An Immersion into Evolution: Galapagos Photo Essay

Starting off 2018 with amazing underwater photography in the Galapagos
By Dan McGanty, Helen Brierley, and Contributors

The Galapagos – A Painting of Evolution and the Circle of Life…

A trip to the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is on the bucket list of virtually every nature enthusiast, for good reason. The Galapagos are an immersion into evolution with an abundance of creatures – many endemic – each riding the train of natural selection. They are a geological wonder with a shallow, seismic hot spot under the Nazca tectonic plate spitting out islands at a rapid rate – at least on a geological timescale.

The islands themselves are a lesson on the circle of life.  Barren lava heaps slowly become dense with vegetation as organic matter saturates the soil. But in the end, harsh winds and seas erode land back below the surface.  The engine behind the incredible biodiversity of the Galapagos islands is the convergence of the plankton-rich Humboldt and Cromwell currents – which produce one of the world’s most dramatic food chains. 

 Darwin Island, Where the Big Animals Roam

Our exciting Bluewater Travel journey on the Galapagos Master began with an overnight passage to Darwin Island – the remote northern outlier of this island chain.   The introductory advice from our experienced guides was to keep our mouths closed while on the observation deck. At first it was amusing, but it soon felt very sensible as we found ourselves beneath countless soaring cormorants, frigate birds, and blue-footed boobies.

It is not possible to grow habituated to the presence of hammerhead sharks, but this would be the place to try.  Every dive was not so much a question of whether we would see hammerheads, but rather how many – with schools of thirty or more sometimes cruising past.  Very large schools of jacks, tuna, and barracuda were complemented by plentiful free-swimming giant morays and tranquil green turtles.

The "wows" on this trip never stopped – from leaping mobula rays to dolphins that stuck around long enough for us to jump in for a look.  Silky sharks lazily surrounded the boat, while Galapagos sharks circled below, and a pod of orcas passed by at a distance.  We were even treated to what seemed like the biggest whale shark ever, most likely pregnant, on one of the safety stops.

In the Heart of the Galapagos

After several amazing days at Darwin and Wolf islands, we headed back south, into the heart of the Galapagos Archipelago.   While hammerhead sightings tailed off, they were more than adequately replaced by encounters with playful sea lions, eagle rays, fur seals, and massive schools of fish.  Dives at islands such as Fernandina and Isabela had their own magical gems.  From pre-historic red-lipped bat fish, to marine iguanas feeding underwater, and giant Southern Ocean sunfish (Mola ramsayi), to countless breeding sea hares, to Galapagos penguins – every dive had something special to offer.

Top-Side Expeditions

This trip also provided some shore-based exploration opportunities – for closer looks at the sea lions, iguanas and nesting sea birds.  Of course a trip to the Galapagos would not be complete without seeing Darwin’s finches along with a face-to-face encounter with the Giant Tortoises, whose saddle shaped shells gave the island chain its name.  Several guests started or ended their time on the boat with an extra day or two in pleasant San Cristobal – where sitting on a park bench might first require convincing a sun-bathing sea lion to move on.  Respecting the two-meter distance rule in these well-protected islands is not always easy – particularly when the animals approach you.    

If the Galapagos Islands are not on your bucket list, it is probably time to review your priorities.  This is a unique and magical place – and what better way to see it than with Bluewater Travel aboard the Galapagos Master. Find out why Bluewater loves to visit the Galapagos in May.

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With a life-long passion for anything water-related, Helen and Dan take every opportunity to race sailboats in Southern California and scuba dive anywhere in the world.  Both Helen and Dan learned to scuba dive in the early 80’s, Helen in the UK and Dan in New York, and they currently call Los Angeles home.  Helen also serves as Board Chair for Reef Check, the global marine conservation foundation.



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