Photographing the Gallotia lizards – Part 5: Gallotia caesaris gomerae

Boettger’s Lizards (Gallotia caesaris) are for La Gomera the same as Western Canaries Lizards (Gallotia galloti for Tenerife — the most common and widespread reptile species. The population on this island is of subspecies G. c. gomerae. Someone who doesn’t want to go to La Gomera but wants to see or to photograph them can do it on Tenerife where G. c. gomerae occur in the town of Los Cristianos because they are being brought there by ferries. In turn, G. galloti already occur on La Gomera, for the same reason.

Boettger’s Lizards are really omnipresent on this island. You can find them on the coast as well as in the middle. Since La Gomera is small and there are no high mountains, there are no barriers that would isolatе populations, causing evolution of subspecies. You can drive around the island in less than a day and would see everywhere G. caesaris looking the same.

The adult individuals of G. caesaris are much smaller than of G. galloti. Males look a little larger than medium-sized European lacertids — such as sand lizards (Lacerta agilis) — and aren’t as colourful as the males of G. galloti.


As usually with young lizards, they allow a closer distance than the adults. However, this isn’t a big help when you are trying to photograph them with a wide-angle lens: The distance is still too large because the lizards are small. This image shows young G. caesaris gomerae shot with a 25mm lens in their habitat at Playa del Inglés.


Feeding gallotias was for me not only a method for getting closer but an act of help the animals to survive in this hot season, particularly after their natural food sources were distroyed by fire.

Overall, G. caesaris on La Gomera appeared to me not as shy as G. galloti on Tenerife. The minimal distance they were allowing was 2-3 meters. Of course, it was too far for photographing with wide-angle lenses, but close enough for good shots at focal length of 150 – 300 mm. For close-up photographs, the lizards needed to be caught. Just like with G. galloti there were no chance to do it with hands, but the method with fishing rod worked with large males very well.

Like other Gallotia species, the adult Boettger’s Lizards feed on fruits and green plants. Therefore, they could be attracted by pieces of banana or other sweet fruit put in a place suitable for photography. In hot sommer months there is not only enough food for them but also water. Therefore juicy fruits may be especially attractive also as a source of drinking water. In fact, I was very surprised to see so many G. caesaris active in areas without any obviously eatable vegetation and without water. Different than on Tenerife, there aren’t so many prickly pears plants, or maybe no at all, because I haven’t seen any. On Tenerife theirs fruits were the only significant source of food for gallotias in this season. Such food was much less available or absent on La Gomera.


It is hard to show in photographs a real scale of the disaster that stroke La Gomera in 2012. More than a quarter of natural sites turned to ash as a result of the most severe fire in the history of the island. The neighbour island — La Palma — is visible here in the background.

The summer 2012 will certainly remain in the history of La Gomera because of the most severe forest fire catastrophe this island had ever seen. As a result, more than a quarter of the endemic laurel forest was destroyed. In huge areas of La Gomera nothing remained but ash. I was glad to notice that large numbers of gallotias survived the fire, but at the same time it was heartbreaking to see them desperately searching for food in what was only ash. When I was in such places and had fruit I was giving them and some water to gallotias, but, of course, I wasn’t able to feed all of them who suffered the fire.

For photographing G. caesaris gomerae I recommend to bring a lens with focal length of 150-300 mm. This can be a macro or a telephoto lens. If it would be a 150-180mm macro lens, you would need to use it with a teleconverter now and then. For telephoto lenses you may occasionally need macro extension rings — to make the work distance shorter. I also recommend to have a tripod and a lot of patience — to be able to sit and wait till the lizards appear from their sleeping places in stone heaps.

Boettger’s Lizards can be found absolutely everywhere on the island where there are places for them to bask. In the central areas that are covered by forest, they live at road sides, near stone heaps, or at rocks. I was photographing them in such locations and in the shrubs that grow near Playa del Inglés at the foot of Risco de La Mérica — the distribution area of Gallotia bravoana.

In the summer the sunshine is very bright. Since G. caesaris have dark colouring, and the males are almost black, they need to be photographed only in the early morning hours when the shadows aren’t too deep. The best approach is to notice where a colony of G. caesaris lives and to come the next morning to this place before the lizards appear, to set up the camera on a tripod and to wait. In later hours a flash may help to lighten up the shadows.

About Arthur Tiutenko
Nature Photographer and Illustrator

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