The Galapagos: Nature at its Most Raw and Beautiful

Featured Writer: Benjamin Weber

Last February, my wife and I went to the Galapagos Islands – incredibly beautiful islands off the coast of Ecuador. The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago on which have evolved a fantastic range of different species of marine, avian and land animals independently from the mainland of South America – species which you can find in no other place on Earth. The journey was something of dream for me because of the whole history of the islands, particularly with Darwin’s theory of evolution clicking into place after his studies of the wildlife on the islands. The journey itself was so much more incredible than my dreams even allowed me to imagine.

It certainly is not the easiest of places to get to – even coming from São Paulo in Brazil, where one might think it is close: a sleep over in Lima… then a night in Quito before getting an early flight to the islands. Quite tiring if you can’t spend longer in these cities. However, it was well and truly worth it.

It wasn’t just the way the place was teeming with wildlife – and really, there was so much wildlife it was unbelievable. It was the way the whole, unique, ecosystems have developed over thousands of years in isolation on the separate islands, in spite of recent human interference, with fantastic diversity of land and marine iguanas, flamingos, hawks; nazca, red and blue footed boobies (a brilliant dive-fishing birds, with rather funky mating rituals) and their chicks, nesting right on the very paths we were walking along; giant tortoises ambling to and thro; Darwin’s finches… sea lions, sea turtles, various types of shark, other beautiful fish… and this is just for starters. Though we hear about the diversity, it is incredible to see how each island differed to the other in terms of the flora and fauna, and how the

Everything nature could do was right in front of our eyes within touching distance – at its harshest, with us being able to see boobies effectively discarding their weakest, second born chick; birds getting into a strop over territory… and at its sweetest, with schools of sea-lion cubs playing in the shallow water; iguanas all huddling together in efforts to maintain body temperature; and then the mating rituals of the Galapagos hawks: seeing the male hawk effectively dive bombing the female to gain affections – all within a few feet of us. Animals so completely unafraid of humans, in spite of all the damage that we had done to the islands since we came across them a few hundred years by killing off species and introducing our own pets and agricultural animals.

Being on the islands lets you truly see the struggle between raw, beautiful and wild nature and human influence; the tragedy of the actions of our ancestors on the islands, and the hope that the islands have amidst growing human settlements on the islands. The first island where we landed, Baltra, looked to be deserted – the island’s wildlife had been decimated after years of human influence with the most recent destruction coming from the US Air force base constructed, and the pets people had introduced to the island which then proceeded to attack the native iguanas which were defenseless against such intruders. On the island of Santa Cruz, close to Baltra, we saw a descendant of one of these animals in the shape of a wild cat. It looked at us for a minute or so from a safe distance and trotted away. A number of the giant tortoise sub-species have also been made extinct due to human influence – pirates and sailors who found the islands and found the tortoises to be an excellent and easy source of meat.

At the same time, however, we could also see close how on some islands, all the best efforts of human colonization had been defeated by the harsh environments – with the lack of water on many of them, and the arid conditions, settlers were not able to successfully adapt to them and were, as time progressed, effectively driven away. One such signs of nature’s victory is Post Office bay, where a few remains of old bunkers remain, and a broken down old post office which had been established. No human inhabitants left.

Whilst there are a number of small human towns on the islands which bring their own respective problems for the wildlife with the industry that come with them – and indeed, us tourists – it is great to see how there are controls trying to limit the damage caused, and there are programs to increase the numbers of species which had been diminished, as well as eradicate the alien species. Witnessing the efforts at first hand, and seeing what exactly these efforts are in aid of, is, however, an incredible and inspirational experience.

Read more from this author at: www.360extremes.com

Check out Bucket List Publications Online Magazine for more great photos and articles from bucket list seekers. 

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57 thoughts on “The Galapagos: Nature at its Most Raw and Beautiful

      • Hi Lesley,
        That sounds fun! I live a little far away from the beach but we head down to Irvine to visit family every now and then so once it starts heating up that sounds like a good plan. Hopefully all is well with you!

        Dominick

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  1. I had a chance to spend a month on San Cristobal two years ago during the month of May and while I did not get a chance to visit any of the other islands, it would have been nice. I must state that I found the actuality of human intrusion on the island to be much more extensive than expected. With no outside animals now allowed, I was suprised that there was not a government requirement for existing pets to be neutered, kittens could be seen everywhere. Beautiful photos! These are indeed a “bucket list” item!

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  2. Those are some fantastic photos. My dad has been wanting to go to the Galapagos since I was very young, but he still hasn’t made time for it. Seeing these pictures, I’m hoping I can persuade him to make the trip soon.

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  3. Hi,
    Fantastic photos, what an adventure to see all these animals in their natural habitat, simply amazing some of the shots, and to be able to get so close, just wonderful. 😀

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  4. I don’t know what that 2nd photo is…I am not up on my sea creature knowledge but I like it! The red hue against the bluish background is magnificent. I also like the lizard…Great work.

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  5. The Galapagos Islands are amazing!… I took a trip there myself a few years ago. It is a magical place and the photo opportunities are wonderful! I hope Ecuador is able to maintain a proper balance with tourism to preserve these beautiful islands and habitats.

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  6. What a fantastic experience – I do envy you! I have always wanted to go there. Who manages the islands (I know they belong to Ecuador)? Do the animals have any predators (apart from man and domestic animals)? The photos are wonderful.

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  7. Always have wanted to go there. An old boyfriend was from Quito and I dreamed of visiting Ecuador some day and especially the Galapagos. Thanks for the reminder… moving it up on the list again. 🙂

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  8. This may be the only place on earth where nature has been allowed to evolve completely isolated for thousands upon thousands of years on this planet. What a rare treat you and your family had there. So very, very pleased for you and for the generous sharing you did of your photographs on this post.

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  9. I am working on a trip to the Galapagos next Spring and I’ve heard that March-April are great times to visit because the water is at its warmest temperature. But other then that, do you have any advice for planning a trip?

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  10. Check it out, this is where I proposed to my wife. We were diving off of Darwin Island and I took the ring down about 60 feet and shoved it in a small crevice. We were surrounded by schooling Hammerheads. It was hard to get my girls attention because she was so busy snapping off pictures of the sharks, totally mesmerized. She finally looked in the crevice, saw the ring case and then tears flooded her mask. Galapagos Islands for me is spiritual diving. If you have time, check out my blog roll and find Galapagos Islands and click on it. It’s a 33 min. video of the awesome marine life with a pregnant Whale Shark thrown in the mix.

    Keep up the good work!
    Eric.

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  11. Wonderful! Beautiful photos. We’re planning to visit the Galapagos later this year as part of our family gap year with our 3 children. We’re hoping to volunteer whilst there and that the children will be able to mix with locals (children and wildlife!) I hope we’ll be able to share something as inspiring as you have done!

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  12. Beautiful! We’re planning to visit the Gslapagos later this year as part of our family gap year with our 3 children and to volunteer there for a few weeks whilst the children mingle with locals (children and wildlife!) it has been on that ‘list’ for s long while. I hope we will be able to share such beautiful pics and inspiring blog as you have done – thank you:)

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  13. Hey Guys. Thanks for liking my recent post…Visiting the Galapagos Islands has been on my bucket list since I was about 12 and we are heading there in a few months. I loved your photos. 🙂

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  14. Beautifully depicted!!! My plan is to move there in about 5 years and just be at one with the most dazzling nature there is! Did you see the floating trees? I cannot wait to swim under the water-rooted trees…… fantastic!! Thanks for reminding me today of my plans to go there – my plate is so full at the moment, I tend to forget the things to look forward to!!

    Amanda 🙂

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