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Reasons to go to the Galapagos

David WilcockDavid Wilcock is travelling to the Galapagos Islands with us this November and by the time you read this will be enjoying a trip he has long been looking forward to!

In the words of the opening line of John Denver’s 1969 folk classic ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’, “ all my bags are packed, I’m ready to go...” .and in just a few days from now,  the spellbinding intrigue of the Galapagos Islands which has whirred and clunked inside my head for years, will be replaced by the live, first-hand reality of this remarkable example of  ‘heaven on earth’.

I’m 67, and I haven’t been this excited for decades. I almost want to ask someone: “Are we nearly there yet?” – and hear their reassuring reply: “Yes – look – there’s Baltra airport down there now.” I can’t wait.

Over the last few weeks, every parcels delivery courier in the country has been to our small hamlet in the Berwyn Hills of North Wales, bringing a succession of ‘holiday essentials’ to our doorstep.

We’ve got walking shoes for the volcanic lava trails, deck shoes for the boat, wetsuits and masks for snorkelling with sea lions and sharks, insect repellent to give the fire ants a fair run for their money, sun hats to shield our western white bits from the unforgiving equatorial sun, and a personal first aid kit, complete with its obligatory triangular bandage, just in case we should happen to become one of the two in every 87,000 tourists who dislocates a collar bone while on holiday. Well you can’t be too careful.

I’ve checked mine and my wife’s passports at least four times to make sure the expiry date hasn’t altered since I last looked, the KLM airlines website four times to see if they’ve surreptitiously changed our flight times (the cunning beasts – they had too, albeit by just a five- -minutes-later arrival time), and if you want me to recite the small print of our travel insurance, backwards and in rhyme, well I can do that too.

I’ve anguished days and nights about the weight of my camera gear, and whether I really do need to take that 150 – 600mm zoom lens which tips the scales at almost 3kg (6.6 lbs); scanned the online money markets at least twice a day to see if we could do better than 1.21 US dollars to the £ (we couldn’t – thanks to Brexit, everything was always sliding south), and given my heart a good workout, rehearsing the possibility that there will be thick fog on the M56 the morning that we drive to Manchester Airport. So all things considered, getting ready for Galapagos has been a really stress-free, laid-back, relaxed affair!

Gardner Bay, EspanolaYellowtail Surgeon

Reasons aplenty to visit the Galapagos

Why Galapagos? Why the 6,250-mile journey from Blighty to that remote archipelago in the Pacific, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador? To borrow a line from another folk classic ‘The Last Thing on My Mind’, sung with such passion by the American folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary: “There are reasons aplenty for going....”

One of my ‘reasons aplenty’ could be to retrace the footsteps of that great English pioneer naturalist Charles Darwin, and learn how his time in the Galapagos in September and October 1835 helped to formulate his evolutionary theory that all species have descended from common ancestors.  Poor old Darwin never got so much as a mention in the curriculum when I was at school, so I have some education to catch up on. But that’s not it.

North Seymour with GuideLand Iguana

No, the reason why I’m going – why I have to go – was sealed into the bucket list of my mind all of ten years ago, in September 2006, when BBC2 screened a three-part documentary on Galapagos which actually wasn’t presented by Sir David Attenborough, but by actress Tilda Swinton.

The series emphasised what for me is the very core of Galapagos fascination – the fact that the islands’ birds, mammals and reptiles have never been persecuted or hounded by man, and thus have no fear of humans. 

There might not be any Pushmi-pullyus or Great Pink Sea Snails on the islands, but just as in the 1967 film Dr.Doolittle starring Rex Harrison, it really is possible to sit alongside, empathize with, and talk to the birds, the mammals and the reptiles there, and as a lifetime lover of all creatures great and small, that will do for me.

The lure of Galapagos was still fermenting somewhere in my grey cells, when at the beginning of 2016, I happened upon a two-minute trailer on YouTube, in which Sir David Attenborough was promoting the three-part televising of the most recent of his four expeditions to the islands.

The wildlife images in it, set to some epic music, were just breath taking. See for yourself below.

That 120-second film clip left me facing just one salutary question:  ‘If not now – then when?’  It was without doubt, the easiest question I’ve ever had to answer.  I’ll scribble you a few more lines when we get back.

 

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Rachel DexCall Rachel, Ecuador and Galapagos Specialist
on 01964 552292
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