Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos Islands

fur seal puppy sleeping on a ledge over the water

We anchored off of Punta Vicente Roca on the Isla Isabela.   At 2:00 we went out on the pangas.    

We toured the cliff sides from the pangas and it was the first site of FUR SEALS!   Interesting, fur seals are actually sea lions and not seals.   They have double the amount of fur per square inch than the Galápagos sea lions.   

fur seals laying on top of a rock in Punta Vicente Roca Galapagos islands

The first ones spotted were a mama and her puppy fairly high up on the rocks.

After a few minutes, we saw the mama going down the rocks towards the water.   The baby was apprehensive to follow.

(photographing from the panga had it's challenges as there were 7 of us - the panga is drifting and moving up and down with the water and trying to shoot between and over people from a moving boat was tough...so I wasn't able to get pictures for all the parts of this story.)

mama seal heads down the rocks to the water as the baby watches her leave

The dexterity of the sea lion to maneuver over the rocks was extraordinary.   

mama sea lion continues down towards the water over steep rocks while the baby looks on
the mama sea lion continues down the steep rocks

The puppy gets up courage and follows mama down to the next ledge.

the puppy starts to follow mom and makes it down to the next ledge

mom goes down a little bit further then what's pictured below

mama fur seal continues down the rocks

and she waits for a big wave

a big wave crashing on the rock where the mama seal is waiting

and disappears into the ocean

the rock washed with water and the seal is gone

The scared puppy stayed on the ledge protected by the little cave.  

the sea lion puppy takes refuge in the cave on the ledge

He eventually got brave and also went down towards the water until a big wave washed him away.  

I saw him go into the water but couldn't get a photograph.   We did not see him meet up with mama but sea lions excel in the water so we are sure he ended up reunited with mom.

We saw more seal puppies and lots of birds on the rocks of the cliff.   Including the flightless cormorant.    

fur seal puppy sleeping on a ledge over the water
a very wet fur seal clings to the side of the rocks
a fur seal poses on the rocks just above the water

Marine iguanas also were lounging on the rocks sunbathing and we saw one penguin.   The penguin was molting and looked quite pathetic.

a molting penguin and marine iguanas on the rocks

as well as blue footed boobies and a Nazca Boobie (the white and black bird below)

blue footed boobie perched on black lava rock
the nazca boobie on a ledge.  this bird is white with black edges on his feathers, gray feet and a yellow/orange beak and black on the edge of his tail

After the dinghy ride, we had a great snorkel.   My favorite one of the whole trip - why?   because there were SEA LIONS!!!   The sea lions were very inquisitive and playful.    This was the highlight of my entire trip to the Galápagos Islands.

I jokingly said that I hope I'm not mistaken for a sea lion (or a beached whale) in my wetsuit, but after watching them in the water, I realized there was no way that could happen.   The sea lions are incredibly skilled and graceful underwater.

It was like watching the best ballet or ballroom dancers on a stage.   The way they moved was mesmerizing.     I captured just a tiny bit of it in this short video below.

It was so hard to not reach out and touch him when he swam upside down in front of me.   I had one hand on the GoPro and the other hand I had holding on to the neck of my wetsuit so I wouldn't touch him - self control is not one of my strengths - but I knew it was bad for him...so I had to make sure not to reach out to touch him.

We had some time to shower and spent some time on deck with the beautiful sunset.

sun setting over the ocean

Downloaded images and then the briefing and dinner.    We didn't move until after dinner because we had to navigate around the north tip of the island.   It was a long navigation - about 9 hours and they warned us there would be 2-3 meter waves.

I was safely flat on my back in bed before the waves hit and it got very rocky and stuff I could hear stuff falling over from the motion.  So grateful we were moving thru the waves while it was night time!

To seem more pictures from the Galapagos Islands and my other travels, go my my travel photo gallery.


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Fernandina Island, Galapagos – the marine iguana breeding grounds

2 marine iguanas. 1 with his claw on the shoulder of the other

Have you ever seen the documentary "Island of the Dragons" narrated by David Attenborough?   (the below video is the entire documentary)

It was filmed on Fernandina Island...the next stop on the Galapagos journey.

5:00 am breakfast

followed by 5:45 into the pangas to make it to the island and set up before sunrise.

