This land-based Galapagos Wildlife, Marine Life & Photography journey will be hosted by Marine Biologist, Photographer & Shark expert Dr Simon Pierce; Aqua-Firma director Ralph Pannell, who has been working in conservation and travel in Ecuador for more than 20 years; and local guides trained by the Charles Darwin Research Station.
We will take you to from the central islands of the Galapagos, to the far south eastern and oldest island in the archipelago, Española. Blow holes off the cliff coastline of Pinta Suarez form some of the most scenically beautiful parts of the Galapagos. As we wander slowly along steep coastal cliffs, the air will be filled by diving boobies, pelicans and Red Billed Tropicbirds, with their long trailing tail feathers. The Blue-footed Boobies bring their catch back to fluffy white fledglings we walk close to on the cliff-top plateau. We will also find nesting Waved Albatrosses here, at a time when almost the entire world population of these birds occupy the island. We often see these birds petting their life partners with cheek to cheek gentle tapping of their long beaks.
South Plaza is another particularly beautiful island we will visit, characterised by Opuntia, or prickly pear trees; and endemic sea purslane plants, which in August will be a lovely red colour. South Plaza also has some dramatic sea cliffs, filled with seabirds; whilst on its gentler slopes we can find plenty of land iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls and all grey lava gulls.
Wildlife & Highlands
We will encounter different species of marine iguana as we move from island to island. Most are black, with rough skins to increase the surface area over which they can soak up warmth from the sun, rocks and bodies of other iguanas they cuddle up to for warmth. On Española, we should find some which are turn red and blue-green, bettering their colours in preparation for the mating season.
Giant Tortoises are a highlight of any journey to the Galapagos and we will observe these at close quarters on Santa Cruz island at sea level; and on San Cristobal at an altitude of 700 metres amongst its cool clouded highlands. This is a great place to see endangered Chatham Mockingbirds, found only on the island of San Cristobal.
Marine Life Highlights
For marine life, Kicker Rock (also known as Leon Dormido) is a real highlight of this trip. Every experience there is different, but chances are high to see Galapagos sharks, Green Turtles, Galapagos Sealions darting around you underwater like over excited puppies; walls covered in colourful anemones and corals; and pelicans roosting on rocks we can swim around. We sometimes see the incredible form of a Hammerhead Sharks here too, as well as graceful Spotted Eagle Rays which reach 2.5 metres from wing tip to wing tip.
We snorkel at Kicker Rock on day 5 of this journey, whilst on day 1 we take to shallow waters of Playa Mansa. Here we can hope for marine iguanas, reef sharks and Galapagos tortoises.
Galapagos sealions are approachable in many locations on this journey and in August we have good chances to see newborn calves suckling. There must be something very irritating about the process, because mothers often flip back and forth between caressing their calves with a delicate touch of a flipper, to raising their heads and barking at them.
Photography & Insights
We will have lots of opportunities for photography on this trip, with assistance on the go, evening workshops as requested; and any advice you need before you head to the islands. We will also provide some evening talks about wildlife, marine life and geology of these most special islands.
This trip has been timed to be easily combined with these other trips should you wish. Beforehand:
Galapagos Wildlife & Marine Life Yacht Safari
(5 days) 22nd - 26th Aug, 2021
hosted by Aqua-Firma Director, Ralph Pannell and accompanied by a naturalist guide trained by Charles Darwin Research Station & Galapagos National Park
Amazon Wildlife & Conservation Adventure
1st - 4th Sept, 2021 £1,890 / US$2,290
led by local expert guides and Aqua-Firma's Ralph Pannell, formerly of Rainforest Concern
On a 3 days Choco-Andes Cloud Forest journey 4th - 6th Sept, Ralph will lead a trip to areas he used to work in for Rainforest Concern, helping to establish a corridor of rainforest all the way from the cloud forests of Mindo, to lowland and montane forests in Colombia.