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Galapagos Diaries

Galapagos Sea Lion Pup

Galapagos Diaries

Of all marine animals — I have seen many different kinds, large and small — the most appealing to me are pinnipeds (sea lions, fur seals, seals). Here is one, a cute little Galapagos sea lion (Zalophus californianus wollebacki) pup photographed on North Seymour Island just a few yards away from where the magnificent frigatebird in the previous post was observed. Galapagos sea lions are very closely related to California sea lions, indeed they are just a subspecies.

Galapagos sea lion pup, Zalophus californianus wollebacki, Zalophus californianus wollebaeki, North Seymour Island

Galapagos sea lion pup.
Image ID: 16506
Species: Galapagos sea lion, Zalophus californianus wollebacki, Zalophus californianus wollebaeki
Location: North Seymour Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

More Galapagos sea lion photos, and photos from the Galapagos Islands.

Photo of a Magnificent Frigatebird, Galapagos

Galapagos Diaries

One of the great surprises I had the first time I visited the Galapagos Islands was how much I enjoyed the bird life there. Seabirds seabirds everywhere! The most enjoyable to watch are the frigatebirds (Fregata sp.). Pirates of the air and sea, frigatebirds don’t catch their own food, rather they have adapted to steal it from other birds. They carry out their felonious work in flight. It is not uncommon to see one or more frigates chasing a gull or booby as the victim returns from sea to its island nest with a mouthful or belly-full of hard-earned food. The frigates, which are unbelievably maneuverable in the air due to their extremely high ratio of wing span to body weight, harrass their victim in flight until it spits out, or worse, barfs up, its food. The frigates peel away and drop like fiends, scooping the food out of the air before it hits the water. The hapless victim is left to its nest, or to return to the sea to forage again. Here is a photo of an adult male magnificent frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) with its red throat pouch inflated in a courtship display, photographed on North Seymour Island in the central Galapagos.

Magnificent frigatebird, adult male on nest, with throat pouch inflated, a courtship display to attract females, Fregata magnificens, North Seymour Island

Magnificent frigatebird, adult male on nest, with throat pouch inflated, a courtship display to attract females.
Image ID: 16725
Species: Magnificent frigatebird, Fregata magnificens
Location: North Seymour Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos Islands Photos on Google Earth

Galapagos Diaries, GeoBlog

Selected images from our collection of Galapagos Island photos can now be browsed in Google Earth. If you have Google Earth installed on your computer, you should be able to click on the link below and have our layer of images open up within Google Earth, showing where in the archipelago each image was taken. Zoom in to an island and the images will spread out, making it easier to select one. Clicking on an image will bring up a web page with more detail about it!

Click To View Galapagos Islands Images in Google Earth.  You must have Google Earth installed for this feature to work correctly. Photographs of the Galapagos Islands on Google Earth. If you do not have Google Earth installed, you can Download Google Earth to get started.

Wolf Island, Galapagos

Galapagos Diaries

Wolf Island is one of the two northernmost islands in the Galapagos archipelago. Along with Darwin Island, Isla Wolf is famous for its rich undersea and seabird life. There are no land visits on the island, so the few visitors to the island are almost entirely divers or research scientists. Typical of most islands in the Galapagos, Wolf Island has a historical second name that often appears on nautical charts: Wenman Island.

Wolf Island, with a liveaboard tour boat below sheer seacliffs, is the largest of the islands in the distant northern island group of the Galapagos archipelago, is home to hundreds of thousands of seabirds.  Vast schools of sharks and fish inhabit the waters surrounding Wolf Island

Wolf Island, with a liveaboard tour boat below sheer seacliffs, is the largest of the islands in the distant northern island group of the Galapagos archipelago, is home to hundreds of thousands of seabirds. Vast schools of sharks and fish inhabit the waters surrounding Wolf Island.
Image ID: 16629
Location: Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Isla Wolf lies 100km north of the central Galapagos islands, and requires about 12-15 hours to reach by boat. The crossing can be rough, but the abundant life and spectacular diving at the island are well worth the effort. Hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini) are often seen at Wolf Island, typically in schools of up to hundreds at a time. Fortunate divers will also see whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), Galapagos sharks (Carcharhinus galapagensis), bottlenose dolphins, spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus narinari) and Galapagos fur seals (Arctocephalus galapagoensis).

