Ecuador's Galapagos Islands - 2003

VENECIA ISLET What a marvelous first look at the Galapagos! What a weird and primordial panorama! Black lava rocks looking new and knife-blade sharp. No one could doubt the volcanic origins of this archipelago! Colors rioting & competing all around the dark lava background: red mangroves, pale green candelabra cactus, clear shallow blue-green waters teeming with surprisingly colorful “golden mantas” and silvery fish, perfect blue sky overhead, red-orange Sally Lightfoot crabs clinging to the shiny black wet lava as well as intrepidly and incredibly climbing up into the mangrove trees, matte-finish black marine iguanas feeding on the green-black algae covering the lava at the waterline. Magnificent frigate birds adding yet another shade of black to the scene as they patrolled the skies above the dull black Zodiacs floating in a sea of green, the amazing, improbable but delightful blue-footed boobies on their webbed feet standing on the slick sparkling black lava as if to insure that we saw just how blue and yet how subtly different each set of these feet are. It would be hard to imagine how a more endearing seabird could be designed! Zodiacs are called “pangas” in the Galapagos (much easier for Spanish tongues to curl around) and we quickly fell into this terminology ourselves. Our first panga ride was a total success and left us hungry for more. The EL, Lynn, assured us that we had seen “nothing yet” when she gave us some background about these islands and her experiences here. She has lived in the Galapagos for 25 years, staying after she completed her Ph.D. research on Isabela Island... She is a Tallahassee native and so her alma mater is FSU. (Small interesting factoid is that her uncle is Jim Fowler who starred with Marlin Perkins on the Mutual of Omaha animal shows!) She related a few things we needed to know about the Galapagos and their uniqueness in all the world. Their very existence is due to plate tectonics and ocean currents like the Humboldt coming off the coast of South America. Most astonishing, 97% of the species that Darwin saw when he so briefly visited the “Islas Encantadas” remain here today! Ecuador & her people are husbanding their national treasure as vigorously as possible. In 1998, the federal legislature adopted a law forbidding any further immigration to the Island, even by Ecuadorians. In addition, the government actively encourages people already residing in Galapagos to return to the mainland to live. Not only that, the government sought and achieved World Heritage Site and Biosphere designations from the United Nations which also brings more protection to this unique world. The birds, animals and plants found


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