People ask if I was disappointed in the Galapagos, if the reality was less exciting than the hype. They speak in a tone that anticipates a yes. But the answer is no I was not disappointed. While a visit to the Galapagos is all about evolution, I saw life before the first change: I saw the Garden of Eden. In the beginning there was trust and trust begat harmony.
Residing on a sixteen-passenger boat, my travel buddies and I visited six islands, each with unique vegetation and wildlife. Ecuador's land management department preserves island uniqueness by limiting the number of visitors per day, by making sure visitors' shoes are washed after leaving each island, and by eliminating non-native plants and animals. We were accompanied by one of the natives, a friendly pelican, who road on a boat spar and trusted us to honor the true spirit of recycling by sharing our table scraps with him each evening.
Genovesa Island, one of the few Galapagos Islands north of the equator, was our favorite. It is home to 71 species of birds, five of which are globally threatened. Yet all are safe here because the island has no natural predators.
As my friends and I strolled through this paradise, island life went on despite us. We approached a Nazca boobie with its downy white body and black eye mask. It was nesting on the ground, believe it or not, and the new mother did not even flinch at our presence. She trusted our big feet to step lightly. She trusted us to do no harm.
Red footed boobies nested in trees, and parents took turns tending to their blue eggs. Whoever was home when we passed by flashed us a friendly beak and didn't mind at all that we stood so close. If they could talk, I'm sure they would have invited us in. It was so refreshing (and unusual) to commune with creatures who didn't fly off in panic and fear.
Frigate bird mating season was in full swing. The males sat on the earth enlarging the scarlet, heart-shaped air sacks below their necks while the spirited females flew overhead looking for the best mate. None were embarrassed as far as I could see. No need for blushing faces or fig leaves. And the guys who didn't get lucky bore no shame. Tomorrow was another day.
Often we stopped hiking and looked up. The azure sky provided a backdrop for a colorful air show featuring the likes of black frigates, brown herons, white egrets, gray gulls, orange and yellow cedar waxwings, yellow finches, and red-footed boobies with blue faces, all gracefully gliding from place to place, tending to their own business. There were no mid-air collisions or territorial fights. Life was fluid and harmonious.
In the beginning, this is how the world was meant to be. No panic, no fear, no jealousy, no shame. A place where trust and harmony reign.