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Galápagos National Park

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31 reviews of Galápagos National Park

27
See Joanjo Fontanet's photos
27 photos

An incredible place

The Galapagos Islands, or "Archipelago de Colón" as it's officially known in Spanish, are found about 1000 kilometers of the Ecuadorian coast in the Pacific Ocean. They're famous for their biological diversity and for being one of the places after which Darwin based his theory of evolution. That aside, it's an incredible place to see giant turtles in their natural habitat and go diving with fish and sharks.
Joanjo Fontanet
8
See David Gonzalez's photos
8 photos

Galapagos

All the animals in Galapagos have a character difficult to describe. It really is like they pose for pictures yet don't even notice we are there. Evolution.
David Gonzalez
9
See Jesse OC's photos
9 photos

Evolving on the galapagos

Six hundred miles from the Ecuadorian coast, at the intersection of the Humboldt and Cromwell ocean currents, along the equator, sits the famous archipelago whose diverse array of flora and fauna has conclusively shown the immutable logic of evolutionary change and the unstoppable resiliency of life itself.

From times immemorial, the island has welcomed visitors of all varieties. Armed with their cameras and guidebooks, skin glistening with sun-tanned lotion, sporting big, black rimmed glasses, they disembark their luxury cruise boats and hop onshore to Puerto Moreno, the largest town on Isla San Cristobal. Travel to the Galapagos Islands hits the wallet hard and most visitors have deep-pockets. We watch them walk through San Cristobal’s quiet streets snapping photos of the huge sausage-like sea-lions dozing on the beaches. Their children marvel at the lobster-red crabs clinging furiously to the sides of slippery boulders pummeled by wave after wave. On the fence, sits a bemused pelican, beak protruding like Pinocchio’s balaclava, overlooking the crabs, possibly mustering the courage to take a bite. A scaly iguana darts in between the rocks flashing his tongue.

Below, back on the beach, a sea-lion pup has stumbled away from his mother and she barks – a horrible, biting sound. The others stay still. The young pop has not mastered his flippers on land and he never will.

He bumbles his way to the fence separating him from the tourists and slithers through an opening. The children scream in delight; flashes burst in unison. The pup pops in front of the group of delighted guests and stares at them. He does not show fear. He does not sense danger. His wrinkled fat shines in the sun; his whiskers slope around his face which croons up and stretches around. His mother has reached the opening herself and lets loose a horrible cry that forces the young children in baseball caps and pink shorts to cover their ears. What does the mother know that the pup does not? Her movements are threatening and desperate. A child reaches to the touch the pup’s glassy coat before his father quickly admonishes him. He is held back. And as the pup silently complies with his mother’s bellicose bite, we bear witness to the divide.

Formed by the movement of tectonic plates and hot spot volcanism in the Pacific Ocean, the islands’ isolation originally rendered them empty of plant and animal life. Eventually, they came: flying, swimming, seeds pushed by winds, or sea-lions pulled by currents. Chance guided colonization. That life appeared on the Galapagos Islands was a wonderful accident.

The tour group begins their trudge to the museum up a stony pathway through the dark green, rolling vegetation. The afternoon’s clouds come and with them heavy humidity. I leave my group of volunteers and head to the other side of the pier. We are volunteering with an Ecuadorian NGO organizing a summer camp for the children of the island. We run sports games, art lessons and English classes. Basically we make sure that no child wanders off into the sea. More and more families call the islands home. More and more people come from the mainland searching for a different and a quieter life.

Life on the lava-spewed islands blossomed in an unbalanced fashion: no natural equilibrium of species exists on the island. Reptiles trumped amphibians; land and sea birds outnumbered land mammals; grasses and ferns dominated big-seeded flowery plants. Only those who could have crossed those 600 miles of open water called Galapagos home.

The children have endless energy. The littler ones – 5 or 6 years old – attempt to escape the school at any moment; they wait until our backs are turn or whenever we happen to be preoccupied and to the gates they fly. Such exuberance! Practically frustrating, philosophically spell-binding. It is Carnival week and the excitement builds to the point of anarchy. Water balloons are tossed; paints decorate clothing and walls. No teacher is spared. The playground buzzes like a beehive; the movement is chaotic yet hypnotic. A rhythm is there. Flashes of joy, pure ignorant joy, come in waves. It flows over the ground and into their eyes, their sinister, naughty eyes. Water spills and splashes. Clothing is soaked. We wipe our eyes and dry our clothes. Humanity’s at its best as a child at play.

The future was not bright for the pioneer species on the harsh and barren islands. What would they eat? How would they reproduce? Many plant and animal species did perish only to leave their organic material for the next wave of immigrants. This cycle of life and death happening on isolated and unique islands over millions of years provided the ideal laboratory to judge what worked and what failed there. How would these creatures survive? Would they adapt? How did life work?

