The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian network founded in 1973


A place, through the looking glass . . .

By Margaret Hides

From The Universe dated December 19, 1986

There is a place, through the looking glass, the "Enchanted Isles", where man is not a hunter and creatures have no fear.

Before going to the Galapagos archipelago I believed the delight would be in seeing rare creatures: iguanas . . . noddy terns . . . blue footed boobies . . . magnificent birds like the waved albatross which interrupts its soaring flight only in the months of breeding and rearing its young on remote Hood Island.

But indelible memories are of dolphins hitching a lift in the trough of the bow pressure wave of our 63ft gaff rigged ketch, and of brown pelicans skimming aquamarine seas like some old flying boat lumbering in to land.

Tread softly in a bondless world of undisturbed flora and fauna and you can approach animals which seem almost as curious about you as you are about them. Sit anywhere quietly and you will soon have company - a sea lion pup, a yellow crowned night heron, skittering sally lightfoot crabs, a Darwin's finch on your shoulder pinching bits out of the straw hat you wear for protection against the furnace-blast of equatorial sun.

A remarkable National Park, 600 miles off the South American mainland in the Pacific ocean, the volcanic islands belonging to Ecuador are nearly all uninhabited.

In blue-black nights the luminous constellations of both hemispheres - north and south - swing the passage of dusk to dawn at the equator, fusing heart and mind to the 19th Psalm.

Many of the soft beaches, platinum and corngold, are edged by lime green mangroves and prickly pear, but physical beauty is not the lure to the lava backdrop. The spell comes in witnessing dramatic aerial displays by restless frigate birds, and in the fearless proximity of young sea lions and small Galapagos penguins.

Morning roll call (in that damson half-light before you can discern outlines in dark rock coves) is not cock crow but the bronchial coughing and barking of sea lions - like some heavy smoker groping for that first cigarette of the day.

You improve at getting in and out of dinghies and stepping ashore on ankle-cricking rocks, or wading the last few metres to deserted beaches.

You become familiar with pungent smells whenever iguanas are around and with the tang of salt on your lips; but never blasť about close encounters: the flightless cormorant holding outstretched stumpy wings to dry in the sun . . . the green sea turtle surfacing for air with a throaty gulp . . .

It is hard however, even under the eye of the naturalist guides who must accompany every shore party, to obey vital protection disciplines in this unique ecology: animals and birds may touch you - but you must not touch, or pet, or feed in return.

Humans are not something to equate with comforts - or aggression - like everything else they are simply something with a place to respect in this galaxy.

Reproduced with thanks

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