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Galapagos Islands

The islands lie in the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 km from the South American coast and straddling the Equator. There are 13 large islands, 6 smaller ones and 107 islets and rocks. The islands are volcanic in origin and several volcanoes in the west of the archipelago are still very active. In late October 2005, the Sierra Negra volcano on Isabella, the largest island, erupted. Luckily, the environmental impact of that eruption to the wildlife is minimal.

Galapagos is a province of the Republic of Ecuador and five of the islands are inhabited, with a total population of around 18,000 people. Galapagos had no aboriginal inhabitants and was officially discovered only in 1535. Most of the present-day inhabitants moved to the islands from the Ecuadorian mainland during the last 25 years.

Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1835 and during his short stay of only two weeks, made sufficient observations and combined with his further research, he published his famous: The Origin of Species in 1859, which put forward the concept of evolution by natural selection. His visit made this archipelago well-known not only to the academic world of science but far beyond.

Galapagos is home to many unique, endemic (only found in Galapagos) animals, most of which are fearless due to the lack of natural predators. The best known include, the giant tortoise, the marine iguana which grazes on seaweed, land iguanas, lava lizards, etc. Various (sub)species of small, brownish finches adapted to a range of different foods and they are known collectively as Darwin's finches. Other endemic land birds include a hawk, dove, flycatcher and mockingbird. Among the endemic sea birds are a flightless cormorant, and the only penguin species which lives in tropical waters. Colonies of blue-footed, red-footed, and masked boobies are found alongside frigate birds together with sea lions and fur seals, which are found around the coasts, while dolphins, rays, sharks and sea turtles are common.

In 1959, Ecuador designated 97% of the land area of Galapagos as a National Park. The islands have been recognized internationally as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Early settlers, however, brought in domestic animals and plants which have spread across large parts of the archipelago, often becoming wild or 'feral', and have a detrimental effect on the native flora and fauna. Goats compete for grazing with native herbivores such as tortoises and iguanas. Feral dogs and cats prey on iguanas and sea bird chicks. Rats and pigs eat the eggs of tortoises, turtles and sea birds. Campaigns to eradicate these alien species have been waged for many years but the process is difficult and expensive, especially on the larger islands. Endangered species are also bred in captivity and later on returned to help boost wild populations.

This gallery is only scratching the surface of the wealth of wildlife and nature sceneries Galapagos has to offer, captured during a short 4-day trip. The birds indeed are less skittish than what we are accustomed to elsewhere but you cannot wander off the trail and depending on how far away they nest or perch, a long telephoto lens still came in handy. Since nature is the emphasis, and you cannot force nature, you better bring your luck as well if you visit this wonderful place. Thank you for looking and please feel free to drop a line or two.

What a Life!
What a Life!
Juvenile Lava Heron
Juvenile Lava Heron
A Male Frigate Bird Trying to Attract Partner
A Male Frigate Bird Trying to Attract Partner
During the Peak of His Efforts
During the Peak of His Efforts
Dare to Be Different
Dare to Be Different
Living Relic From the Past
Living Relic From the Past
Smile! You Are on Candid Camera!
Smile! You Are on Candid Camera!
Sally Light-foot Crab
Sally Light-foot Crab
Defending Territory
Defending Territory
Sally Light-Foot Crab - Almost Translucent
Sally Light-Foot Crab - Almost Translucent
Sharing Living Habitat
Sharing Living Habitat
Posing Blue-Footed Booby
Posing Blue-Footed Booby
A Booby About to Enter the Water
A Booby About to Enter the Water
A Lone Flamingo
A Lone Flamingo
Tracks in the Sand
Tracks in the Sand
Creator of the Tracks
Creator of the Tracks
Vermilion Flycatcher
Vermilion Flycatcher
A Mockingbird
A Mockingbird
Facts of Death
Facts of Death
Caught One!
Caught One!
Working the Food Over
Working the Food Over
Getting the Food Bite-Size
Getting the Food Bite-Size
Darwin's Bathtub After the Feeding Frenzy
Darwin's Bathtub After the Feeding Frenzy
Darwin's Toilet Bowl
"Darwin's Toilet Bowl"
Various Forms of Lava
Various Forms of Lava
Pioneer Vegetation
Pioneer Vegetation
First Cactus
First Cactus
The Boundary Between Fresh and Weathered Lava
The Boundary Between Fresh and Weathered Lava
Where Have You Been?
"Where Have You Been?"
Watching the Action....
Watching the "Action"....
Swallow Tail Frigate Bird
Swallow Tail Frigate Bird
A View of Bartolome Island
A View of Bartolome Island
An Overview of Bartolome Island
An Overview of Bartolome Island
Pinnacle Rock
Pinnacle Rock
Just Took Off
Just Took Off
A Blue-Footed Booby in Flight
A Blue-Footed Booby in Flight
Friends Forever
Friends Forever
About to Clear His Pouch
About to Clear His Pouch
Swallowing the Content of His Pouch
Swallowing the Content of His Pouch
A Satisfied Brown Pelican
A Satisfied Brown Pelican
Giant but Skittish Tortoise
Giant but Skittish Tortoise
Wrinkly but Not Necessarily Old
Wrinkly but Not Necessarily Old