What comes to your mind when you hear about the Galapagos Islands?
If I were to guess I would say Darwin or evolution. It was in fact Darwin that made the islands famous and basically "put them on the map". But after having been there I can say it is SO MUCH MORE! I didn't necessarily know what to expect. Like most of you, I didn't know a lot about the Galapagos, aside from giant tortoises and finches. Since my experiences there I can say that it is the most unique, beautiful, pristine places on earth. Certainly there is no place like it.
The Galapagos Islands are located off the coast of Ecuador, South America in the Pacific Ocean. The Galapagos is made up of a series of volcanic islands, similar to Hawaii. There is one airport on the island of San Cristobal. The only way to travel from island to island is by boat. We had the pleasure of traveling with a company called Ecoventura. In a weeks time we visited many of the islands including Genovesa, Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, North Seymour, Santa Cruz, Bartolome, and Espanola.
The uniqueness of this place can be summarized in the variety of animals you can see on each island. Some animals are unique to one island. Some can be found on different islands, but with small physical differences. For example, the marine iguanas on one of the islands are very large. On another island the marine iguanas are black and small. On another island the marine iguanas have red and green coloring on their skin. Most of the subtle differences within a species comes from food and food supply. The large marine iguanas have a vast supply of food so they grow larger. The small marine iguanas live on an island where food is scarce so they cannot grow as big. The red & green (or Christmas) iguanas eat red & green plankton which gives them their unique coloring. Most of the animals are effected by food and island environment and God gave them the ability to adapt to their surroundings.
The Galapagos Islands are isolated. It may be one of the few places on this earth where the world doesn't encroach. People do live on some of the islands, but the National Park Service has put into place very strict guidelines for usage. Even the boats that bring tourists to visit are carefully monitored and tracked by satellite. There are restrictions on where you can swim, kayak, and snorkel. There is a cap on the number of visitors on each island area at a time. There are no trash receptacles on any of the islands (except in the residential areas). The water is clean and clear. The animals are not afraid of people. You may not touch any animals or take anything like seashells or coral. You must stay within 6 ft of the animals, which is actually very difficult since you are walking among the iguanas, blue footed boobies, and sea lions. It's like nothing you have ever experienced.
It really is paradise. The waters are amazing colors...cobalt blue, turquoise, aqua...indescribable! It is peaceful and quiet, except for the sound of birds squawking and sea lions "arfing". The truth is we could have stayed longer. We weren't ready to leave. And our lives are different, changed even, by being in that place, experiencing the majesty and wonder of God's creation together as a family. It was truly a blessing to be there, to meet and know the people of the Galapagos, and to bring home the memories of our short time spent there.