A zoologist’s guide to the Galapagos
Having travelled little further than the Isle of Man as an enthusiastic Zoology undergraduate, getting the opportunity to visit the Galapagos some years later was truly a blessing. This trip for me was akin to taking a pilgrimage – as Muslims join the Hajj to Mecca, and Christians quest to Lourdes, so Zoologists voyage to the Galapagos!
It was in the Galapagos, back in 1835 that as a young naturalist on an epic global voyage that Charles Darwin made his observations of the natural world that would begin the slow fermentation of an idea so revolutionary as to change forever the way we, as the human species, perceived the world around us and ultimately, how we perceived ourselves.
It was therefore with great reverence experience that I followed in the great man’s footsteps. Although not quite literally, for where Darwin had his notepad and quill, I had my iPad and camera. Where Darwin had the Beagle and a hammock, I had the Eric, an en suite cabin and a barman named Jesus!
and the amazing encounters you can have with them."
Although nearly 200 years have passed since his visit, what made the Galapagos so special in Darwin’s day, is exactly what makes them so special in ours – the unique wildlife, and even more so the amazing encounters you can have with them.
During his visit Darwin was mostly preoccupied with the island’s many types of finches, carefully measuring their beak sizes and making detailed observations on their variance.
I may be a follower, but I’m no fundamentalist, so it was with great glee that I clambered all over these rocky shores in search of the islands superstar attractions, such as the hoards of sinister looking marine iguanas, the lumbering giant tortoises and the impossibly cute sealion pups. It was simply enchanting to sit next to a breeding colony of albatrosses, engrossed as they click-clacked their huge beaks together.
Or amongst a gang of cheeky-faced blue footed boobies, the males whistling and craning their necks in their attempts to impress a singularly unimpressed female. Who can’t relate to that!
The wildlife may be bigger and fiercer in Africa or Canada, it may be quirkier in Australia or New Zealand. But nowhere can you get so close as you can in the Galapagos.
By visiting the Galapagos Islands I most definitely crossed a major item off my personal bucket list. So relatively few people visit each year that I truly appreciated and treasured as a great privilege my opportunity to go. This incredibly remote and largely barren collection of volcanic rocks aren’t necessarily beautiful, but they are truly special. I hope that one day I shall enjoy the privilege to visit once more.