Traveling is a universal dream – there’s no denying that. A typical travel bucket list comes in many forms – there are those who dream of an extravagant trip through Europe’s most popular capitals such as Paris and Rome. Others wish for a long backpacking experience in Southeast Asia. Some marvel at the pristine beauty of Africa and list sites and activities they should embrace. Others dream of the cultural and natural wonders of South America.
There are also those who dream of traveling, but for whatever reason, never truly embrace their adventurous selves. But there are people who not only dream of exploring the natural and cultural wonders of our Planet – they actually turn their dreams into reality.
Mamun Humayun is one such individual – a London-based photographer with a contagious sense of adventure. Mamun has visited more than 25 countries on 3 different continents (his passport must be a masterpiece!) and embraced the art of travel photography.
“It just happened,” Mamun told me when I popped the question about his passion for photography. “I never underwent any formal education about this – when I was a teenager, I just picked up the camera and my passion for photography enabled me to turn this hobby into a full-time job.”
So how does one become a travel photographer, you might ask? Well, that’s what I’ve been also curious about, and with Mamun on the other end of a Google Hangout, I decided to ask.
“Actually, I’ve mostly done wedding photography prior to traveling – basically that’s how I financed my first trips. I started traveling in 2005 and photographing my experiences around the globe with the intention of sharing them with the rest of the world.”
Mamun had traveled and captured the unique beauty and diverse cultural phenomena of numerous countries around the globe, including Japan, Bangladesh, Peru, Cambodia and Iceland, to name a few. But when I asked him about the one destination that had the biggest impression on him, both as a photographer and a traveler, he answered me instantly: “The Galapagos Islands.”
“There’s a long prehistory to my journey to the archipelago. I had decided to be out of the country on my 30th birthday. But not just to be in any country – the destination I picked to celebrate my 30th had to be memorable, even life-changing. My two ideas at the time were either Antarctica or the Trans-Siberian Railway. I toyed with these travel ideas for quite some time but, unfortunately, due to complicated circumstances surrounding these journeys, my plans fell through. It wasn’t until I looked back at my photography work from the Inca Trail that it hit me – why not go to the Galapagos Islands? Besides, I’ve never done any wildlife photography so far – that was a challenge that appealed to me.”
As soon as we hit the subject of the Galapagos Islands, something changed in the way he spoke – the vibe of his voice, even the expression on his face, told me more about this journey than any words. It was obvious to me now that the expression “once in a lifetime experience” typically used by travel agencies to promote the archipelago was not just an advertising slogan – it was true. The Galapagos Islands truly are a once in a lifetime experience.
“It was truly…marvelous. I’ve never felt so small in the face of such pristine nature, such pristine beauty.” Mamun told me, once we started discussing his impressions of the Ecuadorian paradise. “As soon as we touched the ground, I knew there was something incredibly special about this place. And I really mean it because the first signs of the Galapagos diverse wildlife were already visible on the airport runway. I’m not kidding – there was an actual iguana walking on the airport runway, heading for some shade next to a trolley cart.”
As amazing as the rich biodiversity, flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands were, the one thing that would impress any visitor was the way that all inhabitants of the archipelago were able to live in peace and balance with one another.
“Animals are so used to humans, and the other way around – it was incredible observing the behavior of all inhabitants. For example, as I was traveling with a bus to the National Park Tortoise Reserve, something interesting occurred along the way. At some point the bus stopped because a big tortoise was crossing the road. The engine was turned off and we were told that tortoises had the right of way, so we had to wait for it to cross the road.”
The Galapagos Islands are not only famous for their pristine natural wonders and diverse wildlife. This destination is an example of what sustainable tourism is all about – doing everything possible to minimize the impact of tourism and yet allowing travelers to experience the Islands in the most authentic and memorable way possible.
“I will probably talk about my experience on the Galapagos Islands for the rest of my life. To a lot of people’s dismay!” Mamun laughs as the connection gets progressively worse and we head towards the end of our conversation. “The reason why I talk about the Galapagos more than any other place I’ve ever been – and as we’ve already established, I’ve visited quite a few – is because this trip had changed me more than any other. No other place I’ve ever been to had the sense of adventure, exploration, knowledge and discovery better than the Galapagos. It has truly been an immense and powerful experience and has forever left an indelible footprint on what makes me who I am.”
We both smiled and allowed for few seconds of silence to fully appreciate the emotional impact of his final statement.
Q: Oh, and one last question.
Q: What is your advice to people who dream of traveling, once too often?
Mamum: Just go for it, there’s always a way. If you truly want it, you can do it and believe me – you will never regret it.