Galapagos Islands 2013

Galapagos Map

We recently visited Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. After many hours of editing the first complete Gallery of Photos is ready. I will add to this post periodically. Here is my overview of selected highlights…

We arrived about noon and proceeded to nearby Black Turtle Bay where we saw Sea Turtles, Sharks, and Golden Rays amongst the mangroves. If you have enough bandwidth you should also view the 12 Minute Video I’ve prepared to see them in motion!

Golden Rays in Black Turtle Bay

After an overnight cruise we awoke the next day anchored in Darwin Bay on Genovesa Island (basically the flooded caldera of an extinct volcano!). After a wet landing on a sandy beach we had our first encounters with Sea Lions and nesting Frigate Birds. (With many, many more to come!)

Galapagos Frigate Bird

After snorkeling and lunch we climbed a narrow stairway to reach the top of the island. Over one million birds nest here according to our guide. We saw thousands of Petrels, Shearwaters, Frigate Birds, and Boobies in the air and on their nests. We also saw their top predator, the Short-Eared Owl. [I should note that the panoramas below were taken with my iPhone 4s, which did a remarkable job under the circumstances! See Video to get a feel for the thousands of birds flying overhead!]

Galapagos Genovesa Island Galapagos Genovesa Island Steps

We again cruised overnight and woke up anchored in Sullivan Bay near the iconic Pinnacle Rock of Bartolomé Island. The landscape is stark and strangely beautiful almost beyond words. We first climbed to the Bartolomé summit for one of the most famous views in all of the Galápagos. We were standing on an old cinder cone almost completely barren of plants. In the near distance was the pinnacle and our barkentine sailboat the Mary Anne. Beyond a narrow channel was Santiago Island with black lava flows and red rock outcrops. Spectacular!!

HDR Panorama of Sullivan Bay from the Peak of Bartolomé Island

On the ascent I spotted a Galápagos Hawk feeding on an iguana…

Galápagos Hawk

We then took a snorkel around the pinnacle and came across Galápagos Penquins sunning themselves on the rocks…

Galapagos Mark Snorkel

Galapagos Penguin

After lunch we crossed the narrow passage and landed on Santiago Island at the site of extensive lava flows dating from the 1800s. We walked for more than two miles over black Pāhoehoe Lava with endless patterns, swirls and cracks.

Galapagos Lava Pano1 Galapagos Lava Pano2

Galapagos Lava Sunset

The next day we arrived at Rábida Island with its prominent red cliff and red sand beach. We took an extended dingy ride along the coast (to the right in the photo below). The hillsides were covered with dormant Sandalwood Trees and Prickly Pear (Opuntia) Cactus. [See Video]

Galapagos Rabida Island

This was our first encounter with the quintessential Blue-Footed Boobie, a magnificent bird! There were also Marine Iguanas, Sally Lightfoot Crabs and Sea Lions playing in the surf.

Galapagos Blue-Footed Boobie

We went for a hike around a point overlooking a blue water bay, and then went snorkeling.

Galapagos Rabida Island Panorama

Several Sea Lion Pups decided we were good targets for playing chicken! [See Video]

Galapagos Sea Lion Pup Playing Chicken

In the afternoon we landed at a point called Cerro Dragón.

Galapagos Cerro Dragon

Galapagos Cerro Dragon Panorama

The “dragons” in this case are large yellow Land Iguanas. We also encountered a lovely Large-Billed Flycatcher. It was so unafraid it landed on a branch about four feet from me!

Galapagos Land Iguana

As the sun got low in the west we encountered a pair of Flamingos busily feeding in a small lagoon.  [See Video]

Galapagos Flamingo

The next day we spent traveling around in the dingy, cruising the coastline and landing on a small island called Mosquera, which is a sea lion resort!  [See Video]

Galapagos Mosquera Friendly Sea Lion Pup

Someone had gathered the bones of a small Beaked Whale and assembled them on the beach.

Galapagos Mosquera Whale Skeleton

Next day we moved down the coast of Santa Cruz and landed on the small South Plaza Island. This is a wildlife and photographic paradise! Sea Lions, Marine and Land Iguanas, Cactus Finches, Mocking Birds, Swallow-Tailed Gulls… you name it!

Galapagos South Plaza Island

Galapagos Sea Lion Pup

The island gently slopes from a shoreline to a forty foot cliff. There we saw several Red-Billed Tropicbirds as they flew in the updrafts close to the cliff edge.

Galapagos Red-Billed Tropicbird

That afternoon we proceeded south to Santa Fé Island for a different species of Land Iguana, Tree-Sized Cactus and a large Sea Lion Colony.

Galapagos Santa Fe Pano

Our final day on the water brought us to Española Island with its high cliffs and unique residents.

Galapagos Espanola Island

The Marine Iguanas were the most colorful we’d seen…

Galapagos Marine Iguana

A pair of Blue-Footed Boobies did their courtship dance on the trail as we walked past…

Galapagos Blue-Footed Boobie Courtship

Young Fur Sea Lions cavorted in the surf…

Galapagos Fur Sea Lions

And finally the Waved Albatross courting and nesting along the trail… [See Video]


The next day we got in a van and drove through the Santa Cruz Highlands back to the airport. Along the way we had the opportunity to visit a water hole with several Giant Tortoises lounging in it. A perfect coda to an outstanding trip!

Galapagos Giant Tortoise