The Galapagos Islands: A Preview

I’m back from what has been an amazing trip through the Galapagos Islands with my good friends at Gecko’s Adventures.  Although I’m feeling a little bit “land sick” and the room seems to constantly trying to tilt itself on edge, I wanted to share some of the things I saw with you right now.  I’ve got lots more to come in terms of articles, photos, and even a couple videos.  I will have posts both here and the Gecko’s Adventures Blog which you should also check out.  The photos below are just a tiny part of what I captured, many of those images I will be putting up for sale in print form via my imagekind page once I get to some speedier internet.  For now, here is a quick photo preview of the Galapagos Islands.

The Sea Lions

On the Galapagos Islands there were sea lions basically everywhere.  It got to the point that I wouldn’t even dream of snapping the trigger on my camera unless the seal was yawning, set in the perfect background, or a baby.  The sea lions were as entertaining to watch as any animal on the islands.  The cubs especially drew my attention as the were constantly on the move and never seemed to be able to get comfortable.  Below are a couple of photos of sea lions on the Galapagos Islands, but believe me I have hundreds more.

Galapagos Sea Lion

A Fur Sea Lion

Kissing Galapagos Sea Lions

A morning smooch… guarenteed to have fish breath

Galapagos Sea Lion Cub on the Beach

What’s cuter than a sea lion? A baby sea lion covering itself in sand.

Galapagos Sea Lion Pup

Galapagos Sea Lion Pup posing for the camera

The Iguanas and Lizards

The iguanas and lizards are completely different species to what you would see on the main land.  In fact, on the Galapagos Islands there are subspecies of lizards and iguanas on each of the islands.  There is also an endemic marine iguana in the Galapagos Islands that might be a little bit ugly, but has all the skills in the water of a professional diver.  The iguanas were easy to photograph as they tend to bake in the sun, the lizards were a little more nervous but I still managed more than my fair share of both.

An Endemic Land Iguana in the Galapagos

A Colourful Land Iguana Looking like it had too much to drink

A Galapagos Marine Iguana

A Galapagos Marine Iguana after chowing down on some algae or kelp

A Female Galapagos Lava Lizard

A lava lizard posing on a rock for me.

The Giant Tortoises

Although the Darwin Center in Puerto Ayora does a good job with the tortoises I much preferred seeing them in the wild.  My walk in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island to see the famous Galapagos Giant Tortoise was one of the highlights of my trip.  I don’t think that I’ve ever witnessed such a prehistoric creature and such a gentle animal.  Laying down next to the giant animal while shooting photos was amazing.  I could have easily stayed there all day just walking around among them.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

One of my favourite images from the trip. Can an animal look more like a dinosaur?

Galapagos Giant Tortoise and Camera

I took a shot of my camera next to the tortoise to give it some scale. Lots more photos coming in a post on a later date.

The Birds

I’m not exactly a bird lover, but I do enjoy the challenge of photographing them.  On the Galapagos Islands some of the birds are a challenge to shoot, but others basically just sit there and beg for photos.  From playful boobies to enormous albatross the Galapagos Islands has a wealth of bird life.  Especially in the winter months when the cold current is around (July to November) the birds are in full force.

Galapagos Brown Pelican

A Brown Pelican flying over the coast

Galapagos Albatross

An Albatross takes flight among the clouds

Galapagos Blue-footed Booby

A Blue-footed Booby Poses for the camera

Galapagos Frigate Bird

A Frigate Bird with his red chest out

Galapagos Nazca Booby

The profile of a Masked, or Nazca, Booby

Galapagos Yellow Warbler

A Yellow Warbler on a rock

Galapagos Hawk

A young Galapagos Hawk poses on a rock

Galapagos Swallow-Tailed Gull

A Swallow-Tailed Gull looks sinister as it warms up in the wind

Galapagos Bird Silhouette

A Nazca Booby is Silhouetted in the Sunset

The Water

The water in the Galapagos is incredible, and a large part of the reason that so many animals come here.  There is a convergence of currents which means a diverse underwater life.  That underwater wealth brings the birds.  I will have an article from the underwater world of the Galapagos soon, but for now I will leave you with a picture from above the water, and a preview of one below.

Galapagos Beach

A Beach on the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Marine Turtle and Snorkeler

Me diving down next to a huge marine turtle. I obviously didn’t take this shot… it was taken by a wicked co-passenger named James.

The Landscapes

Perhaps lost among all the animals that you see in the Galapagos Islands is the fact that the landscapes are incredible.  They are also very diverse due to the different ocean currents that pass through.  In one spot you’ll find a perfect desert and later a near rain forest.  The landscapes of the Galapagos Islands are incredible, and in many ways seem like they should be found on a foreign planet.

Bartolome Island Panoramic

This is a 500 mega pixel panoramic I shot of the famous bartolome view. Massive posters will soon be available.

Galapagos Red Beach

They call this the red beach… I have no idea why

Galapagos Lagoon

A fresh water / salt water mixed lagoon. Often home to the elusive resident flamingos.

Galapagos Beach

If this doesn’t look like paradise, I don’t know what paradise looks like anymore.

Galapagos Coastline

The coast features some of the most rugged coastlines, perfect nesting grounds for birds preparing to fish.

The People

Of Course no group trip would be complete without really good people.  I was lucky to be a part of a really fun bunch of travellers.