The pangas pulled into a cove and up to a little pier which was slippery and led thru a forested region over to the ocean.

breakfast on the catamaran

First view in the early morning light was a sea lion and then turn the corner and we are greeted with thousands of marine iguanas.

portrait of an iguana in early morning light - with a crab crawling on his shoulder

A marine iguana in early morning light with a crab friend on his shoulder

Fernandina Island is a nesting area for the marine iguanas.   And if you watch the film above, you'll see the trials that the iguanas have to go through to just survive.

We did not witness any of the eruptions or lava flow.  I'm not sure if it was happening on another part of the island or if it just wasn't flowing when we were there.  

We also didn't have the violent seas like they show in the opening of the documentary.   Nor did we have the rough seas like they showed in the movie (and I was very grateful for calmer waters).
2 marine iguanas.   1 with his claw on the shoulder of the other
Sally Light Foot Crab on black lava

After taking pictures of the iguanas and crabs for awhile, there was a walk around the nesting area.  It was during this time that we saw the snakes made infamous in the documentary.    They were waiting for their opportunity to feast on the baby iguanas emerging from their nests.

Baby season had not yet started...so we didn't see the babies running for their lives from the snakes and the birds of prey.

snake in the gravel sand waiting for baby iguanas to break thru the nest

A hawk in a tree looking...probably for prey

A sea lion skeleton

more crabs and then . . . 

hawk perched in a tree
skeleton of a sea lion
sally lightfoot crab sideways on the lava and shell beach


There was a baby sea lion in the water and then 2 moms with their puppies.   

the baby sea lion was crying for his mama.

the moms leave the sea lions on the beach and then go to the sea for food and then come back (hopefully) to feed the babies.

This baby's mama had not come back yet and he was trying to get close to the other mamas and they kept chasing him away.

the calls from the baby were so very sad but the baby was in really good condition so we were hoping it was just a matter of time before mama came back.

young sea lion in the water
young sea lion trying to get close to the 2 mamas with their puppies

Continuing the walk around, we found another young sea lion by himself.   He appeared to be younger than the first one and also looked to be in very good condition!

baby sea lion laying on his back nestled between lava rocks
cute baby sea lion lying in the black lava rocks

Completing the loop, almost back to where we started was another field of marine iguanas.   One of them had a lizard friend.

marine iguana with a lizard on his head

At the little pier where we had to pick up the pangas, were a bunch of sea lions.   They were so playful as they jumped on and off the pier into the water, splashing around.  What a great way to end our visit to Fernandina Island!

As we got back to the catamaran, there was a stowaway.   Could he be any cuter?   Good thing there were two areas for the pangas to disembark so we didn't have to disturb this guy.

a sea lion on the loading platform of the catamaran
a sea lion on the loading platform of the catamaran as seen from the top of the stairs

Shortly after we got back, it was time for snorkeling.   The hope here was to find swimming and feeding marine iguanas.   I did see a few but I found more turtles than iguanas.   Both were feeding off the algae on the rocks.

Another great and full morning in the Galápagos Islands.   Back to the catamaran after snorkeling for lunch and off to our next location for the afternoon.

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Urbina Bay, Isla Isabella – Galápagos Islands

marine iguana with lava racks on a black rocky beach

Day 2 afternoon 

After snorkeling with the sea turtles in the morning, we had lunch and motored over to our next spot.  

Several us sat up on top of the catamaran on the sun deck and were rewarded with frigate birds using the draft of our boat to fly.   It was fun to watch them (and hope they didn't poop on our faces).

frigate birds flying above our boat on the deep blue sky

We all left unscathed (un-pooped).

At 3:00 we took the pangas to Urbina Bay.   Urbina Bay is also located on Isla Isabella.    This outing was a wet landing - so Keens on, back packs in a dry bag (just in case).

As we landed on the beach, we were greeted by a large marine iguana.  

marine iguana with lava racks on a black rocky beach

We dried off our feet and got our gear out of wet bags and then started walking down a trail into a forested region.   

It was a very slow and somewhat painful walk for me as the beginning of the trail was thick sand and my foot was very swollen from twisting it in the morning.    

During the walk we saw several land iguanas.   The first one was pretty deep in the brush...then one was laying right on the trail.

