©Wolfgang Kaehler

Galapagos Photo Tour 2018

This Galapagos adventure was one of my favorite Wolfie trips.  “Oh Vow!!!”  (Complete with Wolfie accent) was a constant expression as each day the wildlife stunned us with its antics, beauty, and surprises.  A great group of Wolfies shared the excitement and humor.  If you want to know why we were so amazed, read on…


Day 1, Quito

San Francisco Church

View from the tower of the Monastery of San Francisco













Once all the Wolfies had arrived, we were ready to begin our tour with a visit to the old town of Quito.  Here the stunning colonial architecture recalls the days of Spanish conquests and settlement.  The power of the church was evident at Church of la Compania de Jesus, with its opulent, gilded baroque interior. We wound our way through cobble-stoned streets to the Church and Monastery of San Francisco.  Climbing the tower’s narrow passageway, we arrived at a stunning viewpoint of the city.  From the chancel we looked down on the nave, which blends Mudehar and Baroque styles.   After viewing the churches, we strolled through narrow streets to a small chocolate producer.  Here we learned about how chocolate is made and tasted superb bars and truffles made from Ecuadorian chocolate.




















Day 2, Cotopaxi Volcano

Cotopaxi volcano is often sequestered in a thick bank of clouds, but today it showed off its full glory.  With wild horses in the foreground, the majestic snow-draped peak provided us with glorious photo opportunities.  After our shoot, we visited a giant rose plantation.  Here we photographed the multitude of plants and blossoms along with the skilled workers as they gingerly trimmed and packed the roses to send them abroad.  No trip to Ecuador is complete without visiting a local market.  At of Saquisilí, we strolled among booths selling everything from tree tomatoes and cactus fruit called tuna to knitted ponchos.

rose plantation

Saquisilí market













Day 3, Santa Cruz Island

Today we were excited to begin our Galapagos journey on board the Tip Top II.  Arriving in the islands early in the afternoon, we boarded our catamaran and set sail to Santa Cruz Island.  Despite our early morning wake up, our intrepid travelers went ashore to begin searching for birds and wildlife.  We saw our first Brown pelicans, oyster catchers, Black-necked stilts and Marine iguanas.

Black-necked stilt

Sally Lightfoot Crab (Grapsus Grapsus)


Day 4,   Tower Island, Genovesa Island

Red-billed tropic bird

Frigate birds

Gabe the Frigate bird?????

Wolfies with Nasca booby chick









































The Tip Top 2 rocked and rolled, lulling us to sleep, as we sailed through the night to Tower Island.  At 6:00 a.m., after an early rise and breakfast, we hummed in our Zodiac to shore.  There we climbed a precipitous rocky staircase up a cliff to the trailhead. At the top, right in the path, stood a bedraggled juvenile Nazca bobby, flapping its wings as it prepared for its first flight.  Looking like a shabbily-dressed teenager, the youngster, about 3 months old, was shedding its down.  Alongside the trail, Red-footed boobies nested in trees, often gathering extra sticks for their abode.  Nearby, frigate birds courted, the males proudly flaunting their scarlet throat-pouches.  As we followed the coastline, we kept our eyes open for the short-eared owl.  To our amazement, a woman on the trail spotted one and pointed it out to us.  The small raptors with ochre-colored plumage are almost impossible to see because they blend in impeccably with the red and brown volcanic rock.


Before lunch a group of snorkelers headed out to discover what life was lurking in the sea.  Charles, our guide and naturalist, suggested we start with the fairly choppy water alongside a rocky shore.  Here there might be sharks.  Sure enough, giant hammerhead sharks swam in the deep waters beneath us, while a massive school of rays sailed past.  The assortment of colorful sea life, including parrot fish, angel fish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins and so much more, provided an exceptional snorkeling experience.

leaping off the top deck


By the afternoon, the younger crowd on our trip celebrated our Galapagos arrival by leaping off the top deck of the ship.  While they are not ready for Acapulco cliff diving, their freefall was quite a spectacle!


By late afternoon, we once again headed ashore to look for birds and other wildlife.  On this sandy beach, fringed with low growing trees, a young sea lion pup nursed.  Another curious youngster inspected our flippers and snorkeling equipment lying in the sand.  Down the beach a pair of swallow tail gulls courted and mated.  Nearby, in the shrubs, a competitive group of male frigates inflated their red throat pouches, each vying to attract a mate.


Our first full day in the Galapagos provided an ideal introduction to the island’s wildlife.