Across the bay’s calm waters, the town looks young. The bright yellow and red concrete buildings do not fit the vibrant green background. They appear vulnerable to nature’s vagaries, out-of-place. Not of the soil. An anchored motorboat gently rocks close to the shore; a sea-lion sleeps on top. Volcanic mounds lie scattered across the horizon; the thick clouds roll past them. The entire scene is ominous: lava or rain? How odd it is to gaze at the work of human hands – the roads, the houses, the schools, the airport, the hospital – on the islands that provide the best conditions to understand from where humanity sprouted. What was once reciprocal has become an infringement. The scene is one of betrayal.

In 1835, Charles Darwin arrived to the islands. The diversity of life on the small islands amazed him and eventually inspired him to write his Theory of Natural Selection, one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs. Darwin loved finches. He noted at least thirteen different kinds of finches living on the islands all of which must have sprung from a single ancestor ve arrived to the islands millions of years ago. Each finch responded to the ecological pressures of each island – particularly diet - and adapted accordingly. Species in fact are not static. They change, mutate, adapt: Evolve. From this original insight, Darwin saw that competition between species over finite resources is inevitable. This triggers an advantageous mutation within a species which improves its odds of breeding and surviving over the others. Those best adapted to their environments will survive. Evolution motors natural history.

We hear stories of illegal fishing and of oil spills. The islands are under persistent threat. Over-Development. Pollution. Natural Calamities. Demographic Pressures. One afternoon I walk to El Progresso, a community of a few homes and shops located in the hilly interior of the island. The landscapes are a deep green; volcanic hills force the rocky road around them. I walk. Rickety wired fences and telephone poles follow the road winding around the pristine rainforests. When you think of the Galapagos, you think of the animals. You don’t envision this: a lost world. The nutrient rich ground has painted a masterpiece: I hear people saying in the future ‘as green as the Galapagos.’ Up the road a few kilometres is the tortoise sanctuary. Hundreds of years old, these majestic creatures live slowly. Appreciating their massive shells and thick legs, I wonder what they've seen. Could I read the island’s history through their eyes? Do they know its future?

Near the end of camp, we take the children to a beach not fifteen minutes from town. We have them in rows with teachers manning the ends to spot any fugitives. The beach mixes four layers of colors: the black of the volcanic rocks sitting at either end of the beach, the green grass running from the water back up into the hills, and the turquoise of the ocean waves crashing into the sand’s sugary whiteness. The interplay of colors holds; its vibrancy arrests and affixes. The children go screaming into the water; we wade out up to our knees to keep check.

A child cries “Lobos” and with the frenzy of a Zebra herd under attack they all rush from the water. Lobo is a local colloquialism for sea-lion and the children do not relish the idea of sharing an afternoon swim with them. When all appears safe, they gingerly re-enter believing as cold swimmers would that slow re-immersion best alleviates discomfort. The interaction is fascinating. The potential is real. On the islands where we first understood that change is intrinsic to life and only the dead remain immutable, a gradual symbiosis emerges. A coalition based on mutual respect and fear, of awe and terror, evolves between humanity and nature. We are not written in stone. We are not born pre-programmed. And perhaps in the place where Darwin crushed a static understanding of life and breathed a new dynamism into its gorgeous complexity, we can learn to coexist. And the houses will cease to look absurd and the fish will have time to return.

It is the arrogance of the living that says now is forever. Change is the one constant. And if the relationship grows strong on the Galapagos, perhaps the archipelago can serve as a light into not only our collective pasts but also our collective futures.
Jesse OC
3
See Virginia cirino's photos
3 photos

Experience the origin of life...

I traveled to Galapagos with my family. I always wanted to see the islands that they have so much historic value. Loved the sea port with the fishing boats used by locals.
Virginia cirino
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1
See Cam William MacArthur's photos
1 photo

The final frontier of preservation

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Galapagos Islands. It completely opened my eyes to the beauty which is preservation. The animals there had no fear of humans, no predators, nothing. The only place in the world where the entire ecosystem is predator-free.
Cam William MacArthur
1
See nahuel98's photos
1 photo

Wonderful experience

It was a wonderful experience: the nature, the people, the view, the surf, everything was perfect. My family and I went snorkeling and scuba diving, we relaxed and all had a great time. It's a perfect place for the whole family
nahuel98
5
See Giuliasaurus Rex's photos
5 photos
Giuliasaurus Rex
29
See JL Fav's photos
29 photos
JL Fav
5
See Joan Ashwell's photos
5 photos
Joan Ashwell
29
See Rodamons's photos
29 photos
Rodamons
3
See jairo962's photos
3 photos
jairo962
Astrid Ramón
1
See Clara Soto's photos
1 photo
Clara Soto
5
See nando2000's photos
5 photos
nando2000
9
See Diego Gordon's photos
9 photos
Diego Gordon
Publish
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Information about Galápagos National Park

Galápagos National Park Phone Number
052 526 289
052 526 289
Galápagos National Park Address
Charles Darwin s/n, EC200350, Ecuador
Charles Darwin s/n, EC200350, Ecuador
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