Land Iguana hiding in the undergrowth of the forest
Land iguana (yellow) laying flat on the sandy walkway

We saw some insects... a Large Painted Locust and a Zig Zag Spider were 2 I stopped to photograph - no macro lens so this is the best I could get.  

The colors in the Galapagos are stunning.   The colors on the land iguana, birds, and insects were so varied and had me wanting to see more.

underside of a zig zag spider
a colorful locust that looks similar to a grasshopper

There were a lot of different birds... this one posed for me for quite a while just off the trail.

brown, grey and white bird on a tree branch

There were a lot of tortoises- several hiding in the undergrowth but a few out in the open.  This one next to the stop sign was between 2-4 years old according to Franklin, one of the naturalists on the trip.

Tortoise standing next to a wood stop sign in the forest

When we returned to the beach there were yellow warblers but they were "deep" into the lava rocks.   I tried to get to them and then decided against it since it was just day 2, I didn't want to risk my foot any further.  So I just sat on the beach listening and watching the waves and the marine iguana that we saw when we first landed.

claw and leg of a marine iguana

Franklin, one of the naturalists took my camera and took a few pictures of the birds for me.

Yellow warbler shakes his feathers
Yellow warbler on a lava rock

When we arrived back to the catamaran, I wrapped my foot and iced it...and as a bunch of us sat on the sun deck, so many frigate birds joined us to watch the beautiful sunset.  

I laid on the chaise lounge just looking up to the sky watching the frigate birds (and the occasional boobie flying above us...the frigates chased the boobies away...but other than that it was super peaceful to just watch them soar!

Once again the birds used the updraft of the boat to help them soar.  At times they were flying just a few feet over head.   It was beautiful.

ice pack on my foot
beautiful sunset over the back of the boat
frigate birds flying over the boat in front of the white clouds
single frigate bird in the blue sky

At 6:30 we had the briefing for the next day, dinner and downloading images which ended the day.   Another beautiful and stimulating day in the Galápagos Islands.

Be sure to view the photo gallery from this trip.   It is a work in progress as I go through and edit all my favorite images from the trip to share with you.

In the gallery, there are images that are NOT included in this article


As always, I would love any questions or comments !

Galápagos Islands – Punta Moreno, Isabela Island

curly cue neck of a pink flamingo

Day 2 morning

The morning began with a 7:00 am breakfast.   By 8:00 we were on the pangas with our gym shoes and camera bags for a dry landing on the lava rocks.

Part of the path was smooth and easy to walk on and part had loose lava rocks.

picture of people walking over the smooth section of lava

Our walk brought us to a lake quite a bit below us with a few flamingos.

I don't know what it is about flamingos - the surprise of their beautiful salmon-pink feathers, their awkward spindly legs, their height, the way their necks curl...but something about them makes them so magnificent to watch.  We got there with the sun high so there were lots of harsh shadows to try to play with but just sitting on the lava rocks and watching them go about their day was fascinating!

people sitting on the lava rocks watching the flamingos below
flamingo swimming
portrait of a flamingo with beautiful feathers
curly cue neck of a pink flamingo

We stayed awhile to photograph the flamingos and then walked to the other side of the lake to get a different view point.

I was not the first one to fall as I stepped onto a loose rock and it turned under my foot and my foot turned with it and I landed hard on my butt - saving the cameras of course.

It stung a LOT and I was wondering if I broke it...but after a few seconds it wasn't so bad and I was able to get up and gingerly walk on it. 

Thankfully, one of the ladies on the trip - an avid hiker saw me go down and helped me over the rough spots the rest of the way as my foot was very unstable.

view of the lake with a few flamingos

The view that cost me having a stable foot the rest of the trip...

There were more flamingos closer towards us from this view point -- the lake wrapped around the bush on the left but they were still below us.

After we finished photographing the flamingos we walked a bit further to pick up the pangas at a different location.    

After getting into the pangas, we went for a short panga ride through the mangrove area.   There were a lot of pelicans and other birds and the water was very clear.

Pelican portrait

We returned to the catamaran and then got ready for snorkeling.   I wasn't sure what to expect - the weather was warm so I assumed the water would be too -- oops.   I knew that was wrong when they started fitting us for our wetsuits... 3 mm.   They told us the water was 63-65 degrees.    Definitely NOT tropical!

