Visiting the Galapagos Islands

A baby Marine Iguana peers over the back of its mother. © Kathy Lichtendahl

Story & Photography by Kathy Lichtendahl

 

A visit to the Galapagos Islands has been at the top of my “bucket list” for many years (in fact, probably since before the term “bucket list” was even a thing!) My first exposure to the study of Darwin’s voyage to the Ecuadorian archipelago took place almost fifty years ago and immediately captured my imagination but it wasn’t until March of this year that I was able to make my dream come true.

A Blue-footed Boobie dances in his attempt to impress a female by showing her the bright colors of his feet. © Kathy Lichtendahl

Knowing this was likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I did a great deal of research before I left, including asking the NANPA Facebook group for suggestions on gear. My final pack ended up consisting of two Canon camera bodies, a 100mm – 400mm lens, a 24mm – 105mm lens, and a monopod along with a camera backpack to carry it all and extra batteries and lots of cards. The only piece of equipment I purchased specifically for the trip was an Olympus Tough camera for shooting stills and video underwater. Gear I would generally consider but did not take along consisted of my travel tripod and a flash unit. Not only are both of the latter illegal to use in many of the places we were scheduled to stop but they would have required extra room and weight that would be wasted on equipment that would have been of minimal use.

I also took along a battery charger and a laptop with a backup drive that I left in my cabin on the boat and used each evening when we returned from our daily excursions.

A Galapagos Flycatcher poses in a tree. © Kathy Lichtendahl

On this trip, my husband and I traveled with Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions on the NG Islander. The carrying capacity of only forty-eight guests meant smaller groups on our daily outings and some flexibility in our adventures. Even so, the protections in place to safeguard this marvelous place and its many wild inhabitants require strict adherence to rules and the timing of landings in each unique location.

A Sea lion appears to body surf in the waves on the red sand beach of Rabida Island. © Kathy Lichtendahl

As expected, the photo opportunities were abundant and spectacular. The most significant challenge was in trying to capture images that hadn’t been captured hundreds of times before. Don’t get me wrong – I have many, many photographs of dancing Blue-footed Boobies, Great and Magnificent Frigatebirds with their inflated red gular pouches, sun-worshiping Marine Iguanas and Sally Lightfoot Crabs. These shots are the basis of my memory book, and I am happy I took every one of them, but I am also glad that I was able to collect a few images that are indeed my own because of their unique moment in time.

I don’t know if I will ever have the opportunity to return to this magical place, but I am so happy that I was able to experience it at least once. It is a relatively easy way to have the chance to see some flora and fauna that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.

Sea Stars are easily seen when snorkeling near the islands. © Kathy Lichtendahl

Kathy Lichtendahl is the owner and operator of Light in the Valley, LLC, a professional photography company based in northwest Wyoming near Yellowstone. www.lightinthevalley.net