Hammerhead sharks swim in a school underwater at Wolf Island in the Galapagos archipelago.  The hammerheads eyes and other sensor organs are placed far apart on its wide head to give the shark greater ability to sense the location of prey, Sphyrna lewini

Hammerhead sharks swim in a school underwater at Wolf Island in the Galapagos archipelago. The hammerheads eyes and other sensor organs are placed far apart on its wide head to give the shark greater ability to sense the location of prey.
Image ID: 16271
Species: Scalloped hammerhead shark, Sphyrna lewini
Location: Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Above water the island is an extraordinary bird habitat. Seabirds wheel by the thousands in updrafts above the island throughout the day, with morning and evening fly-ins and fly-outs as the birds depart to forage for food or return to rest at the island. Red-footed boobies (Sula sula), nazca boobies (Sula granti, formerly known as masked boobies), frigates, pelicans and swallow-tailed gulls (Creagrus furcata) dominate the skies above Wolf.

Galapagos shark swims over a reef in the Galapagos Islands, with schooling fish in the distance, Carcharhinus galapagensis, Wolf Island

Galapagos shark swims over a reef in the Galapagos Islands, with schooling fish in the distance.
Image ID: 16240
Species: Galapagos shark, Carcharhinus galapagensis
Location: Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Coral hawkfish, Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus, Wolf Island

Coral hawkfish.
Image ID: 02432
Species: Coral hawkfish, Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus
Location: Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Spotted eagle rays, Aetobatus narinari, Wolf Island

Spotted eagle rays.
Image ID: 16333
Species: Spotted eagle ray, Aetobatus narinari
Location: Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Striped sea chub, schooling, Kyphosus analogous, Wolf Island

Striped sea chub, schooling.
Image ID: 16412
Species: Striped sea chub, Kyphosus analogous
Location: Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Great frigatebird, adult male, in flight, carrying twig for nest building, green iridescence of scapular feathers identifying species.  Wolf Island, Fregata minor

Great frigatebird, adult male, in flight, carrying twig for nest building, green iridescence of scapular feathers identifying species. Wolf Island.
Image ID: 16708
Species: Great frigatebird, Fregata minor
Location: Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Hammerhead sharks, schooling, black and white / grainy, Sphyrna lewini, Wolf Island

Hammerhead sharks, schooling, black and white / grainy.
Image ID: 16256
Species: Scalloped hammerhead shark, Sphyrna lewini
Location: Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Photo of Darwin’s Arch, Galapagos

Galapagos Diaries

Darwin’s Arch is a spectacular natural rock arch that rises above the ocean offshore of Darwin Island in the Galapagos Archipelago. (Typical of most islands in the Galapagos, Darwin Island has a second name that often appears on nautical charts: Culpepper Island.)

Darwins Arch, a dramatic 50-foot tall natural lava arch, rises above the ocean a short distance offshore of Darwin Island

Darwins Arch, a dramatic 50-foot tall natural lava arch, rises above the ocean a short distance offshore of Darwin Island.
Image ID: 16621
Location: Darwin Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Darwin’s Arch is a natural lighthouse of sorts, marking the end of a reef, the point where the reef’s foul shallow area drops off into deeper water. Darwin’s Arch also marks what many believe is the finest scuba dive in the world, a wild underwater place where anything can happen. There are other dives one can make at Darwin Island but “diving the arch” is what visitors to the island want to do, over and over. The reef slope here is a mix of lava and coral that drops to a sand bottom which itself grows deeper as it slopes away from the island and the arch. Strong currents sweep over the reef; at times these currents are strong enough to carry divers away, and the diving here can be uncomfortable or intimidating to a novice diver. It is not uncommon to see enormous schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks here, lined up in the current and numbering in the hundreds or thousands. Schools of Barberfish and small groups of king angelfish congregate above the reef, drawing individual hammerheads down from their schools to hover over the reef to be cleaned of parasite and bits old skin. Other species of sharks are seen here as well, the most notable of which is the enormous whale shark, the largest fish in the sea.

Darwin Island, with the Arch on the right.  Darwin Island is the northernmost of the Galapagos Islands and is home to enormous numbers of seabirds

Darwin Island, with the Arch on the right. Darwin Island is the northernmost of the Galapagos Islands and is home to enormous numbers of seabirds.
Image ID: 16622
Location: Darwin Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

In 1994 we dove Darwin’s Arch repeatedly over a four-day stretch and had encounters with whale sharks on every single dive. In 1997, during the second year of a particularly strong El Nino cycle, we arrived at Darwin Island to find its underwater haunts almost dead, with no large animals of any kind and very few schools of fish. The water was simply too warm. It was a stark and disappointing contrast to what we had seen just a few years prior. Our 2006 trip offered five days of unbelievable hammerhead schools with literally thousands on each dive. Every time we hopped in the water, we had hammerheads around us for a solid hour, continuously from the moment we entered the water until we were picked up by the panga. We would end our dives at the arch surrounded by huge schools of Pacific creolefish, large enough to block out the sun, which hover in walls 40-50 yards out from the reef. As we reached the surface and began to drift away from the island on the current, hoping our panga drivers would come find us quickly, we were usually visited by large, inquisitive bottlenose dolphins.

