Galapagos: Where people come last
“Grandpa, what is it like in the Galapagos Islands?” my grandson Lasky will ask me, in a conversation I expect we will have some years from now. He’s still less than a month old, but already I am looking forward to talks like these.
“It is like nowhere else, my boy. It is pure wind, wave, sun and sand. It is nature at its finest – where the universe has brought all of the elements together in perfect harmony.
“It is where humans have found the wisdom to preserve nature so we can enjoy it in its most natural state. But it is place where people come last.”
“But what does that mean, Grandpa? What does that look like? Sound like? Smell like?”
“It is the soft whisper of a pelican’s wings as it soars over your head so close you can see the dense thatch of feathers upon its breast. It is the neat “V” of a flock of Boobies on its way to hunt for a school of fish that soon will become breakfast, their brilliant blue feet neatly tucked into their pure white breast feathers.
“It is the spellbinding sight of Boobies diving by the hundreds into schools of fish that flee from their expert fishing talents, their bodies knifing into the water from on high, one after another and another, only to bob to the surface seconds later with breakfast in their beaks.
“It is the sound of wind through palm fronds, a soft rustle that sounds a bit like rain. It is the gentle “whoosh” of soft, white sand between your toes as you walk along the miles of beach. It is the endless pounding of surf upon shore that creates a gentle, unending roar you can hear wherever you go on the island.
“It is nature so confident in itself that animals do not fear humans, so they come close and linger. So you get to see sides of nature you can’t see anywhere else.
“It is the brilliant red patches on a male marine iguana’s black body; nature’s painting of a dinosaur to make it more attractive to a potential mate so it can continue its centuries-long life in the Galapagos. It is the dents, scratches and breaks on a giant tortoise’s shell as big as a bath tub that show the effects of a life in the wild.
“It is so natural, so unspoiled, that you can get close to the animals so you can see what they really, really look like.
“It is the only spot in the world where you can see many of these animals – marine iguanas, Blue-Footed Boobies, certain species of penguins, birds, reptiles, plants and fish.
“It is a blaze of a sun so hot that it feels it might burn a hole through your shirt and brand your back with a giant “G” to mark you with a memory of being in the Galapagos this close to the equator.”
“But what is it LIKE, Grandpa?”
“Well, son, it’s as if creation has decided to give us all the things that inspire us and put them on display in one special place. It’s as if nature created these islands as a special home for strange yet beautiful creatures and made it possible for them to all live together in perfect harmony. It is unlike any other place you will see…full of special surprises.
“Animals and fish that will make your heart soar and bring a smile to your face. Creatures that seem to behave like humans – playing, looking into our souls – while reminding us that they are wild, unpredictable beings.
“Giant tortoises that slowly amble through vast fields of green grass as they have for centuries and quickly retreat into their shells when you get too close for their comfort. Many of these massive creatures will remain on this earth long after you and I are gone.
“Enormous green sea turtles that float suspended in the clear, warm waters and stare into your eyes as you swim past, as curious about us as we are about them.
“Sea lions that swim close to you, checking to make sure you are watching before they dive beneath the waves and thrill you with their dances in the water.
“Massive sting rays that lie on the ocean floor, gently flapping their huge wings as they feed on tiny crustaceans that remain hidden to a human eye.
“Volcanoes that leave us stunned into silence with their enormous potential for horrible destruction while reminding us that it was their unfathomable power that created the very islands upon which we walk. Miles and miles of black lava that flowed from the volcanoes’ mouths, in some places covered by fields of thick grass and groves of trees that over many, many years have staked a claim where life seems impossible.
“The Galapagos is the faint of smell of fish in the air, of food cooking in the tiny restaurants along the dusty streets and the salty taste of ocean air upon our lips.
“It is the playful antics of sea lion pups that, like you, are finding its way in this complex world. It is the ballet they dance together in the water, and the flight they take when the joy of it all causes them to leap from the water and flip back into its embrace. It is the carefree happiness you see in them as they surf upon a wave to the shore.
“It is the amusing, bee-like buzzing of penguins in the water, their oversized flippers propelling their tiny bodies in impossible patterns as they dart and swirl in the clear blue waters.
“It is white-tipped sharks taking refuge in a tiny crevice in the black rock at the back of a bay where the waters are calmer, warmer. They spend the days at rest, quiet bystanders to another hectic day all around them. Years ago, people could swim among them without fear, as these sharks are friendly to humans. At night, though, they return to the deep, to hunt and feed, causing fish to flee frantically from their sharp teeth and powerful jaws.
“That’s life for the animals and fish in the Galapagos: swimming, flying, diving, feeding, resting, and mating to produce more life so the cycles can repeat.
“For humans? We get to enjoy them all, swimming with them, walking with them, and just watching as they live their lives.
“Does that tell you what the Galapagos is like, my boy?”
“It does, Grandpa, but only a little bit. I think I need to see it for myself.”
“And so you shall, my boy. And so you shall.”