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Jimmy in the Galápagos Islands & Ecuador

Feb 24, 2014 by  Katie Schwartz

white text overlay on turtle swimming through ocean


Ecuador is a small country with so much to offer. The Galápagos Islands & Ecuador tour starts off in Quito for a taste of Ecuadorean culture and Incan legend. Then, island hop through the Galápagos, where you’ll move from mangrove swamps and lava flows to sunny shorelines, encountering scores of exotic creatures along the way. As Jimmy says, “the islands offer unrivaled opportunities to encounter raw nature at its purest.”

Cultural Spotlight: Quito

Before hitting the islands, take a few days to explore the traditions of Quito. This capital city is set within a river basin of the Andes, surrounded by striking mountain views in the distance. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Quito’s city center is considered one of the most historical sites in Latin America and home to beautiful churches and monuments. In pre-Columbian times, Quito’s native tribes were eventually conquered by and integrated into the Incan Empire—an influence that is still evident today. In the 16th century, the Spanish invaded and colonized the region, bringing along the Catholic Church, which has deep roots in the Ecuadorian culture today. Here are a few must-dos while you’re in Quito, captured by Jimmy’s fantastic photography, of course.

Visit beautiful churches: La Compañia church and the Monastery of San Francisco

collage of church in quito and patio in ecuador

Shop for authentic souvenirs: The region specializes in vibrant textiles

collage of woman selling fabric and outdoor market in quito ecuador

Soak up the views: Just outside the city, you’re surrounded by stunning mountains and farmlands

collage of mountain and llama in quito ecuador

“When I had some time on my own, I took a cable car up the mountain in Quito. It boasts amazing views of the city and surrounding volcanoes. The experience was one of my personal highlights and was quite unexpected.”

Straddling north and south

“Ecuador” is spanish for “equator,” so it’s not surprising that the country straddles both hemispheres. Here, Jimmy shares his experience at the Equatorial Monument.

yellow and black sign with coordinates of ecuador

“It was fun visiting the equator. The monument center is nice and interesting, full of well-arranged paths and some native tropical plants. The staff there took us through a few cool experiments—like the fact that water in a sink twirls clockwise or counter-clockwise depending on which side of the equator you stand on. And simply put, I just thought it was super cool to stand right on the equatorial line!”

man cracking an egg at the equator in ecuador

man snorkeling in teal blue water in ecuador

4 underwater photography tips

1. Get up close

Position yourself as close to your subject as you can. Obviously, this can be very hard as some fish are really shy and immediately buzz away if they sense you trying to get near. It’s worth it, though. The quality of your shots will increase dramatically if you do manage to get close for two reasons.

First, your subject will appear bigger. Second, the image will be clearer because there will be less particles hanging in the water between your camera and your subject (the particles can very annoying, especially if you use your camera’s flash).

2. Use a flash

The deeper you go underwater, the more the color spectrum turns blue. This phenomena happens very fast, even 4-5 feet of water will prevent the sunlight from going through. So in order to capture the ‘real’ colors of the flora and fauna, you need to bring the light close to them with a flash. Even the flash from a basic underwater camera will greatly help.

With that said, you cannot use flash photography when taking photos of the Galápagos animals (the Islands have strict environmental guidelines for visitors). But you can make do by taking pictures as close to the surface as you can, something you can easily do with the amazing turtles in the area!

3. Be persistent

Underwater photography falls under the “wildlife” category. You have to be patient (wait for that fish to come out of the reef!) and persistent. Try different angles and multiply the shots—it’s digital, so just delete the bad ones!”

4. Have fun!

“It’s hard not to follow this tip in a spot like the Galápagos. You’re underwater in one of the world’s most amazing places!”

Want to learn more about The Galápagos Islands & Ecuador? See the full tour itinerary here!

Photo tipsTraveler stories
About the author | Katie Schwartz
Katie is a yogi, writer, and travel lover from Massachusetts. Writing everything from catalogs to email campaigns for Go Ahead Tours, she aims to spread wanderlust wherever possible.

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