Here’s the problem: for nature photography, the Galapagos islands represent the ultimate cheat mode. In Africa, you need patience, an excellent spotter, and a lens the size of a bazooka. In the Galapagos you practically stumble over the birds and can place the lens directly on the tip of their beak for stabilization. Under the water, the sea lions swim up to you, curious why such a hopelessly uncoordinated swimmer would ever venture into the water. Green sea turtles as big as coffee tables seem totally unconcerned about the heavy breathing above them as they munch algae under the waves. Back on land, iguanas luxuriate on the rocks, more concerned about temperature regulation than anything else. The giant tortoises seem to care a little more about the proximity of tourists, but their tolerance is still quite high and of course they are too slow to run away.
Which is to say, we have a lot of pictures and it is difficult to choose amongst them. So I’ll cheat and make two posts, one for the birds and one for the reptiles and a few undersea critters.
Above, a flightless cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi), also known as the Galapagos cormorant, eyes the cameraman warily between dives. A few hours later when I was snorkeling off the beach, I felt something pinch my butt. I spun around in the water thinking I might have to reprimand a fellow traveller and instead found myself face to face with the sharp beak of a cormorant! I was glad to have goggles on because that thing could poke your eye out. The Galapagos cormorant is unique in that it is the only cormorant to have lost the ability to fly, the consequence of having evolved on an island free of predators. Once endangered, their population has recently stabilized around 2000 individuals, making it one of the rarest birds in the world.