Unfortunately, due to a lack of an underwater camera, my photos giving you good reason to visit the Galapagos only focus on animals I could photograph out of a swimsuit. It is definitely worth mentioning though, that if you are lucky enough to visit this incredible archipelago, you will also see sharks, sea turtles, rays and eels as well as many other species of birds (especially the famous Finches)! I would recommend taking an underwater camera if you have one but if you don’t, that’s what your memory is for…and the memories are sweet!
If you’re an animal lover like me I think these photos will decide your next holiday destination!
#1 – Red Footed Booby
The Blue Footed Booby is the most famous of the Boobies by far and a whole bunch of my friends implored me to send them a multitude of Blue Footed Booby photos from my Galapagos trip earlier this year. However, upon my arrival on Genovesa Island, the only Island that the less famous, but infinitely more beautiful Booby lives, I was captivated and could think of no other Boobies whatsoever! These enigmatic chaps with their bright red feet, bright blue beaks, snowy feathers and ridiculously fluffy chicks are my new favourite birds. If you are planning a trip to the Galapagos I would highly recommend visiting Genovesa to see these guys!
#2 – Galapagos Sea Lion
Do I need to say much here? Sea Lions need no introduction I’m sure but, although Sea Lions are found in many places worldwide, you’ll find the Sea Lions here are a little different. They are friendly and inquisitive to the point that they will swim right up and blow bubbles in your face whilst you’re snorkelling with them. Part of the reason these beautiful creatures are so relaxed is because visitor interaction is controlled strongly on the Islands by the naturalist guides – keeping a distance (if you can get away, that is!) helps keep these beautiful wild animals wild and gives you the opportunity to get up close enough to capture on camera some of their Yoga poses.
#3 – Sally Lightfoot Crab
The most beautiful and colourful crabs in the world I think! These crabs (Grapsus grapsus)are renowned for their leaping abilities and are (according to my Galapagos Guide) named after a nightclub dancer called Sally who used to dance on tables in the local bar. Whether true or not, it seems fitting! They are found on all of the Islands and vary in size and colour significantly depending on their age. The bigger and brighter they are, the older they are. They are exceptionally easy to spot on the dark lava that makes up a lot of the coastline of these Islands.
#4 – Galapagos Giant Tortoise
Probably the most famous animals on the Galapagos Islands, these critters can weigh up to 400kg and measure 1.8m in length. The Giant Tortoises found here arrived from mainland South America some 2-3 million years ago and eventually diversified into 14 different species which were found on different islands. Unfortunately, early discovery by pirates that giant tortoises make for useful long-lasting snacks, meant that populations dwindled and some of the species’ completely died out. RIP Lonesome George!
#5 – Magnificent Frigate Bird
These dashing birds blow up their big red pouches to attract a mate. It is certainly unmissable. When an attractive female heads in his direction, the male will beat his wings as well – quite an impressive sight! To go along with their jaunty looks they are also known locally as the Pirates of the seas since they have a nifty trick of dive-bombing other birds causing them to drop their recently caught fish in surprise allowing the Frigate Bird to swoop in and steal the spoils. Plundering is the name of the game for the Frigate!
#6 – Marine Iguana
These Iguanas are endemic to the Galapagos and are the only sea-faring lizards in the whole world. They are excellent swimmers and you can often see them heading in to the water after baking themselves on the lava for a while. On the lava they are very well camouflaged so easy to trip over – watch out for them… they really don’t need extra things to worry about. El Niño is enough worry for now as it wipes out up to 85% of the species periodically since the algae they feed on fails to survive in the warmer waters. Need a reason to do your bit to prevent climate change? Here it is…
#7 – Pelican
Brown Pelicans are commonly found along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the Americas. Now, I know these birds are not particularly special or as rare as some of the others I have mentioned but they have such great character that I thought they should be included. Not at all scared of people, these big-billed birds hang out on the piers in town watching the fish under the harbour lights and they shadow the ladies selling fish – begging for any scraps (usually alongside a begging Sea Lion too). There is something about them that I find quite majestic… well, I guess you’ll have to decide for yourselves!
#8 – Galapagos Penguin
Penguins are my favourite animals! Tied with Giraffe… They are great! These little pocket sized penguins, averaging around 49cm in height and a mere 2.5kg, are the northernmost penguins in the world and sadly, they are endangered. They are mostly found on Isabela Island and live in caves in the lava formations. Incredibly cute and pretty nosy – you will have a fantastic time if one decides to come for a swim with you!
#9 – Galapagos Land Iguana
These bright yellow, slow moving Iguanas are quite fearsome looking – growing up to 1.5m in length. Luckily they are herbivores. Unluckily for them they are preyed upon by animals like cats and dogs which were brought to the Islands when people settled. Normally in the wild the babies would be the only ones in danger from birds etc. but now feral cats regularly kill adults up to 4 years of age. The Galapagos Islands have many problems with introduced species and a lot of the conservation efforts are aimed at reducing the impact of the invading species on the endemic ones.
#10 – Flightless Cormorant
These birds are the only flightless species of Cormorant in the world. It is believed that the hefty supplies of food and lack of predators in the Galapagos led, through natural selection, to their wings becoming redundant. You can see in this picture how small they are. For a bird this size to fly the wings would need to be at least 3 times as large. One of the best things you could see is a Cormorant mating dance – they entwine their necks whilst circling each other. Watch out or it’ll make you a bit dizzy!