The Archipelago of Hope

Sally Lightfoot Crabs (Grapsus grapsus) In surf, Galapagos Islands

I first visited the Galapagos Islands nearly thirty years ago. It was a revelation. Instead of fleeing in terror at the sight of me (like most wildlife around the world) the animals of the Galapagos did something extraordinary: they ignored me. For a wildlife photographer like myself, being invisible is the greatest gift of all, making it possible to be close to my subjects, and never feel that I'm having an effect on their behavior. This opens that rare window into the lives of animals that would be virtually impossible anywhere else.

I had the good fortune to return to the Galapagos this past month, as lecturer on the National Geographic Endeavour. It was a terrific trip, a chance to see (and photograph) old friends like Blue-footed Boobies, Giant Tortoises and Marine Iguanas. Last time I was there was in the days of film, so this was my first chance to shoot the islands in digital, with all of its advantages, especially the freedom to experiment and see your results. This alone makes better photographers of us all.

But the most powerful thing I discovered on my return was that the islands have not changed. Like almost nowhere I have been on the planet over the past three decades, the Galapagos do not show the steady degradation of habitat and wildlife so common everywhere else . On the contrary, due to the successful eradication of pest species like goats, rats and pigs from some areas, the wildlife is actually increasing in strength and numbers. What a refreshing difference from the relentless encroachment of human interests in most corners of the world. The Ecuadorean government and the many dedicated scientists and conservationists working in the islands deserve our praise, and our support; They are showing us the way.  To learn more, visit  http://www.galapagos.org

Nazca Boobies (Sula granti) Courting pair, Espanola Island, Galapagos, Ecuador

I am still editing several weeks worth of images, and will be posting them here in the days ahead.  Stay tuned...

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