Galapagos Islands – Amazingly Rare

By Ron McGinty

A little history trivia: The first visit happened by chance in 1535 by Fray Tomás de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panamá, while traveling from Peru.

Volcanoes created the Galapagos Islands, San Cristobal, over four million years ago, and Fernandina Island was created about 700 years ago. The past 200 years have seen over 50 volcanic eruptions with the last eruption in 2011.

Located on the equator, part of The Republic of Ecuador, and situated in the Pacific Ocean 600 miles west of the mainland creates one of the most remote areas in the world. There are thirteen large and six smaller islands.

Unique inhabitants include more than 400 species of fish and an abundance of mammals.

A logical question is how the non-indigenous wildlife inhabiting the isolated islands arrived? Fortunately, it sits at the junction of three major oceanic currents and is influenced by four more.

Wildlife examples include penguins, giant tortoises, marine iguanas, magnificent frigate birds, the blue-footed booby, whale sharks, red-lipped batfish, bullhead sharks and Galapagos sharks are a few.

There are two aspects to consider, first is natural means of ocean currents and migratory birds. The second is Darwin’s Theory of the evolution of animal survival. The penguins and the giant tortoises are prime examples of evolutionary mutations. Nevertheless, all of these beautiful creatures ended up on the islands, a lifetime experience to witness.

I cruised the Galapagos on the vessel Millenium containing only eight staterooms. My fellow travelers were from a variety of countries, England, Germany, Norway, France, and me from the United States.

My companions’ diversity was a highlight of the experience. We moved through the islands over two weeks, providing us opportunities to snorkel the crystal blue waters.

Visibility was over twenty-five feet, making it possible to observe sea creatures, including octopuses, turtles, seals, and substantial varieties of tropical fish.

We averaged two tours/stops per day, with most being wet landings. The dry moorings are typically onto concrete steps, which can be more challenging if the seas are rough.

I was blessed to have a Monopod because I employed it as a walking stick. The terrain can be very harsh and uneven, evidenced by walking on boulders about one to two feet high. I consider myself to be in good shape and in good health but I had to be careful.

Camera lenses are not so essential. I brought my 600mm lens and never took it out of my cabin because you are simply just inches away from your subjects.

Each island offered distinct photo opportunities. Beautiful baby seals, sea lions, iguanas of every color of the rainbow, lizards not seen any other place in the world, and red flowers far and wide. One with nature was an unmistakable feeling.

A humorous spectacle was the local post office. It was purely a wooden box where one could leave a letter or postcard to anyone in the world… no postage required. People would read the addresses of the receiver and would personally deliver it, if possible.

I find every time I go to the equator, I expect hot temperatures, but this is not the case. The high temperatures on this trip were no more than 83 degrees with nights around the low 70’s.

I hope this short synopsis will moisten your appetite to visit the Galapagos Islands.