I recently spent 5 days in the Galapagos Islands with my grandson, my brother, and my sister-in-law. It was a great experience. While the geology, geography, sea life, land biota, and scenery are great, it was the experience of walking where Charles Darwin had trod that made the trip truly memorable. For me, it was a pilgrimage.
Once in Galapagos, we traveled from island to island in a yacht. That sounds more exciting than it was. Our cabin had bunk beds and was so small you could barely turn around in it. But it did the job and the food was generally good.
Access to the remoter areas on the islands is heavily regulated, so we only saw very small areas on our short hikes and while we snorkeled. Our guide kept our group of 16 together. There was no wandering off. But that didn’t really matter. Just being there mattered.
Our guide had some knowledge of geology and of the recent history of the islands. But his knowledge of Darwin and evolution seemed limited. But he did take us to some amazing places. Perhaps one of the most rewarding was a mangrove-covered inlet that was replete with giant sea turtles. They swam all around our small inflatable boats (Zodiacs). Their grace through the water is truly amazing.
For me, Darwin is a prophet. He understood that everything is changing, or if you will, evolving. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a strong belief in evolution. This led me to Alfred North Whitehead and Process Philosophy (or Theology), the idea that everything is changing over time. (For example, there wasn’t a static Creation, but there is an ongoing creating.)
During our stay in the Galapagos, we would island hop at night (sometimes in fairly rough seas), and hike and swim during the day. On our day hikes, we saw a wide variety of animals, many unique to the Galapagos. Many had little or no fear of humans, so we were required to stay at least 6 feet away. Monopods for GoPros were supposedly banned because they can be used to violate the 6-foot rule. Lucky for us, they had yet to ban drones, so we brought our Phantom Vision quad-copter along.
For my grandson, swimming with sea lions, marine iguanas, sea turtles, small sharks, sea horses, rays, and a wide variety of colorful fish (plus being able to fly the drone) was the highlights of the island trip.
The islands are volcanic. There are volcanoes everywhere (most with rounded tops), and major lava fields that separate islands into a variety of ecosystems and micro-climes. This separation is what caused many species to evolve in unique ways. This diversity is what helped move Darwin’s thinking along.