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
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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