My family and I went to the Galapagos this summer! I feel incredibly fortunate. I'm not sure I'll ever see anything quite so marvelous. One of my goals on the trip was to make sketches in the field, and then use them as studies for little watercolor paintings which I would complete in the evenings.
The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of relatively small islands that sit neatly on the equator some 500 miles west of Ecuador [map]. They are quite famous due to Darwin's adventures there and his subsequent theory on evolution and the origin of species. Central to the development of his thesis were the many morphologically distinct species of finches he examined on each island. Islands have a particular propensity to harbor unusually high amounts of biodiversity and the Galapagos are no different. In total, there are about 95 living endemic species on the islands, aka species that do not exist anywhere else in the world. One of these endemic species is the Galapagos penguin - that's right a penguin that lives on the equator!
After flying into Ecuador, we took another plane to Baltra which officially landed us in the Galapagos (very exciting!). The first birds I saw were the incredibly large frigate birds with their pointed wings and long forked tails. The other islands we visited were North Seymour, Isabella, Ferdinandina, Santa Cruz (where we saw the giant tortoises!), and Floreana. Somehow I didn't expect to see pufferfishes so I was surprised to see them on the first night swimming close to the boat! How perfect because, as you know I had just finished drawing a good selection of puffers for a paper in lab. I'm proud to say I even correctly identified one of the puffers as Diodon holocanthus (pictured)!
The image above shows the thick white-ish cloud of tiny stinging jellyfishes we swam into once while snorkeling. However unpleasant, it was fascinating to see the delicate and detailed forms of these drifting animals.