The Galapagos Islands, the chain of volcanic islands about 620 miles off the coast of Ecuador, are a wildlife lover’s dream. On my trip this summer, I got to see creatures found nowhere else: pre-historic looking marine and land iguanas, a variety of aquatic birds, including blue-footed boobies and the impressive gigantic tortoises. Hiking among its landscapes—sandy beaches, expansive lava fields and desertscapes, which change from island to island—I got to experience how unique this region truly is. As Charles Darwin so aptly said about the Galapagos Islands in The Voyage of the Beagle, the account of his expedition to the islands that led to the development of the theory of evolution: “The archipelago is a little world within itself …”
As the islands are considered a national park, tourism is highly controlled. Upon arrival, we were given a list of regulations, particularly about how to interact with the wildlife. In a word: Don’t! No physical contact, no aggressive gestures and keep voices down. Consequently, the animals don’t consider humans as predators, and they freely come right up to you. Let me tell you, when sea lion pups would flop at my feet or glide around me while I was snorkeling, I’d have to fight every impulse to reach out and touch them.