I did bring some wetsuit booties since my feet tend to get really cold.   Back on the pangas smooshed into wetsuits and armed with go pros, masks, snorkels, and fins for the first snorkel of the trip.  I was seriously hoping I wouldn't be mistaken for a sea lion or a whale in the wetsuit.

When we got to our location, they instructed us to swing our legs over the other side and slide / jump in.   When my face hit the water it was such a shock.   I didn't hold onto the rope the first time I jumped in so I went straight under and boy was that a wake up call to cold water!    I caught my breath after that shock and then I really didn't want to put my face in the water again -- but there were TURTLES and fishes and plants and .... so the face went in the frigid water and then ... peace.

I don't know what it is about turtles - they aren't exceptionally graceful creatures - but they just bring out this intense feeling of peace.   The idea of slow down and smell the roses and don't be in a hurry.  

Watching these huge sea turtles was mesmerizing.    They didn't bother about us - didn't even seem to realize that we were there - just going about their own business swimming and eating and going up to the surface to breath.

What an extraordinary experience.     As as certified diver (albeit I haven't done that in about 20 years) I have seen turtles on occasion - but never this many and never this close.   A really amazing memory.   The video below doesn't do the experience justice.

Be sure to view the photo gallery from this trip.    It is a work in progress as I go through and find my favorite images to share with you.   Some are the same as in this article and some are new and not included!


As always, I would love any questions or comments !

Galápagos Islands photo tour – Journal Day 1

front view of a tortoise

Ahhh the Galápagos Islands....a dream destination of unique animals and landscapes.

To be honest, I really didn't know much about the Galapagos but I've wanted to visit for a long time and when one of my favorite photo tour companies - Aaron's Tours - posted it as a trip, I had to sign up.    According to Google "The Galápagos Islands is a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean.  It's considered one of the world's foremost destinations for wildlife-viewing."

My trip was planned for 2020 and got delayed due to covid.   I finally got to experience the Galapagos last week.... some come with me on my journey to these remote islands of Ecuador.

My understanding is that you can visit the islands in multiple ways - you can stay on one of the islands in a lodge and do a land tour or you can do a boat tour.   They even have some cruise ships that do stops in the Galapagos.    The boat tours are divided... there are so many islands and stops at each island that it is impossible (well probably not) to see everything in one trip.

On my trip, we stayed on a fairly small Catamaran.  There were 8 cabins.   We visited 6 of the 13 main islands.   We stopped at multiple places on most of the islands.

the catamaran in the Galapagos

Getting to the islands and to our catamaran was an adventure all in its own right!

Getting to Ecuador

I flew from Chicago to Miami and then Miami to Quito Ecuador.   I flew in a day early as I usually do - to make sure I'm there if there are any delays with flights or luggage.   I spent my free day just relaxing at the hotel and catching up on some internet classes I'm taking.

That night, I met with the group that would be my buddies for the next 10 days.   A group dinner and then off to bed because of a early morning the next day.

Quito to Baltra Galapagos

5:00 am alarm on my phone and a quick shower and meet in the lobby by 5:40.   A quick transport to the airport.   We had to go thru a special screening for the Galapagos.  You aren't allowed to bring in any animals, meat, or plant life.   

Going thru check in with camera equipment is always nerve wrecking.  My bags are usually too heavy and my carryons with my camera gear is ALWAYS too heavy...so it's a cross your fingers and be super nice to the check in people and hope for the best.   We all go thru with no problems!   Yea - a great start to the trip.

Since the restaurant wasn't open yet at the hotel, we found a little coffee stand at the airport.   Waited a bit and then got on the plane.   It was a 3.5 hour total plane ride with a 40 minute stop for refueling and loading / unloading passengers.   We were not allowed to exit the plane.

mountains from the airplane
the view from the airplane window of the blue water and an island

The Airport on Baltra

We landed on the island of Baltra.   it is a very very small island.   The airport is carbon neutral and is the first in the region.   There were a lot of signs talking about how the airport can operate that way.   One of which is solar - they don't operate at night either.

