A Lifetime in Galápagos: Book Review

A year ago, I had the privilege of visiting the Galápagos Islands. It’s a magical place of evolution and diversification. Today, as we all have been stuck channel surfing for months, Tui De Roy’s new book A Lifetime in Galápagos, brought back the noise of the ocean’s surf, the smell of the sea, and the heat of the equatorial sun on my skin.

In the mid 1950’s Tui De Roy’s family left Europe, boarding a banana boat bound for the Pacific to lead a different sort of life in Galápagos, one of self-sufficiency and living close to nature. She was one year old.

Roy grew up on the islands and returned to them often over the next five decades. Discovering photography at a young age, she has dedicated her life to recording the islands’ natural history in infinite detail. A Lifetime in Galápagos is De Roy’s intimate portrait of one of the most spectacular places on Earth, presenting the wildlife and natural wonders of Galápagos as you have never seen them before.

The book also discusses the threats that global warming and other environmental challenges pose to the archipelago’s unique wildlife and fragile habitats. Just this week Diego the giant tortoise who fathered over 800 children after being moved to Santa Cruz island in Galapagos, Ecuador, by conservationists in the mid-1960s to save its dwindling population was returned to the uninhabited island where he originated, Española Island, to live out his days in peace. It is said that the repopulation program was so successful due to Diego’s sex drive. He is 100 years old!

See if you can find him in my video, as I visited the very research station he lived at last year:


A Lifetime in Galápagos features hundreds of color photos, and would make a phenomenal coffee table book to impress your friends. The book guides you into labyrinthine mangroves to observe nesting herons, to misty cloud forests to glimpse flycatchers and orchids, high onto erupting volcanoes, and into the ocean to swim with hammerhead sharks. Check out my experience with the Santa Cruz dock:

I can vividly remember the multiple 3-hour speed boat rides we took to island hop. I recalled, through necessity, a meditation class I took a dozen years earlier to soothe my stomach from the undulating waves. What exacerbated the situation was the intense sun, the claustrophobic sitting arrangement, and the children dominoing their sea sickness to one another. I evoked my meditation class skills and arrived to each island intact. I envisioned my feet growing roots that reached to the bottom of the sea to anchor me. I imagined a beam of light entering my forehead and energizing me. I credit meditation for my healthful island arrivals. The Dramamine pills might have helped as well. One of my favorites islands was Pinzón.

De Roy’s lens provides up-close encounters with orca and sperm whales, colonies of iguanas, and the giant tortoises of Alcedo Volcano. She paints unforgettable portraits of her childhood in Galápagos―the islands at night under the stars of the Milky Way, sea lions at play and on the hunt, the diverse birdlife of Galápagos, and much more.

This book is a standard coffee table book with big, bold photos with dinner-story facts sprinkled throughout. \The book’s photography slowed me down and made me appreciate the diversity of each island’s ecosytem and it’s inhabitants. While I would love everyone to visit the islands, I also hope the islands maintain their wildness through limiting visitors to preserve the unique habitat. A Lifetime in Galápagos is available on July 21, 2020 and pre-order today for those mandated to traveling vicariously.

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