Galapagos Islands  'Enchantment Born of Fire'     by Howard Polley     (June 3-10, 2008)

Galapagos Photos


































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The center of the earth has an amazing story to tell. Six hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador and straddling the equator, is an Archipelago encompassing about 4,897 square miles of land (about the size of Connecticut) and spanning an area of about 28,000 square miles in the Pacific Ocean. Galapagos is the worlds second largest Marine Reserve, second only to the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. 

   The islands are made from submarine lava formations that range in age from 2 - 5 million years old. The Galapagos are comprised of 13 major islands, 6 smaller islands, 40 islets and approximately 200 rocks. Two of the youngest islands, Isabela & Fernandina, are still being formed today by volcanic activity. The latest eruptions happened just days before our visit on the Island of Isabela from Cerro Azul. Only five of the islands are inhabited. Most of the 40,000 plus Spanish speaking population lives on the island of Santa Cruz near Puerto Ayora. It is one of the few places in the world without an indigenous population. The islands are surrounded by a group of ocean currents that makes this a very unique tropical experience. Mostly dry, temperatures range from 79°F to 85°F with water temperatures averaging 79°F. Water visibility is between 60 to 80 feet.

   The name Galapagos is derived from an old Spanish word meaning "saddle", because the horse saddle with its high horn and domed seat resembled the giant 500lb tortoises which inhabit the islands'. The islands official name is Archipiélago de Colón and has other Spanish names such as
Islas de Colón & Islas Galápagos. Here on the Galapagos Islands, and in the surrounding waters, we witnessed species found no were else on earth. Though it is not clearly understood how many of these endemic animals made it to the islands or even survived. Of the 607 Galapagos plant species, about 59% were transported as seeds from birds, 32% by wind and 9% by ocean.

   The islands were accidentally discovered in 1535 by the Bishop of Panama, Tomas de Berlanga, who described the inhabitants, as they are today, "fearless of humans do to the lack of natural predators," The islands first appeared on maps drawn by Abraham Ortelius and Mercator around 1570. The islands then were called "Insulae de los Galopegos" (Islands of the Tortoises). The first English captain to visit the Galápagos Islands was Richard Hawkins in 1593. Until the early 19th century the archipelago was often used as a hideout by mostly English pirates who pilfered Spanish galleons carrying gold and silver from South America to Spain. Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk around 1705, was stranded alone for 4 years on Juan Fernández Islands which inspired Daniel Defoe to write the novel “Robinson Crusoe”. Ecuador took official possession of the islands in 1832 which became a province of Ecuador. In 1835 the naturalist Charles Darwin visited the islands, which through his observations, inspired him to write his Theory of Natural Selection. ENESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared the Galapagos a World heritage site in 1957, which happened to be the first world heritage site. Then two years later, in 1959, Ecuador designated most of the islands as a National Park to help preserve and protect this very unique and one of a kind place in the world.

   To get to the Islands most people start by flying into the city of Quito, officially San Francisco de Quito, which is the capitol of Ecuador and one of the highest capital cities in the world at 9,350 ft. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, the highest town in the world is Wenzhuan at 16,730 feet above sea level, which was founded in 1955 on the Qinghai-Tibet road north of the Tangla mountain range. Quito is a great way to start your visit. I found the Ecuadorian people to be beautiful, generous and very kind. Ecuador is Spanish for equator and Quito is only 15 miles south of the equator, Mitad del Mundo is Spanish for Middle of the World.
We stayed at the Hotel Patio Andaluz, a very nice hotel in old town Quito. I did not get any shots or vaccines but you should talk to your doctor before going to South America.

The flight from Quito to the Island of Baltra in the Galapagos, with a quick stop in the city of Guayaquil which is the largest city in Ecuador, is about a two hours. During WW II the airport on Baltra (South Seymour) was used by the U.S. Military to provide protection for the Panama Canal.

The Yacht: Isabela II
On the nine islands we visited, we walked in designated areas only. Usually there are two visitor sites per day on each island. There are a total of 60 visitors sites in all. We visited 14 of the sites & viewed two from sea.
Average time per site was 2hrs. Ship Photos


The photos that I have taken on this trip are photos taken on a regular tour of the Islands with a group of people led by a naturalist. They are not preplanned. I did not have any special flexibility with time or choice of where I went. I did not use a tripod. The majority of the time I used a 28-135mm lens on my SLR. I also used a hand held mini digital video camera and a pocket digital camera.  These are the results of my photographic Journal...

