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MatadorU graduate Zak Erving brings back images from one of the world’s most famous wildlife habitats.

THE GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS were less discovered than they were tripped over by a lost Spanish bishop and his entourage in the 16th century, and for hundreds of years they frustrated even the most intrepid adventurers due to their isolation and inhospitable terrain. When Ecuador annexed the archipelago in the 1830s, no one seemed to pay any mind. “It was though Ecuador,” wrote Kurt Vonnegut in his satirical masterpiece Galápagos, “in a spasm of imperialistic dementia, had annexed to its territory a passing cloud of asteroids.”

Since the voyage of the HMS Beagle, however, popular opinion has doubled back. Darwin’s five-week survey of the islands was an early catalyst for his On the Origin of Species, and from that point on the Galápagos Islands have held the fascination of scientists, naturalists, travelers, and the otherwise curious. They are an epicenter of conservancy, research, and adventure, and only a handful of visitors each year are permitted access.

I had the privilege of being invited by Adventure Center and Matador to take a five-day cruise through the islands aboard the Yate Darwin, a ship that’s part of a massive carbon-neutral campaign in the Galápagos. Its wide-reaching effort is the spearhead of a global push towards green travel, and the archipelago is the poster child (geologically speaking, as some of the islands are only 3 million years old) of this initiative.

The beneficiaries of these acts number among the local wildlife, the original inspirations behind yesteryear’s biggest forward-thinkers. They’ve taught us much and continue to do so. Photogenic and curious, these animals don’t hide from much — and they’re naturals in front of the camera lens.

All photos by the author.

[Note: The author is a Matador Traveler-in-Residence participating in a partnership between MatadorU and Adventure Center. During 2011/12, Adventure Center is sponsoring eight epic trips for MatadorU students and alumni.]

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About The Author

Zak Erving

Zak grew up in Alaska, and as a consequence starts to melt during the summer. He currently teaches art in Los Angeles, holds daily solo performances of John Cage's 4'33", and bends metal as a blacksmith. Check him out at

  • Scott Hartman

    Nicely done, Zak. And, another 4’33″ fan! Keep sharin’! Safe travels

    • Sparkpunk

      Haha! Glad to meet another of Cage’s fans, and glad you liked the photos. Batch #2 is in progress. (Hint: water animals!)

  • Chitra Sivasankar Arunagiri Photography

    Some awesome shots!

  • Candice Walsh

    These are amazing.

  • Ricardo Arthur

    Great photos! I especially like the ones of the tortoises.

  • Hannah Davies

    Love all the pictures Zak!

  • Kathryn Nichols

    Iguana Pile, Sea Lion, and Tortoises…. KILLER photos. Beautiful Zak!

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