Just wanted to add this recap from my test trip to Galapagos in Nov-Dec 2012, on assignment for Naturfokus (now named WildPhoto Travel AS). If you would like to go on such a trip with me or my colleague check out www.wildphoto.com
Arriving from Quito to Baltra in the Galapagos we were all excited to see what the expedition would bring. With 16 passengers, two zodiacs and a crew of 8, the boat that will be our home for the next 11 days seem spacious and nice. Already the same evening we would have our first landing with amazing wildlife encounters. Magnificent Frigatebirds were still displaying, while Blue-footed Boobies showed off along the path. Birds were all over the place and under the cactus huge Land Iguanas were feeding undisturbed by our presence.
Next morning we landed at the Tower at dawn. On the beach we were met by several endemic birds of Galapagos included the rare Lava Gull, wandering among Sea Lions. Along the path in the mangroves Red-footed and Blue-footed Boobies raised their chicks while the Nazca Boobies defended their nests on the ground. Night-herons, Darwin’s Finches and Mockingbirds were numerous. Our first Marine Iguana was also spotted.
At noon we had a nice first try in the water with loads of colourful fish and an octopus for us to see. The water was clear and nice.
In the evening we landed on the other side of the Tower caldera and had a great time with Nazca Boobies and Red-Billed Tropicbirds until the sun set on the horizon.
We woke up to a stunning sunset over Santiago Island and landed as the morning sun swept across the beach. “Blu-bies” and Brown Pelicans watched us from the nearby rocks while Ghost Crabs scattered across the beach. This is the spot to view Galapagos Fur Seals up close and we watched them play alongside Marine Iguanas, Sea Lion and a couple Galapagos Hawks.
Some of us went snorkelling at midday, while others played with the crabs on the beach.
The evening was spent at a stunning beach with beautiful mangroves in the dunes. This is the breeding ground of the Sea Turtle, but also several endemic birds. We stayed until the sun disappeared in the Pacific Ocean.
In the morning we passed the northern spit of Isabela. From the boat we observed Killer Whales and Bryde’s Whales from as distance as Storm Petrels and Galapagos Shearwaters followed the vessel.
The following snorkel in crystal clear waters, accompanied by almost hundred Sea Turtles, Galapagos Penguin, Sea Lions, Fur Seal and even The amazing Ocean Sunfish.
The evening was spent at a most amazing place called Punta Espinosa with enormous number of Marine Iguana and also Sally Lightfoot Crabs. The occasional Mockingbird and Lava Lizard were added to the list.
The Sea Turtles had already left the beach when we landed in the morning, but just behind these Isabela dunes we found our first Giant Tortoise. The walk also provided nice encounters with Land Iguana, Galapagos Hawk, Passerines, Brown Pelican and the endemic Flightless Cormorant.
The snorkel gave us some great encounters with huge Stingrays and more Sea Turtles in clear waters.
During the evening we entered a stunning mangrove landscape and observed several groups of Spotted, Golden and Mantled Eagle Rays, as well as Sea Turtles and sea birds from the zodiacs.
Due to bad weather we had a slow start, but upon landing on the south end of Isabela we had a great encounter with 28 White-tip Reef sharks in a shallow lagoon. Great for photography!
The walk to the nearby Sierra Negra Volcano was cancelled due to very low clouds and a drizzle. Instead we visited the nearby wetlands and photographed the beautiful Flamingos.
The evening was spent on the beach with Sea Lions, Pelicans and wetland birds in low light.
On Floreana we went to look for more Flamingos in the lagoon, but they had already left the wetland. Therefore we went to the nearby beach to work with the many Stingrays feeding in the shallows.
On the tiny island of Champion we saw the extremely rare Charles Mockingbird with no more than 150 birds remaining in the world, before we jumped into the ocean for a snorkel. There we had our first shark encounters, as well as a tremendous amount of colourful fish and Barracuda.
During the evening we had a nice zodiac cruise among the lava rocks and lush mangroves. The evening was finished with a cultural stop and a nice sunset Pelican.
On Santa Cruz we went into the highland and walked among the prehistoric Giant Tortoises in beautiful Scalesia landscapes. After a visit to nearby crates we had a good lunch and a visit to the Darwin Foundation. The rest of the day was a free day in Puerto Ayora.
Another highlight was the landing at Espanola with its stunningly colourful Marine Iguanas and Lava Lizards. The island is also the home of the Waved Albatross. The 20.000 pairs breed only on this island and provide good views both on land and in flight. The Espanola came close to check us out as we stopped by one of the many Booby nest along the path. Even the Tropicbirds gave us some good photo opportunities here. The snorkel of the day was quit exciting with several Eagle Ray and Galapagos Shark sightings, even up close. The evening was spent with Sea Lions on a stunning white sandy beach until the sun set.
The morning started with a pleasant walk into the higher lava landscape of San Cristobal, were we saw our fourth and last species of Mockingbird.
The snorkel of the day was particularly exciting with a group of 40 Galapagos Sharks, several Spotted Eagle Rays and the larges Hammerhead shark I have ever seen.
The evening photography on the beach gave us some good light with Sea Lions and fishing seabirds along the shore.
The last morning we entered a sandy islet just as the sun rose above the horizon, giving us good silhouettes of Sea Lions and nearby seabirds. The played with the many pups for a couple of hours before we had to pack up and head back for breakfast.
From there it went rather smoothly to the airport. It sure was a happy bunch of people that boarded the aircraft for Quito later that day. All smiles and plenty of images on the hard drive.