Friday, December 29, 2006
You know you´re in for a treat when you arrive at Baltra Airport and see an iguana lazily ambling off the runway to avoid the taxiing plane that you are on!
An hour or so of driving takes you through a myriad of microclimates and ecosystems and habitats - from barren scrubb dotted lava fields to catcus forests and temperate rain forest.
Even in the islands largest town iguanas, pelicans, boobies and massive red crabs mingle in close proximity to the locals.
Seeing giant tortoises & iguanas at the Charles Darwin Research Station can not prepare you for (and doesn´t come close to comparing to) the abundance of shear fearlesness of the island´s fauna.
There is a graphic juxtaposition of life in all it´s glory, and death. Experiancing in a matter of minutes sea lions frolicking in the water and then a seal pup carcass being picked over by Galapagos hawks.
Snorkelling here is unrivalled. Tropical fish of all shapes and all colours of the rainbow in huge numbers and bigger fish too - barracudas and other sleek silvery predators the names of which I have forgotten or never knew! And sharks, penguins and yes the Sea lions. A highlight for anyone visiting the Galapagos is the playfulness in the water of the Sea Lions. Our first day snorkelling I was floating and watching a huge school of neon tetra like fish swim beneath me and sensing something watching me I looked up to see a Sea Lion looking directly into my eyes through the mask only mm´s away from my face! Understandebly I got the fright of my life and I pulled away and recoiled in shock only for the Sea Lion to mimic me and do the exact same thing!
She quickly came back though and as she dived and tumbled under water I did the same and she copied me, I copied her and we played...it is amazing how human they seem...or perhaps those things we see as ´human´ - fun, happiness, playfulness, inquisitiveness - are in fact more universal than we think?
The Galapagos defies words. Where else do you literally trip over iguanas - land and marine and can sit seperated by no more than a hares breath from Sea Lions, Seals and Tortoises?
Without native humans and without predatory animals this place is unique and has thankfully remained so. 97% of the islands are national park and the remaining 3% are for the people who have moved here this century.
There is pressure from humans though. Fishing, poaching, illegal land clearing, pollution and most of all political corruption, populism and cronyism that has infected Ecuador and hindered it´s development, all could destroy one of the most important ecological places on Earth.