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A Natural Selection

I am a city boy. I thrive in concrete jungles, like the Barbican in East London, Soho in NY, or walking through the skyscrapers of HK. The thought of spending seven nights in a sea-faring vessel traversing the equatorial seas was not an immediately appealing prospect.

Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands are in the vast Pacific, a flight east of the fine capital of Quito. Upon arrival on one of the two islands with small airports you are whisked away to your vessel. A welcome from the staff and a beverage awaits and without further ado, you are off cruising the open seas…

The thing I didn’t appreciate about the archipelago before my arrival, is that each of the islands visited is a world unto itself, completely different from the one before it. They have their own stunning geography and flora and fauna specific to one that may not be found on another. It is a little like visiting a major metropolis that divides itself into distinctive neighbourhoods (but better); Chinatown looks nothing like Little Italy, which looks nothing like the downtown business district. The enjoyment in visiting such a destination is the variety of experiences that all add up to create one great trip.

Most itineraries in the Galapagos visit several different islands over the course of your trip and your boat tends to glide through the waters at night so you arrive at a new spot each morning. Half of the adventures take place underwater; the Galapagos is the second largest marine reserve in the Americas, so confidence in a pair of flippers is essential for full enjoyment. The life below the shimmering surface is breathtaking; swimming with sea lions is a particularly unforgettable experience, as is seeing large sea turtles glide serenely beneath you, or watching dolphins playfully race your vessel.

The wildlife on land is no less impressive. Boobies (blue-footed, red-footed, or Nazca) are wonderfully weird looking birds, and a photographer’s dream as they seem to like to stare right at you. You’ll also find iguanas, powerfully still when basking in the golden sunshine. These prehistoric-looking creatures command attention and are equally perfect for a camera’s gaze; they always seem haughtily proud and will hold the pose. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the fun Galapagos penguins, forever frolicking furtively from land into the blue depths. The magnificent Giant Tortoises are another fascinating sight; these resplendent reptiles can be up to 150 years old.

My favourite, however, in this bird-lover’s dream world, were the Frigate Birds, with their trendy scarlet pouches that the males use to attract mates. The natural world isn’t all that different from life in the city, in the end; success often comes down to having the right outfit and puffing up your chest a little.

Anton Lynch practices his animal calls from a flat in London at the moment, but is often found bidding farewell to his favourite metropolis in search of new adventures.

Each of the islands visited is a world unto itself, completely different from the one before it.

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