About the trip

I was fortunate enough to be travel with my family to two of the world’s most extraordinary places in celebration of one of life’s milestones. With several years to plan, expectations rose to what some might call unrealistic levels. But as you can see, the Galapagos Islands and Peru’s Sacred Valley managed to exceed every one, in stunning fashion. On your first day you’re told that no matter what you’ve seen or read, nothing prepares you for this experience.
There’s a lot of truth there.

The Gallapagos Islands

It can be said that the Galapagos Islands are a happy accident of geography, geology, and zoology. How else can you explain such an amazing collection of unique animals, micro-climates, and geological phenomena, all sitting 600 miles from the nearest landmass? What hasn’t been an accident is the way people have gone about protecting this sanctuary. It’s almost like we’re trying to atone for all the mistakes we’ve made everywhere else. If we get it right this time, this place should be around for generations to come. Let’s hope we do. Because there’s way too much at stake to consider the alternatives.
  • Bartolome: A vertical sculpture once used for target practice by the U.S. Air Force dominates the landscape while at the top of a 375-step climb lies the best views in the islands — an expansive panorama stretching to Santiago and beyond. see the photos
  • Bolivar Channel: With the Humboldt Current bringing cold water from the Antarctic, this stretch of water is one of the world’s most plentiful fishing grounds, a fact that has not escaped the local dolphin population. see the photos
  • Champion Islet: On this little pile of rocks, about the size of two city blocks, you’ll find the only Floreana mockingbirds on the planet, as well as lava herons, tropicbirds, wimbrels, and one very vigilant male sea lion. see the photos
  • Chinese Hat: After sitting on the beach watching male sea lions take turns trying to own the shoreline, we went back to the ship, where we were treated to an amazing sunset. see the photos
  • Cormorant Point: Depending on which side of the landing site you’re on the sand can glow an iridescent green or a stark white. see the photos
  • Dragon Hill: It wasn’t too long ago that feral goats had overrun this part of Santa Cruz, decimating almost all the vegetation. But the nearly eradicated cacti and other plants have made a comeback of sorts, helping the massive land iguanas stage a comeback of their own. see the photos
  • Ecuador Volcano: About 100,000 years ago this volcano collapsed, generating what scientists believe must have been a massive tsunami. Today it serves as perfect sanctuary for marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, noddies, pelicans, flightless cormorants, and the only penguins you’ll find north of the Equator. see the photos
  • Fernandina: From a distance, Fernandina looks like little more than a lump of black lava, punctuated by a few mangrove trees along the shoreline. But walking along this island brings to mind how life — when it’s bound and determined to do so — will find a way. see the photos
  • Gardner Bay: From the moment you disembark from your panga, you’re quickly reminded that this is not a run-of-the-mill day at the beach. Leave your towel unguarded while snorkeling and you’re likely to lose it to the flippered inhabitants. see the photos
  • North Seymour: North Seymour is really nothing more than a spit of land north of Baltra. After tiptoeing around the sleeping sea lion at the landing site, we headed inland in hopes of seeing the mating display of the great frigate bird. We were not disappointed. see the photos
  • Punta Suarez: As you walk along, mockingbirds chirp at your heels, blue-footed boobies do a mating dance along the side of the trail, and Nazca boobies squawk at you from their nests on the adjacent cliffs. see the photos
  • Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz is home to about half the people who live in the islands, as well as giant tortoises who weigh about 500 pounds and live an estimated 150 years. They tolerate you and your attempt to take pictures, perhaps secure in the knowledge that just as they were here long before you they’ll probably outlive you as well. see the photos
  • Santiago: American oystercatchers hide out in the crevices, keeping a close eye on any creature that might threaten their newborn chick, while a yellow warbler bounces from boulder to boulder and Sally Lightfoot crabs cling to the rocks as waves wash over them. see the photos

Peru

Pretty much everyone who comes to the Sacred Valley does so with the intention of seeing Machu Picchu. But because of the altitude and the need to acclimate, no one jumps off the plane and goes running right to the ruins. Visitors usually spend a day or two acclimating, even those who are doing the four-day hike along the Inca Trail from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. It’s during this time when if you slow down and focus on your surroundings you’re going to see some amazing stuff. Not that anything can beat a double rainbow spanning over one of the world’s most iconic archeological sites, but a few things gave that sight a run for its money.

  • Cinchero: We traveled through this high-mountain region — about 14,000 feet — toward the end of our trip, between the Urubumba Valley and Cusco, bypassing the traditional route through Pisac. see the photos
  • Cusco: Few places in the world so perfectly document what can happen when two cultures collide. You’ll even find a painting of The Last Supper with the diners being served cuy, a traditional Peruvian dish we know as guinea pig. see the photos
  • Lima: We only got to spend a half day here, most of it in the Miraflores district, but it was beautiful. The view of the sun setting over the Pacific was just icing on the cake. see the photos
  • Machu Picchu: Our visit started with a little rain, then some clearing skies toward the end of the day when the crowds had left. That’s when things started getting interesting. see the photos
  • Ollantaytambo: We spent one of our acclimation days here. The ruins were amazing and the town itself — which serves as the jumping off point for people hiking the Inca Trail — was a real experience. see the photos
  • Pisac: This market — and the llama farm we stopped at on the way from Cusco — were pretty amazing. In some ways it’s a show concocted for the tourists, but it’s a good way to spend a first day. see the photos
  • Urubamba: The Urubamba River is the beginnings of the Amazon and its water is considered sacred to the Incans. Unfortunately, the year before it had flooded most the valley, leaving things in a pretty rough state. Still, the wildlife was incredible. see the photos

Coming Soon

Check back for my latest images and the story behind them