A whale shark swims through the open ocean in the Galapagos Islands.  The whale shark is the largest shark on Earth, but is harmless eating plankton and small fish, Rhincodon typus, Darwin Island

A whale shark swims through the open ocean in the Galapagos Islands. The whale shark is the largest shark on Earth, but is harmless eating plankton and small fish.
Image ID: 01520
Species: Whale shark, Rhincodon typus
Location: Darwin Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Bigeye trevally jacks, schooling, Caranx sexfasciatus, Darwin Island

Bigeye trevally jacks, schooling.
Image ID: 16346
Species: Bigeye jack, Caranx sexfasciatus
Location: Darwin Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Hammerhead sharks, schooling, black and white / grainy, Sphyrna lewini, Darwin Island

Hammerhead sharks, schooling, black and white / grainy.
Image ID: 16254
Species: Scalloped hammerhead shark, Sphyrna lewini
Location: Darwin Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

See also: Darwin’s Arch photo

Galapagos Photos

Galapagos Diaries, Sharks, Underwater Life

I have posted 575 new images shot on my latest Galapagos Islands diving trip, a 15-day run on the liveaboard M/V Sky Dancer. We had phenomenal encounters with schools of hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini), literally by the hundreds and thousands on nearly all dives at Wolf and Darwin, not to mention good luck with Galapagos sharks (Carcharhinus galapagensis), Galapagos penguins (Spheniscus mendiculus) and brief looks at marine iguanas underwater. Diving in the central islands was OK, not great, although we did have good fish displays at Cousins and clean water and sunlight at Gordon Rocks.

Scalloped hammerhead shark swims over a reef in the Galapagos Islands.  The hammerheads eyes and other sensor organs are placed far apart on its wide head to give the shark greater ability to sense the location of prey, Sphyrna lewini, Wolf Island

Scalloped hammerhead shark swims over a reef in the Galapagos Islands. The hammerheads eyes and other sensor organs are placed far apart on its wide head to give the shark greater ability to sense the location of prey.
Image ID: 16246
Species: Scalloped hammerhead shark, Sphyrna lewini
Location: Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos shark, Carcharhinus galapagensis, Wolf Island

Galapagos shark.
Image ID: 16239
Species: Galapagos shark, Carcharhinus galapagensis
Location: Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Hammerhead sharks, schooling, black and white / grainy, Sphyrna lewini, Darwin Island

Hammerhead sharks, schooling, black and white / grainy.
Image ID: 16254
Species: Scalloped hammerhead shark, Sphyrna lewini
Location: Darwin Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos photos (July 2006)
Galapagos photos (all trips: 1996, 1998, 2006)

Photo of a Galapagos Tortoise

Galapagos Diaries

The Galapagos tortoise, Geochelone spp., an endemic species of the Galapagos islands, is thought to have arrived in the Galapagos archipelago on rafts of debris. As it became distributed throughout the islands, it evolved into 14 distinct species of which 11 are still in existence and are endangered. In some species of Galapagos tortoise the shell is distinctly shaped (e.g., saddle-backed, domed) depending on whether the food sources require a head-raised or head-lowered posture during feeding. Galapagos tortoises can weigh up to 600 lbs with a shell five feet across, and live up to 150 years. For many years, sailors visiting the Galapagos islands would collect Galapagos tortoises and store them aboard ship, since the tortoises could live for months without food or water and would constitute a good source of meat for long voyages. It is thought that perhaps 200,000 tortoises perished this way.

