1 The city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, where I spent the first night. It's the largest city in Ecuador, population 2.7 million. Here you can see the vibrant Cerro Santa Ana neighborhood, a once poor area that is now a major tourist draw.
2 Our expedition boat, the Eclipse - 210 feet long, with a crew of 35 and 48 tourists. I thought the accommodations were comfortable. We spent most of our waking hours exploring the islands, starting at 7am, and by 9:30 at night we were fast asleep.
3 We encountered these creatures the very first day. They are frigates, and they followed us on the boat wherever we went - every day, all day long. They were probably looking for food. (We didn't give them any.)
4 This massive creature is a giant Galápagos tortoise, probably around 40-50 years old, weighing 400-500 pounds. He was not particularly friendly - in fact he didn't move at all while we were there, just made a few snorting noises. The photo was taken on Santa Cruz Island. I'm the one in the safari hat!
5 On the same island, another giant tortoise doing some rock climbing. I took this photo at the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we learned a lot about the history of the islands. When the tips of the Galápagos volcanoes first appeared above the sea surface, 3-5 million years ago, they were a great distance from the mainland and isolated from life. Those species that managed to find their way to the islands evolved in their own unique ways. There are not many places in the world where you can see such a variety of unique species.
6 A couple of giant tortoise sharing a meal. They make a formidable pair - check out the massive shoulders and toenails. I also saw them at the Charles Darwin Research Station, where scientists are trying to repopulate the species.
7 Finches were extensively studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle, and when he returned him to England. Darwin finches are a classic example of adaptive evolution. Thirteen species evolved on the Galapagos Islands from a common ancestor from the mainland.
8 Another finch cranes his neck. I found birds to be the hardest creatures to photograph, because they get so easily distracted and fly away.
9 Here's a yellow warbler, which I photographed on the beach at Santiago Island.
10 Another brightly-hued warbler.
11 A baby sea lion, about a week old. We came across him (or her) along with mom and a couple siblings.
12 These two sea lions are locked in a duel at the beach. Their skin is so thick that even when they bite each other, they don't do much harm. I took this on Rabida Island.
13 A lounging sea lion. I like the way the sheen of his skin shows up in this black and white photo.
14 Another black and white shot. I love the way you can see that his chest full of sand. When I arrived on the scene he emerged from the water, rolled around on the beach, and sat up.
15 More pups at the seashore.
16 Asleep on Santiago Island.
17 In front of a drowsy sea lion, also on Santiago Island.
18 A snoozing pair on the volcanic red sands of Rabida Island.
19 This is a blue-footed booby, which we found everywhere in the islands. Despite the flashy feet, they are quiet animals. Mostly they seem to spend their time splashing in the water, then standing on the rocks letting the sun dry them out, than back in the water again.
20 Another blue-footed booby. The blue feet are a mating characteristic - the males engage in an elaborate mating ritual by lifting their feet up and down while strutting in front of the females.
21 Here's a red-footed booby. The legs are red, but the bill is bright blue.
22 Because of it's vivid colors, the Sally Lightfoot Crab seems to jump out of the picture, while the land iguana on which it rests is cleverly camouflaged. What an odd couple!
23 Another Sally Lightfoot Crab scuttling across the rocks. You can see how rough and rocky the terrain is.
24 A Land Iguana iguana sunning himself on a black lava rock.
25 Here's a Marine Iguana - this one was quite chubby. I watched him for a while and he did not move at all.
26 Unique among modern lizards, the Marine Iguana can forage in the ocean, making it a marine reptile. These creatures are only found on the Galápagos archipelago.
27 Right in front of our eyes, this penguin popped out of the water and began soaking up some rays.
28 The snorkeling on this trip was amazing! We went snorkeling every day and saw so many remarkable creatures. These fish with the blue bodies would have blended into the background, were it not for their bright yellow tails.
29 This sea turtle was slowly meandering through the water, about five or six feet away from me. They have sharp teeth and scavenge the bottom of the ocean for algae and vegetation. The guides insisted that we not get too close or touch them, and for the most part the turtles seemed to ignore us.
30 A beautiful starfish rests on the ocean floor.
31 One evening just before sunset on Fernandina Island.
32 I took this shot from the Zodiac at the end of the day on Bartolomé Island. You can just make out the silhouettes of seals and marine birds along the rocky ledge. If you ever want to see wildlife in its natural habitat, I highly recommend a visit to these islands. I hope you enjoyed my photos!