Trekking the Galapagos, Andes and Amazon

Photographed by Michael Traynor


Armed with just his iPhone 7 camera, Michael Traynor tackles the Galapagos, the Ecuadorian Andes, and the Amazon — experiencing seven distinct biospheres.

How do you do this? Here’s how:

Begin high up in mountainous Quito. Fly to the Galapagos, wherefrom a tented lodge, go by land and water to admire the 40 percent of all flora and fauna remaining unique to these islands. Return to mainland Guayaquil for Pacific area natural history. Travel overland through the Andes ranges, ultimately arriving deep in the Amazonian rainforest. A remote lodge on the river sits near the Ecuadorian/Peruvian border, as a base for land and water treks. Arrive at the vast protected zone spanning, home to uncontacted tribes. Go no further! Then come home and take a nap!


The largest caldera in the Galapagos. It stretches far toward the horizon, built up after many erosions over millennia.

Galapagos giant tortoises are quiet and friendly. Maybe that is the secret to living over 100 years? Having no natural predators helps too.

Cultivating good inter-species relations with this tortoise. I asked what wisdom it had gained over its long lifespan. It responded: “Take it slow.”



This blooming cactus is over 2000 years old. It doesn’t look a day over 1900.

The Galapagos is one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world.

Nice catch!

We caught piranha with cane poles and chunks of meat for bait. Catching piranha is easier than getting the hook out and releasing them. That is my finger — happy to report I still have it.

A creek inlet at dawn. You can hear its stillness.

We stayed near the vast protected zone spanning both Ecuador and Peru — home of uncontacted tribes. This is as far as anyone can go before you can go no further, and the land ahead must remain unknown. A profound sense.

The ruins of Inca cities in the north are less intact than elsewhere. When the Spanish conquered the south, the northern provinces burned their cities to the ground and blended into the jungle rather than hand anything over to the conquerors.

I see you! Am I an alpaca or a llama?

Cloud forests in the Andes create stunning skylines. In going through the eastern and western Andes ranges by bus, this scenery is typical. Powerful, majestic, brooding. No wonder indigenous people revered them. Mostly anyone seeing them today would do the same.

The peaceable kingdom. This iguana in a Guayaquil park lies down with a pigeon.

The highest mountain in the northern Andes. This peak sits along the equator of our oval-shaped planet. Standing here puts you as close to the sun as is possible without leaving earth.

The “Father Mountains” were revered and worshipped by the pre-Columbian indigenous people. They remain revered today.

Back to civilization along the mighty Amazon.

The Amazonian lodge is in sight! Only an airplane ride, a dugout canoe trip downriver, a hike through the jungle to a second tributary, and a second dugout canoe ride to get here. #hopskipandjump

The black caiman is the biggest of all species of alligators and the largest animal in the Amazon Basin. Intimidating fellows.

Hiking in the jungle, mornings and evenings in search of flora and fauna. Not in daytime, where 80 degrees and 80% humidity is typical.

You spend days paddling along narrow creeks under a thick jungle canopy. Sounds of the jungle. Up close with birds and wildlife. Stars at night painted on a pitch-black canvass over the canoe. Perfection.