Boat Cruise around the Archipelago

Galapagos Fur Seal
Lava Heron
Sally Lightfoot Crab
Basking Marine Iguanas
Orcas
Swallow-tailed Gull
Male Frigatebird
Red-footed Booby
Nazca Booby
Flightless Cormorant
Galapagos Sea-lion
Blue-footed Booby
Waved Albatross
Land Iguana
Tropic Bird

(To enlarge a set of pictures just CLICK on any one of them)

The Galapagos Fur Seal (Arctocephalus galapagoensis) displays the large eyes of a nocturnal feeder. They tend to congregate away from the visitor sites in the west of the archipelago and are therefore not often observed, however, the “Fur Seal grottos” on Santiago Island is a great place to see them and is where this individual was photographed at close range.

The Lava Heron (Butorides sundevalli) is the only endemic heron of the Galapagos and feeds using the ambush technique. They blend in beautifully with the black lava of the coastline and can be approached and watched very closely.

Sally lightfoot crab (Grapsus grapsus) adults are a beautiful bright red coloration, this one was photographed on Santiago Island where they are quite tame and approachable.

The large Marine Iguanas (Amblyrhyncus cristatus) living along the coast of Santiago Island and Fernandina haul themselves out onto the lava boulders to warm up quickly before taking to the chilly waters to feed on algae and sea lettuces. The vast numbers of iguanas result in huge pile ups as they jostle for the best basking places. Lava lizards (Tropidurus spp) scuttle amongst the larger lizards snapping up any passing insects.

We were extremely lucky and very excited to see a small pod of Orca (Orcinus orca) cruise within a few meters of us as we stood on the Santiago coastline as they are a relatively rare sight in the Galapagos.

The Swallow-tailed Gull (Larus fuliginosus) is unique among gulls in being a nocturnal feeder and utilizing a primitive form of echo-location to navigate around the rocky coastlines of the islands. Large breeding colonies form at any time of the year like on Genovesa where this male was photographed.

Frigatebirds (Fregeta spp) are huge, magnificent birds that possess the largest wingspan-to-bodyweight ratio of any bird, making them highly maneuverable and able to indulge in their piratical activities of harassing food from other seabirds. The male Frigate expands his huge red throat pouch to attract the attention of passing females, like this individual photographed on Genovesa in the north of the archipelago.

The Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) colony on Genovesa is the largest in the world with over 140,000 pairs and like the majority of the animals of the archipelago it’s possible to approach them quite closely.

Nazca Boobies (Sula dactylatra) or are sometimes referred to as Masked Boobies are the largest booby in the Galapagos and are readily seen on a number of the islands. This adult individual and chick were quite inquisitive and approached us for a better look. This bird was photographed on the trail on Genovesa Island.

The Galapagos Flightless Cormorant (Nannopterum harrisi) is a peculiar animal in that it has lost the power of flight and has now become a large, powerful swimmer to survive the pounding surf of the western isles of the archipelago. We were very lucky to observe a pair during the early stages of courtship on the volcanically active Fernandina Island.

Galapagos Sea-lions (Zalophus californianus wollebacki) are very playful when encountered in the water, though the large males need to be avoided as they can be very aggressive and there are many records of attacks on tourists. The males are easily recognized by their large size (250kg+) and large bump on the forehead. Needless to say I kept my distance and used a telephoto lens to photograph this male.

Blue-footed Boobies (Sula nebouxii) are the real characters of the bird world and their courtship “dance of the Blue-foot” and “sky-points” can be seen in these photos. Walking within a breeding colony of Blue-footeds like on Española and North Seymour islands where these photos were taken is an amazing experience as you literally have to step over animals as they are so tame!

The Waved Albatross (Diomedia irrorata) is certainly the most spectacular bird in the Galapagos Islands, with a wingspan of 2.5 meters and a weight of 4kg they are a magnificent sight to behold whether soaring over the cliffs of Española or encountered on the ground along one of the walking trails. One of the primary hopes of our trip to the Galapagos was to witness the Waved Albatross and we were extremely lucky to view around 10 individuals (up to 12,000 pairs are present during the breeding season) that had just returned to the breeding rookery on Española (The albatross are absent from the island from December – mid April).

Galapagos Land Iguanas (Conolophus spp) are a highly sensitive species and easily diminish in number when exposed to feral predators such as dogs and cats and feral pests which compete for food sources such as goats and pigs. Unfortunately the Land Iguana has now become extinct on Santiago Island since the first visit to the island by Charles Darwin. Luckily there remain some excellent viable populations such as those on Fernandina, parts of northern Isabela (Urvina Bay on Isabela is inhabited by some huge specimens in excess of 1m), Santa Fe and the Plazas (which are the most accessible and popular places to view them). The individuals in the photographs were observed at Urvina Bay, the Plazas and North Seymour and all were typically extremely tame and approachable.

Red-billed Tropicbirds (Phaethon aethereus) are magnificent little birds that possess long, white tail streamers as adults. They nest in discrete crevices in cliffs and are extremely difficult to photograph when flying, though I managed a quick snap as this individual shot past me on South Plaza Island.

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