The world is full of beautiful places. Some are in the Philippines, some are in Australia, others in Europe and the Americas. But some places are really special.
When we first hear about these kinds of places, they seem too good for us to ever see in person, or if we do, it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. We may hear of expeditions, watch documentaries or read about them, building up in our heads what it must possibly be like to fulfill this sort of experience.
Well, imagine a group of islands, islands that were clusters of volcanoes many lifetimes ago. Islands so isolated some of their native habitats and wildlife cannot be found anywhere else in the world. A place that almost takes you back in time with untouched beaches, prehistoric volcanoes and oceans full of protected marine life in their prime.
This place is the Galápagos.
Off mainland Ecuador, South America, I never planned to actually go to the Galápagos. I was saving it for a special trip. Maybe a job or one day, a honeymoon destination. What I did realize, though, is this place can be special for any of them reasons, and that it is possible to visit the Galápagos (and on a budget, too). Luckily, I had a friend whom at the time I was particularly close with and she had worked there before as a scuba diving instructor. I decided to take the trip and see for myself. Thank the Lord I did, as it is still my favorite travel destination today.
I found that everyone who visits the Galápagos is there for a purpose and not just ‘passing through.’ The wildlife is incredible, the oceans are full and it has an evolutionary energy about it—these make it distinctively different from anywhere I have ever been. I felt, in some moments, that I was back in time, in a world before humans where animals roamed freely, untouched, uninfluenced and unfazed in their day-by-day life.
Marine Iguanas dot around various spots within the Galápagos Islands and are unique to these lands. They are black, spit frequently and if you get the right camera angle, can look like mini Godzilla. I remember seeing a show with David Attenborough and since then I was fascinated. Well, I got to see the real thing in the Galápagos Islands.
These slow, shelled beasts are bigger than I imagined. They look almost prehistoric as if it were an era for dinosaurs. Often with the marine iguana, they make up the face of Galápagos wildlife.
The Lava Tubes in Santa Cruz are an odd but fascinating set of volcanic craters beaten down into a labyrinth of water-filled rock. You can either take a boat or walk around (and on top) of these structures. They have shallow waters, but turtles and sharks often swim freely here. It’s like a little maze away from the breaking waves and into the outer ocean.
The clumsy blue-footed boobies seabirds are intriguing. As you can see, they get their name from their feet. You’ll see plenty of these guys sitting and flying around from the Lava Tubes.
The wildlife is really unfazed by human interaction here and it’s one of the things that makes the islands unique. They believe this is their territory. And because they’ve been isolated for such a long time (well, before Darwin made them known to the world) they really don’t care about our presence. Take this Galápagos sea lion sleeping on a park bench for example—he couldn’t care less if you want to sit down!
Continuing with the Galápagos sea lions, you can really get to experience the interaction first hand. This is an image I managed to quickly take as one approached me while diving about 15 meters deep off Santa Fe island. These guys are really friendly.
Under the waters, the Galápagos is another world. Frequent marine life lurk in the waters, making it a divers’ paradise. I once was minding my own business and I saw, in their natural state, four eagle spotted rays in formation. I rushed over to see them in pure awe, and managed to get this shot behind one.
There are thousands of different fish that you can encounter in the Galápagos waters. As you can see here I was almost caught in a tornado of fish, but I managed to survive!
This was taken on Tortuga Bay. I’ve never came across a beach so beautiful and peaceful at once. It wasn’t too bright and tropical, it was just there, present and in the moment. It was untouched and rugged. There are so many beaches here in the Galápagos.