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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

18 July 2011

Mutiny in the Galapagos

13th July 2011

There was a mutiny almost as soon as we boarded the ship.

Our guide, Wilo, explained that those who were on a seven day tour (us and most others) would visit the Darwin Centre to see the giant tortoise breeding program, while those on a ten day tour would visit the highlands to see wild tortoises and could visit the Darwin Centre when they return to port on their last day.

It was the Australians who led the mutiny, declaring that they hadn’t come all this way to see captive tortoises. We chipped in to agree that in the wild would be best, if it’s not too much trouble (we English don’t mutiny very forcibly). Wilo looked vexed but admitted that the bus to the highlands was plenty large enough. The big Swede and the towering Canadian joined in the general mutinous chorus and finally the Dutch pair and the lone Singaporean were summoned from their cabins so that we totally outnumbered the loyal crew. An English trio, a lone Australian and another Canadian who were on the ten day tour all readily accepted the change in the face of such a stern band of mutineers.

So this afternoon we wandered amongst enormous giant tortoises in the hills of Santa Cruz. They are amazing behemoths and a great start to our Galapagos tour. I guess perhaps others feel differently, but for me it is definitely more satisfying to see an animal in the wild, even if the sighting isn’t as long or as close as it might be through the bars of a zoo enclosure. I have to admit, it’s not even down to an abstract sense that freedom is preferable to captivity. The animal just looks better in its natural habitat and its behaviour is always more natural. Don’t get me wrong, I love visiting zoos and believe that done correctly they do an important job, but they’re always a substitute for the real thing.

So here we are in the Galapagos. They are an archipelago of about a dozen islands, several hundred kilometers off the coast of Ecuador and roughly on the Equator. They are very rich in marine life due to the several ocean currents that meet here, and are famous principally because Charles Darwin visited here on the Beagle and is believed to have formulated some of his thoughts on the Theory of Evolution after studying the endemic wildlife.

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