Gecko's Tour Group in the Galapagos

I’m the one goofing off… as usual

Are the Galapagos Islands in your Plans?

Is a trip to the Galapagos Islands in your plans?  Have you been already?  What images and articles are you looking to see in the future from me?  I look forward to your comments.  Happy travels!

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Author: Brendan van Son

Author: Brendan van Son is a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. He has visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than he has the desire to count. Check out his profile on . for a little bit more about him.

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37 Comments

  1. Love these shots. Esp the lizard looking like he got ‘caught’ stealing grass or something green. Looks like you had a blast. I cant wait to read about it more (since i cant afford to go myself)

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    • Thanks Dani, I had loads of fun out there and want to go back myself someday!

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    • Thanks Matt – Those tortoises are crazy big! haha

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  2. WOOOWWWW !!!! lovely pictures….

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    • Thanks Martha!

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  3. Wow, could those turtles be any more massive? The Galapagos look absolutely gorgeous and very serene; hopefully I’ll make it out there someday. Love the colors of the sky in your pictures of the birds, and it still kind of scares me how close-up your pictures of animals always are!

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    • Jackie – My photos are always close up because I get close hahaha…

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  4. These pictures are incredible! I’m overwhelmed by the variety of species and landscapes. And those sea lions really are cute, especially the pups.

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    • @Emily, then you’ll especially love the photo essay called “the babies of the galapagos islands” I have coming up.

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  5. Hey Brendan Brings back so many memories – brilliant shots! Did you get any of the red footed boobies? and the amazing albatross on land? We loved the place and would go back in the blink of an eye – but so many places and not enough time!!!! Keep up the good work – you’re certainly living the dream!!!!

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    • @Vicky – It was amazing. Saw lots of Albatross, but apparently the red-footed boobies are only on one islands and we didn’t go there. Still was amazing!

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  6. Amazing …… One of my wishes …. To visit the Galapagos islands ….. One day :)

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    • Rosey, you’ll get there someday! It really is worth the trip!

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  7. For someone who “doesn’t really like birds,” you got some fabulous photos! Thanks for sharing!

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    • Thanks! The thing is that I love capturing a moment, and there is no better thrill than trying to capture an emotion from birds since they are a challenge.

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  8. You’ve captured some really great wildlife shots. I know how hard it can often be to get a good wildlife shot..often takes a lot of patience and a bit of luck. Looking forward to seeing more.

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    • Thanks Dean! Somehow this was a selection of my “good” photos.. .the great ones are being saved for a special occasion :D

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  9. Great shots! We just got back from the Galapagos a month ago, and it was definitely the experience of a lifetime. Jealous you had such good weather on Bartolome: The morning we hiked it the skies were dark with clouds. We did get some incredible underwater stuff though…

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    • @Brett – Actually for photography I would have loved Bartolome to be cloudy… but for the eye it was amazing on the sunny day!

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  10. I was lucky enough to visit in the summer of ’98 while on a summer school at sea thing for college. I would *love* to go back someday. Here via Twitter and the Traveling Canucks…

    Fabulous photos!

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  11. Fantastic shots – looking forward to reading more about your adventures on the Galapagos Islands! The color of the water looks amazing – paradise indeed!

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    • Thanks girls!

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  12. Wow – these are really great shots! Love the Swallow-Tailed Gull shot – and the landscapes. The Galapagos aren’t the easiest conditions to shoot in. Very impressed.

    We visited the Galapagos a few months ago and had a ball. We traveled with our 10 year old daughter and she absolutely loved it. Thanks for sharing!

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  13. These photos are amazing, are you a professional photographer? I can only hope so, since the quality is so much beyond what I can do in my point and shoot Cannon. Thank you.

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  14. The Galapagos Islands are destination I have always wanted to visit. Your photos are simply amazing. The Masked Booby is a bird I had never heard of before but I would love to see one in the wild. Thanks again.

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    • Thank you Randall… there is a red booby too, but I’ve never seen one. It’s only on one island in the galapagos… looks amazing too.

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  15. Gorgeous pictures! I would love to go to see it for myself but if I can’t your photos help my armchair travel habit!

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    • @Claire – Thank you so much

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  16. BREATH TAKING PICTURES! the baby sea lion in the sand was soooooooooooooo adorable!!! such an amazing photographer…

    i hope i can afford to go to the Galapagos. Such a big dream of mine to make it there :-)

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    • Thanks so much Ale… I’m glad you like the images… here’s to hoping I can get back to shooting soon. :D

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  17. Dang, that mega panoramic shot is stunning!! And the adorable baby sea lions are stellar as well. If this is just a preview I can’t wait to see the rest. ;)

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  18. Wow. Just wow. What gorgeous photos! I love the one of the sea lions kissing!

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    • Thank you Clara

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  19. Hey Brendan..!!! how are u..!!! u have really good pictures..!!! saludos from Galapagos and the Darwin boat, take care bro…!!!

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  20. Thrilled that you went in November and had such luck. I’m planning a trip in Nov. also and have been told I was wasting my time. Any news on that underwater article?

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    • Hi Julie, Actually I’ve been told that Sept/November are the best months to go, so don’t worry. It’s not the high season, but it is when there is the most life in the area, and the babies are all starting to be grown by then. Also, the chances of heavy rain are unlikely. The underwater article should be around in a little while, I still haven’t had my two underwater cameras developed. I will try to do that in the next week or so though. Hope all is well.

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