Why did you choose to focus a BBC TV series on the Galapagos Islands?
They’re renowned for being one of the most pristine places on earth and their unique geology and isolation at the confluence of nutrient-rich currents results in an extraordinary diversity of life.
They’ve often been described as a mini-planet that scientists can study, applying the findings to the rest of the earth’s wild places.
Which is your favourite island and why?
Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island as it’s where the only remaining pink iguanas live. After camping at the top of the active caldera, we accompanied scientists as they monitored the health of the pink iguanas to gain more information about them and learn how to protect them.
How did your perceptions of Galapagos change after visiting?
I was struck by how much you feel like part of the wildlife, not just a spectator. The animals glance at you as if you were just another species that had managed to adapt to these islands.
What most astonished you about the islands?
I had a thrilling set of wildlife experiences – from sea lion pups whizzing around me in a lagoon, to curious flightless cormorants pecking at my snorkelling mask as I came up to the surface, to spending time with giant turtles and vermillion flycatchers in a remote caldera.
What was the best animal interaction on the trip?
Diving at Darwin’s Arch, I witnessed hundreds of endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks coming together to swim in one large circling mass of a courtship display. It was a life- changing experience for me.
What discovery are you most proud of?
We assisted scientists with taking x-rays of marine iguanas to unravel the mechanisms through which they can shrink their bones when food is scarce and regrow them again when algae is plentiful – all within the space of a year or so.
Research like this is evidence that there is still so much left to discover about the incredible wildlife we share this planet with.
What was it like going 1,000m under the sea?
It’s the closest I’ll ever get to being an astronaut. It was a surreal, wonderful experience to travel to a part of the planet no one has ever been to and assist the scientists as they discovered new species.
How are the islands changing?
Remote as it is, Galapagos is not immune to the threats of our modern world. Plastic litters the northern shores of many islands, more and more endemic species are under threat of disappearing and climate change is causing the waters to warm, with many of the island chain’s coral reefs already decimated as a result.
How can clients ensure they visit responsibly?
Respect the wildlife and do not approach it too closely. Use biodegradable toiletries. Take a refillable water bottle and coffee cup. Pick the most eco-friendly tour operators and if you notice something they could improve, tell them.
What’s your favourite travel memory?
Seeing my first wild tiger in Pench national park in India was a seminal moment in my life. It propelled me to do my masters but also instilled in me a passion for protecting the natural world and its animals.
Where is next on your wish list?
I’m desperate to see a snow leopard in the wild and explore the Amazon. But the list is far longer than that.