Charles Darwin may have made the Galapagos famous, but the wildlife is what makes the trip worth it. Giant tortoises more than 100 years old, playful sea lions, blue footed and red footed boobies, marine iguanas and bright colored crabs, there is something for everyone. The highlight of a visit to the Galapagos is seeing animals on their terms.
The grapsus grapsus also known as a red rock crab can be seen on almost every island
With less than 25,000 people living across the archipelago, each island is a true animal kingdom. The birds were just as curious about us as we were about them and the marine iguanas seemed completely unconcerned about our presence unless we were blocking their sun. The only animals that seemed a little skittish were the colorful crabs that coated the volcanic rocks like a red moss.
With the vast number of endemic species and so many of them far from shy it is a photographer’s paradise. Here are just a few of the different animals you can expect to see on a visit to the historic Galapagos Islands:
The most famous inhabitant of the Galapagos Islands are the blue footed booby
While the booby can be found on Pacific Islands from California all the way down the West coast of the Americas, about a third to half of all breeding pairs of blue footed boobies nest on the Galapagos Islands. If you are lucky you may witness their elaborate mating dance, which showcases their bright blue feet as the male lifts one and then the other up. It’s a comical performance from the audience’s stand point as the men seem to say to the ladies- you know you want these blue feet. I can only imagine how awkward bar pick up lines would be if all men knew that women had foot fetishes.
Pelicans are found throughout the islands and a real treat to witness mid-flight
If you are a bird enthusiast I can’t imagine a better vacation than the Galapagos. From pelicans to waved albatross and flamingos this is the place to spot all of your favorite feathered friends. If your timing is right you can even see the world’s only tropical penguins on your visit. There are four endemic species of mockingbirds, which is the first species Darwin noticed varying from island to island. Birds are definitely the stars of the show when it comes to Galapagos wildlife.
A waved albatross flying over Espanola Island
Of the 56 native bird species in the Galapagos 45 (80%) are endemic and 11 are indigenous. In addition to the native birds there are 29 migrant bird species and 64 bird species that have been observed only a few times. Each of the species is unique and could warrant it’s own post, but if you are a true bird lover, pictures won’t do them justice, you have to visit the Galapagos.
Frigatebirds showing off to attract a mate
With all the beautiful birds flying around the islands it’s easy to miss the lizards and iguanas, but it’s worth watching the ground to avoid stepping on a sun bathing land iguana. I also loved watching them step on each other fighting for the best spots along the rocks and resting their heads on each others tails. They may not be as active as the other animals, but there are hundreds of them.
Among the highlights of a Galapagos visit is posing with a turtle that is likely older than your grandparents. We were lucky enough to meet Thomas the tortoise on our visit, whom weighed in over 400 pounds, which is quite a feat being that he’s a herbivore. Swimming with the sea lions was quite a thrill, however meeting Thomas the tortoise was amazing. His slow movements and enormous size were mesmerizing as he lumbered through the grass in search of fruit. Just like the rest of the fascinating creatures in the Galapagos Islands you have to see it to believe it!
WHEN YOU GO:
Always have your camera with you, if you are want to capture the incredible inhabitants of the Galapagos you have to have your camera ready at all times. Plan on bringing multiple lens to capture wildlife near and far and make sure you have multiple batteries with you.
Consider an underwater camera, I didn’t have one with me and would have loved to be able to capture my experiences swimming with sharks, sea lions and sea turtles.
Listen to your naturalist, you don’t want to miss the nuggets of information your naturalist guide will share, so don’t get so shutter happy that you fail to learn anything about the amazing animals you are seeing. They also offer good tips for how much distance to give the animals.