In photos: up close and personal with the unique creatures of the Galapagos

A safari through mountains, beachfront, and deep ocean.

Nowhere else in the world can you find such a variety of wildlife on your doorstep. Curating from a hoard of thousands of photos, here are some of my highlights.

Creatures of the sea

Unsurprisingly, some of the most beautiful sightings on the Galapagos happen underwater.

Galapagos green sea turtles

Averaging over a hundred years old, these majestic animals are imposing as much as they are beautiful. They may look rather petite in these photos, but let me assure you that these adults are each about 2 metres long (except the third picture, which is only about a metre).

I captured the first two pictures on a snorkelling expedition. The third was captured off the pier of Puerto Ayora, where white-tipped sharks and pelicans like to play. This particular turtle appears once every half an hour or so at twilight. I call him Frodo the Turtle.

Galapagos white-tipped sharks

The first image was captured at Los Tuneles. They were loitering in an alcove, visible only after a free dive of about 2 metres. They faded into view like the revelation of a magic eye, only a thousand times scarier.

Galapagos sea lions

Most commonly found on the island of San Cristobal, these cheeky buggers are the cutest things, but boy do they smell.

Marine iguanas

The closest thing to dinosaurs here, marine iguanas are often found sunbathing across volcanic rocks, or sometimes simply strolling through the ‘burbs’.

Galapagos Penguins

Found further out at sea, Galapagos penguins are a shy bunch, keeping to their clan.

Sally lightfoot crabs

Speckled across the shores of inhabited ports, these crabs start off black and grow into the red beauties you see below. They’re capable of digesting almost any organic matter, including dead carcasses. Highly alert to their surroundings, they’re one of the most difficult creatures to capture without a telephoto lens. Fortunately, patience was a virtue I had in spades.

Pacific Seahorses

Very tricky to find, the Pacific Seahorse is typically attached to something, like seaweed or even just a stick off the ocean floor. This particular specimen was captured at a free dive of about 10 metres, off the southern coast of Isla Isabela. This one literally left me breathless.

Creatures of the earth

Stranded 900kms from mainland Ecuador, the Galapagos is a long way for land creatures to travel. Most are remnants of sea beings, who have evolved over time to prefer the safety of land.

Galapagos tortoises

When humans first arrived on the archipelago, they slaughtered tortoises en masse for food and oil. Only in recent times has the population been restored, thanks to deliberate breeding efforts. Now, they’re more than capable of reproducing on their own. It’s a little voyeuristic, but nature’s like that.

Lava lizards

Scattered across all the islands, these lava lizards are hard to capture. They’re often scurrying across trails, bobbing their heads up and down in mini push-up gestures.

Creatures of the air

For keen birdwatchers, the Galapagos impresses on a daily basis.

Blue-footed boobies

An iconic figure among Galapagos aficionados, the blue-footed booby is most blue when it’s healthiest. They’re a placid bunch.

Brown pelicans

Often seen fishing near piers, brown pelicans usually roam the skies as solo hunters.

White-cheeked pintail ducks

These ducks are rather difficult to find. I found these ones at El Chato preservation park, just chillin’ as they do.

Galapagos flamingos

Typically found in large colonies, I spotted these two lonesome flamingos in an estuary near Puerto Villamil. Come March or April, there’ll be more, I was told.

Magnificant frigatebirds

Notoriously the bullies of the sky, these characters rarely get close to humans. The males feature a trademark inflatable red throat, which they engorge as part of mating rituals.

Swallow tailed gulls

Almost always in pairs, these birds have a distinct call, mirroring the sound of a crying human baby.

Common gulls

The “seagulls” of the Galapagos, common gulls are slightly more appeasing on the eye, but their scavenging practices remain the same.

All photography by Frankey with his Google Pixel 3. Underwater photos are captured with a GoPro Hero 7.

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