Galápagos Islands

29th January 2011

After flying into San Cristobal Island, we were soon aboard La Pinta, our home for the next week.  The luxury motor yacht carries 48 passengers but on this voyage we were only 14 with a crew of 30.  Sea lions lolled about on the rocky shoreline and on boats moored in the harbour. 


Each night while we slept, the ship sailed to a different island through clam waters – click here for a map.  Between delicious meals aboard, we were kept busy by day snorkelling, swimming and going ashore for wildlife viewing.  By the end of day 2 we knew the difference between a land and sea iguana, had seen the puffed red chests of the male frigate birds mating display and logged dozens of other bird species.  Brightly coloured fish swimming in large schools were almost jumping out of the water and an amazing sight was a sea iguana grazing on seaweed 2 metres below the surface.  Snorkelling from the zodiacs, we swam amongst playful sea lions, spotted Galapagos sharks and green sea turtles; but swimming with the Galapagos penguins was the greatest thrill.  Jeff almost drowned laughing when a pelican swam up close to him, puts its head under water and opened its mouth wide.


Every island has its own unique characteristics, environment and wildlife.  The eastern islands were dry; the tough leafless trees were waiting for the rain to come and spiny cactus thrived so a lovely inland lagoon with bright pink flamingos was a big surprise.  The western islands have dramatic scenery of jet black lava interrupted by small scattered brackish lagoons with lush vegetation.  The westernmost island, Fernandina, has the highest density of marine iguanas, sharing their space with sea lions, crabs, penguins and the flightless cormorant.  Meanwhile the rains had already arrived at Santa Cruz, in the centre of the archipelago, turning the forest bright green – we headed to the highlands by bus to explore the underground lava tube and the twin sink holes, stopping to see giant tortoises on the way.  Back in the whaling days, a barrel on Floreana Island served as a “Post Office” so, in keeping with tradition, we deposited 2 post cards to be hand delivered by passengers on the next passing ship.


Saving the best for last, we had a great day on Española Island.  On the white sandy beach, sea lions lay like many rocks, taking no notice of us, the turquoise sea inviting.  The other side of the island is a haven for sea birds such as the waved albatross and Nazca boobies.  They are curious and have no fear of humans.  The Española marine iguanas are bright green and red.


After an amazing experience travelling 580 nautical miles on La Pinta, visiting 11 islands and living in luxury we returned to planet earth.


Flying over Ecuador enroute to the Galápagos

La Pinta

Galápagos sea lion just out of the water

Galápagos hawk waits for prey

Friendly sea lion

Sally light-foot crabs are all over the rocks

Brown pelican

Swallow tail gull, the only nocturnal gull

Flying frigate bird, wingspan 2 meters

Male frigate bird tries to attract a female

Flying male frigate bird

Frigate bird chick

Land iguana

A face only a mother could love

Marine iguana

Each island has a different cactus


Large land iguana

Marine iguana matches its surroundings

Two of the many volcanic islands in the Galápagos

Three turn stone birds - they turn over stones to find food

Green sea turtle

The Post Office

Flightless cormorant

Field of lava on Isabela

Lava cactus found only in the Galápagos

Sink hole in the lava field filled with water

Bird feeding frenzy

Thousands of marine iguanas on Isla Fernandina

Large male

Sea lion pup

Oyster catcher

Giant dome shell tortoise

Saddle back tortoise

Two cactus over 200 years old

Cactus flower

Lava tubes on Santa Cruz Island

One of the twin sink holes on Santa Cruz Island

Cactus finch

Dawn on Bartolome Island

Bartolome Island

Tiny and swift the Galápagos penguin is only penguin found in the Northern Hemisphere

Blue-grey heron

Galápagos fur seal

Lava heron on Santiago Island

Sea lions all along the beach on Española Island

Mocking bird digging for water

Blue footed booby

Lava lizard

Galápagos Dove with its bright blue eye

Nazca Booby with chick

Breeding grounds for sea birds on Española Island

Blow hole

Española Marine Iguana

Juvenile Waved Albatross testing its wings

Giant tortoise feeding

Flower of the cotton bush

Galápagos sunset