The Galapagos Islands are on many people's bucket lists for good reason. The nature is amazing. It's uniqueness inspired Dawin's theories of natural selection. For photographers, this is a target rich environment. A small group of volcanic islands straddles the equator and host a variety of animals that have adapted and thrive in an unusual and harsh environment.
Equipment wise, I brought one camera body, Sony A7III and two lenses, 24-105 mm and 70-300 mm. This is a change in strategy from my African Safari trip where I brought two camera bodies, each with one of the same two lenses. This meant swapping lenses and keeping the sensor clean. It worked out fine. I brought sensor swabs, but only needed to use a blower to keep the sensor clean. The other reason for one body on this trip was that we had wet landings on the islands and had some long hikes in high temperatures. In Africa, we were almost always in a jeep.
I went on a general family type tour, so this was not designed for photographers. It still worked out fine for getting very good photos and having good general people interactions while checking off one of my top bucket list items.
There are multiple tour options for the Galapagos archipelago covering different combinations of islands. Each island is somewhat unique in terms of geology and wildlife. I took the Northern tour which included Santa Cruz, Santiago, Rabida, Bartolome and Genovesa Islands.
At the bottom of the post, after the photos, I've included a more detailed description of each of our 5 days in the Galapagos.
I've include a couple of photos from the tour below. To see more photos, click this link:
The photo below of a Blue-footed Booby was taken from a Panga(Zodiac) as we went along the coast of Buccaneer Cove, Santiago Island. The Blue-footed Booby is one of the tourist favorites.
The Galapagos Penguin photo below was also taken from a Panga boat along the coast of Bartolome Island. These penguins are unique, having evolved to handle the high temperatures of the equator, which cuts through the Galapagos Islands.
Below are two Sally Lightfoot Crabs. Really colorful and found a many islands on the coast or in tidal pools.
The Marine Iguana is unique to the Galapagos. The only Iguana that swims. This one was in a tidal pool in James Bay taken while on a hike on Santiago Island.
We came upon this Red-footed Booby during a long hike on Genovesa Island, which was the only island that we visited in the Northern Hemisphere, most of the Galapagos islands are on the southern side of the equator.
On our last day in the Galapagos, we drove up to the Highlands of Santa Cruz Island to walk through a forest where the Galapagos Tortoise lives. Some of these go over 900 lbs. The largest species of tortoise.
Summary of 5 days cruising the Northern route in the Galapagos Islands:
1) Santa Cruz Island This morning took 2 hour flight to the Galapagos Archipelago of volcanic islands. We landed at Baltra Airport on Santa Cruz Island. This is the most populated island and the tourist hub. Most of the Galapagos Islands are uninhabited by humans. Some stay here in a hotel and take day trips. We boarded our ship, the Santa Cruz II for 5 days of island cruising.
Las Bachas is a beautiful white sand beach on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island which we visited on our first afternoon in the Galapagos. This was our first exposure to the exotic wildlife in this unique part of the world.
2) Santiago Island: Overnight, we sailed to this new island. waterways. This island like the next 3 islands that we will visit is uninhabited by humans. Overnight stays are not allowed.
Buccaneer Cove is along the northern coast of the island. This morning we took a Panga boat along the coast and were to surprised at all the wildlife, including the Blue-footed Booby and Nazca Booby, we saw living along the cliffs. This area also had very interesting natural rock formations.
James Bay(Puerto Egas) is on the western coast of the island. We had another we landing here and had a great walk along the flat but uneven rocky coast. Great seeing a variety of wildlife in their natural habitat in the water, in tidal pools and on the rocky coast.
3) Rabida and Bartolome Islands: This day we visited these two small islands. Rabida Island is to the south of Santiago Island and Bartolome Island is to the west of Santiago Island.
Rabida has rough red coast rock and an impressive red sand beach. Early in the morning we took a panga boat along the coast. Later in the morning we went snorkeling from the beach and got to see some interesting tropical fish and had a sea lion swim next to us.
Bartolome Island is where we got to see Galapagos Penguins. They reminded us of the Penguins that we saw in Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America, and they are related. It is believed that they migrated in a cold current up the coast of South America and ended up in the Galapagos. Over time they evolved to adapt to life at the equator, creating a new species of Penguin.
4) Genovesa Island: During the night we crossed the equator, going from the Southern to Northern Hemisphere. This morning we left early for a long walk on Genovesa Island. The hike starts with a steep climb up Prince Philip’s Steps. Although it was early morning, the sun’s heat was intense. We got to see Red-footed Boobies on this island. The birds were comfortable being very close to us.
5) Highlands of Santa Cruz Island: Before catching our flight to Quito, we rode up to the highlands to visit a Giant Tortoise Reserve. The Galapagos Tortoise is the largest tortoise with some weighing more than 900 lbs.