This summer finally it was time visiting the volcanic islands of Galapagos. The archipelago counting 13 islands is distributed on either side of the Equator in the Pacific Ocean about 900 km west of continental Ecuador in South-America, and is very much basis for Charles Darwin’s studies and conclusions leading to his evolution theory published in his book On the Origin of Species published in 1859
Famous for their vast number of endemic species and the historical backdrop, combined with all I had read about the Galapagos over the years, I was really looking forward to explore the islands. But what should make me even more excited, was the underwater world.
We flew to the capital city of Ecuador, Quito, and started our trip on the main land of Ecuador visiting Otavalo and then exploring the rain forest along Rio Napa going with motorised long canoe. After a few days – and a few thousands images of different species of hummingbirds and flowerpierces – we went back to Quito and flew out to the Galapagos islands. After embarking our small boat being our new floating home, we navigated for eight days visiting the western part of the archipelago including Santiago, north, west and south of Isabela, Fernandina, Rabida, Santa Cruz and Baltra islands. The scenery and wildlife was amazing, and seeing and photographing the iconic animals of Galapagos like the iguanas and giant tortoises was really great. The underwater world was even more spectacular, giving unforgetable encounters with sea lions, sea turtles, sharks, sting rays and amazing variety of colorful fish, corals and underwater vegitation.
The indeed most impressive marine encounter was with the Pacific Manta Ray, the largest of the rays. This giant eagle ray can reach 7 meters in wing span, much larger than their cousins of sting rays. Giant Manta Rays are primarily plankton feeders, and they use the fins on the head to funnel plankton-rich water into the mouth where gill rakers filter out the plankton. The name Manta is spanish for cloak or blanket, a type of blanket-shaped trap traditionally used to catch rays. Mantas are also known as devilfish because of their horn-shape fins give them an evil appearance. The one we saw was the size of approximately 3 meters in wing span, and following him was magical. With his flattened body shape, he was gliding like a mystical underwater ghost bird giving me an out of time and out of space feeling. The experience and the sight is hard to explain with words, but I do hope the photograph below will give you an impression… Just a remark: The white tips you can see on the wings and near the head of the Manta is not exaggerated in Photoshop; these white tips just really seems like glowing in the dark sea. Do click on the image to enlarge.
A special thanks goes to our knowledgable Ecuadorian guide, Jairo Gusqui López, for not missing a species and giving thorough understanding of the Galapagos’ wildlife, nature, geology and history – and for giving me enough “space” for my photography – over water as well as under water. Also big thanks to the rest of the crew and other passengers/friends onboard Yate Fregatta giving us all a memorable trip, and to our Norwegian contact living in Quito, Anne Haugestad de Palacios, for all organizing prior the trip.
Below you will find a selection of my images from the trip. Please click on the images to enlarge and see them in 1400px quality. Feel free to leave your comments below if you like.