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Sea Lion and Shark
The Galapagos Islands are a cluster of Islands located off the west coast of Ecuador. The Galapagos are an Ecuadorian National Park and highly protected - most islands are uninhabited and have travel restricted to small areas open to guided groups. As a result, the only way to experience the islands is by cruise whose boats range in size from small yachts to cruise liners.

In 2006 I had the opportunity to travel to these islands for almost two weeks. Our itinerary allotted time to stay on one of the few inhabited islands - Santa Cruz Island (Puerto Ayaro), after which we boarded a small 78ft yacht for a week long tour before finding ourselves back in Puerto Ayora for two more nights. Our yacht embarked from the harbor off of Isla Baltra, taking us around rough water off the east coast of Santa Cruz Island to Santa Fe Island. We ended up back in Puarto Ayora for a night, and our long trip south to Floreana Island was met with rough seas slamming the boat hull all night. Next we visited Isabella Island, Fernandina Island, and Santiago and Bartolome Islands before returning to Santa Cruz Island.

We found spending time on Santa Cruz island before and after our boat tour advantageous, as it gave us time to adjust as well as explore. Our favorite daytime destination was Tortuga Bay, a mile long hike from town made more difficult by the hot temperatures.

We timed our visit for July/August, and ended up encountering overcast skies for the majority of our time in the Islands - good to keep the sun off but bad photographically speaking. And given no flash photography is allowed on the island, photography was challenging at times. The longest lens I brought was 200mm, and gave me ample reach for much of the wildlife, which seems tamer than anything I've ever or will ever experience.

With the vast difference in wildlife from one island to the next, every day on our boat tour was a different experience - from being taunted by Sea Lions while snorkeling, to watching the mating rituals of several species, to witnessing a Sea Lion play with it's food - a Black Tipped Shark - for over ten minutes.