permit visitors on the land, only scuba.  Pinta is still undergoing Tortoise and fauna repopulation after feral goats were eradicated .  Marchena is treated like a control island since it least touched by man.

My itinerary was actually 3 cruises back to back on the same ship. 

Cruise A (7 nights) included Sullivan Bay-Santiago Island, Bartolome Island, Playa Espumilla-Santiago Island, Punta Vincente Roca-Isabella Island, Punta Espinoza-Fernandina Island, Tagus Cove-Isabella Island, Bahia Elizabeth-Isabella, Post Office Bay-Floreana, Punta Cormorant-Floreana Island, Devil’s Crown-Floreana, Galapaguera Cerro Colorado-San Cristobal Island, Wizard Hill-San Cristobal Island, Tortuga Crossing-Santa Cruz and Charles Darwin Research Station-Santa Cruz.

Cruise B (4 nights) included Santa Cruz, Dragon Hill-Santa Cruz, Darwin Bay-Genovesa Island, El Barranco-Genovesa Island, North Seymour Island, El Chato Reserve-Santa Cruz, Punta Pitt-San Cristobal Island, El Junco Lagoon-San Cristobal Island and the Interpretation Center-San Cristobal Island.

Cruise C (3 nights) included Frigatebird Hill-San Cristobal Island, Gardner Bay-Espanola Island, Punta Suarez-Espanola Island, Charles Darwin Station (this is the same as cruise A-so they took me on an individual tour across the bay) and South Plazas-Plazas Island.

I thought that my previous trips had given me “everything” but different things happen all the time.  On this trip I got much better shots of galapagos hawk, flightless cormorants, lava heron and galapagos penguins.  It seemed mating was a big activity and I saw and photographed giant land tortoises mating, crabs mating, blue-footed boobies mating dance and swallow tail gull mating.  For the swallow tail gull, I also got shots of mom on an egg, mom with baby and an adolescent swallow tail gull.  On Genovesa I got to see the red-footed booby for the first time - I highly recommend Genovesa where we saw frigate birds, nazca boobies, red-footed boobies, storm petrels (my group missed the short eared owl), heron and swallow tail gulls.  I also tried my hand at taking some birds in flight shots.  Rules of the Galapagos state that you are to stay 2 meters from the animals, but sometimes sea lion pups violate this rule.  When snorkeling, often they would put their nose right up to the camera.  And one time a pup came right up to me on the beach and put his head on my knee (I asked for someone to photo this before I backed away).  I took around 4000 shots on this trip and deleted nearly 1000 of them.  Still, I can’t post them all here so I’ll try to pick the best and I’ll keep them in order of when they were shot.

Also, I bought a GoPro Black Edition underwater HD video camera for this trip.  While snorkeling I got video of fish, sharks, rays (though the battery was dead for the most amazing opportunity - 20 rays just 4 feet below me going the opposite direction) and a lot of footage playing with sea lions. 

Video Link


The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

April 19, 2013

The value of our life is not solely measured by its length, but also by the depth of our hearts.

And breadth of our experiences.  And indeed the heights that we achieve.