Tower Island


Nazca Booby

Red Booby

Frigate Bird

Galapagos Mocking Bird

Storm Petrels


Swallow Tail Sea Gull

Galapagos Dove

Lava Gull

Red-billed tropic Bird

Warbler Finch

Yellow Warbler

Short Eared Owl


Galapagos Sea Lion

Marine Iguana

Green sea turtle


Day 5, South Plaza Island/ Plaza del Sur & Santa Fe Island


The gentle slopes of this sweeping island are dotted with prickly pear cactus.  A lazy trail wanders amidst these robust plants that stand like modern sculptures on the windswept island.  Land iguanas, with prehistoric-looking faces and florescent yellow fingers, are prominent inhabitants here.  We padded along the path shooting portraits of these comical critters and wound our way past a bachelors’ hang out for sea lion males without a harem.  Working our way towards the shore, we found sea lion pups nestled near their mothers or awaiting their moms’ return.  Brilliant Yellow warblers darted between the rocks and the sleepy sea lions.


This afternoon we hopped in our dinghy for a tour of Barrington Bay at Santa Fe Island.  We quickly discovered this bay was teeming with wildlife.  Sea lions rested on the rocky shores and frolicked in the surf.  Schools of rays glided through the turquoise water, while sea turtles poked their heads through the waves, curiously peering out at us.  Our final hike of the day, along a rugged rocky path, took us past land iguanas, little lava lizards, and out to a beach where countless sea lions lounged on the stretch of sand.  A young pup nursed, making a gentle sucking sound.  Wildlife here went on with its natural pattern, ignoring our presence.


South Plaza Island

Land iguana

Lichens on tree














Sally Lightfoot Crabs

Land Iguanas



Swallow Tailed Seagulls

Blue footed boobies

Nazca boobies



Brown noddies

Yellow warblers

Ruddy Turnstone

Cactus finch

Mocking Birds


Santa Fe Island


Eagle Rays

Black tipped shark

White tipped shark

Santa Fe Land Iguana

Santa Fe Lava Lizard

Sea turtles




Lava Heron

Galapagos Hawk

Elliot Storm Petrel

Medium Ground Finch



Day 6, San Cristobal Island/Chatham Island; Wizard Hill Island; Kicker Rock

Swallow tailed gull

Yellow warbler













This morning we dropped anchor in the harbor of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and boarded a bus for the Cerro Colorado Visitor Centre.  Here scientists are breeding the San Cristobal tortoise.  From little tortoises, about one year old and the size of a baseball to fifty- year- old elders, the tortoises at the center offer visitors an opportunity to view their development and behavior.


Not far from San Cristobal, rocky, uninhabited islands rise from the sea like sleeping giants.  At Wizard Hill, we drove our dinghies into caves teeming with Sally light foot crabs.  The stone walls seemed to move with these crawling creatures as though we were in a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” movie.  Green sea turtles swam in the turquoise water.  Outside, a pair of Brown noddies perched on the precipitous walls, tending their chick, while a solitary sea lion pup lay sleeping on a rock ledge.  Along with the wildlife, the landscape itself provided a great subject for photography.  At the entrance to one of the caves the rock cliff towered like the Empire State Building above the opening.

Kicker Rock
















It was only Kicker Rock that could compete with the drama of Wizard Hill.  We sailed to the monolithic island, a medieval castle rising out of the sea.  Here Frigate birds and Nazca boobies soared past fortress-like walls and a tower topped with a needle-like spire.  A dinghy of Wolfies set off to snorkel at the base of Kicker Rock where they swam with a group of large green sea turtles.



Brown Pelicans

Blue footed booby

Brown noddy



Yellow warbler

Lava heron

Nazca booby

Frigate birds

Galapagos dove

Small ground finch

Ruddy turnstone

Elliot Storm Petrel




San Cristobal Tortoise

Marine iguanas

Lava lizards

Sea Lions

Green sea turtles

Sally-lightfoot crabs


Day 7, Floreana Island

Elliot’s storm petrels

Medium ground finch

walking up the hill to the viewpoint













































At 6:00 in the morning, our adventurous travelers boarded the dinghies to explore the rock outcrops at the island’s edge.  Here we spotted Blue-footed boobies sitting on the rocks, Cattle egrets perched in red mangrove trees and a lava heron, peering at the sea from the shore.   A sea turtle gracefully glided beside our dinghy.


After our ride, we hiked to a viewpoint, overlooking the green trees where we took a group photo.  From our lofty outlook, we spotted our first flamingoes, flying above us in a streak of pink across the azure sky.

Stefan at Post Office Bay
















Post Office Bay, where a barrel for sending postcards has existed since 1793, was our final stop this morning.   Throngs of sea lions, rested on the beach.  Gabe, Becka, Kevin, Stefan, and Tati jumped in the water to swim with the pups that were splashing and sliding through the water.  The curious youngsters swam right up to them, seemingly eager to play.


