Photo essay: Animals of the Galapagos

Many of the animals of the Galapagos are unlike any others. Because the islands are so remote, and rose out of the sea from volcanic activity, you’ll only find species on the islands that could fly or swim to the Galapagos.

This created unique natural selection processes which means that many of the animals of the Galapagos aren’t found anywhere else in the world.

Charles Darwin monument San Cristobal Galapagos Double-Barrelled Travel

A statue of Charles Darwin on San Cristobal island in the Galapagos

Charles Darwin

When Charles Darwin came to the Galapagos in 1835, he discovered a plethora of species that had developed in isolation and whose characteristics could only been explained by a gradual transformation. This led him to publish his popular book The Origin of the Species.

We loved learning about all of the animals of the Galapagos and getting up close and personal with them. One of the best things about the animals is that they seem to have a complete trust in humans and are non-plussed if you approach them.

Of course, you shouldn’t touch them, but it does mean you can get some great photographs. Here are some of our favourites:

Land iguana

Land iguana Galapagos Double-Barrelled TravelThere are three species of land iguana on the Galapagos, mainly on the islands of Fernandina, Isabela, Santa Cruz, North Seymour, Baltra and South Plaza. This photo was taken on the latter. South Plaza is also the only area where both the marine and land iguana is found, and sometimes they mate to create a hybrid iguana. However, hybrid iguanas are mostly sterile.

Marine iguana

Marine iguana Galapagos Double-Barrelled TravelThe marine iguana is unique to the Galapagos islands and swims in the sea, hangs out in the mangroves and also sunbathes on rocks. They can dive down 9 metres in the water. They probably evolved from land iguanas. This photo was taken at Tortuga Beach on Santa Cruz island.

Sea lion

Sea lion Galapagos Double-Barrelled TravelSea lions can be found all over the Galapagos islands and are probably my favourite animal  because they’re so friendly. We snorkelled and scuba dived with them – they’d come up to our face and blow bubbles at us… they’re so playful! This photo was taken on North Seymour island and it is a special shot with me because it was our first encounter with the sea lions. Be warn ed though, they are quite stinky!

Blue-footed booby

Blue-footed booby Galapagos Double-Barrelled TravelOne of the most famous birds of the Galapagos, the blue-footed booby is a lively creature that performs a brilliant mating dance. Check out our video to watch it. The blue-footed booby dives from great heights into the water to fish, and it was great to watch them bombing all over the place. This photo was taken on North Seymour island.

Red-footed booby

Red-footed booby Galapagos Double-Barrelled Travel

The red-footed booby is the smallest of all the boobies and often they find a mate that they stay with for several seasons. They can either have white or brown feathers, and the white species is less common. As the red-footed booby ages, it’s feet become lighter in colour, sometimes meaning the older males find it more difficult to find a mate. This photo was taken on Genovesa island.

Nazca booby

Nazca booby Galapagos Double-Barrelled TravelThe nazca booby is the heaviest of the boobies and lives mostly on the ground because it’s too heavy to nest in the trees and shrubs like the other boobies. They lay two eggs per nesting season and if both hatch, the larger one will push the smaller out of the nest so that it’ll get more food. This photo was taken on Genovesa island.

Galapagos penguin

Penguins Galapagos Double-Barrelled Travel

The Galapagos penguin is endemic to the islands and is the only penguin that exists in a tropical climate. We travelled all the way to Isabela island for a day trip to see them and managed to swim with four, so I was very happy! Unlike many of the other birds on the Galapagos, the penguin has many predators including crabs, snakes, rats, cats, hawls, owls, sharks, fur seals and sea lions. Poor little things!

Brown pelican

Pelican Galapagos Double-Barrelled TravelThe brown pelicans certainly aren’t the most unusual birds of the Galapagos but they are one of the friendliest. I was snorkelling a few times when all of a sudden a pelican would land right next to me, giving me a fright. They seem to like to hangout where ever the sea lions are – perhaps because they know there might be fish around. This photo was taken on Santa Fe island.


Male frigatebird Galapagos Double-Barrelled TravelTo me the frigatebirds were slightly evil because they stare at you as you walk past, looking down their long pointed beaks with beady eyes. I don’t think the other birds of the Galapagos like them too much either, as they steal food and sticks from them, rather than go hunting and gathering themselves. They might be cheeky but the frigatebird is good fun to watch, especially when they puff out their chests and they are majestic fliers. This photo was taken on North Seymour island.

Lava heron

Lava heron Galapagos Double-Barrelled Travel

The lava heron is unique to the Galapagos and is different from other herons in that they like to nest with their mates away from other herons, usually in low mangrove tree branches. The heron in the photo had its wings positioned like that because it was trying to dry them in the warm afternoon sun, getting rid of any bugs that were hiding in its feathers. This photo is from Santa Fe island.

American pink flamingoes

Pink flamingoes Galapagos Double-Barrelled TravelOne of the best things about visiting Isabela island was that we got to see the American pink flamingoes. They were just as dainty as I expected and would stand in the water with one leg tucked up underneath them. To me, these are the prettiest birds on the Galapagos.

Sally lightfoot crab

Sally lightfoot crab Galapagos Double-Barrelled TravelThe sally lightfoot crab must be the best looking crab I’ve ever seen, and they can be found on many of the islands in the Galapagos. The younger ones are brownish in colour, helping them blend into the lava rocks for camoflauge against predators, and the older ones are bright colours – ranging from pink to red, blue and yellow. I took this pic on Isabela.

Galapagos giant tortoise

Giant tortoises mating Galapagos Double-Barrelled TravelI’ve possibly saved the best to last. Yep, these two giant tortoises are indeed mating! The poor female has no choice in the matter as the male mounts her and then makes loud grunting sounds as he gets on with it. Check out our video to see! The giant tortoises grow more than 1.8 metres in length and weighing over 400kg… woah. They also live for ages, dying at an average age of 150 years.

Have you been to the Galapagos? What’s your favourite animal?

Thanks to the Seaman Journey for making our trip to the Galapagos possible. For more information on their cruises, check out their website.



About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

5 comments on “Photo essay: Animals of the Galapagos”

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