We had to go thru a line to show our papers and that we paid the entrance fee for Galapagos.   Carry-on bags thru another screening and then all the checked bags were laid out and a sniffer dog came to check every bag.   After the dog was done, we were allowed to collect our belongings.

There was a cute little shop where several us purchased some water while we waited for our naturalist - his flight got hung up and he actually landed after us.

Getting to Our Boat - the adventure starts now

Here is where the adventure really begins.    The naturalist took us outside the airport (where so many people from the last 2 planes were) and we boarded a public bus with all our belongings.   They took the big checked bags and put them in the back of the bus and some underneath.  

It was a short ride to the water.    We offloaded the bus, claimed our luggage and then took a public boat... our luggage went ON TOP OF another boat -- so glad it wasn't raining and then the water was calm so the luggage hopefully wouldn't fall off the top of the boat.   We kept our cameras and computers with us.    The boat was full to capacity.

It was a super short few minute ride across the channel to Isla Santa Cruz.   When we landed at the island, we offloaded the boat and walked up the pier - and we found a SLEEPING SEA LION!   He was totally oblivious to all of us tourists stepping around him.   Welcome to the Galapagos - yes indeed!

sea lion lounging on the pier
sea lion on the pier sleeping

Time to claim our bags again and then they went onto a private air conditioned bus with us and our carry ons.

We took the bus across the island for about a 45 minute drive and then the bus stopped at another pier.   They collected our bags and we just had our carry-ons and we loaded onto 2 pangas.  

There were multiple more sea lions on the pier too...including this baby nursing on mama without carrying about us at all.

These are like zodiac boats.   It was a bit crowded with all of us and all our gear but we managed.   A little bit of spray as I was in the front and I was happy to have my rain coat to throw over my laptop bag.

The ride to the catamaran through the marina was only a few minutes.    Then the crew on board our cat(amaran) took our bags and helped us onto the boat.   We had a quick briefing and then assigned our cabins.    Since I was the only female traveling alone, I had my own cabin.  

the inside of the cabin - 2 twin beds and a chest
the bathroom in the cabin

Each cabin had either twin beds or a king and a small bathroom with shower, toilet, and sink.   The water from the sink was not drinkable so we had to remember to brush our teeth with the bottled water from our water bottles.   There was a cooler with the purified water in the lounge area.

We had a few minutes to get settled then had a lunch and then back on the pangas to the island for an outing.   This time we just had our camera bags.   Back on the bus and we drove thru the little harbor town and by all the shops to the Charles Darwin Research Station.   

picture of the Panga or Zodiac

Faces blurred for privacy

Santa Cruz Island and the Charles Darwin Research Station

As we walked the rest of the way, we spotted our first marine iguanas lounging on a boat ramp.   I didn't really take any portraits because I figured we see them in a more natural setting then just on the concrete.

marine iguanas on the boat ramp

We walked the rest of the way up to the tortoise research and breeding center stopping for some small insects along the way.

At the tortoise breeding center we saw many different tortoises and some baby ones as well.    

tortoise head
a side view of the tortoise
front view of a tortoise
one tortoise on top of the other peaking over the shell

After having the tour we had about 1.5 hours on our own to walk back to town.   

I stopped at a beach - there was more lava rock then sand but it was the first glimpse at the Sally Light-Foot Crab and more marine iguanas.

sand that leads up to the lava rocks and then to the harbor
red sally light foot crab on a black lava rock
portrait of a marine iguana
close up of a marine iguana foot

I kept walking and made it to the area where the locals clean their fish. There were pelicans and sea lions hoping to get a handout.  

Fish cleaning station and adorable sea lions - or are they?

(I LOVE sea lions).   I was so excited to see them...until one of the sea lions had diarrhea like poop and it flowed down to the other one and he just laid in it -- ICK.   I could not stay and hang with them any longer.

The marine iguanas were just hanging on the sidewalk.   I went into multiple shops because I realized I forgot to pack my sun glasses strap... I did find one and I was so happy.

Back to the pier and onto the pangas.    A little bit of time to organize, then our briefing and dinner.   They mentioned it would get quite rocky during the night - and it did.   No editing for me.   Just laying flat on my back in bed counting all my blessings with the help of a tiny little motion sickness pill.

Day 1 of Galapagos and what an amazing start to a dream photo trip.

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