Galapagos Islands - It's Evolution Baby

Trip Start Dec 21, 2009
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Trip End Jul 17, 2010


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Flag of Ecuador  , Galapagos Islands,
Saturday, June 19, 2010

Admit it, you fell asleep in science class when they were talking about evolution and how a guy called Darwin put together a theory about evolution. Well, I stayed awake. Ever since, I've wanted to visit this magical land that played such an important part in Darwin’s theory of evolution, home to all sorts of wildlife. Biology also had a special place in Nic’s heart, being one of the first subjects that she taught after leaving university. There was no chance of us going to South America and missing out on the Galapagos Islands.

We left Quito behind us, a merry threesome of Nic, Laura and I. In our previous blog, we introduced Laura as our favourite arachnaphobic lesbian atheist. In Laura, we found someone as excited about the trip to the Galapagos Islands so the three of us were pretty excited to be boarding the plane over from Quito. We’d be travelling round the islands with a local guide and an Intrepid group.

Our first meal as a group was spent watching Australia lose 4-0 to Germany over lunch. I’m sure hearing me curse at the TV over a meal was the best way for me to make a lasting impression on the group. It got worse when someone had the nerve to suggest that we leave the restaurant before the end of the game because, "Australia has clearly lost". That idea was only met with silence and a steely glare. To everyone who thinks that I still harbour ill will towards Pim Verbeek (Australian manager for our 2010 World Cup Campaign), let me confirm that I still do.

What better way to forget a humiliating defeat by going for a bike ride around the island and end up at a beach full of sea lions. Our first proper encounter with the wildlife and it was a special one. The sun was setting, there was hardly anyone on the beach and there were so many sea lions just lounging about. It was cool seeing sea lion parents looking after their pups and I was amazed that seeing an animal family interacting could make me think about my own family in Australia and what they were up to. I’m pretty sure they were cursing Pim Verbeek’s completely-defensive-yet-we-still-lose-badly tactics as well.

Some of us were keen to get a dive while the others snorkelled and we saw plenty of marine life. It was also a chance for me to test out the new camera and underwater casing we bought in Paraguay. The camera worked well but I still have to skill up on using it underwater. That’s the excuse I’ll use on Nic to make sure that we go out for more diving. Our dive leader must have taken me to me some sort of starfish expert. Everytime he turned around, there I was snapping another starfish. Little did he know that I was taking pictures of starfish because they were one of the few organisms that were staying still for me to snap a picture. One unforgettable moment was when we came across a sea turtle. It swum around us a few times, checked us out then sped away again. Watching turtles gives me hope that you don’t have to look sleek and streamlined to exhibit grace underwater. Now if I can master holding my breath underwater for 4 hour, I could give the turtle a serious run for its money.

I could only hope to turn into a marine creature for our next dive which was on a different day. The weather was terrible, the sea was heaving and we decided to go out anyway. We got to our dive spot and we couldn’t help but feel completely alone. This wasn’t one of those good alone moments where you’re thankful to be away from a crowd. This was one of those bad alone moments where you’re thinking to yourself:
 
- What the hell are we doing out here in this weather
- Wow this ocean is really, really big
- We’d better be sure we stay close to our divemaster. This has the smell of a news story that starts, “An Australian couple are still missing out in the ocean and we can’t afford a helicopter to go find them…….”

No trip to Galapagos Islands would be complete without a visit to Lonesome George. He’s actually been named the rarest creature in the world. Not really a good thing to be known for. It’s like being named the smelliest person in the world. Thanks but no thanks. They found him on Pinta Island when they were getting rid of a goat infestation but couldn’t find another tortoise of his species. Not even a female. They’ve been trying to mate him with females of other species but the eggs produced just weren’t hatching. Even if it was unsuccessful, you’ve got to give it to the guy. At 90 years old, he’s still trying. He’s probably thinking of all the ladies who used to give him the line, “No way George, I’m not going to have sex with you, not even if our entire species depended on it.” If only they could see old Georgie boy now.

The locals and animals are completely cool with each other. You’re just as likely to see a sea lion chilling out on a park bench with a local a few metres away reading a paper. Everyone here is so respectful and at one with the animals that I’ve never really seen any place like it.

You’re going to hear me say my typical line again. I could go on forever about how magical this place is but you really need to check out the photos and come here for yourself. If you’re bringing a digital SLR camera, make sure you spend up big and get a nice long lens. If you’re thinking about bringing a compact camera, trade it in and get a digital SLR and a long lens. It’s not cheap place to holiday but if you want cheap then go chill out on a beach in South East Asia. I’m ok with it being expensive. 

In our next blog, we change continents, leaving South America behind and heading to Europe. We get to try our Latin American Spanish in the motherland. Sunny Madrid is the next stop where we experience warmth, beauty, jetlag and an unplanned stopover.
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