( 25% of all proceeds from the sales of my Galapagos photos goes to the preservation of the Galapagos Islands )

 First Day: June 3, 2008 
 North Seymour Island
.7 Square Miles. 2 vegetation zones; Littoral & arid.
A very short sail from Baltra 'South Seymour Island'
Late afternoon dry landing with temperature around 70°F
Easy hike with some of the trail hiking over rocks.
Species viewed: Galapagos Sea Lion and her Pup; Lava Lizards,
Marine Iguanas, Blue-footed Boobies, Magnificent Frigate Birds, Great Frigate Birds, Land Iguana, Brown Pelican, Swallow tailed gull. Photos

 Second Day: June 4, 2008
 Gardner Bay,  Espanola / Hood Island
23 Square Miles, white coral sand beach
Early morning wet landing with temperature around 71°F
Species viewed: Galapagos Sea Lions & pups, Marine Iguanas,  Sally lightfoot crabs, Galapagos Mocking birds, Waved Albatross, Masked Nazca Boobies, Blue footed Boobies, Galapagos Hawk, Galapagos Dove, Brown Boobies. Photos

 Punta Suarez,
Espanola / Hood Island
Quick sail from Gardner Bay for a late afternoon arrival
Dry landing / Temperature 72°F

Beach walking, trail hiking, cliff dwelling, blow hole.
Photos of species viewed

 Third Day: June 5, 2008
 Point Cormorant,
Floreana Island
(Charles / Santa Maria)

67 Square Miles
The beach has a green color because it is made from olivine crystals
(volcanic silicates of magnesium and iron).
An overnight sail from Hood for an early morning arrival Wet landing / Temperature 70°F Photos of species viewed

 Fourth Day: June 6, 2008
 Puerto Ayora, Academy Bay, Santa Cruz Island (Indefatigable)
380 Square Miles and 7 vegetation zones
An overnight sail from Floreana for an early morning arrival.
Dry landing / Temperature 77°F
Bus Ride to Highlands while others hiked to the beach in Tortuga Bay. Highlands Scalesia Forest, Rancho Permiso, beach walking, Lava Tube, Pit Craters, swimming pool & massage at the Finch Bay Hotel,
The Darwin Research Station, a walk through town and shopping. Photos

 Fifth Day: June 7, 2008
 Darwin Bay, Genovesa Island  or Tower Island
Nickname “the bird island”  5.4 Square Miles
An overnight sail from Santa Cruz for an early morning arrival.
Wet landing / Temperature 73°F
Swimming, Beach walking, Snorkeling, Prince Philip's Steps
Photos of species viewed

 Sixth Day: June 8, 2008
 Tagus Cove, Isabela Island (Albemarle)
The largest island in the Galapagos at 1,771 square miles.
A 126 nautical mile overnight sail from Genovesa for an early morning arrival.
Though we never set foot on Isabela, its shores and under sea world were booming with life. On our panga rides around Isabela shores we did grotto exploring, snorkeled and jumped off the ship in Tagus Cove.
Photos of species viewed

 Punta Espinoza Landing, Fernandina Island (Narborough)

248 Square Miles.
A quick sail from Isabela for a late evening arrival.

Dry landing / Temperature 70°F
Species viewed: Galapagos Sea Lions, Sally Lightfoot Crabs, Marine Iguanas, Baby Marine Iguanas, Flightless Cormorants. Photos

 Seventh Day: June 8, 2008
 Puerto Egas, San Salvador Island (James or Santiago Island)
226 Square Miles
An overnight sail from Fernandina for an early morning arrival.
Wet landing / Temperature 72°F
Beach snorkeling and an easy hike.
Photos of species viewed

 Bartolome Island and its Pinnacle Rock
0.5 Square Miles
A quick sail from James for a late afternoon arrival.
Wet landing & dry landing / Temperature 70°F
Beach walking, snorkeling and an easy hike
up the stairs to the Bartolome Summit. Photos


   As I recall this fantastic voyage to the center of the earth, I'm overwhelmed with images of having witnessed some of the world’s most incredible grandeur as well as seeing some very unique and amazing species.

  "Galapagos Islands is a perfect example of what life is like when humans respect the environment and the animals that live there".

   This trip has certainly made me more aware of the fragileness of our earth and our responsibility in preserving these natural pristine environments.  Through education and promoting awareness, future tourists will have the benefit of enjoying this place as much as I have. Even though it will always be a struggle to protect and preserve this pristine paradise, there’s comfort in knowing the Ecuadorian people are educating their young to be aware of these struggles which will prepare them to be future gracious stewards of this precious place.

"Took nothing but pictures, left nothing but footprints and killed nothing but time"

"Adios Galapagos"



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