felixcat :: Snapshots at Galapagos
Last changed: Mar 22, 2009
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Back to Galápagos Islands

Back to Galápagos Islands

Birds of Galápagos Islands

Birds of Galápagos Islands

Widlife on Galapagos Islands

Other Wildlife

Back to Ecuador 2008 Back to Ecuador 2008


After my Galápagos

Definitely the Galápagos is the most remote and isolated destination I have even been to.   Returning from the Galápagos, it took me about four months to complete the photo album but still I feel it is worthwhile after visiting such an unique place in the world. Its uniqueness is more than close encounter of wildlife but also the place analogous to the first place created the Gods, physically and logically, and so-called Eden, where harmony can be found between animals and the environment in spite of the absence of human.  It is imaginable such harmony would be more remarkable when Charles Darwin visited there in 1835, when adverse impacts from human were less significant. The 25 years of sweet and sour experience in the Galápagos by Mr. Pierre Constant can prove this. It is worthwhile to taste his appeal and helplessness from the forward of his book - (The Galápagos Islands - A Natural History Guide) even after the trip.

Charles Darwin

Without any doubt, the most famous visitor to the Galápagos must be Charles Darwin traveling around the globe on the HMS Beagle in 1835 and staying on the islands for the most important five weeks of his life. Because of the geographical isolation, the Galápagos have various fauna with unique appearance, which can really provide hints to The Origin of Species.  Charles' observation on the fauna there made him to realize that the species were changeable and were exposed to the irreversible process of evolution. And particularly the dull-coloured finches there inspired him to further elaborate such scientific terms as natural selection by or adaptation to the environment as well as genetic mutation. His development of the theory of evolution drove the publication of The Origin of Species 24 years after his journey to the Enchanted Isles, in 1859.

Animals in the Galápagos

The Galápagos archipelago is a cluster of the oceanic islands born from a submarine volcano emerging from the ocean without any life on them. Animals in the Galápagos originated from America (North, Central and South) and the Caribbean. The close encounter of wildlife attracts numerous tourists to the Galápagos and tame animals there seem to indicate how they behaved and that they had no idea of human when the earth born.  Of course, the unique bird life of the Galápagos with a high endemism rate is the magnet to every birdwatcher.

Before my Galápagos

The name of the Enchanted Isles has become fascinating to me and replacing other most-wished destinations in my traveling plan after watching a local TV program, which is a 3-part nature documentary series (Born of Fire, Islands that Changed the World & Forces of Change) produced by BBC.  

My Traveling Destination

The Galápagos is an archipelago consisting of 19 islands and 42 islets (or surfacing rocks). The eastern-most island, San Cristóbal, lies over 1,000km west of the mother country, Ecuador, on the South American mainland.  The islands are purely oceanic and they have never been connected to the mainland by any sort of land bridge. The noticeable absence of land mammals in the Galápagos confirms the oceanic island theory. The Galápagos archipelago is one of the largest and most active groups of oceanic volcanoes in the world. The islands appear after repeated eruption and regular volcanic activity in the area or tectonic island uplift. The elder islands lie to the east and the younger to the west.


  Galápagos Islands

My Chosen Cruise

As an independent traveler for maximizing every birding opportunity in my oversea trip, I spent quite a lot of time  on studying the materials on the web and books (one of the recommended is Watching Wildlife Galápagos Islands from Lonely Planet). Those serious birdwatchers may agree with my decision of visiting at least the three most important islands: Española, Genovesa and Floreana.  Needless to say, Isabela and Fernandina should be included for Flightless Cormorants if there is an itinerary available from organized tours.  I would have joined such a tour for all these islands if it was organized regardless how long the cruises would be.   Finally, I chose the sailing yacht M/V Angelique, through an Ecuadorian agent which I won't recommend, in a compromised world balancing the budget, the itinerary, the boat size and the availability.


During my Galápagos

The first step on the Galápagos must be within one of the airports there while the most probably the one at Baltra, where you can feel how the civilization changed the islands and is full of souvenir shops.  However, once reaching the pier for boarding the boat, you will understand the real meaning for close encounter of wildlife while frigatebirds and boobies are freely flying over your head, iguanas and sea lions are lying on the pier without paying much attention to your presence.


The Naturalist Guide

Under the rule of the Galápagos National Park, all tour boats must carry a naturalist guide for not only providing local park information but also overseeing visitors¡¦ safety and comfort. And visiting some of the restricted islands without a guide is not allowed.  Definitely, it is only once in most visitors' life for being to the Galápagos and the excitement will probably outreach the rules as advised by the guide. We saw an embarrassing moment when our guide blamed one of the visitors for stepping on the platform for feeding the giant tortoises while this visitor was taking photos. Though we had been previously reminded by our guide that such act would seriously disturb the tortoises' life, it was still surprising and seemed unwise in a business world for a guide to treat his client who supposed to tip him shortly.  I sincerely admire our naturalist guide for making the most difficult job and taking the frontline line to ensure that we were strictly obeying the park regulations though his rigidity might not be welcome by the client and his ambition would not be recognized. 

Wildlife Photography

I do think photography may be the highest priority to a visitor and enthusiast at such an unique place as the Galápagos.  But once compared with the sustainability of such uniqueness, taking just a few photos, no matter how stunning they are, for either making fun or ever earning money will become the least important, at least I think.   Ask oneself who have made the wildlife no longer tame any more and the place left seems only the Galápagos.  Whenever possible, tele-photo lens should be used to keep a comfortable distance from the wildlife and reduce their anxiety  even though close encounter of most (but not all) wildlife in the Galápagos is expected.    Just imagine how you feel if you were a tame animal with a compact camera put just in front of your head.   I used both medium tele-zoom lens (70-200mm) and tele-lens (300mm) for birds and occasionally standard zoom lens (17-40mm) for larger wildlife or landscapes. 


Birds as Art

(to be continued)


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