I just returned to Quito after a one-week visit to the Galapagos Islands. You have probably seen these islands on some TV documentary. They are quite famous for a few reasons. One is the large number of endemic species of animals here. These are species that exist *nowhere* else on the planet. And I got to see a bunch of them. Very cool. I´m not really a big wildlife-watching type of guy, but I really enjoyed doing so in the Galapagos. That is saying something.
Another reason these islands are famous is that they inspired Charles Darwin´s Theory of Evolution and process of Natural Selection. This is important stuff! Darwin visited in 1835 during the voyage of the HMS Beagle. I find that as I travel I come across places where I really enjoy the idea or concept of the place, almost as much as the physical place itself (and sometimes more). I like the conceptual importance of the Galapagos. These islands I visited inspired the Theory of Evolution. Heavy! These islands were part of the inspiration that caused Darwin to write: “It is not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is the most adaptable to change.” I like it.
(Another example of the idea of a place impressing me: The Panama Canal. I visited it with Bart a few years ago. We went to the Miraflores locks where there is stadium seating (!) and an announcer. The water was filling the locks slowly. Really, not much was going on. The place, literally, was not exciting at all. But, as I thought about the Canal, I realized that it is one of the baddest short-cuts in the history of the planet! It shaved the distance by boat from NY to SF by more than half! Amazing!)
My first encounter with Galapagos wildlife was scuba diving (which the Galapagos are famous for.) Here I realized that sea lions are the biggest show-offs on the planet. These guys would swim and dart in between us divers, doing somersaults, twists, turns and other underwater acrobatics. It was amazing. I literally applauded under water. When we tried to swim away and turn our attention to other things, the sea lions wouldn’t have it. They followed and performed more tricks for us. And these aren’t your SeaWorld-trained sea lions. These are the real thing, wild animals that seem to have nothing better to do than demonstrate how good they are at swimming. I felt like I should have paid extra for the show. Good times.
I also enjoyed a 4-day cruise of several of the islands. Everyday we would land on an island and do some snorkeling. All the while, the on-board naturalist filled my head with more info about the islands and its animals than I could possibly hope to remember. An all-around great experience.
This is Lonesome George. He is one-of-a-kind. Literally. He is the last Pinta Island Tortoise on the planet. He has been housed at the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galapagos Islands since 1973. They keep putting other female tortoises of a similar species in his enclosure in the hopes that he will mate. How would you feel if you were the last one of your species left? That´s a crazy thought.
The beach at Turtle Bay on Santa Cruz Island on a very overcast day. Its gentle-sloping sand is so expansive I didn’t have a hope of fitting it all into one picture.
Eden, my home for 4 days while touring the Galapagos
Some fellow Eden passengers observing what sea lions do during the day. By the way, it is incredible how close you can get to the animals at the Galapagos. They have no fear of us humans.
A very shitty pic of the endemic Blue-Footed Booby. If you squint, you will notice it´s baby-blue feet. This bird is the inspiration behind the Galapagos´ best-selling t-shirt, which reads: “I love boobies.” Classic. Although obviously tempted, I managed to resist buying one.
I now turn my attention to the Andes, the longest mountain range on the planet. Until next time…