A Galapagos vacation is best described as being on the other side of the fence; that is, with the animals. They go on like business as usual, and you are one of them. Galapagos cruise tours have been mistakenly likened to African safaris but the difference is that you don’t sit in the car fearing the animal’s attack (plus, everything in Galapagos is much friendlier!)
Fortunately, between the whalers arriving and the establishment of the Galapagos National Park in 1959, the Islands’ creatures didn’t develop an ingrained or inherited trait of fearing Man. They do not consider us a predator or cause for alarm – they don’t even surreptitiously shuffle sideways to get out of our way. This is due in greater part to the fact that the Islands don’t have any large carnivores – the Galapagos hawk is the biggest predator. In fact, exploring a visitor site on Galapagos you have to take care not to trip over a family of basking marine iguanas, step on a blue-footed booby’s nest or stumble over a sea lion.
The Galapagos animals are all blissfully unaware that just a few hundred miles away their kin would have been clubbed, clobbered, feathered, skinned, boiled up with some potatoes or sold by the likes of us faster than you could say evolutionary biology.
Not only are the Galapagos the “Origin of the Origin of Species” , but they are one of the few places on the planet where you can observe these species at will, in comfort, with enough time to contemplate their remarkable characteristics, and to reflect upon our place in the great tree of life: to realise we are just one twig at the end of one branch of that tree; to realise we have a responsibility to that tree; to realise we have no more rights to be up in its canopy than any other creature.
Sharing time with the creatures of “Galapagos” is a privileged chance for reflection. On this trip, I dived down underwater and did loop the loops and twisted and turned with a young sea lion pup, over and over with new lungfuls of air. I sat observing dragon-like land iguanas beneath prickly cacti. I stood on a wind-swept cliff edge and watched tropic birds, pelicans, boobies, lava gulls and storm petrels ride the precarious currents above the glinting, silvery sea. And none of them took the slightest bit of notice of me.