Galapagos Islands Wildlife

With family in town for the holidays and trying to find an activity we could all enjoy, I noticed that Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland, an IMAX production, was playing at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. With tickets purchased and dinner plans made, the family and I headed to Denver for the evening show and it turned out to be a great decision, everyone left happy and enjoyed the film.

It’s been six years since joined a Classic Galapagos: The Natural Habitat Experience trip aboard the Letty. I have wonderful memories of this amazing chain of islands off the coast of Ecuador that still linger with me today. These memories include snorkeling with penguins, watching frolicking sea lions and visiting Lonesome George, the sole remaining Pinta Island tortoise that unfortunately passed away a few years ago. Watching “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” allowed me to relive many of these great travel memories.

The IMAX screen and 3D technology made it feel like I was back on the islands watching the sea lions on the beach, snorkeling with all the beautiful fish, watching the giant tortoises from the deck of my tree house, and taking in all the history and evolution of the islands and their inhabitants.

For those that have never been to the Galapagos, this movie puts you right on the island among all the animals and beautiful scenery. While watching the IMAX movie, you feel like you are on the rocky coastline watching the marine iguanas as the waves crash. You are on the sand beach watching baby sea lions right at your feet and seeing blue-footed boobies courting each other just off the path in front of you. The stunning IMAX and 3D images simply made the Galapagos Islands come alive on the screen.

The movie not only had amazing imagery; it was also very educational. The film is based on the eight-week expedition of Dr. Carole Baldwin from the Smithsonian Institutes’ Museum of Natural History. The filmmakers used a research vessel and submersible technology to collect the footage of the islands and the Pacific Ocean surroundings them. You will learn from the film that the Galapagos Islands were formed by volcanoes 400 million years ago and consist of 16 islands and several islets. The Galapagos are located directly on the Equator and approximately 600 miles from South America. The location of the islands is directly related to the unique species that have evolved on the Galapagos.

What should be a lifeless desert is now a chain of islands supporting many different animals, birds, reptiles and of course people. The animal and plant life that came to the Galapagos had two ways to travel to the chain of islands – by air or sea. Seeds, insects and birds found their way via the trade winds, while sea lions, penguins and iguanas either swam or floated their way to the islands. Many of these species then evolved to survive in that unique environment.

The marine iguana’s distant cousin is, of course, the land iguana. After floating across the ocean and landing on an island with no vegetation, the iguanas had to learn to eat seaweed, the only plant available. This means learning to swim and dive. Their snouts flattened out to make it easier to get at the seaweed and their skin blackened to warm them back up quickly after being in the water. This is just one example of the many ways that species evolved to survive in the Galapagos.

Another good example of this evolutionary process shown in the movie is the Galapagos Cormorant. What is now a flightless bird, once reached the island by flying. Because there are no predators on the island and food is in abundance, the birds’ wings became smaller and heavier, making it impossible for them to fly, but made them excellent swimmers.

These are just two examples of the several species you will follow on film and learn more about by watching Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland. I encourage everyone to check out this movie, whether you’ve traveled to the Galapagos Islands or not, you can’t help but appreciate the amazing imagery and unique species that make the Galapagos their home.

In Denver, the IMAX is playing through March 17, 2016 and it’s also showing now in many cities across the world, including Seattle, Orlando, Quebec, Omaha and Mexico City. Visit the Galapagos 3D website to find a showing near you.

This guest post was written by Holly Glessner, sky ambassador at Natural Habitat Adventures. All photos © Holly Glessner.

Galapagos Islands Wildlife