What makes the Galapagos so intriguing and so resonant with our very humanity? Is it the crystalline azure skies, emerald green waters, the air scrubbed clean by open ocean breezes, or the uninhibited wildlife that goes about its business as if humans didn’t exist?
That is exactly the point—“as if humans didn’t exist.” For a variety of reasons found nowhere else on earth, and which I will touch on in the next paragraphs, Galapagos is a true representation of what life on the planet was like before humanity overran the globe. Only here can we witness flora and fauna in its natural, endemic state without adverse impact from humans. It’s a true glimpse into the world’s natural and geologic history.
Around all of the globe, how did this come about? It’s a confluence of many factors—some of them surprising—that only exist in the Galapagos.
First, there’s the geology. These islands are volcanic, extensions of their tectonic plate. As the plate moves over hot spots, the islands are formed, like a pearl necklace. But this can be said of Hawaii, as well as other places. So what else?
Ocean currents collide to provide a singular environment. Cold upwellings from the deep Pacific create a habitat attractive to penguins—on the equator, no less! Other separate, warm, tropical ocean currents warm the waters in the islands to attract and support a great variety of tropical fish. Nowhere else in the world can you find polar and tropical animals living side-by-side.
And humans have actually played a major role in the preservation of the Galapagos Islands, although not quite in the way we might expect. When Polynesian navigators pushed the boundaries of their explorations, they reached the Hawaiian Islands and Easter Island, among many others, but they never reached and settled the Galapagos. And the early routes of the first European mariners bypassed the Galapagos, traveling to the south, north, east—all sides—but not directly through the Galapagos. And the natives living along the west coast of South America weren’t navigators, so they never made the 600-mile journey to the Galapagos. And finally, when early explorers did reach the Galapagos, they found a harsh, arid climate forbidding to potential settlers. So there was little incentive to return and colonize.
So today, in the modern Galapagos is preserved the most ancient of history, which reflects back to us our very humanity. The volcanic geologic history is an open, living textbook on the earth’s history. The completely habituated and cohabitating wildlife shows just how easily creatures can co-exist. And while you’re snorkeling, when a sea turtle languorously bumps into you, or you see your reflection in a sea lion’s dark, liquid chocolate eyes, you feel the irresistible connection and place within the natural world which transcends humanity.
For more information on Galapagos voyages with MTS or to book your adventure, email us or call 1-888-831-7526 today.
Photo ©Brenda Ernst/MTS