Our late afternoon hike took us to a lagoon where Galapagos flamingos reflected pink in the water, creating an image of tranquility.  At the nearby beach, a few pairs of Blue footed boobies nested on a bluff.  One tiny fuzzy chick, probably only a couple of days old, peered out from beneath a parent.



Blue-footed booby with newly hatched chick


































We returned to the boat as the orange sun set across the water.  We didn’t know that the day’s most dramatic show still awaited us. As we gathered on the back deck for drinks and appetizers, a splash exploded close to the boat.  We looked out to find Silky sharks, about six, next to the boat.  We looked again.  There were ten.  Then there were twenty.  No, there were over a hundred.  The sharks were everywhere around the boat.  Joining this shark frenzy were a few sea lions.  Every time a flying fish soared out of the water, the sea lions or a shark devoured it with a splash.  This spectacle was a stunning surprise!



Frigate birds

Blue footed booby

Lava heron

Brown pelicans

Ruddy turnstone

Cattle egrets

Yellow warbler

Tree finches

Small brown finches

Elliot storm petrel

Black necked stilt

Galapagos flamingoes




Day 8, Hood Island/Espanola Island

Waved albatrosses

Waved albatrosses























A hike along a rocky path brought us to bluffs above dramatic cliffs that plunge down to the sea.  Here Waved albatrosses courted and incubated their eggs.  Fencing with their prominent bills, they engaged in a long ritual, punctuated with clacking sound.  Occasionally one would catch the wind and take off, while others came in for a landing.  Beyond the albatrosses, a few pairs of Blue footed boobies performed their unusual dance– lifting their brightly-colored feet, they tossed their beaks in the air, and let out a whistle.  The trail looped back to the beach where countless Red marine iguanas perched on the black lava rocks.

Red marine iguanas
















In the afternoon we kayaked and snorkeled amidst the caves and rocks enclosing picturesque Gardener Bay.  An abundance of colorful fish, along with sea lions, provided a spectacle for the snorkelers.

At Gardener Beach, a beautiful white sand beach provided an appealing strand for both sea lion and human sunbathers.  The curious sea lion pups often approached us, looking up at us with their large ebony eyes.  The water was a perfect temperature, so we swam in the turquoise bay alongside sea lions, which body surfed effortlessly through the waves.


In the evening we were amazed to find that the sharks had returned!  Throngs of Silky sharks once again surrounded the ship.  Once we set sail, the sharks stayed behind.  This was a shark show that we will never forget.



Waved albatross

Blue footed booby

Nazca booby

Espanola Mockingbird

Yellow Warbler

Cactus finch

Galapagos dove

Frigate birds

Elliot Storm petrels


Ground finch

Galapagos hawks

Lava heron

Brown pelican



Red marine iguana

Espanola lava lizard

Sally-lightfoot crabs

Galapagos sea lion

Silky sharks


Day 9, Santa Cruz Island

Giant tortoise







Giant tortoises in a pond

















Puerto Ayora is the bustling, largest town of the Galapagos.  With pristine architecture, trendy bars and restaurants, and elegant jewelry shops, it contrasts with the islands’ other sleepy villages.  This was our jumping off point to reach a ranch, a haven for tortoises.  We were not disappointed, for the tortoises wandered along the roadside and rested in forested glades.  Padding through the trees, we made our way to a pond and ideal watering hole.  Here pintails threaded through the green water, while tortoises came to drink.


At the Charles Darwin’s Research Station, varied species of tortoises reside in corrals and are bred to revitalize island populations.  Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise, who despite efforts to breed him never produced offspring, is preserved for visitors to see.  The surprise of our visit was seeing a pair of giant tortoises mating.

Day 10, Black Turtle Cove

Wolfies having fun

Green sea turtle

Blue-footed booby



























Our farewell Galapagos excursion was through the mangrove-fringed bay at Black Turtle Cove.  At dawn at this silent bay, barely a creature was stirring. But the stillness belied the morning activity getting underway.  In dinghies, we hummed through the placid waters searching for wildlife.  Blue-footed boobies perched on black lava rocks, preening their feathers.  A lava heron, with iridescent plumage, rustled in the mangrove roots as it scanned the water for fish.  But the showstoppers of the morning appeared in the crystal water alongside our little craft:  a school of a dozen golden rays sailed through the water.  Along the edge of the mangroves, a sea turtle swam through a reflection of leaves and roots, creating an impressionistic image that would have inspired Monet.  This magical morning was the perfect finale to an extraordinary wildlife adventure.  Darwin himself would have marveled at the life stirring in this quiet cove.


I hope our Wolfies enjoyed this adventure as much as I did!  We look forward to seeing you all on a future Wolfie expedition!



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