About thirty years ago I heard a radio show about the Galapagos Islands. I asked my craziest ,most adventurous friend, Mary, if she would go. It required and boat and held no promise of shopping so Mary said no. I have dreamed of a Galapagos adventure ever since.
The reality did not disappoint. The environment is pristine. I watched local guides go out of their way to clean up the very few thoughtless messes that tourists left. The water is crystal clear and the animals have no fear of humans.
We stayed on one of the few licensed boats that is allowed to bring tourists to the islands. Everyday we had two excursions from the ship via Zodiac to the island of the day. Every night we watched from our cabin window as the sea lions, sharks, sea turtles, frigates, pelicans and flying fish played survival of the fittest.
The Islands were formed by volcanoes and are still in an active cycle of formation and destruction. We hiked in a lava tube, one of many on the islands.
The islands have served as a stronghold for pirates, a military base for the US government and a living laboratory for Charles Darwin. In 1959 the Ecuadorian government named the islands a national park, in 1979 it was named a World Heritage site and in 1985 a World Biosphere Reserve by Unesco.
One of the points of interest was the POST OFFICE.A barrel installed in 1793 served as a drop off point for letters. A person dropped off letters and then sorted through those left and took for personal delivery those close to their destination. I left one for San Francisco ( attn Millers) and took one for Kalamazoo ( the Chenoweth family).
We made three attempts at snorkeling. The first off Gardner Bay, recently named one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world, was billed as the least attractive of the snorkeling spots on the trip. It actually turned out to be the best. The water was clear and warm, the fish were colorful and plentiful. The Parrot fish, whose eating and pooping of the local coral is responsible for the ultra soft sand, were abundant. Maggie was accompanied by a sea-lion who caressed her body as he swam above, below and to the right and left of her. This is one time in life where Maggie’s magnetic attraction to the males of all species did not cause any jealously in my bones.
The second snorkel trip was limited by a jelly fish hatch which stung several of us. The third and most disappointing was ended by a strong current.
During the days of pirates, the islands were loaded with the giant land tortoises. Pirates would take hundreds of them off the island and stack them, alive, on their back for fresh food on the long journey. The Charles Darwin Station is making an effort to breed tortoises back to historical levels. ( our guide informed us this could take up to five more generations) Eggs and the babies are carefully marked so they are released to islands where the native DNA matches theirs.
Sea turtle nests are also protected and monitored. The sex of sea turtles and alligators are determined by the placement of the eggs in the nest. Eggs closer to the top and the heat are female and those lower and cooler in the nest are male. (hot chicks and cool dudes-memory device shared by our guide).
Nazca Boobies,Blue Footed Boobies, Albatross, Sally Light Foot Crabs, Finch, Hawk, Iguanas and sea lions were abundant at most stops. <A living laboratory, a zoo without cages, this was definitely a trip of dreams. <