Galapagos tortoise, Santa Cruz Island species, highlands of Santa Cruz island, Geochelone nigra

Galapagos tortoise, Santa Cruz Island species, highlands of Santa Cruz island.
Image ID: 16480
Species: Galapagos tortoise, Geochelone nigra
Location: Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos tortoise, Santa Cruz Island species, highlands of Santa Cruz island, Geochelone nigra

Galapagos tortoise, Santa Cruz Island species, highlands of Santa Cruz island.
Image ID: 16481
Species: Galapagos tortoise, Geochelone nigra
Location: Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos tortoise, Santa Cruz Island species, highlands of Santa Cruz island, Geochelone nigra

Galapagos tortoise, Santa Cruz Island species, highlands of Santa Cruz island.
Image ID: 16484
Species: Galapagos tortoise, Geochelone nigra
Location: Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

These free-ranging, wild Galapagos tortoises were photographed in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island (Indefatigable).

Keywords: Galapagos Islands, Galapagos tortoise, Geochelone spp., endemic, endangered / threatened.

Whale Shark Photo, Darwin Island, Galapagos

Galapagos Diaries, Icons, Underwater Life

The Galapagos Islands, an Ecuadorian archipelago straddling the equator in the Eastern Pacific, is a remarkable underwater paradise. The central and southern islands hold a wealth of temperate as well as tropical marine creatures due to the mixing of currents there. However, it is the northern islands of Darwin and Wolf that divers typically look forward to the most on a Galapagos dive trip. These two islands, along with the smaller Roca Redonda, are the best places in the Galapagos — and indeed one of the best places in the world — to encounter whale sharks. On our first dive at Darwin in 1996 the group had left me behind, riding the current back to the anchorage, while I spent my air exploring the area where we were dropped at Darwin’s Arch. I met up with a young whale shark who happened along and allowed me to swim alongside him for 20 minutes taking photos. Eventually the shark and I caught up with the rest of the dive group, and as each diver noticed us he would swim over and join. Eventually everyone got a good look at the huge shark.

A whale shark swims through the open ocean in the Galapagos Islands.  The whale shark is the largest shark on Earth, but is harmless eating plankton and small fish, Rhincodon typus, Darwin Island

A whale shark swims through the open ocean in the Galapagos Islands. The whale shark is the largest shark on Earth, but is harmless eating plankton and small fish.
Image ID: 01520
Species: Whale shark, Rhincodon typus
Location: Darwin Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

During our several visits to Darwin Island (we’ve made three trips there in ’96, ’98 and ’06), we have dove at the Arch repeatedly. In 1996 our group saw a whale shark on every dive there including a final dive at the arch was highlighted by a visit from an enormous whale shark, probably 40 feet or more in length:

Whale shark, Rhincodon typus, Darwin Island

Whale shark.
Image ID: 01503
Species: Whale shark, Rhincodon typus
Location: Darwin Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Keywords: whale shark photo, Galapagos, Rhincodon typus, Darwin Island, underwater.

Boobie Photos

Birds, Galapagos Diaries, Seabird

For some reason many visitors to this web site have been searching for boobie photos. We simply do not understand the intense interest in photos of boobies, or in boobies in general. Boobies are just a bunch of seabirds and not even particularly rare. The blue boobies seem to elicit the most interest — visitors seem amazed that they come in a deep blue color, naturally with no cosmetic alteration necessary. (They also come in brown and red, and some even have masks!) In spite of all the boobie traffic, however, nobody buys the boobie photographs, they just furtively look and move on. We have yet to license one of our boobies to anyone, until today when we finally sold a boobie photo, a fine art print in fact. So we are no longer amateur boobie photographers. We can honestly say that we proudly photograph boobies all over the world, professionally. You know the look: beautiful boobies, endless white sand beaches and glamorous island settings. Big ones, small ones, perky ones, drab ones, bodacious ones. We’ve been thinking of starting up a specialty website, www.firstclassboobies.com or www.worldsbestboobies.com.

Blue-footed booby, courtship display, Sula nebouxii, North Seymour Island

Blue-footed booby, courtship display.
Image ID: 01791
Species: Blue-footed booby, Sula nebouxii
Location: North Seymour Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Blue-footed booby, courtship display, Punta Suarez, Sula nebouxii, Hood Island

Blue-footed booby, courtship display, Punta Suarez.
Image ID: 01797
Species: Blue-footed booby, Sula nebouxii
Location: Hood Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Blue-footed booby, Punta Suarez, Sula nebouxii, Hood Island

Blue-footed booby, Punta Suarez.
Image ID: 01801
Species: Blue-footed booby, Sula nebouxii
Location: Hood Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Blue-footed booby with chick, Sula nebouxii, North Seymour Island

Blue-footed booby with chick.
Image ID: 01808
Species: Blue-footed booby, Sula nebouxii
Location: North Seymour Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Keywords: boobies, boobie photos, boobie pictures, boobie photographs