Ah, the Galapagos Islands. An iconic destination if there ever was one. But what's it really all about?
Swimming with penguins and sea turtles, watching waved albatross couples do their mating jig, playing with sea lions, and laughing at boobies (birds, that is). And that's just the beginning. This was not a typical week in our journey around the world. But then again, the Galapagos Islands are not your typical destination.
The Galapagos Islands are exotic, but not in a big game wildlife sort of way. You won't find lions, tigers or bears. The area plays more like a sort of prehistoric petting zoo, without the petting. It's startling how close the animals — an unusual collection of birds, reptiles, and mammals — allow visitors to approach.
We share photos from the eight days we spent around the Galapagos Islands aboard a boat appropriately named Eden. From the remote northern island of Genovesa to the southern island of Espanola, this is a taste of what we experienced.
Two Photographic Tours of the Galapagos Islands
Humans and Nature: A Delicate Balance in the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands: “off the beaten path?” Well, not quite. When you visit, you are required to do so with a guide who ensures that you stay on well-worn paths throughout the islands. This is just one of the steps that the folks running the national park take to reduce the growing stress on the animals and their environment.
Although the islands absorb between 500-600 tourists per day in the high season, it's not just the flow of visitors that affects the delicate Galapagos Island ecosystem. The natural population growth of large families already present on the islands and increased immigration of mainland Ecuadorans wanting to cash in on the tourism boom mean an increasing drain on natural resources, more garbage to dispose of and greater stress on the animals that call these islands home.
As our guide Jorge, a native Galapageno who has guided tourists for over 20 years, said: “If you stay on the path, there may still be something here in 20 years for other people to see.”
“Jorge, what about in 30 or 40 years?”
“I don't know.”
Humans have inhabited the Galapagos Islands for almost 500 years. The conflict between their needs and the animals' environment is nothing new.
But it now feels more fragile than ever.